By Leo Wolfson
The three Democrats running for U.S. House in Wyoming are clear about their thoughts when it comes to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s service: Wyoming deserves better. Although many Democrats have been offering support for Cheney, these candidates say recent actions aren’t enough to get their support.
“Her voting record displays her voting with Trump,” Lynnette Grey Bull said during a Wyoming PBS candidate forum Thursday night. “Wyoming deserves a better representation moving forward.”
That statement is a contrast to the support many Democrats nationwide have lauded on Cheney for her role speaking out against former President Donald Trump and serving as one of two Republicans on the Jan. 6 Committee. Many Democrats in the state, one former Gov. Mike Sullivan, said they will change their party registration to vote for her.
Grey Bull said she won’t do that.
“I can’t go against my own values for a candidate who does not stand and hold my own values,” she said.
But in a WyoFile interview earlier this year, Grey Bull said she would prefer facing Cheney in the general election and encouraged her supporters to vote for the Republican. She said in that interview that if she was not running for the House seat, she would likely cross over and vote for Cheney.
Grey Bull clarified this comment on Thursday, calling it a “war cry” in her preference to face Cheney.
Fellow candidate Meghan Jensen of Rock Springs said that she thinks that those opposing crossover voting are engaging in a form of voter suppression.
Steve Helling, the candidate with the most conservative platform in the Democratic primary field, criticized Cheney for the process used to assemble the Jan. 6 Committee. In her screening of the panel, Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif. rejected two Republican nominees to the board. In response, Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. to pull all five nominees he had offered.
“This move was unprecedented,” Helling, a Casper attorney, said. “There’s no due process, there’s no cross-examination.”
According to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Helling voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
Helling found particular fault with Cheney’s position that those who support Trump do not support the U.S. Constitution and said the Jan. 6 Committee emboldens Russia President Vladimir Putin by showing a lack of American unity.
Grey Bull in particular has a history with Cheney. She won the Democratic nomination in 2020 and lost to Cheney by 44% of the vote. There has not been a competitive general election U.S. House race in Wyoming since 2008 when Republican Cynthia Lummis beat Democrat Gary Trauner.
Grey Bull, a woman of Native American ancestry, has long been an advocate for Indigenous peoples and has based many points of her platform accordingly.
Helling said he considers himself to be more conservative than most other Wyoming Democrats but has felt a sense of inclusivity within the state party and along the campaign trail.
He is the only one of the three Democrat candidates who has a pro-life stance on abortion.
Grey Bull also said that since she is not part of the “elitist” 1% top income earners, she can be an effective representative for Wyoming’s people.
“It’s important that you have representation that can speak to that,” she said.
Helling said he is concerned about inflation and over-regulation of fossil fuel industries, which he doesn’t want Wyoming to transition away from. He said that he thinks climate change is occurring, adding that he is opposed to nuclear energy, including the nuclear power plant being planned in Kemmerer.
Jensen said she supports nuclear energy and wants a more holistic approach to energy. She also said people in Wyoming are “flat out not listening” to Democrats here.
“Our voters need to start looking into what our Republican Party is doing with its policies and how (it) does work hurting our working families,” Jensen said. “It’s about time they start listening because it’s time to work.”
Grey Bull said Wyoming has an opportunity to lead the world in renewable energy. She said remaining too dependent on fossil fuel industries will hurt working class Wyomingites in the long run.
She helped implement the Emergency Rental Assistance Program as a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe with Gov. Mark Gordon’s office. She said Wyoming needs a new affordable housing assessment, as the state has not performed in one in 12 years. Grey Bull said lack of affordable housing is a major problem on the Wind River Reservation.
Grey Bull said the Democratic Party sometimes gets too caught up with making matters about race.
“It’s not a white or black thing,” she said. “It’s a thing where we think about people, we think about humanity, we think about peace and we think about preservation.”