By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
One thing is for sure: it is a heck of a lot cheaper to run for state office than national office at least in this 2022 election cycle.
While Liz Cheney has raised $15 million and her challenger has accumulated a $5 million war chest as they battle for the U.S. House race, the top fundraiser for state office is Gov Mark Gordon who has raised 1/30th of what Wyoming’s congresswoman has raked in.
Most importantly for Gordon, he has far out-raised his competition. And financial contributions are often, but not always, a strong indicator to who will win an election.
Recently-filed state campaign finance information with the Secretary of State office shows that Gordon has raised $541,577 for his campaign through Monday. His closest Republican contender Brent Bien, has raised $99,822. In third is Rex Rammell with $80,478.
In the Superintendent of Public Instruction race, Megan Degenfelder is leading in income earned with $237,118 in contributions. Current Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder has raised $37,015.
Sergio Maldonado, the Democratic candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, considered by many within the Wyoming Democratic Party as the state’s strongest candidate for any state-level position, has raised $5,305.
In the Secretary of State race, State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne has raised $332,990, while her leading opponent State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper has raised $527,980 with the overwhelming majority of those funds — $500,000 — coming from his father.
Political Action Committees
Western Conservatives, a Colorado-based political action committee, has garnered quite a bit of attention in recent days for intense mudslinging in Wyoming’s State and House races. This PAC has spent more than $258,000 in campaign literature, text messages and other media in Wyoming, supporting moderate leaning Republican candidates throughout the state.
Many of the PAC’s ads use the same catchphrases that populist Republicans have used against moderate Republicans in recent years, describing their targets “RINOS (Republicans in Name Only) and conservatively-weak politicians.
Campaign finance information Western Conservatives submitted with the Wyoming Secretary of State office on Tuesday, lists a single PAC donor as a source for its entire $360,000 income.
This group is the Restoration PAC, run by Republican Illinois businessman Doug Truax, which has no listed Wyoming donors.
Western Conservatives has also gone after politically involved, private citizens not running for public office. One recent ad is presented in an old Western motif, with the headline “Wanted” above the mugshots of four people described as “conservative imposters.” The ad attacks these people for being relatively new Wyoming residents “trying to tear our state apart.” Many Wyoming newcomers have run for political office in recent years, typically a more conservative wing of the Republican Party.
“We just moved to Wyoming because we thought it was just the best,” the ad remarks sarcastically on behalf of Jeff Wallack, Laurie Bratten, Kristen Jennings and Jimmy Dee Lees. “Now, we want to tell you how to vote while spreading hate and discontent.”
Wallack, a Sheridan radio host who is running to be a Republican Party committeeman in Sheridan County, was the only one of the four running for public office. He said he and others are preparing a defamation lawsuit against the PAC.
“Who are the cowards hiding behind a fake, unregistered PAC that would send a political hit mailer on four individuals not running for public office?” Wallack questioned.
Western Conservatives have put out a series of ads on behalf of Nethercott, but no negative ads against Gray.
Another large PAC in Wyoming this year has been the Convention of States Political Fund, which has spent $731,671 in Wyoming elections this year. This PAC is dedicated to calling a convention of states under Article V of the United States Constitution, imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting its power and jurisdiction, and imposing term limits on its officials and members of Congress.This PAC has not given any direct funds to any Wyoming campaigns.
The WY Realtors PAC gave $112,450 to Wyoming State Senate, State House and county commissioner candidates, Gov. Mark Gordon, Treasurer Curt Meier, Degenfelder and Nethercott.
The Wyoming Hope PAC, funded with a $250,000 contribution from Cowboy State Daily owner Wayne Hughes Jr., gave $157,500 to a range of candidates statewide .