By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
The race for House District 3 in Gillette is like many others throughout the state, an election between a more experienced politician and anti-establishment candidate.
“I’m not involved with a lobbyist and I’m not “experienced” in politics,” Republican challenger Abby Angelos said.
It’s a sentiment shared by a number of candidates statewide this year, promoting their lack of political experience as a reason why voters should elect them.
Angelos considers herself a “statesman” rather than a politician.
“Politicians are only looking to the next election, where a statesman is looking to the future,” she said.
Angelos is taking on challenger Rusty Bell, a current Campbell County commissioner, in the Aug. 16 primary. Current HD 3 Republican Rep. Eric Barlow is running for the State Senate.
Both Bell and Angelos are Gillette natives.
Bell, a taxidermist, is also a member of the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Task Force. He is a founding member of the Wyoming Sportsmans Group non-profit, a member of the Campbell County DUI Taskforce and Co-chair of the Governor’s Council for Impaired Driving. He is also on a business committee for the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve worked on a lot of individual or bills related to this experience through the legislature,” he said.
Bell has provided assistance to legislators on the severance tax reduction for the coal industry and the 90/10 once in a lifetime change for moose, sheep, mountain goat, bison and grizzly bear hunting tags.
Currently, the Task Force is also considering 90/10 license allocations for nonresident elk, deer and antelope tags in harder-to-draw areas, which are those with a 30% chance or less drawing odds. There has also been consideration for a weighted bonus point system for drawing moose and bighorn sheep licenses. If initiated, this would broaden the opportunity for more people to have a chance at drawing one of the most coveted licenses — even those with fewer preference points.
These issues have been highly contentious, drawing more than 4,000 comments from the public.
“Sometimes what people want is the status quo,” he said.
Bell is also a member of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) Executive Board and a chair on the WCCA’s Revenue Committee.
“I’m just experienced,” he said. “I’ve got the demeanor and temperament to help Campbell County work through some of the issues.”
Angelos runs a gunsmithing and firearms business with her husband in Gillette.
“My reason for running comes down to what does the future of Campbell County and Wyoming look like?” Angelos questioned. “Will the Wyoming way of life and our conservative values be protected for not only my children but all our children?”
Angelos, a mother of three, said she is concerned about “radical” gender ideology, Critical Race Theory, the war on fossil fuels and too much dependence on federal funds, in Wyoming’s future.
Angelos has expressed some strong views on her campaign Facebook page. She has attacked the Wyoming Education Association and said in one post that “the family unit (is) being destroyed by media, some radicals in education and government policies.”
Angelos is firmly pro-life and has an endorsement from Wyoming Right To Life. She also has been endorsed by Gun Owners of America.
She was one of many candidates targeted statewide in an ad campaign put out by the Western Conservatives political action committee, which accused her of being “All Hat, No Cattle,” lacking a voting record on taxes, spending or parental control in education.
“Of course, candidates have every right to compare and contrast themselves to their opponent, but these mailers were absurd, reckless, and potentially offensive,” Angelos said in a Facebook post.
She said Bell personally reached out to her and apologized for the mailers and said he had nothing to do with this campaign.
Angelos said she wants to cut business regulation and continue to harness Campbell County’s large energy industries.
“Wyoming has the benefit of low taxes due to the extraction industries and is the home of the hardest working people,” she said. “Lower taxes, less government regulation and less red tape. Simple, let’s keep the government and regulations out of the way to allow Wyoming residents to start those small businesses that drive an economy.”
Angelos said she differs from Bell on fiscal responsibility and depending on federal funds.
“We have become so dependent on federal funds and we are now seeing the current administration dictate how we use those funds, we all know (Washington) D.C. does not share Wyoming’s values and every time we take federal funds we tie a string right back to D.C. to dictate how they want us to use them,” she said.
Although Bell acknowledges the world is starting to move away from coal, he said it will continue to be a necessary fossil fuel in America’s long term future.
“Coal and natural gas are really vital for the U.S. power grid,” he said.
Bell is optimistic about the future of coal and said carbon capture and sequestration, carbon dioxide storage, and hydrogen energy could all provide many opportunities for Wyoming.
“Wyoming can continue to lead in all energy categories,” he said.
Bell said if elected, he will continue to work on alleviating burdens on the mining industry and its infrastructure, a matter he has testified before the joint minerals committee on.
Although he supports green energy and said the global marketplaces is moving to support these industries, he said there needs to be a better system put in place for storing these alternative types of power before Wyoming and the country can become too dependent on those sources.
Angelos does not want the state to move away from its dependence on fossil fuels for revenue, a source for about 50% of Wyoming’s income.
“There is nothing wrong with being reliant on fossil fuels, they are needed and our current power grid cannot survive without them,” she said. “No one in the country does fossil fuels cleaner, more efficiently, and better than our Wyoming residents that work in the industries.”
Bell said he would consider consolidating smaller school districts in Wyoming. A recent study found these consolidation efforts would save the state around $13 million.
“That’s a lot of money,” Bell said.
Angelos opposes the teaching of CRT and gender ideology in Wyoming’s schools.
“I have been talking with hundreds of parents in my district and they are concerned about this political ideology,” Angelos said. “We are all created equally with the same opportunities. Teaching our young people that some are privileged because of skin color and some will never be able to make anything of themselves because all of society is racist and against them is wrong.”
She said tackling gender ideology in schools will be a priority for her if elected. In 2021, a transgender magician was prevented from performing a show at a Gillette library.
“This entire push to teach radical gender ideology to children should be left up to parents at home, not the schools,” Angelos said.
She also supports the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” a bill proposed in this year’s legislature that would have made it illegal for youth athletes to compete in a sport opposite from the gender of their birth. The bill passed the State Senate but was not considered in the House.
“This had support from both sides of the aisle and we need to pass legislation to protect our students, some of whom are sisters, daughters, granddaughters, and nieces,” Angelos said.
Bell said he wants to protect education but make budget cuts possible. He is concerned about the exodus of young people leaving the state each year.
“We can’t continue to export that,” he said. “It’s detrimental for Wyoming. We have to keep that in Wyoming.”
There is no Democratic candidate running in this race.