Green River Couple Runs To Be Husband-Wife Legislative Team

Green River resident Jennifer James is running as a Republican for the state House this fall, while her husband Tom James is already a state senator.

Leo Wolfson

May 14, 20224 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyoming may have its first husband and wife team in the Legislature next year for the first time in more than 30 years

Green River resident Jennifer James is running as a Republican for the state House this fall, while her husband Tom James is already a state senator. 

Sen. Tom James represents Senate District 13, while Jennifer James is running for House District 60, which sits inside SD13.

The idea of both serving in the Legislature is something the couple has discussed, Jennifer James told Cowboy State Daily.

“We both discussed our future political aspirations at that time and we made our life decisions together,” she said.

It would be the first example of a husband and wife serving in the Legislature since U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis and her husband Al Wiederspahn simultaneously represented Laramie County. Lummis was a Republican in the Legislature while Wiederspahn served as a Democrat.

“I appreciate the comparison and respect Senator Lummis but did not know her husband,” Jennifer James said.

State Rep. Mark Baker, R-Green River, the current representative from House District 60, is not running for re-election so Jennifer James might have a clear path through the Republican primary in August. 

Jennifer James said she has been happy with Baker’s leadership and would not run against him.

“I plan to step forward on issues important to my community members including the Second Amendment, the fight for life, education systems, smaller government, free market, continued religious freedoms and diligent healthcare policies,” she said in a Friday press release.

Sen. James is seeking re-election this fall and has announced his intention to run, but has not yet officially filed. 

Jennifer James said she has no plans to team up with her husband on bills or for their political campaigns.

“We’re two independent people and we’re kind of keeping it that way,” she said. “We have very different personalities.”

Sen. Tom James (second from right) and Jennifer James (far right) at a gala in Rock Springs in February, 2022.. (Kim Raff/The New York Times)

Jennifer James said she and her husband are staunchly conservative and adhere to the Republican Party platform. In February 2021 he won an award from the Conservative Political Action Conference for his voting record.

Jennifer James said she does differ from her husband on opportunities for the state to obtain federal support.

For instance, Jennifer James supports the addition of an Office of Grant Procurement for Wyoming, an agency she said “is extremely successful in other states and can bring us multi-millions of dollars.” She said her husband is concerned with the strings that could come attached to such a program.

The two married in October 2021 and Jennifer James, previously of Laramie County, moved to her district around that time, allowing her to meet the one-year residency requirement for candidates.

While a Laramie County resident, before her marriage, she ran for House District 10 in 2020 against incumbent Rep. John Eklund Jr. (R-Cheyenne). Although she lost that election, she did place second in the four-candidate field. 

“My former district was spread out geographically which made it difficult to reach our ranchers and farmers at their homes,” she said, a problem she believes will be alleviated in Green River, where she thinks she will be more easily able to campaign door-to-door.

Jennifer James owns a nonprofit health care training company and credits this, as well as her past experience working with the Wyoming Department of Health and the State Board of Nursing for giving her policy knowledge that will be valuable in the Legislature.

James has a doctorate in nursing systems and a master’s degree in health law and is currently earning a post-graduate certificate in public policy design and innovation from Harvard University. 

“I have had multiple successes relating to the creation of state policies and wish to bring my ideas and experience to the Wyoming Legislature,” she said in the press release. “I saw issues from the inside, but I’m not another government crony; I understand the barriers and will help us overcome.”

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter