By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander) has won a sixth term in the Wyoming House of Representatives, beating Independent challenger Jeff Martin by roughly 20% of the vote as preliminary results for his district arrived late Tuesday.
“It’s a big dang deal when somebody casts their vote for you and says that they’re willing to let you represent them,” said Larsen, the Republican nominee from Lander, upon receiving news of his win.
“These numbers are really pretty significant to me – to think that people have that much confidence in me: I can’t take that lightly,” he said. “And I certainly respect the thought (and) effort that went in to each one of those votes and I need to make sure that I don’t do anything that would taint the effort that went into those votes.”
Larsen said he wants to continue his work on mental health policy in Wyoming, diversify the state’s investment opportunities and seek a greater return on those investments. He also wants to re-develop the state’s taxation plan on energy producers to glean appropriate revenues from renewable energy producers.
Larsen spearheaded an effort to remodel and improve Wyoming’s intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health care facilities. Most recently, he and other mental health advocates in government celebrated the ribbon-cutting for an $85 million remodel of the Wyoming Life Resource Center, which serves special-needs people on its Lander campus.
Indian Child Welfare Act
As co-chair of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations, Larsen said his fourth priority is to develop a state version of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.
The act could soon be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It has for decades ensured that American Indian children taken from their parents’ custody temporarily or permanently should be offered to the care of tribal families before being offered to non-tribal foster or adoptive families.
Larsen in a committee meeting last month voted for a bill that would establish a working group to develop a Wyoming version of the law. The bill could become law next year, if it passes the full Legislature.
No Tribal Funding, But Thanks
The Northern Arapaho Tribe offered a sizeable campaign donation to Larsen.
He was flattered, but said he declined the money.
“I think it could really be misunderstood had I accepted it,” said Larsen. “I was very flattered and appreciated their support.”
Larsen said as chairman of the Tribal Relations Committee, it could look unsavory if he accepted funding from the sovereign government with whom he negotiates tribal-related laws. But he said he believes the tribe intended no harm.
“I am 100% confident that their offer was just with the purest of intent, saying, ‘We support legislators who are working to benefit the issues the tribes are challenged with’ – but I think we just have to be careful there,” he said.
Though there is no mechanism under Wyoming law for an Indian tribe to make a campaign donation, the tribe does not fall under state law. The state also couldn’t sue or prosecute a tribe in the event of an elections-law violation because the tribe has sovereign immunity from being charged.
Fairness In Women’s Sports Act
Larsen said he will support the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which is a bill that would prevent biological males from competing in female school sports.
Larsen’s campaign opponent Jeff Martin launched a radio advertisement rebuking Larsen, saying the incumbent voted against the act.
But Larsen’s nay vote wasn’t a vote on the merits of the bill: it was a vote against introducing the bill, since it crossed from the state Senate to the House after the crossover deadline for the Legislature’s rushed 2022 budget session.
In that session, the Legislature had a constitutional duty to pass the state budget and to re-district its voter districts according to the most recent census.
Larsen believes that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, plans to bring it back for a fresh vote in the upcoming session.
“Senator Schuler called me last summer indicating she was considering such a bill and asked if I could support it. I told her then I would,” said Larsen, adding that he believes the bill will have “strong support in the House,” including his own.
“But the Senate needs to hear it in a timely manner,” he said.
Much of Larsen’s campaign trail has been fraught with misunderstanding, he said, noting that some voters accuse him of voting with “the Democrats” 70% of the time.
“And that cracks me up, because there are only six Democrats: They vote with us,” he said.