By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Another key staff member of the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office has expressed their intention to leave the office. On Thursday, Kai Schon, state elections director, made a post on LinkedIn, saying he was going to start looking for new job opportunities.
“It’s time for me to start looking for other opportunities and I would appreciate your continued support in this next venture,” Schon said in his LinkedIn post.
Schon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shortly after last week’s state primary election, Schon made a LinkedIn post related to the choosing of a Secretary of State.
“I have always wondered why so few people who know what I do as the State Election Director, never ask me my thoughts on the candidates for Secretary of State,” he wrote.
“I would think Wyomingites would want to know the potential impact each candidate could have on the office staff, what that means to the services the office delivers to the public, the potential effect on the 23 county clerks tasked with carrying out the administration of elections, and the potential effects on the citizens of Wyoming,” he said.
Schon’s announcement comes one week after Monique Meese, communications and policy director for the Secretary of State’s office, said she was resigning.
Meese said State Rep. Chuck Gray’s, R-Casper, recent Secretary of State primary election win was part of the reason why she accepted a job as deputy county attorney with Laramie County.
She said she started looking for other opportunities when she found out Gray had entered the race. Meese expressed concerns that other members of the office may quit because of Gray’s election.
Gray has no challenger yet in the general election.
“This primary election is over, and in Wyoming that typically means the outcome in the general election is a mere formality,” Schon said in his post. “Perhaps in 2024, you might remember this little rambling and seek out information that goes beyond and/or cuts through the various “campaign” narratives.”
During his primary campaign, Gray sowed seeds of doubt about the security of Wyoming’s elections, saying election laws need to be tightened and drop box ballot boxes removed. He hosted free showings of “2000 Mules,” a movie that alleges the 2020 elections were rigged.
Gray will now oversee the state’s elections as Secretary of State.
Current Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s term runs through the end of the year, but Michael Pearlman, spokesman for Gov. Mark Gordon, said in a July interview with Cowboy State Daily that Buchanan may start a judgeship in Goshen County before the general election.
Schon has been state elections director since February 2016. In this role, he is one of the five Executive Team members of the Secretary of State’s office. Prior to becoming elections director, Schon was a Help America Vote Act coordinator for the Secretary of State’s Office since 2007. In total, Schon has been with the office for more than 15 years.
Schon often speaks before the State Legislature about Wyoming’s elections and election laws. On Thursday, he spoke before the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee regarding the feasibility of instituting open primaries, runoff and ranked choice elections in Wyoming. He did not make any mention of his possible departure.
Gray said during one forum he would establish runoff elections in the state if elected. This type of change would actually have to take place through action from the State Legislature, not the Secretary of State. Gray has clarified many of the changes he has promised would come from his efforts lobbying legislators.
Karen Wheeler, deputy secretary of state and a member of the Executive Team, told Cowboy State Daily earlier this week she is not resigning at this time, but said she is unsure about her future after the end of the year when the next Secretary of State starts their term.
She “liked” Schon’s post. Another member of the Executive Team, Kelly Janes, also “liked” Schon’s post.
On Thursday, the Corporations committee passed a resolution to draft a bill that would strip the Secretary of State of their power to oversee the state’s elections. Instead, a nonpartisan elections commission would be established to perform this duty. The Secretary of State would take part in helping nominate candidates for this panel as a member of the State Canvassing Board. Gray’s election was one of the main reasons given for making this change.