By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Millions of dollars were spent helping politicians get elected in Wyoming this year. The candidates who spent the most money tended to have the most success, but they didn’t always win, and even when they did, it was sometimes by a small margin.
Gov. Mark Gordon raised the most of any Wyoming candidate with $541,577. His biggest donor was his wife Jennie Gordon, who loaned him $100,000 for his campaign. Gordon received $45,000 from political action committees (PACs).
Gordon also spent the most with $631,759 disbursed.
Secretary of State candidate Chuck Gray was right behind Gordon, raising $527,980.
Gray’s biggest donor was his father Jan Charles Gray, who gave $500,000 to his campaign. Jan Charles Gray also gave $50,000 to his son’s State House campaign after the younger Gray had announced he was running for Secretary of State. Jan Charles Gray was the biggest individual donor in the state this election cycle.
State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, spent $431,411 during his Secretary of State campaign.
Megan Degenfelder, who won the Republican nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction, raised $237,118 during her campaign. She gave $70,000 to her own campaign and received $10,025 from family members.
She will now face Democrat Sergio Maldonado in the general election, who raised $5,305.
State Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, raised the most money of any State Legislature candidate, bringing in $58,850. It still wasn’t enough to help Perkins get reelected, as challenger Bob Ide beat him by 302 votes.
Perkins raised $31,150 from individual donors and received $18,000 from PACs. He spent $23,339 during his campaign.
Ide raised the second most of any State Legislature candidate with $56,220, of which $25,000 came from himself. He spent $52,842, more than any legislator in the state.
Notable individuals contributing to Ide’s campaign included Jackson residents Dan and Carleen Brophy with a combined $3,000, State Treasurer Curt Meier with $1,000 and former U.S. House candidate Darrin Smith with $500.
Incumbent Reps. Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, and Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, were two other legislators who spent large sums and still lost their reelection attempts. Both Republican legislators were targeted by their opponents for not being conservative enough.
Duncan spent $35,473 during her campaign and Sweeney spent $20,701.
Scott Smith, who beat Duncan by 248 votes, spent $11,574.
Sweeney’s opponent Bill Allemand spent a sum similar to Sweeney’s expenditures.
State Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, raised the most out of any State House candidate, bringing in $42,173 for her campaign. She gave $16,165 to her own campaign and received $13,650 from PACs.
Newsome spent more than any representative as well, putting $39,334 into her campaign. She may have needed to spend every penny, only beating her opponent Nina Webber by 83 votes. Webber spent $15,043 during her campaign.
House District 47 candidate Clyde Johnson raised the most money of any challenger, but it was 100% from himself, as he gave $39,135 to his own campaign. He spent $19,568.
Johnson lost to fellow challenger Robert Davis by 377 votes. Davis raised $8,000 and spent $13,286. A candidate’s financial report is mostly just a spreadsheet, so they are allowed to keep debts.
The candidates were running to replace State Rep. Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment.
House 23 candidate Liz Storer of Jackson raised the most of any Democrat in the state, raising $32,870 for her campaign. She spent $21,415 during her winning effort. Storer will take on Republican Paul Vogelheim in the general election.
The Colorado-based Western Conservatives PAC spent $258,625 in Wyoming elections this year, more than any other PAC in Wyoming. This group, run by a Colorado lobbyist, issued campaign literature supporting Wyoming state-level candidates and criticizing their opponents, using cartoon bulldogs and other graphics to further their point.
Another significant PAC was Wyoming Hope, which provided $157,500 to a slate of Republicans. Former Wyoming GOP Chair and state legislator Diemer True is the chair of this PAC. He also provided $11,794 of his own funds to various campaigns.
The Brophys were the second biggest individual donors this year. They provided a combined $150,000 to a slate of staunchly conservative candidates throughout the state. The Brophys are well-known political mega donors, donating large sums in numerous elections in the past.
In early 2021, Dan Brophy wrote a guest column for Cowboy State Daily, expressing frustration with U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for not questioning the results of the 2020 election.
Gore-Tex heiress Susan Gore gave $14,000 to candidates this year, which is significantly less than what she gave in past elections.