UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily the Secretary of State’s office will not allow him to gather elector signatures before receiving the candidate’s approval. Nathan Winters will have to give his approval and signature before any citizen’s signatures are obtained for a potential Secretary of State campaign.
Lander Sen. Cale Case is attempting to draft former legislator Nathan Winters to run as an Independent against Rep. Chuck Gray in the Secretary of State general election but there’s a significant issue with that — Winters doesn’t want to run.
Case made the announcement on Tuesday morning that he was trying to obtain signatures to get Winters on the ballot.
Case, a vocal opponent of Gray, acknowledged to Cowboy State Daily that it was a last ditch effort.
“It’s a Hail Mary, I confess,” Case said. “But I’m hoping to build some momentum and get some traction. I’ve already talked to some major Republicans and they’re standing by to help. We just need some traction.”
That attempt, Winters wants no part of. He told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday morning that he 100% is not running.
“Right now, I have so many important things going on, I can’t run for Secretary of State,” he said.
That didn’t seem to faze Case. The senator sent the “Draft Nathan Winters” petition to media outlets on Tuesday morning praising Winters and explaining why he’s backing him.
“I served with Nathan Winters in the Wyoming Legislature,” Case said. “He is a very honorable, thoughtful, and kind person.”
“He is very conservative and holds immense faith in our savior. No one ever will be able to tag him as a RINO (Republican in name only),” he said.
Winters, executive director of Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming, must receive 5,418 signatures of support by Aug. 29 in order to get his name on the ballot.
Case said Winters is taking no part in organizing or authorizing the effort to get his name on the ballot. And despite Winters’ opposition, Case said he thinks there is still hope.
“I think Nathan is more than other people, willing to consider running,” Case said. “He’s a very conscientious person, understands Wyoming and is faith-driven for our future.”
Under Wyoming law, a candidate must give permission for their name to be used on a petition prior to obtaining signatures. Winters has not given this permission.
Case has argued to Kai Schon, Wyoming election division director, that this law restricts free speech.
If it is determined the petition can be circulated, Case said he is hoping to achieve a “grassroots groundswell” to get enough signatures.
Winters, a former Republican state representative for six years, also ran for State Auditor in 2018, losing to Kristi Racines. From 2019-2021, he also lobbied for Civics Education and a Convention of States- a conservative movement based on state’s rights.
Since Jan. 2020 Winters has been with Family Policy Alliance, an American conservative Christian organization that is a lobbying arm for Focus on the Family at the level of state government politics. Focus on the Family is a fundamentalist Christian organization that promotes socially conservative views.
Winters said one of the projects he is involved in is coordinating efforts for a branch of Hillsdale College to be located in Wyoming. Hillsdale is a private conservative liberal arts school based in Michigan.
Case said Winters would have a “very good” chance of beating Gray because of Winters’ conservative background, which Case thinks could take away some of the voters who supported Gray in the primary.
If enough signatures can be gained, Winters will be given the opportunity to face Gray in the general election. Under state law, Winters would have to agree to having his name be put on the ballot.
Gray, a Republican state representative from Casper, beat leading challenger Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, in the Republican primary by nearly 13,000 votes.
Gray ran a campaign expressing doubt about the security of Wyoming’s elections. He has vowed that he will immediately remove ballot drop boxes, make ballot harvesting a felony and enact further measures to strengthen the security of Wyoming’s elections. To further his point, Gray held free showings of “2000 Mules” during his campaign, a move that relies on questionable evidence to argue that the 2020 elections were rigged.
There was significant mudslinging between Gray and Nethercott during their race. Gray brought up unsupported claims that Nethercott was being sued for defamation and under investigation by the Secretary of State office for campaign finance violations.
Nethercott accused Gray of not being transparent about the source of his 2021 U.S. House campaign funding.
Gray has held a contentious relationship with certain members of the Legislature while earning the support of the House Freedom Caucus. He has accused those opposing him in the Legislature of being “insiders,” a group he included Nethercott and the media in.
No Democrat has entered the Secretary of State race. The only way Winters can get his name on the ballot at this juncture is to do so as an Independent.
“Nathan will be an effective and conscientious Secretary of State for the people of Wyoming,” Case said. “We can rest assured that the office would be in good hands and that any changes would be thoughtfully undertaken.”
In response to Gray winning the Republican nomination, at least one employee in the Secretary of State’s office has resigned.