State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said there is an ongoing campaign to find an Independent candidate to run against Secretary of State Republican nominee Chuck Gray in the general election.
“There’s a lot of interest in this,” Case said.
To get an Independent on the ballot at this juncture, organizers would have to get signatures from 5,046 electors around the state by Aug. 31.
This number represents 2% of the total votes cast in the 2020 general election U.S. House race in Wyoming, the baseline requirement to get an Independent candidate on the ballot for a general election in the state.
Case, a supporter of State Sen. Tara Nethercott, second-place finisher in the race, said he would be willing to help with this effort.
“It’s very interesting because there’s likely broad support,” he said. “That’s a manageable number.”
Case said Gray started campaigning and putting serious money into his campaign earlier than Nethercott which helped him pull off the victory. Gray was also assisted by the statewide recognition he garnered during his 2021 U.S. House campaign.
Gray, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, beat Nethercott by nearly 13,000 votes in the primary election on Tuesday.
During the Secretary of State race, significant mud was thrown between Nethercott and Gray.
Gray disbursed literature saying Nethercott was being sued for defamation and under investigation for campaign finance violations. No substantiating evidence has been found for either claim.
“His (Gray) completely false mailers says a lot about the situation,” Case said.
Nethercott accused Gray of failing to be transparent regarding the source of his 2021 U.S. House campaign funding.
Gray has vowed that he will enact more stringent election laws in Wyoming. He has painted a picture of “insiders,” which includes Nethercott, who have conspired against his efforts to get conservative legislation passed.
Gray hosted free showings of “2000 Mules” during the campaign, a movie that questions the security of ballot drop boxes. No footage from Wyoming was shown in the film.
Wyoming voters are divided on the issue of election security. Many members of the Wyoming Republican Party, like Cody resident Vince Vanata, believe the state’s elections are not secure enough. Vanata said the allowing of ballot drop boxes and the permission that was given to election staff to count ballots three days prior to election day in 2020 was illegal.
“I challenge the statement being made that we had the most secure elections in the state, they violated the law, they didn’t bend more than the integrity of the intent of the law, they violated the law,” Vanata said during a Park County Republican Party meeting on Aug. 4.
“The Secretary of State needs to be held with their feet to the fire and held accountable for what they have done and what they’ve gotten away with, what they’re going to continue try and do,” he said.
Cheyenne resident Amy Fenimore said it should be illegal for candidates to spread disinformation about the security of Wyoming’s elections, in which she has full confidence. Since 2000, four cases of voter fraud have been prosecuted in the state.
“And if all four prosecuted were found guilty – I don’t know,” she said. “If people are giving out misleading information, why are they not called out on it?”
Who’s It Going To Be?
Wyoming law precludes a losing primary candidate from running in the general election, so Nethercott and fellow challenger Mark Armstrong would be ineligible to run again.
“It would have to be a conservative person,” Case said. “It would have to be a good, conservative person with conservative credentials who would temporarily run as an Independent.”
There are no Democrats running for Secretary of State this year.
If a candidate does come forth to run against Gray, who received 75,938 votes, they will have a tall, but not impossible task if they hope to win.
In 2018, 53,355 people voted for Democrat James Byrd for Secretary of State. Only 8,194 Democrats voted in Tuesday’s primary, but that paltry sum is likely due to extensive crossover voting in the Republican U.S. House race between U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman.
There was talk in political circles that former gubernatorial candidate Sam Galeotos and former state legislator Nathan Winters were considering runs. Both told Cowboy State Daily on Friday they would not be entering the race.
The last time a true Independent ran in a statewide Wyoming election was 2014, although there were members of the Libertarian and Constitutional parties represented as candidates in the 2020 U.S. House race.
Jim Roscoe, an Independent representative for House District 22, was elected in 2018.
The only other Independent legislator in Wyoming history was Johnson County’s William Holland who served from 1971-1978.