By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Thomas Kelly dropped out of the Wyoming superintendent of public instruction race on Monday, the Wyoming Republican Party announced late in the day.
Kelly, a Sheridan resident, endorsed current Superintendent Brian Schroeder for the position, to which he was appointed earlier this year following the resignation of former Superintendent Jillian Balow.
“To everyone who has supported me, ‘thank you’ falls short, but know this: we did successfully direct the narrative not only of the Superintendent race, but other statewide races,” Kelly said Monday. “We sounded the alarm on federal incursion into the Wyoming way of life, and other candidates have picked up that mantle to carry forward.
Because of my reverence for individual liberty, freedom of thought, and free association, I respect how anyone chooses to vote going forward. That said, I cast my vote today for Superintendent Brian Schroeder.”
Schroeder thanked his now-former opponent for his endorsement and said he was “honored” to work the campaign with him.
“As a force in this campaign, [Kelly] was not only principled, honest, and courageous, he also effectively advanced the conservative cause,” Schroeder said on Monday.
With Kelly withdrawing from the race just two weeks before the Wyoming primary election, this will leave Schroeder and Megan Degenfelder as the two Republican nominees for superintendent.
Kelly is a college professor and chair of the political and military science department at the American Military University, a private, for-profit, online school based in West Virginia. He also served on the City of Sheridan planning commission from 2019 to 2021 and was a public school teacher for 10 years.
Schroeder told Cowboy State Daily in May that he has been working at a “fast and furious” pace in order to stay on top of his job duties while actively campaigning.
Degenfelder is a sixth-generation Wyoming native who is the government and regulatory affairs manager for Morningstar Partners Oil and Gas. She was a chief policy officer for the state Department of Education under Balow from 2017 to 2019.
Whoever wins in the primary election on Aug. 16 will face off against Democratic superintendent candidate Sergio Maldonado Sr., a Wind River Indian Reservation resident.
Maldonado last month accused Schroeder of bigotry for the superintendent’ position against accepting federal demands that the state update its non-discrimination policies to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.