Teton County flipping from majority Democrat to Republican is a prime example of why Wyoming needs runoffs elections, a representative from Crook County told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
The Jackson Hole News and Guide reported this week that the county flipped from blue to red, with Republicans edging Democrats by about 200 voter registrations. This is a trend seen statewide, as Cowboy State Daily reported this week.
It is “disingenuous” for Democrats to switch to Republican in order to shape the outcome of the primary election, Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, said.
“To me, this is a non-partisan issue,” Neiman said. “I see the primaries as an opportunity for Democrats or Republicans to send the candidate that’s going to best reflect the views of the party on to the general election.”
Neiman co-sponsored legislation, Senate File 97, during the 2022 Wyoming legislative session that would have prevented voters from changing their party affiliation on the same day as the primary election. Instead, voters would have had to register as a Republican, Democrat or a third party about three months before the primary.
President Donald Trump endorsed the bill before it died in the Wyoming House of Representatives.
Neiman believes when an election gets crowded, such as in the U.S. House race (which has at least five candidates still in the running), candidates do less work to secure their voters’ trust and earn their vote.
While his bill establishing runoff elections in Wyoming did not pass during the last legislative session, he plans to introduce similar legislation next year.
A runoff election would only be held when one candidate in a primary race for office received less than 50% of the votes cast.
“If you can win a primary with 29% or 30% of the vote, that means 70% of the Republicans in this election didn’t support that candidate as the flagbearer of their party,” Neiman said. “If you do a runoff election, you take the top two candidates who got the most votes and then get their butts out there and show the voters what their differences are. If you don’t need at least 50%, you’re less aggressive.”
The News and Guide article reported that many Teton County residents changed their party affiliation to vote for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the primary election. Neiman was not surprised.
Many Democratic voters on June 23 and 24 received Cheney-sponsored mailers instructing them on how to switch to Republican before the Primary Election, to “vote for Liz.”
“That’s probably one of the only ways Ms. Cheney will do any real numbers,” Neiman said.
Teton County Republican Party chair Mary Martin told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday she felt the flip from blue to red has less to do with the U.S. House race than voters feeling dissatisfied with overall leadership in the county, not just at the state level.
She said the 15 years of Democratic leadership in the county has “just not worked,” so she believes voters are mobilizing to vote for candidates who will take action and improve the overall quality of life in the area.
“Our party’s been working diligently to get Republican values translated here in Teton County,” she said. “I’m hoping what we are seeing is because the community is recognizing that Republican values can be celebrated. We believe in fiscal responsibility, conservation, responsible stewardship and having respect and compassion for individual freedoms.”
The Teton County Democratic Party did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.