To the editor:
As the saying goes, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they copy you, then you win.
For decades, conservatives in Wyoming have been ignored as establishment Republicans and Democrats together ruled the roost in Cheyenne. After the many victories of the 2022 primary cycle, too many conservatives were elected to be ignored, so we were mocked- mocked by the media for being “too green” to govern and called “barbarians.” We conservatives were openly laughed at by our fellow legislators during the last legislative session when I pointed out during debate on the budget that the body had added an additional $35 million to it in just two hours of debate.
Early in the spring, we saw some fighting. Legislative leadership took to the pages of Wyoming newspapers to castigate members of the body they preside over. Now, after some helpful polling, uncomfortable town hall events with rightfully angry constituents, a great awakening, or some combination of these things, establishment Republicans in the “status quo caucus” are on to the next step: copying (and watering down) the policies of conservatives and passing them off as their own despite vocally opposing or outright laughing at the same policies just a few months ago.
Representative Barry Crago (HD 40) and Speaker Pro Tempore Clark Stith (HD 48) recently unveiled their “commitment to conservatism,” claiming to believe in “protecting human life from beginning to end.” Their failure to provide meaning to the word “beginning” should raise eyebrows, as true conservatives aren’t afraid to define when life begins. When presented with the opportunity to protect life from conception during the 67th Legislative Session, Representative Crago voted with the Democrats to kill the historic Life is a Human Right Act in committee and attempted to gut the bill on the House Floor. Representative Stith voted against the bill’s final passage.
Why did Crago and Stith change their minds? Either they have come to understand the biological reality that life begins at conception, or they’ve seen some helpful polling.
Next, the two representatives share their devotion to achieving property tax reform and relief. After voting on numerous occasions last session against capping your property taxes, Crago and Stith have changed their minds and now support a 5% cap. Why did they change their minds?
Crago and Stith next share their newfound appreciation for protecting parental rights in education. Just a few short months ago, conservatives were mocked for introducing legislation requiring school districts to inform parents when their children seek to “transition” their gender. We were told that this isn’t happening here. Now, after allegations that a school district in Sweetwater County aided in the social transition of a student without parental notification (and the public outcry that followed), establishment Republicans are singing a different tune. It’s unfortunate that Representatives Stith and Crago voted against pulling Senate File 117 (Parental Rights in Education) from the Speaker’s drawer for debate on the House floor after Speaker Albert Sommers refused to introduce it last session.
Crago and Stith also share their support for school choice, another measure that lacked their support a few months ago when they voted against pulling the Wyoming Freedom Scholarship Act from the Speaker’s drawer where it was left to die.
While the people of Wyoming may relish in the fact that these long-held conservative policies are gaining more support from the establishment Republicans in the Wyoming Legislature, keep in mind that the establishment “parental rights” bill doesn’t require notification to parents when gender identity or sexuality is involved– in a move to appease the teachers union. Their “school choice” bill doesn’t apply to all Wyoming families and also serves to create universal preschool in Wyoming- a policy promoted by Joe Biden’s radical education czar Miguel Cardona. If home prices continue to soar, their property tax “relief” bill will still allow your property tax bill to double every fourteen years.
I am optimistic, though. Establishment Republicans have finally learned that Wyoming is in fact a conservative state. I am hopeful that this realization will lead all Republicans to work together to achieve the real policy goals of our constituents, including robust protections of parental rights, universal school choice, and property tax reform that requires the government to tighten its belt rather than hard working Wyomingites.
Rep. John Bear, Chairman
Wyoming Freedom Caucus