Shooting the Breeze With Rod Miller And Cat Urbigkit: Pre-Election Pondering

Cowboy State Daily columnists Rod Miller and Cat Urbigkit make their predictions for the upcoming Wyoming primary election.

Rod Miller

August 11, 20227 min read

Collage Maker 27 Jul 2022 06 35 PM

Cat Urbigkit: Hey Rod, our experiment of shooting the breeze in a column was popular enough that Editor Jimmy wants us to do more. While I generally like the guy’s taste in music, I must say he’s a bit of a glutton for punishment in asking for more of our political opinions.

I just received an email from the Wyoming Republican Party, with the word OUTRAGEOUS in red text overlaid on an image of an FBI agent. As you can image, the GOP was in hysteria over the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. The email urged GOPers to contact our congressional delegation (even Liz Cheney!) and the governor “to DEMAND they take a stand against the weaponization of federal agencies.”

I’ll admit that part made me laugh. Weaponized law enforcement agencies? Um, it’s in their job description. But tell me, Rod, what’s your take on the current crop of law-and-order Republicans?

Rod Miller: It’s not just the current crop, Cat. There is a long tradition of politicians thumping their chests and preaching “law and order” when it suits their agenda. I’m reminded of the Chicago police and FBI raiding Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s apartment and shooting him dead in 1969. There wasn’t much gnashing of teeth among the “law and order” crowd when that happened. And Hampton wasn’t in possession of classified documents when he was killed.

So it’s very much a case of situational ethics for folks to wring their hands about the search at Mar a Lago. 

As an aside, I get almost daily emails from Hageman’s campaign, and each email asks for the same thing in differing amounts. One day its “We only need $3800 to get us over the top!” The next day, its “We are so close to our goal.  We only need $5100 to get us over the top.”  “The top” seems to be a moving target in Harriet’s campaign. Just an observation.

That race is the Main Event in Wyoming politics this year, and it could go either way. I told Bill Sniffin that I think it could go either way, and I just don’t trust the polling done to date.

Cat Urbigkit:  Me either. While some people believe that Wyoming is a fictional place, I’ve been hearing about lots of national and international media teams coming to our great state to cover the final days of the primary election, as well as the usual lineup of out-of-state campaigners coming to knock on doors. I wish Kevin McCarthy would come door-knocking at the ranch, because mercy but I have some things I’d like to say to him. Alas, fat chance. Like people-watching in airports, it is fun to see so much attention turned to the least populated state in the nation.

Shall we take a crack at some predictions? I’ve developed my standard for candidates, summarized nicely in a column by Peter Wehner: “Leaders speak to legitimate grievances and channel them in constructive ways through policies. Demagogues elevate illegitimate grievances and speak to them in reckless ways.” I’m hopeful Wyoming will continue to elect leaders, not demagogues.

For my first pick, I’m going with Tara Nethercott as Wyoming Secretary of State. She checks all the boxes for leadership, and I think she would be a fantastic member of the State Land Board. Chuck Gray fits the demagogue box. What say you?

Rod Miller: I agree with you. Gray is sort of a Sesame Street candidate. Elmo, maybe. My prediction is that Chuck won’t have a very good year. Trump passed him up in favor of Hageman, so he dropped out of the U.S. House race. Like Roberto Duran saying “No mas” in his second fight with Leonard. I guess that makes him “No Mas Elmo.” He’ll have a couple of years to lick his wounds and nurse his dreams of political power, while he whines about Wyoming’s election process.

Tara has run a very admirable campaign for her first foray into statewide politics. I’m impressed.

The Secretary of State race is the one that will have the most tangible impact on life in Wyoming, and I feel better about our future in the hands of a professional like Nethercott. The Park County Men’s Full Gospel Gun & Glee Club will be bitterly heartbroken that they can’t put their grubby paws on our ballots. But politics is full of little disappointments.

On the upside for Gray, his dad will have a couple of years to build Chuck’s warchest back up. And those poor 2000 mules can finally get a rest and eat some oats.

Cat Urbigkit: I’m guessing Mark Gordon is re-elected as governor, Megan Degenfelder will unseat Brian Schroeder for Superintendent of Public Instruction (go Megan!), and Curt Meier will ride his name recognition back into office since his opponent apparently didn’t campaign for the job. Meier’s performance has been criticized, but apparently it’s hard to find someone who wants the job.

Rod Miller: The Treasurer’s Office was a springboard for Gordon, and I agree that he will be re-elected. But Meier is saddled with concerns about his office producing timely reports for the legislature, so if he wants to rise up the foodchain, he’ll need to get his assignments turned in on time.

Superintendent races used to be sort of a yawn, but now the office has turned into a battleground in the culture wars. And that’s a damn shame. It shortchanges both the students and the First Amendment.

The race should be close but I agree with you, Cat. Degenfelder will win a squeaker, and I think that will be a good thing. My hunch is that she’ll burn fewer books than the other candidates.  

Cat Urbigkit:  I’ve been cruising through the campaign reports filed thusfar to check on candidate spending and Political Action Committee (PAC) support.

One that jumped out at me was the “Allen Jaggi PAC for Constitutional Issues.” Jaggi was a state representative until about 6 years ago, from the Lyman area, and now he has a PAC! But when I looked at the PAC’s finances, I see Jaggi contributed $50 to his own PAC, but the only other donor to the PAC dropped some big money: $10,000 from Curt Meier, current State Treasurer who is seeking re-election. This Meier-funded PAC put $1,000 toward Brian Schroeder as state superintendent of public instruction and handed out a bunch of $500 contributions for Chuck Gray, Karl and Vladimir Allred (who are running for seats in the legislature from Uinta County), Bob Wharff, Mike Schmid and a few others.

Anything else we ought to cover this time?

Rod Miller: As Deep Throat famously said, “just follow the money.” I believe that’s good advice.

And Mark Twain said, “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.” That is horrible advice.

Wyoming should be leading the nation in percentage of voter registration and turnout. There’s no excuse for so many voting-eligible Wyomingites to remain unregistered, and so many registered voters to stay home on election day. If there is a weakness in our election system, its US.

We should tell folks to get off their lazy duffs, register and vote. Wait! We just did!

Let’s get our noggins together after the election and shoot the breeze like good Monday morning quarterbacks.

Cat Urbigkit: Will do! See ya’ll at the polls.

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist