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Candidate Profile: Chuck Gray For Wyoming Secretary Of State

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

State Rep. Chuck Gray’s passion for politics is undeniable. As one of the youngest members of the State Legislature, the Casper lawmaker has chosen political public service as a venue for where he would like to make a difference in society.  

He spoke about his views on the current state of politics during a forum at a Boys and Girls Club in Casper Aug. 8. 

“When someone stands for the truth against the insiders, they will do anything to maintain their power, anything,” Gray told the youth audience.   

Gray’s desire to run for Secretary of State of Wyoming is built on a distrust of elections in Wyoming and America. If elected, he said he will do everything in his power to make them more secure. The Secretary of State is in charge of managing the state’s elections. 

 “Election integrity is something that’s in my blood,” he said during a July forum. 

If elected, Gray promises to ban ballot drop boxes and make ballot harvesting a felony in Wyoming. To prove the need for these actions, he has been hosting free screenings of “2000 Mules” during his campaign, a movie that claims ballot boxes were stuffed in key, swing states, leading to President Joe Biden’s illegitimate election.  

These claims, which Gray has promoted, have caused a massive schism in the Secretary of State race. Gray’s leading opponent, State Sen. Tara Nethercott, Cheyenne, has vehemently pushed back on Gray, saying there was no significant fraud in American elections in 2020. She has promoted  her past collaboration with the state’s county clerks and plans to continue the existing election laws enforced in the state. 

Nethercott supports ballot drop boxes and sees removing these devices as an infringement on the public’s right to vote. 

Gray has attacked Nethercott for being weak on election security because of this stance. He claimed in some campaign literature that Nethercott would allow insecure drop boxes in Wyoming elections if elected. Nethercott said this claim is misleading and she supports the use of outdoor ballot boxes only as long as they are supervised, and their security can be guaranteed. Gray countered again, explaining he finds all drop box ballot boxes to be insecure. 

Nine counties in Wyoming offered outdoor ballot boxes during the 2020 election. No footage from Wyoming was shown in 2000 Mules. 

 Nethercott has said the Secretary of State does not have the power to eliminate drop boxes or enact measures Gray has promised. 

“If the Secretary of State thinks they want to make a felony, then they’re running for the wrong office and need to run for the Wyoming Legislature,” she said during a July forum between the candidates. “So, if you want to ban ballot boxes, you should run for the Wyoming Legislature.”   

After the July forum, Gray clarified to Cowboy State Daily that some of his election plans would have to take place through lobbying legislators, a move Nethercott said is appropriate only under certain circumstances.  

Mudslinging between the candidates intensified since that event, with Gray’s source of financial income coming under heavy scrutiny.  

Raised For Politics

For 12 years, Natrona County Republican Women Chair Kim Walker worked for Gray’s father, Jan Charles Gray, at Mount Rushmore Broadcasting, which owns seven Wyoming radio stations.  

Chuck Gray would come out to Wyoming each summer and stay with his father while growing up. Walker chaperoned Gray a few times as a child, remarking that he didn’t seem to like Wyoming in those years.  

Chuck Gray grew up outside Los Angeles and was homeschooled by his mother, who Jan Charles Gray divorced, Walker said. During the July forum, Gray reflected on the events that led up to him living with his mother. 

“I come from a divorced family, like many people in our country,” Gray said. “A judge said I was to live in a different place, but my dad lived here, built a business here, and I spent my summers here during the time that was allocated by the judge.” 

Walker said Jan Charles Gray was obsessed with the idea of his radio station impacting legislation in Washington, D.C. 

Gray graduated high school in 2008 and was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. 

During the Aug. 8 forum, Gray remembered the bleak outlook on the future he felt during the 2008 economic crash, saying he was particularly disturbed by the large corporate bailouts that occurred. 

“I’ll never forget the looks on those faces of all those people studying I-banking, I really decided then I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “I wanted to be a citizen that was going to be involved in my Republic.”  

While attending the Ivy League school, Gray also wrote a political column for the school’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. This platform was in many ways a precursor to the political ideology he espouses today.

His writings were consistent with the conservative views and passion for politics he holds today. He expresses concern with election security, opposes Obamacare, and advises Occupy protestors to “Get Better – not bitter.” 

He also revealed a tender side in one Valentine’s Day piece, referencing a love letter former President Ronald Reagan sent to his wife Nancy Reagan. 

“Some of us may never have the extraordinary luck to find a Valentine Life,” Gray wrote. “But if it is obtained, a Valentine Life does not only last one day. A Valentine Life is forever.” 

In his biography for the paper, Gray is listed as being from Casper. 

Gray graduated from the school in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree from the business school and another from the university’s School of Arts and Sciences.  

By 2013, Gray was living in Wyoming full time and hosting a conservative talk show on his family’s 1230 AM KVOC. During the Casper forum, Gray said it was this medium that gave him a final push into his political career. 

“Started talking about conservative issues. That got me involved in politics,” Gray said during the July forum.  

Political Life 

Gray ran for State House in 2014 against former representative Thomas Lockhart. He lost the election, but only by 49 votes to the longtime legislator. 

Lockhart retired after his next term, clearing the way for Gray to win the House District 57 seat by a healthy margin.  This district encompasses East and Central Casper. He has won every election since by a landslide. 

Gray has staked his claim in the Legislature as one of the most conservative lawmakers. He is a five-time Conservative Political Alliance Conference award winner, and has won other awards from various conservative groups.

Gray sponsored Wyoming’s first ultrasound bill in 30 years and stopped the University of Wyoming from covering abortion in their student healthcare plans with a budget amendment. For efforts like these, he was awarded the Platinum Award from Wyoming Right to Life.

“I’ve watched Chuck’s integrity,” said Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, who has endorsed Gray’s Secretary of State campaign. “I believe he’s very sincere, very in-depth always making sure his thoughts are put together.”

Gray proposed voter ID bills in 2019 and 2020 that did not pass before the Legislature.

During the July forum, Gray expressed frustration with the “insiders” at the State Capitol who he accused of preventing his bill from getting passed. He included Nethercott in this group.

“The coalition of the Democrats and the insiders that unfortunately, do one thing in Cheyenne and then come back home and run on something different, three times in a row they stopped that bill,” he said.

With the help and collaboration of a few other legislators, Gray was able to pass his voter ID bill in 2021.

It was shortly after this success, Gray announced his candidacy for U.S. House, vowing to bring down Cheney.

Gray campaigned throughout the state that summer but failed to receive an endorsement from Former President Donald Trump, support seen by many at the time as key to beating the congresswoman. Six days after Harriet Hageman received Trump’s endorsement, Gray announced he was pulling out of the race.

“Distractions”

During the Secretary of State race, the source of Gray’s campaign funding has come into question. 

Jan Charles Gray funded nearly all of his son’s U.S. House run and gave him $500,000, 95% of his total funding, for his current Secretary of State campaign. 

Gray’s father also poured $50,000 into Gray’s State House campaign a few days after the legislator announced he was forgoing that seat to run for Secretary of State.

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily Wednesday, Gray said he is grateful for his family and the help they’ve provided him.

“I’m grateful to my family for stepping up to counter these liberal attacks with funds from family businesses that I helped to build,” he said. “Family business is key to Wyoming’s success and people in family businesses should be able to run for office.”

Walker said Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting had a long history of not paying debts, souring many people’s impression of Jan Charles Gray. 

In 2016, The FCC fined the station $25,000 in 2016 for not staffing the stations during business hours.

The company was also ordered to pay back wages in 2015 to former employees, after it was sued by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

“People in small business, we don’t have a lot of salary, our income is off our business,” Gray said during an Aug. 8 forum. 

Mt. Rushmore received more than $28,000 in federal dollars through the federal COVID-19 relief Paycheck Protection Program but Gray voted this year against a bill allowing the state to spend pandemic relief funds.

Despite only making around $10,000 a year working at the radio station, and only a slightly higher annual wage working at the State Legislature, Gray made a nearly $300,000 donation to his own U.S. House campaign fund. He has said this money came as the result of an inheritance from his grandfather and has denied all allegations of fraudulent activity.  

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

Jennings said he finds it hypocritical that many people expressed support in 2016 for former President Donald Trump self-funding most of his presidential campaign, but now those same people are attacking Gray for doing the same thing. 

Gray framed himself as coming from a small family business background during the Aug. 8 forum. He has described questions about his finances as a distraction from the race and a way to avoid looking at Nethercott’s voting record. 

In addition to overseeing elections, the Secretary of State registers and authorizes all businesses operating in the state. It also regulates the state’s securities industry and enforces securities law and serves on the State Board of Land Commissioners, State Building Commission, State Loan and Investment Board and serves as chair of the State Canvassing Board. 

“I define economic development … in terms of funding key infrastructure projects that our state needs so that our communities continue to grow around them,” Gray said during the July forum. Gray said he doesn’t view economic development as picking winners and losers, which he said “insiders” are guilty of.

Gray has kept a contentious relationship with the media throughout the campaign, only responding to questions by text messages and accusing the Casper Star Tribune and Cowboy State Daily of conspiring against him. 

Last week, Gray received Trump’s backing in his Secretary of State campaign, an endorsement that he has sought since his 2021 U.S. House campaign. Like Trump, Gray has sowed doubt about the security of America’s elections. But during the July forum, Gray explained that he sees many of his future plans as ways to get ahead of a problem. 

“We need someone that is going to be vibrantly getting things done,” Gray said during the Casper forum. “Not someone who says, ‘everything’s fine, let’s look away.’”

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