By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Wyoming State and Federal Endorsement Records
Wyoming Realtors Political Action Committee: 24 wins, 6 losses .800
Wyoming Education Association: 24 wins, 6 losses .800
Gun Owners of America: 19 wins, 7 losses .730
Wyoming Mining Association: 21 wins, 9 losses .700
Wyoming Hospital Association: 17 wins, 10 losses .629
Wyoming Right to Life: 33 wins, 20 losses .622
Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming: 39 wins, 27 losses .590
Coal Country Conservatives: 4 wins, 3 losses, .571
Wyoming Hope: 15 wins, 12 losses .555
Western Conservatives: 5 wins, 5 losses .500
Wyoming Gun Owners: 10 wins, 11 losses .476
Wyoming realtors and educators lobbying groups were the most successful as far as the advancement of their picked candidates during the 2022 primary election. Wyoming Gun Owners was less successful.
Cowboy State Daily tracked some of the biggest lobbying groups in the state to see how their preferred federal and state legislative candidates did in the August primary election.
Calculating these results wasn’t a perfect algorithm as there is a certain amount of gray area as to what can be considered an endorsement.
If a candidate was spoken of favorably by a particular group, it was considered a marker of support. If a particular candidate was spoken of negatively, it was considered a marker of opposition.
Certain groups formally endorsed candidates while others directly gave money to particular campaigns. Others used a grading system to offer their thoughts on candidates based on surveyed questions submitted to the candidates.
Certain groups weighed in on many more races and candidates than others, so this snapshot shouldn’t be considered as a general idea to the work these groups put into the election and results of their work.
If a group supported both a winning and losing candidate in a particular race, it was considered a draw.
If a group supported or opposed a candidate running unopposed, it was still considered a win or a loss. That last stipulation caused inflation and deflation of numbers, which will be noted below.
“Good Election For Conservatives”
Mark Jones, national director of hunters’ programs for Gun Owners of America, was pleased with his organization’s performance in the primary.
“It was probably overall a good election for conservatives in Wyoming,” he said. “Overall, we’re pretty pleased with the way things went in Wyoming.”
Many staunchly conservative candidates were elected to the state legislature this year, in many instances knocking out incumbent legislators seen as more moderate.
State Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, and Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, were two examples of this, beaten by candidates who haven’t held office before.
Rep. Steve Harshmann, R-Casper, and Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils’ Tower, both won their primary elections by slim margins.
Jones said deciding between which candidates to support and not support can be a surprisingly complicated process. Many candidates may talk the talk, but may lack a voting record and other background substantiating their claims. He said his group incorporates an extensive vetting process to sort through the pack. The group uses a Second Amendment survey and other background checking mechanisms.
“A lot of things going into that, we have a lot of tools in the tool box,” Jones said.
He said certain candidates have answered their survey in a way that disguises true intentions.
“Some of them kind of try to dodge away from their true feelings,” he said.
GOA vs WYGO
GOA has held a contentious relationship with Wyoming Gun Owners over Second Amendment legislation issues in the state. WyGO does not formally endorse candidates but does put out media expressing favorable and negative opinions about certain candidates.
The group highlighted more than a dozen state and federal level races this year on Facebook, explaining each candidate’s position on Second Amendment issues based on their responses to WyGO’s survey.
“Gun owners spoke loudly in the primaries across Wyoming again this cycle,” said Aaron Dorr, policy advisor for Wyoming Gun Owners. “Anti-gun RINOs (Republican In Name Only) like (U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney, as well as state level gun rights frauds like Drew Perkins and (State Sen.) R.J. Kost (R-Powell) who have blocked and weakened gun bills for years, were all sent packing.
“Sure, some good candidates fell, but the message was sent loud and clear: if you mess with the Second Amendment in Wyoming, it’s gonna hurt.”
WyGO and GOA supported a few of the same candidates, but GOA openly opposed some of WyGO’s favored candidates like Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, and Sen. Tom James, R-Green River.
In all, 12 of WyGO’s preferred candidates lost in the primary election.
“I think their vetting process ought to be looked at to strengthen that,” Jones said.
“Ask the dozens of RINOS who have been thrown out of office by gun owners about that,” he said in response. “Mark Jones is a fool.”
The Wyoming Realtors Political Action Committee (PAC) had a successful election, with 80% of the candidates it donated money to winning their races.
The PAC endorsed a slate of Republicans around the state, ranging from moderate to conservative in their political views.
The PAC’s biggest endorsements were two separate endorsements of $5,000, given to State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, in her Secretary of State campaign, and Megan Degenfelder in her Superintendent of Public Instruction Campaign.
The Wyoming Education Association had a similar 80% success rating, but many of the candidates this group gave money to were Democrats running unopposed in their primary election.
Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming offered grades to candidates based on their answers in a survey. Family Policy gave a negative grade to a number of Democrats who ran unopposed, which negatively effected their overall record.
The Western Conservatives PAC spent more money than other lobbying groups in Wyoming elections this year at $258,625. From the races Cowboy State Daily was able to track that it took part in, the group had mixed results with a 5-5 record. The group advocated for more moderate Republicans, while slamming their opponents in a variety of mailers.
Another significant PAC was Wyoming Hope, which provided $157,500 to a slate of moderate to staunchly conservative Republicans, with a slight majority winning their races. Former Wyoming GOP Chair and state legislator Diemer True is the chair of this PAC.