By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
With only two weeks to go before the primary election, campaign literature is starting to flood people’s mailboxes and doorsteps. The information provided in these advertisements can sometimes be misleading or wrong.
In a mailer sent out on behalf of the Secretary of State candidate and State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, Gray cited a June Cowboy State Daily story, where he claimed his opponent State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne said she would allow insecure drop boxes in Wyoming elections if elected.
Nethercott said this statement is misleading. She said in the story, she supports the use of outdoor ballot boxes only as long as they are supervised, and their security can be guaranteed. Gray wants these boxes banned immediately and believes the Secretary of State has the power to enact that change.
“It’s unfortunate so much misinformation and misleading information is being said,” Nethercott told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s untruthful and doesn’t support the political process.”
Gray defended the mailer, however, and said he interpreted her remarks differently.
“Tara was very clear in the Cowboy State Daily article that she supports ballot dropboxes, which is how ballot harvesters cheat in elections,” Gray told Cowboy State Daily. “Tara’s continued opposition to election integrity and continued attempts to distract from the truth are clear.”
Gray upped the ante in a new ad he posted on his Facebook page Tuesday, saying Nethercott “undermines election integrity by supporting unsecure ballot drop boxes that lead to ballot harvesting.”
Nethercott said she’s always supported the state’s county clerks in their effort to maintain fair and secure elections as a member of the Corporations, Political Subdivisions & Elections committee in the Legislature.
Gray also said in the mailer and the ad that Nethercott voted against the voter ID bill in 2019. This statement is true, but Nethercott did vote to support the voter ID bill that passed in 2021.
Nethercott said misleading advertisements are not limited to her race.
“It’s a distraction when a candidate is not as qualified or experienced to do the job,” she said.
A recent mailer submitted on behalf of U.S. House candidate Harriet Hageman claims Hageman is supported by Wyoming Gun Owners, but WyGo doesn’t officially endorse candidates. However, in a July 29 Facebook post, the organization did compliment Hageman’s 100% score on its pro-gun survey.
One of Hageman’s opponents, State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, founded WyGo.
The $17,052 mailer was organized by the Outrider Political Action Committee, primarily funded by Jackson resident Lynn Friess.
In a different mailer put out by the Wyoming Values PAC on behalf of Hageman, local media articles are displayed about U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, with red stamps surrounding the stories, drawing conclusions such as “Loves Pelosi,” “Loves Gun Control” and “Loves Fauci.” The last remark references Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci, who Hageman and former President Donald Trump have spoken against on multiple occasions.
Cheney put out a series of billboards in the spring and early summer criticizing Hageman for her past support for Cheney and opposition to former President Donald Trump.
Cheney also encouraged Democratic voters in a mailer, to switch their party registration to vote for her.
When it comes to crossover voting, Nethercott both voted for and against the crossover voting bill in this year’s legislature. But she supported it in her last vote from the Senate floor.
Other Divisive Actions
Certain candidates in State Legislature campaigns have dedicated more of their advertising to criticizing their opponents’ positions than they have promoting themselves.
This is a strategy also employed by Republican candidate Steve Bray in opposing fellow Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper. In one piece of literature, Bray spends more than half his mailer talking about Harshman yet offers little about himself beyond commitments to opposing “unreasonable taxes” and supporting “limited government.”
“My opponent, Harshman, votes for unreasonable taxes and spending,” Bray said. “Just a few years ago, in the style of Bernie Sanders, Harshman brought a bill to make college as free as possible.”
In contrast, Harshman recently put out a mailer where he focuses entirely on himself and makes no mention of his opponents.
Kim Walker, president of the Natrona County Republican Women, said she was disturbed when a few people she knew to be pro-Hageman supporters asked her for Cheney yard signs. She said Joe McGinley, Natrona County GOP chair, already had a Cheney sign stolen from his yard.
“It’s almost like high school,” Walker said of the behavior.
She said the Republican Women had to arrange security for their Politics in the Park forum series this summer because the audience was getting so unruly.
Walker finds the level of divisiveness occurring in local politics disappointing.
“It seems like all everyone wants to do is fight their side even though we’re all on the same side,” she said. “We’re all Republicans, we share the same values. Just because some of our group is for the far right, what’s wrong with being a moderate Republican?
“Sure, we don’t believe in all the same things, but is it so bad to listen to what we all have to say?”