By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist
With just a few weeks before Primary Election Day, some of Wyoming’s races for the Republican nomination are really heating up. I thought the House District 20 race would be an interesting one, with two candidates challenging my friend, incumbent Albert Sommers, for his seat.
Bill Winney is a perennial candidate for public office and seems to be running this time because he’s mad at his Bondurant-area homeowners association. What that has to do with the legislature isn’t clear, but that’s the focus of the mailer he sent to voters in the district.
But it’s LaBarge’s Mike Schmid who surprised me. It’s tough to take on an incumbent, especially one like Albert Sommers, well known for his even-handedness and honesty. I was expecting a respectful campaign from Schmid, an oilfield businessman and hunting advocate, but I really didn’t know much about him or his beliefs.
Incumbents have the advantage of their experience in office, a voting record, election to leadership positions in some cases, as well as endorsements, and have laid out plans for priority issues. Those are the items on which the Sommers’ campaign has focused.
So what would be Schmid’s focus, other than his oft-repeated desire to restore “conservative values?” His website proclaims his support for the Second Amendment, and he called the failure of all Republican legislators to sign onto the letter drafted by Senator Anthony Bouchard and Representative Bob Wharff to our Congressional representatives on possible gun legislation “shameful” and “disgraceful.” He asked, “What is happening in Cheyenne?” and declared that he would have “proudly” signed the letter.
What is happening in Cheyenne is that not all Republican legislators believe you should write an obnoxious letter when seeking a favorable outcome from your congressional delegation. Other legislators wrote respectful letters, (including Sommers) rather than signing off on the Bouchard/Wharff letter.
As I scanned his Facebook pages, I could see that Schmid’s asking leading questions on social media seems to be his M.O. On July 9, he pointed to the lack of legislative action on crossover voting, asking: “Is my opponent a Liz Cheney supporter? I have been told that he is, maybe that is why the bill was never introduced, who knows??” Representative Sommers doesn’t support Liz Cheney, and for Schmid to ask in this way is called innuendo campaigning.
Schmid hasn’t flat-out said that Sommers or other Republicans are RINOs (“Republicans in name only”), he simply insinuates it. He constantly refers to “good conservative” bills that fail in the legislature and bemoans, “We are a deep purple state because we have legislature (sic) that is more blue than red, even though they have an (R) next to their name. I hope folks spend a little time researching the candidates and vote against these part time conservative candidate (sic).”
I did just that, researching candidate Schmid, and found some troubling comments on his social media. In his posts, Schmid repeatedly calls out participants in our democratic institutions for being “evil.” For example: “Even more so than more hearings on lying, evil Democrats we need some true Conservative Republicans to tear down and reconstruct our courts and intelligence agencies. That is where all the real evil lies.”
As for the current administration in D.C., Schmid wrote, “Biden and his joke of a VP need to be led to the dungeon. They are totally useless and evil.”
Calling someone evil is a way to dehumanize them, to make them seem less human and not worthy of moral considerations. For those individuals viewed as outside the scope of morality and justice, experts warn that “Any harm that befalls such individuals seems warranted, and perhaps even morally justified.” Dehumanization always starts with language, and you’ll soon realize why that’s so dangerous.
Schmid traveled to President Trump’s infamous rally in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, and appeared to have been within the restricted area but reportedly did not participate in storming the building.
A year later, Schmid posted that he was glad to have attended the event, despite the “repercussions” of that trip. In response to that post, one of his FB friends posted a rant about “entering the ‘last stage of our Freedom with these Crummy Pukes in Power’ if we don’t force our spineless Senators and Representatives to start Sincerely Fighting them!! Otherwise, our only thing we are left to do is ‘MAKE ANOTHER MARCH ON WASHINGTON’ – only this time, to ‘drag the traitors out and hang them!!” Schmid responded with, “You might be right” to his friend.
Wait, so it “might be right” to drag elected officials out and hang them? That’s not democratic – it’s seditious. That’s not honoring electoral power. That’s a call for murder, of insurgency, to overthrow the government. It’s not in keeping with the United States Constitution or any oath of office. And Schmid said it “might be right.” That’s deeply disturbing.
Schmid was removed by Governor Mark Gordon from his seat on the Wyoming Game & Fish Commission (WG&F) a few weeks later, in late January 2021. Schmid has offered various explanations as to why he thinks he was removed, but his latest theory is that the WG&F tipped the FBI to his D.C. trip and used the trip “as a way to scare the Governor into doing their dirty work” by removing him from the commission. So he thinks state officials conspired against him, and now he wants to be elected to serve as a state lawmaker.
In a statement released at the time, WG&F President Pete Dube addressed Schmid’s removal from the commission: “Commissioner Schmid, on several occasions, made public statements in writing, via social media, and in person that were directly contrary to votes and actions taken from Commission as a whole. That type of behavior unfortunately undermined the actions of the Governor, the Commission, and led to confusion and problems in enacting the mandates found to be important by the Commission and the Department. Mike’s failure to support the duly enacted Commission actions has harmed the important actions taken by the Commission, the Department, and the Governor.”
I’m going to give Mr. Schmid the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t want to see physical harm come to any American because of their political beliefs, despite his flirtation with extremism. And I believe that he wants what he views is best for Wyoming’s wildlife. But I sure won’t vote him into elected office.
Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.