By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Republican state House candidate Andrew Byron is confused by a press release the Wyoming Republican Party put out Thursday night, claiming the party is giving him $2,000 for his campaign.
As of Friday morning, Byron said he hasn’t received the money, and he doesn’t want it.
The Wyoming GOP told Cowboy State Daily on Friday afternoon that Byron wasn’t sent a $2,000 donation and that his name being on the list of recipients was a mistake.
The Jackson resident described the press release and discrepancy as “embarrassing” and “pretty bizarre.”
“I just don’t know what to think as far as whether it’s bad, good or otherwise,” he said.
Byron, who is running for House District 22 against Independent Bob Strobel, had already stated publicly a few weeks prior that he would not accept any money from the state GOP. He clarified to Cowboy State Daily on Friday morning, this isn’t in any kind of opposition to the party, but rather that he does not want to solicit funds from the party, any other organization or individual.
“I didn’t ask for money from any donors,” he said.
Without the party’s contribution, Byron has already raised $48,629 during his campaign, one of the larger war chests raised for a Wyoming Legislature campaign this year. Strobel has raised $18,432.
Bob Ferguson, treasurer of the Wyoming GOP, declined to comment on the Byron contribution.
The GOP Platform
Although Byron is pro choice on abortion, he says he still adheres to 80% of the Republican Party platform.
“I’m still pledging to 80% of the party platform,” he said. “I will give my word to that. Where I’ll differ from the party on the 20% will be seen on my voting record.”
The 80% quota is the bar the state party sets to determine if it will give OK contributions to candidates who apply for assistance. It also represents a litmus test for many within the party to use when determining whether someone is a “real” Republican or not.
Candidates must apply for campaign assistance, which Byron said he did reach out to the state party for, but that he didn’t want that assistance to come in the form of a direct contribution.
“I asked for a (campaign) mailer and they decided to fund me,” Byron explained. “I asked for a mailer and they pivoted.”
Byron said he hasn’t been able to speak with anyone at the party about the matter.
“I would’ve loved a mailer from them or even communication,” he said.
Some Checks May Be In The Mail
A number of the candidates listed as receiving money in the press release report the state party money in their campaign finance statements that were due earlier this week. These include Bryan Shuster (HD 14), Jim McCollum (HD 16), Scott Smith (HD 5), Tomi Strock (HD 6), Diane Seabeck (SD 9), Jeremy Haroldson (HD 4) and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (HD 50).
All the candidates reported receiving the money within the past two weeks.
Although the press release said candidates Sarah Penn (HD 33), Scott Heiner (HD 18), Robert Davis (HD 47) and Dan Laursen (SD 19) were set to receive money from the Republican Party, none reported receiving the contributions by the time they submitted their campaign finances earlier this week.
“I never have seen one,” Laursen said, adding that he did make a request for funds from the party in September.
Ferguson said many of the contributions were mailed to candidates this week, which would partially explain why some candidates haven’t received their funds yet.
Penn told Cowboy State Daily on Friday afternoon she had neither received a donation from the state GOP nor was expecting one. Heiner also said he hadn’t received a contribution as of Friday afternoon.
“I was told I would be getting a donation, but it never arrived,” Heiner said.
The financial discrepancies were just one of many errors made in the press release.
A number of candidates’ names were misspelled, including Sara Penn (Sarah Penn) Brian Shuster (Bryan Shuster), Rachel Rodriguez (Rodriguez-Williams) and Dan Larsen (Dan Laursen). Laursen also was listed as running for House District 17, when he is running for Senate District 19. He is the current representative for House District 25.
Laursen called his discrepancies “very confusing” and “pretty weird.”
The confusion with Laursen may have been a case of a mistaken identity, as J.T. Larson is running for House District 17. Larson did not report the $500 contribution in his campaign finance report Wednesday and he said he never requested any money from the party.
Even if the GOP’s funds arrive in the mailboxes of those four candidates before election day, it doesn’t leave much time for candidates to use the money – ranging from $500 to $2,000 per contribution – before election day Tuesday. Ferguson would not comment on the delay beyond saying the party also can disburse funds when they are made available.
“It is too late for a donation now. I would just return it away this point,” Heiner said.
Laursen, who is running unopposed, said if he does receive the $500 contribution, he will likely use it toward newspaper ads and other literature in the future.
Byron said that after speaking with a number of constituents in his district he felt it important to let people know that he is pro choice. He said he faced particular criticism from constituents in Teton County who had assumed he was pro life.
“For personal freedoms, I took that stance on being pro choice,” Byron said.
House District 22 is rather purple, Byron said, with about 40% to 45% of its voters in Teton County and the remaining majority in the more conservative Lincoln County. Jim Roscoe, an Independent, now represents HD 22.
Byron, who described himself as a sensitive firefighter, said his opponent has cast him as a career politician, despite the fact he has never held office before. His only election experience came in a prior run for county commissioner, which he lost.
Because of the wide variety of political views and cultures within his district, Byron said representing his constituents won’t be easy if he’s elected.
“I just want to be a voice for my constituents, which are going to be tough to represent,” he said. “I’m ready to listen and be a sponge freshman.”