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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
The son of an immigrant, when state Rep. Daniel Singh, R-Cheyenne, informed his grandfather in Trinidad and Tobago he had been elected to the Wyoming State House, Singh said his grandfather was celebrating his birthday.
“He called me and said, ‘this is the best gift I could’ve received in my entire life,’” Singh remembered. “‘Thank you for doing that.’”
In many ways, Singh’s political service is emblematic of the American dream.
“It’s not out of the picture for a first generation immigrant to come to America with nothing but a suitcase from his mom, to move to America and build a life and someday have a kid who goes into the House of Representatives,” he said.
Singh, Reps. J.T. Larson, R-Rock Springs and Dalton Banks, R-Cowley are the three youngest members of the State Legislature, all three are members of Generation Z.
Singh, 26, said he was inspired to get into politics out of a lifelong desire to serve his community. He said he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself if he didn’t at least run for office last year. Singh beat two opponents in the primary election.
“There’s such a division in my community and specifically in the way people conduct themselves,” he said. “I really have always wanted to dedicate my life to civic service and making sure that our freedoms and our way of life is protected.”
Banks, 27, said he was inspired to run after getting married last March.
Contemplating starting a family, Banks realized Wyoming wasn’t moving in the direction he believed would be a good atmosphere for raising children. He decided to be the instigator of change by moving away from the status quo.
“I see it turning away from small town, rural thinking, and ride for the brand thinking, and more of a want to conform,” he said. “We want to conform with things nationally, we want to conform with things that are not actually for Wyoming.”
Banks said he wants to bring back the Wyoming he remembers from his childhood.
Larson is the youngest legislator at the ripe age of 21-years old. Singh said Larson has been one of the most effective legislators this year due to his charismatic nature. Rarely a moment passed during the 2023 session when Larson would be seen without a smile on his face when talking from the floor.
“I don’t think age has anything to do with it,” Singh said.
Larson credits his effective politicking to going the extra mile.
“Building connections with fellow legislators is very important to me,” he said. “I have tried to attend every event possible during session so I can build those connections with other legislators.”
Larson said he got involved in politics to simply give back to his community.
“The experience overall has been a great honor,” he said. “I have enjoyed the lifelong friendships that I have made among members of the Legislature.”
He said his friends were mostly supportive when he decided to run for office, but did have some concerns that they’ve “worked through.”
Singh said his friends weren’t surprised when he told them he would run for the Legislature and have been completely supportive. His first sacrifice for the job came last summer, when he had to choose campaigning over camping.
“That’s a sacrifice but I’m willing to do that for the people I love,” he said.
The Legislative Experience
Banks is a little bit older than the two at 27. He said he was judged by his age a little at the Legislature when the session first convened.
“I think there was people who wanted to see if my age would make me immature,” he said. “I feel like the respect has come just by getting involved, getting up and speaking on behalf of issues and things like that.”
Nearly half of the House is made up by freshman legislators, and at times, Banks said it felt like the more veteran legislators were trying to take advantage of this. He pushed back on this, asking questions to find the true intent behind bills.
Banks also believes there is a group of “elite” legislators that aren’t looking out for Wyoming’s small towns, but rather the state government institutions.
“I’ve been told a lot that sometimes the people don’t understand the institution,” he said. “I see that as we’re trying to speak for the institution over the people. And I don’t agree with that.”
But he also believes most legislators are a reflection of their constituents and that some of the divide in the House is based on the lines of rural versus urban and status quo versus change. Banks said he wants a little bit of both.
Bridging The Divide
The divide between Republicans was particularly evident in the House this year, with a significant amount of votes coming down to the same vote margins and same voting factions.
“It is sad to see the divide within the House,” Larson, a member of the traditional Republican wing, said. “When we are divided, the people of Wyoming are the ones who pay the price.”
Singh said many of these divisions are limited to within the Republican Party. It’s been his goal to help make the party more unified.
This session he brought House Bill 133, legislation that would decriminalize requirements on leaving a motor vehicle unattended. Singh said he sees bringing a less controversial bill like this as an opportunity to unify the House body.
“We’re not enemies and sometimes we’re portrayed as enemies,” Singh said. “Everyone in that House, we’re all neighbors and we should treat each other like it.”
Singh said he wasn’t always a Republican, but now considers himself “a proven conservative” with “a Libertarian streak.”
“I’m chasing my dreams, I’m chasing my passion,” he said. “It is my passion to serve the people of Wyoming and give them what they want.”
Singh said one of his biggest surprises about the Legislature was that it isn’t as dirty as some people make it out to be.
“I thought it was going to be a lot more juvenile in the way people treat each other,” he said. “There is a little smack talk here and there, but really everyone there is grown adults.”
Singh said he’s open to the idea of attaining higher political office someday, but for now, is focused on representing House District 61.
Larson hopes more younger people get into politics as he believes it is the “only way they will see the future they want.” He, like Singh, said he would be open to running for higher office in the future, but is focused on the job at hand.
Singh wants young people to know that now is the time they need to get involved in politics. Young eligible voters tend to have the lowest proportion of participation out of any demographic.
“Get involved in your local party, get involved in community events, and start planning for this because you can do it,” Singh said.
He believes his election was proof that the tide can be turned by running a smart campaign.
“My campaign was a political science experience to see if someone young could actually go out there and win,” he said. “If my success somehow pushes another young person to go run and succeed, or just go run and get more involved in the process, then I’ve succeeded.”
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