Legislative Watchdog Gary Brown To Challenge Cheyenne Incumbent Bill Henderson

Cheyenne resident Gary Brown says his state representative, Bill Henderson, snubbed him and doesn’t vote with the Republican Party line enough, so he’s running for Henderson’s House District 41 seat.

Leo Wolfson

March 18, 20247 min read

Gary Brown, left, and state Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne.
Gary Brown, left, and state Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Gary Brown said he became dismayed when his state representative, Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, wouldn’t engage with him last year in a meaningful way about certain political issues and bills.

“Really disappointed by the fact he never really wanted to talk to me,” Brown said.

That alleged snub motivated Brown to do more digging on Henderson’s voting record and start paying more attention to the Legislature as a whole. He’s testified with increasing frequency at the Legislature over the past two years, expressing farther right views than Henderson.

This year, Brown is stepping up his involvement with plans to run as a Republican for House District 41 as a challenger to the incumbent.

“I would like to see what I could do to help the people of Wyoming because there’s some things that concern me on the different issues,” he said.

Brown, who is retired, moved to Wyoming from Colorado in 2011. He has no past political experience beyond serving as a precinct committeeman for the Laramie County and Larimer County, Colorado, Republican parties, and volunteering with a few different campaigns in both states.

Henderson, a business development executive for FirsTier Bank and Wyoming native, said he plans to run for reelection to a fifth term. He’s served since 2017.

In a short statement, Henderson told Cowboy State Daily he’s focusing on serving his constituents and plans to “continue working hard on issues of interest to our community, District 41 and our state.”

“With the approval of the people of District 41, I am honored to serve and represent their voices in our Legislature,” Henderson said.

Henderson denies Brown’s claims about snubbing him and that he’s only had the chance to talk to Brown once —about the effect that making drastic cuts to property taxes will have on local communities and schools.

“Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand the local government funding process, nor the impact of reduced funding,” Henderson said. “I’m available should Mr. Brown want to have a conversation.”

The Issues

Brown believes Henderson doesn’t represent the Republican Party values in the way he votes on issues, a common sentiment expressed by many farther-right members of the Wyoming GOP and the rest of the country.

“He votes extremely liberal as I see it,” Brown said. “I don’t think he’s being honest with his constituents.”

This year, Henderson voted for a bill that prohibits medical practitioners in Wyoming from performing transgender treatments and surgeries on minors, but voted against a bill that alerts parents to changes in their child’s health status with their school. He also voted against a bill that provides state money to families up to a certain level of income wanting to seek private education for their children in Wyoming.

Brown also believes Henderson, a retired Navy commander, isn’t as supportive of the Second Amendment as he says.

Henderson voted against a bill this year that bans gun-free zones in Wyoming. He also voted in support of a 2022 bill that prohibits state officials from enforcing federal firearms regulations, which passed into law.

Brown said he’s pro-life.

Henderson voted against two bills prohibiting most forms of abortion in Wyoming in 2022 and 2023, but also voted in support of a 2023 bill banning medicinally-induced abortions. This year, he voted against a bill placing more restrictions on Wyoming abortion centers and requiring pregnant mothers to get an ultrasound no later than 48 hours before receiving an abortion.

Henderson said along with providing property tax relief, he’s also passionate about solutions to the high costs of “food, education, health care and good-paying jobs.” He also said more work needs to be done on making school crosswalks safer, water issues, gaming concerns, and building community infrastructure.

“I’m grateful for the ongoing support and helpful inputs from people who live in our District 41 and our community,” Henderson said.

About The Budget

Henderson has also been a member of the House Appropriations Committee since 2023, one of the most important committees in the Legislature for its role in crafting the biennial budget, which he voted to support.

Brown said he’s spent significant time studying the budget in preparation for his time engaging with the Legislature, and believes the state is wasting money. It was this work he said that made him convinced property taxes can be lowered in Wyoming without a significant hit to any government agencies. He believes some legislators are lying about how much money is being saved on a year-to-year basis.

“You don’t have to tap people more, you’re hiding money, they’re actually hiding money,” he said. “They’re lying to us.”

Property tax revenue in Wyoming solely goes to local schools and governments. As evidence, Brown points to Laramie County saving about $118,000 more than what it took in from property tax revenue in 2023, and $3.8 million and 2021. In the last 11 years, Brown said Laramie County has banked more than $140 million, yet he believes is not effectively covering its resources.

“When you get involved and start seeing these things, you start getting angry,” Brown said.

If elected to the Legislature, Brown would have no direct say about how Laramie County spends and saves its money, but he could make an impact in the way property taxes are structured.

Brown is also concerned about election integrity and said he would support banning the use of all private money to help run public elections and wants requirements on how long a person lives in Wyoming before they can vote.

Property Taxes

Henderson voted for all five of the property tax bills currently sitting on Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for consideration. He also unsuccessfully proposed legislation that would have expanded Wyoming’s property tax relief program to include renters.

One of the bills on Gordon’s desk would provide 50% tax reductions to senior citizens who have paid property taxes in Wyoming for 25 years or more. Brown said he would support lowering this threshold to 10-15 years.

But he views initiating an acquisition-value based taxation system as the only real solution for property tax relief. This solution, considered one of the most aggressive approaches to property tax reforms, would base taxation on the original purchase price of people’s homes.

Brown believes this would motivate homeowners to do more remodeling on their homes, and in result put more money into the local economy and increased sales tax revenue. He said he knows a few people in his district who have held back on making improvements to their homes based on the fear that it will cause their property taxes to rise.

“That’s another way to get it (tax revenue), at the same time you’ll have people feeling they can do something with their money,” Brown said. “That means a lot to people.”

The Race

The more conservative Brown may have a difficult time getting elected in HD 41, a district in northern Cheyenne where Henderson has battled a few close races with various Democratic candidates since his first election in 2016.

Henderson hasn’t faced a contested Republican primary race since 2016, when he edged his opponent by two votes.

Brown said he’s an open-minded, common-sense thinker who often thinks of others before himself, all attributes something he would like to see more of in current day society.

“I care about people, I care about what people are going through,” Brown said. “We need to help the people in Wyoming. We need to really care and look at what people are going through.”

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

Share this article



Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter