By Rod Miller and Cat Urbigkit
Miller and Urbigkit are opinion columnists for Cowboy State Daily
Rod Miller: Well, Cat, after the soothsayers and seers read the political tea leaves and examined the political chicken entrails, the voters – the only pundits that really count – have spoken. So here we are, with the slates set for the general election in the Cowboy State. I have some thoughts on Tuesday’s results, but I’d like to hear yours first. What struck you about what the voters of Wyoming said in the primary?
Cat Urbigkit: The voters said that Wyoming isn’t willing to fall lock-step into the demagoguery coming from the Wyoming Republican Party leadership – and that its tent is indeed larger than state party leadership wants to believe. Hell, even I got re-elected to my precinct seat.
The Trump/Cheney race (with Hageman as Trump’s vessel) was a national-level contest and reflects a lingering anger with Liz, but the same ideology was reflected in the state race between Chuck Gray and Tara Nethercott, with some right wingers comparing Nethercott to Cheney. In fact, the always trashy and belligerent Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGO) dubbed Nethercott as Cheney’s “evil twin sister.” While Wyoming chose the blustery Gray for the Secretary of State position, over the vastly more rational and qualified Nethercott, she will continue to serve in the state legislature.
Yet in the same election, voters returned more traditional Republican legislative leaders such as Senator Ogden Driskill and Representative Albert Sommers. While the right wing did win some seats, it lost in plenty of others.
The real tell will be what happens in the county party structures. Which faction got more electors in seats at the precinct level? That will determine the future of the leadership in the state party, and whether Frank Eathorne and his ride for the brand posse will continue to try to horsewhip those with independent thought into compliance.
Rod Miller: I certainly didn’t see a Red Tsunami sweep over Wyoming, particularly in the down ballot races. Several MAGA firebrands either lost their legislative seats or were turned away by voters on their first attempt, so the Trump/Eathorne reach didn’t go very far down the ballot.
The Jameses, Tom & Jennifer, lost their races over on the West Side. And Troy Bray, Sergeant-at-Arms for the Park County Republican Men’s Full Gospel Gun & Glee Club, wiped out trying to surf the Red Wave. And you’re right – a couple of the ol’ mossbacks that were in the MAGA gunsights, Driskill and Case, dodged crimson bullets and will remain burrs under Eathorne’s saddle.
With all the clamor and tumult in the Republican races, and almost every Democrat in Teton County crossing over in the primary, it leads me to wonder about the role of the Democrats in future Wyoming politics. If their only strength lies in crossing over party lines to vote in a GOP primary, what does that say about their future as a statewide political force? Are they content to play spoiler, or do they have plans to reclaim their place at the table as a legitimate counter-weight to Republican muscle flexing?
Cat Urbigkit: Your questions about the Democratic party gave me pause. I honestly don’t think about that party’s work in Wyoming, for several reasons. First is the adage to get your own house in order, and the second is that I simply don’t consider it a political force at all. It seems hard to believe that not so long ago, Wyoming elected Democrats as governors (think Ed Herschler, Mike Sullivan, Dave Freudenthal).
But those days are gone, and politics has changed. Right now, the Democratic party seems to struggle to fill party precinct seats in the state – let alone getting candidates to file for office to challenge a Republican. It’s no wonder though, since its current national party leadership isn’t advocating a platform that would appeal to Wyoming voters, and the party’s radical left provides an abundance of fodder for Republicans to shoot down.
Speaking of shooting, I want to go back to WyGO a minute. While WyGO is celebrating the Hageman and Gray wins, WyGO’s Aaron Dorr didn’t do so well with his legislative picks. Of WyGO’s 37 legislative candidates selected as “100% pro-gun,” 25 lost their primaries. That WyGO couldn’t read the state isn’t much of a surprise since WyGO is operated by out-of-stater Dorr, and WyGO’s Wyoming headquarters is a just private mailbox service based in a Cheyenne UPS store. In my view, the infamous Dorr brothers and their organizations (money making machinery) serve as parasites on actual Wyoming gun owners.
But these election results won’t really matter to WyGO, because, well, such is the way of parasites.
Rod Miller: Ha! Don’t get me started on those zany Dorr bros! They remind me of blindfolded, tap-dancin’, knife-throwin’ snake oil carnies who come to town asking for volunteers. If it wasn’t for their entertainment value, they’d have no value to Wyoming at all. They are an important factor in politics in the 307 only in their own imaginations.
I haven’t seen a final tabulation on voter turnout, but my hunch is that it was big for a mid-term. That means that the voters were engaged enough to get off the bench, and that’s a good thing. Regardless of the issue or personality at stake, the voters moved like a giant hand across the face of Wyoming and created this landscape we have today. We can all take pride in that!
There remain a few contested races that will be decided in the general election, but for all tents & porpoises, the die is cast. It was an interesting election!
Now Cat…where’d you hide that whiskey bottle?
Cat Urbigkit: Cheers to you, friend!