By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Although state Rep. John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne, lost his primary election, he said he’s strongly considering getting back into the House District 44 race as a write-in candidate.
Republican Tamara Trujillo and Democrat Sara Burlingame are the only two candidates in the race with less than a month to go before the Nov. 8 general election.
“Disaffected citizens came and talked to me about their concerns with the two candidates and some said they would vote for neither,” Romero-Martinez said.
Romero-Martinez had begun a write-in campaign for a short period of time after the primary election, with one advertisement running on his behalf on multiple media platforms.
Romero-Martinez said he stopped campaigning after he was given misleading information from multiple sources, who told him it’s illegal to run a write-in campaign after losing in the primary. This is a misinterpretation of state law that forbids candidates who lose in a primary from having their names printed on the general election ballot, but they can run write-in campaigns.
Now, Romero-Martinez said he is reconsidering his write-in campaign and said he will make a decision after consulting with the Secretary of State’s office.
“Part of my intent to run, after spending time with and listening to disaffected voters for many hours, is that candidate Trujillo has yet to make a solid stance for or against the Medical Treatment Opportunity Act,” Romero-Martinez said. “Because of this point, she seems opposed to the qualifying communities receiving care.”
The Medical Treatment Opportunity Act that Romero-Martinez refers to is the Medicaid expansion bill that was pushed during the 2022 Legislative session. Romero-Martinez is a firm supporter of Medicaid expansion, a position that runs counter to the position held by many members of the Wyoming Republican Party. The party sent out newsletters this past summer speaking against Medicaid expansion.
“His opinion is really irrelevant in the race because he lost, and he lost pretty good,” Trujillo said.
The expansion bill was not considered in the House this year after passing that body in 2021.
Later in this year’s session, Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, attempted to bring Medicaid expansion back through an amendment to the budget bill, but the amendment was ruled unconstitutional by the Rules Committee. A second budget amendment Case made did make it to the Senate, but was rejected by an overwhelming margin.
Trujillo refused to give Cowboy State Daily more than a vague policy stance when asked multiple times about her stance on Medicaid expansion on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m running to be fiscally responsible for my constituents and help them anyway I can,” Trujillo said, referring to herself as a “fiscally responsible conservative.”
A poll conducted by New Bridge Strategy in 2021 found that 66% of Wyoming’s registered voters support expanding Medicaid. That broke down to 98% of Democrats, 64% of Independents and 58% of Republicans in Wyoming.
The Wyoming Department of Health recommends setting aside $22 million for the expansion’s first year that would be matched with a $177 million federal contribution. WDH estimates that Wyoming would actually have a surplus of $32 million after the first year that could cover the state’s share of expansion costs for a second year. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion indefinitely. States that newly expand Medicaid can get a 5% increase in their traditional federal match, but only for two years.
“If the other factions of my Republican Party prefer the private option, then I suggest all of the Christian alliances come together and put up the $5 bilion necessary for the Medical Treatment Opportunity Act,” Romero-Martinez said.
Trujillo said she does not believe Romero-Martinez, her cousin, will impact the race as a write-in candidate.
“I don’t think he will affect the outcome,” she said. “When I started running in this race, I touched every door in my district. I’m pretty good.”
But the race between Trujillo and Burlingame, a former legislator, will likely be competitive even without Romero-Martinez’s presence.
In this year’s primary, Trujillo beat Romero-Martinez by 111 votes. Also in the race was Michael Reyes, who received 32 fewer votes than Romero-Martinez with a total of 261.
In the 2020 race, Romero-Martinez beat Burlingame by 48 votes. HD 44, a lower-income district in South Cheyenne, had been held by Democrats for many years prior to Romero-Martinez’s win.
Romero-Martinez said he has no expectations of winning and is running to start a conversation about Medicaid expansion. He said he is drawing inspiration from the Shoshone tribe of Native Americans in his decision to consider running again.
“Ultimately, what the voters care about is the issues,” he said.