By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
State Rep. Chad Banks, D-Rock Springs, said concerns about national-level issues such as transgender rights and parental choice made a difference in his failed reelection bid Tuesday.
“I have been disappointed with how national issues have come to Wyoming,” he said.
Banks’ loss on Tuesday night ends the last vestige of Democratic representation in the Wyoming Legislature from Sweetwater County.
Sweetwater, and specifically Rock Springs, was a strong foothold for the Democratic Party throughout the 20th century. Over the last 20 years, that’s slowly eroded, likely corresponding with the waning influence of union movements and the railroad in that community.
Influence Of Controversial Issues
Although Banks said censoring books perceived to be pornographic in school libraries has not been brought up in his community like it has other parts of the state, he said more overarching concerns like parental control were brought up to him during the campaign.
“It’s the parent’s job to know what their students are doing,” Banks said. “I’m alarmed when I see a vocal group of people trying to parent other people’s children.”
Republican J.T. Larson beat Banks in the race for House District 17. Larson has not clarified his position on major topics such as same-sex marriage, transgender rights and abortion, telling Cowboy State Daily he was too busy to answer questions.
Banks, a first-term legislator, said he believes partisan, national-level politics “trickled down” to his race.
“Both parties’ national presence is not necessarily applicable in Wyoming,” he said. “I’ve never been a big party person.”
Banks said he was a Republican for 30 years, but left the party about four or five years ago over the issue of same-sex marriage.
Banks, who is gay, said he’s concerned about LGBTQ rights in Wyoming because of a few bills considered in the Legislature last year.
“If you can’t understand why your gay friend is scared right now, then you don’t have a gay friend; you know a gay person,” he posted on his personal Facebook page Tuesday night.
Specifically, he mentioned to Cowboy State Daily the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act that, if passed last session, would have made it illegal for biological males to participate on female athletic teams in public schools.
“That sends a message that we don’t want you here,” Banks said.
Banks mentioned how there is a transgender person on his daughter’s track team.
“And it’s not an issue,” he said.
One of a handful of openly gay legislators in Wyoming, Banks said he doesn’t believe homophobia played a factor in his race.
He took the high road in his concession speech on Facebook, saying Larson’s “heart is in the right place, and I know he’ll do us proud in Cheyenne.”