Recent Wyoming Transplant And Gun Lobbyist To Run For Barry Crago’s Seat

Mark Jones, a guns rights lobbyist who moved to Wyoming from North Carolina in 2021, announced Monday he’s running for the seat now held by Buffalo Republican Barry Crago in the state House.

Leo Wolfson

March 14, 20246 min read

Mark Jones is a vocal Second Amendment advocate and lobbyist for Gun Owners of America, seen here testifying during the 2024 legislative session. He's announced his candidacy for House District 40 in Johnson County.
Mark Jones is a vocal Second Amendment advocate and lobbyist for Gun Owners of America, seen here testifying during the 2024 legislative session. He's announced his candidacy for House District 40 in Johnson County. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Warning shots have already been fired in Wyoming House District 40 in Buffalo, where there isn’t even an official race yet for the 2024 election.

Those warning shots are coming from a new Johnson County resident and Second Amendment lobbyist Mark Jones, who announced Monday he’s seeking the Republican nomination for the seat held by incumbent Barry Crago.

Crago could not confirm he’ll run for reelection when speaking to Cowboy State Daily on Thursday, but did say he’s leaning toward doing so.

Jones, who moved to Wyoming from North Carolina in 2021, said he believes there are a number of challenges facing Wyoming and America that have not been effectively addressed.

“I don’t think that all of the leaders in Cheyenne are working as hard as they could to address those challenges,” he said. “And I’ve always been a person that felt like when there was a problem, you should try and do something about it.”

Jones accused Crago says one thing to his Johnson County constituents and does another when he goes down to the state Capitol in Cheyenne.

“Records and facts are important,” Jones said. “That’ll be part of my campaign as far as talking about what has actually been done in Cheyenne. Not what’s been said in Johnson County, but what’s actually been done.”

In response to Jones’ criticism, Crago said his voting record speaks for itself, and that he’s passed bills he believes reflects the “conservative commitment” he made to those who voted for him.

During the 2024 legislative session, bills were passed addressing property taxes, the creation of educational savings accounts, increasing parental rights and electricity costs.

Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo
Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Who Is Jones?

Despite his relatively short length of time in the state, Jones is a well-known lobbyist at the Wyoming Legislature and is director of hunter programs for Gun Owners of America (GOA). He was most visible this year advocating for the passage of House Bill 125, legislation that repeals most gun-free zones in Wyoming that Crago also supported.

This bill is on Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for consideration.

Jones, a Virginia native, has been a significant voice on Second Amendment issues at the Legislature since moving to Wyoming three years ago.

“I really believe Wyoming is the last best place,” he said. “Wyoming is what America was, and I want to keep it that way. I think we’re really in danger of losing our country and our state.”

For the last 16 years, he has lobbied and worked in politics in a few different states, including North Carolina, where he was also a two-term county Republican Party chairman.

Jones said he was urged by many in Wyoming to run and decided it was to step up from his more behind-the-scenes type role.

If elected to HD 40, Jones said he will step down from lobbying on behalf of GOA and focus on his wildlife science and education with the organization, for which he has 28 years of experience as a certified wildlife biologist.

Property Taxes

In a Thursday interview with Cowboy State Daily, Jones stressed that he’s not a monolithic candidate and has a position on a wide range of priorities outside of Second Amendment issues.

One of his biggest concerns is property taxes. In his newly established home of Johnson County, a wave of new residents that moved in during and after the COVID-19 pandemic helped stretch an already-thin housing market and cause home prices and property taxes to rise.

Jones believes the Legislature hasn’t taken adequate steps to address the issue of property taxes.

“Those bills don’t adequately address the problem and people are going to see that in the coming years as they get their tax bills,” Jones said. “I don’t view any of them as providing serious property tax relief.”

There are five property tax bills now sitting on Gordon’s desk for consideration, and if all pass into law, every Wyoming homeowner will receive some form of property tax relief. In response to Jones and other people who say these bills don’t provide enough relief, Crago said these people are unlikely to ever be content.

“These people will only be happy if we eliminate property taxes altogether,” Crago said. “I don’t know what he wants.”

Other Issues

Jones also believes more needs to be done to address parental rights, government spending and overreach, illegal immigration and foreign property ownership rights.

None of the four bills addressing foreign property ownership passed into law during the 2024 session.

A bill that would have prohibited illegal immigrants from receiving Wyoming driver’s licenses died in the House after passing 29-2 in the Senate.

In the $11 billion biennial budget, $750,000 is appropriated to reimburse local law enforcement agencies in Wyoming that send staff or resources to the southern border.

“We’re not going to be immune from that problem,” Jones said.

He also believes laws still need to be brought to address future governmental actions on health care, and believes private rights were violated in Wyoming during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a major issue in the Cowboy State that led to the calling of a special session in 2021.

“We failed to pass some good legislation at multiple times where the state can serve as a barrier between the people and the federal government, we failed to do that,” he said.

Ultimately, Jones said he’s afraid for his new home state and America’s future.

“I’ve got young kids and I’m worried about their future,” he said. “I want my kids and the next generation to have the same liberties I knew when I was growing up, and I don’t think that’s guaranteed anymore.”

Although most of Jones’ views align with the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, which he has teamed up with for previous events, the Johnson County resident said he wants to run independently from any group and solely based on what he believes in.

“I’m going to run based on the things I believe and my track record of working in politics,” he said. “I don’t really want to be limited by any groups, rules or parameters.”

Jones said there has been a national trend of “liberals” running as Republicans in red states like Ohio and North Carolina, but Wyoming is the most extreme example of this he’s seen.

“We have a supermajority of Republicans, but our Legislature is as purple as the legislature in North Carolina or Ohio,” he said. “People with a left-leaning mentality have learned to run as Republicans in Wyoming like nowhere else in America.”

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter