Nethercott, Gray Mix It Up In High-Spirited Secretary Of State Debate

in News/politics

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

What started as a comedy of errors as technical problems plagued the Wyoming PBS crew for the first 15 minutes, ended up being the most high-spirited Wyoming debate so far during this primary season. [VIDEO AT BOTTOM OF STORY]

Three secretary of state candidates participated in the forum at the Boys And Girls Club of Casper but all eyes were on State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, and State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, the two presumptive frontrunners of the race.

In the most emotional part of the evening, Gray, seemingly exasperated, accused Nethercott of deploying a “desperate political strategy” and blamed her for a recent finance complaint filed against him, even though she hadn’t filed the complaint.

The complaint was filed by former Secretary of State Max Maxfield.

Gray claimed he has data showing that he is leading in the race which he said caused Nethercott and her supporters to run attack ads on him and file a Federal Election Commission complaint against him. 

Gray asked Nethercott to denounce the FEC complaint, which she would not do, as she said it was filed by Maxfield, and she hadn’t seen it.

Gray’s Income

Nethercott later said she supports the filing explaining that the “allegation that your income does not match the personal loan is an appropriate concern for the people of Wyoming.”

Nethercott has said this complaint disqualifies Gray from the race.

For the first time on Monday, Gray claimed an inheritance that he received from a deceased grandfather was the source of a nearly $300,000 expenditure for his 2021 U.S. House campaign, despite only making $11,000 income that year. He reported this income as his own in campaign finance information submitted in May.

When previously asked by Cowboy State Daily where he got this income from, Gray declined to answer the question.

“Those funds were my funds,” he said during the forum Monday. “Shame on Ms. Nethercott for taking advantage politically of my grandfather’s passing. I’m not taking money from PACs (political action committees) like my opponent. I’m not bought and they know that.”

Nethercott said it’s suspicious that a 32-year old who isn’t a homeowner and makes less than the minimum wage would have the ability to make such a large contribution to their own campaign.

“It’s more than appropriate to ask,” she said. “I support the decision to ask and hold you to account for credibility and trustability.”

Gray also criticized Nethercott for not submitting her campaign finance information even though the deadline is still one day away.

“They don’t want to talk about the issues, they want to distract,” he said, describing the complaint as “defamatory.” “I haven’t slung any mud, like my opponent.”

That claim is also false as Gray has run negative ads about Nethercott. 

January 6

Nethercott did denounce the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, a statement many Wyoming Republican candidates, including U.S. House Republican frontrunner challenger Harriet Hageman, have refused to do.

“This is not the American way, this is not our future moving forward,” Nethercott said, “and we must learn to never go back to that place in time, understand how it happened, understand how to make sure it never happens again.”

Gray and the third candidate, Mark Armstrong from Centennial, Wyoming, took a different perspective on the event, seeing a double standard being employed by the media and the justice system, for their alleged lack of prosecution of left-wing activists for their activities in other protests in recent years. 

“One of the biggest lessons of Jan. 6 is that citizens need to be listened to,” Gray said. “It’s the only way our Republic is going to work.”

Gray gave particular attention to his frustration with media throughout the evening and mentioned how he believes members of the Wyoming media want the “most left-wing candidate” to win the Secretary of State race. 

He also said journalists aren’t talking about the candidates’ voting records.

Voter ID

Gray claimed the Democrats, media and Nethercott, the latter who he has lumped in with a cabal of government “insiders,” prevented his voter ID bill from passing for three straight years, and in particular 2019. 

This claim is false as Nethercott never got the opportunity to vote on this bill that year. 

She, however, voted to support Gray’s voter ID bill in 2021. 

“We can’t get it wrong the first time because that means there will be disenfranchised voters and people who should be lawfully able to vote can’t,” Nethercott said.  “The bill wasn’t ready for primetime.”

Gray claims he has a “great relationship” with the 23 county clerks in Wyoming and worked with them on the voter ID bill. Nethercott said she has worked directly with these individuals on election security measures for the last six years.

“Challenging the trust of our 23 county clerks is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.

Gray has raised questions about the security of Wyoming’s elections during his campaign, showing free screenings of a movie that claims the 2020 election was rigged due to ballot harvesting.

Nethercott said Wyoming’s elections are secure.

“The 2020 election was not stolen,” Nethercott said. “The continued allegations are undermining our country.”

Gray said he doesn’t just talk about making elections more secure, but has an organized, “election integrity” plan to see it get done. These plans include getting rid of ballot drop boxes, making ballot harvesting a felony crime, instituting runoff elections, performing hand count audits of elections and other measures. 

Armstrong and Gray both said they would oppose ranked choice voting elections, but Nethercott said she would “carefully” consider it.

Nethercott said she supports absentee voting and finds it a critical function of elections.

“There is no evidence of fraud in our elections,” she said. “There is no evidence of fraud or insecurity with absentee ballots in Wyoming.”

“Running For The Wrong Office”

Gray criticized Nethercott for having a lack of vision for the job because she does not want to make significant changes to current laws and policies. Nethercott said the Secretary of State does not have the lawful ability to make many of the changes Gray said he will enact.

“There’s a reality check that needs to occur,” Nethercott said. “You’re running for the wrong office. The Secretary of State is certainly not a fiat from on high for how things are going to be done.”

Nethercott said she wants to make the Secretary of State’s Office “boring again” by focusing on the statutory duties of the position.

“We are focusing on real issues, unlike our opponent,” Gray said.

Gray and Armstrong said they want to look at making Wyoming’s limited liability corporation and trust laws stricter to prevent against foreign oligarchs using the state as a tax haven. Nethercott said she isn’t convinced these activities are happening in the first place.

Gray personally addressed the youth audience at the Casper Boys and Girls Club towards the end of the forum. He told them not to get discouraged with politics just because this year’s Secretary of State race has become rife with mudslinging.

“This campaign unfortunately has gotten pretty nasty because when someone stands for the truth against the insiders, they will do anything to maintain their power,” he said.

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