By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Two incumbent state lawmakers from Sweetwater County were unseated Tuesday night. The losses could be considered the biggest upsets of the night in the Wyoming Legislature.
State Rep. Chad Banks, D-Rock Springs, and Rep. Marshall Burt, L-Green River, both lost their reelection bids.
The losses represent equivalent gains for the Republican Party overall.
“It feels pretty good,” said Republican J.T. Larson, who beat Banks. “I’m really excited to represent Sweetwater County.”
Larson won by 21% of the vote, a margin of victory even he did not expect to attain, although he said he expected to win entering the election.
“I thought it would be closer than it was,” he said.
Banks ran on a platform of being a moderate. His loss strips the Democratic Party of the last representation it had in Sweetwater County, historically a bastion for the party in the state.
There isn’t much separating the platforms of Banks and Larson besides taxes.
Banks said he would support a real estate transfer tax that particularly impacts wealthy residents and supports removing the sales tax exemption for data centers.
Larson said during an October forum he would work to not increase = taxes.
“During these difficult times, additional taxes should not be seen as an answer for fiscal responsibility,” he said. “When it comes to economic development, I believe in being able to provide businesses a gateway to grow with the least amount of government involved.”
Burt, a first-term Libertarian, lost to Republican Cody Wylie of Rock Springs by 50% of the vote.
Last week, Burt accused the Sweetwater Republican Party on Facebook of lying about him in campaign mailers “in an attempt to smear my name and reputation in order to manipulate the true representation of who I am.”
“We’ve all heard the ads that voting for my opponent is the clear choice,” Burt said, describing himself as one of the state’s most conservative legislators. “I have ran an honest campaign based on integrity and because of that I won’t use the same smear tactics.”
Wylie received an endorsement from Gov. Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Construction Coalition Inc.
“Cody Wylie is a tremendous advocate for Sweetwater County’s and statewide construction industry,” said Heidi Peterson, WCC executive director, in a press release.
With Independent candidate Bob Strobel also losing in House District 22 for his campaign to replace retiring Rep. Jim Roscoe, I-Wilson, there are no longer any third-party legislators in the state Legislature.