Ex-Natrona County Commissioner Runs For Charlie Scott’s Seat In Wyoming Legislature

Longtime Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry has announced he’s running for Senate District 30. There’s just one obstacle — Charlie Scott, who’s been in the Wyoming Legislature since 1979.

LW
Leo Wolfson

March 28, 20247 min read

Longtime Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry, left, is running for Senate District 30, which is held by Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper.
Longtime Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry, left, is running for Senate District 30, which is held by Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper. (Courtesy Photo; Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

After sitting through countless hours of discussions at this year’s legislative session — a session defined by long delays and rampant infighting on the budget — former Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry says the Legislature needs more action and less rhetoric.

“There’s got to be a better way, so I decided to go ahead and do it,” Hendry said.

Hendry, a Republican and third-generation rancher, has announced his candidacy for Senate District 30, a seat encompassing a massive swath of land on the north and west sides of Casper and rural Natrona County extending out from the city.

He served as a county commissioner since 2006 until 2022 and is a former Wyoming County Commissioner Association president.

When Hendry was commission president about eight years ago, he said the Legislature looked much different, lacking the sharply divided factions that are on display today.

SD 30 is held by state Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, the longest serving member of the Legislature and also a rancher.

Scott, who has served since 1979, was not immediately available to comment about whether he’s running for reelection, but indicated interest to Cowboy State Daily in previous interviews.

About That Budget

Hendry said he’s disappointed with Scott’s voting record on some issues and believes he could better serve the people who live in his district and the state as a whole.

“We really desperately need some leadership there at the state,” he said.

Most glaring, he said, was Scott’s vote against the biennial budget, which wasn’t passed until the afternoon of the last day of the session despite being started earlier than normal. Hendry believes some members of the Senate like Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, didn’t want to finish the budget in time.

“I believe in a budget session, the No. 1 priority in a budget session is the budget,” Hendry said. “You shouldn’t wait for the last day, the last few hours, to get it passed.”

A sharp divide emerged during this year’s Senate budget discussions between senators who opposed most government spending projects and those who argued it was the right time to increase funding for various state programs and projects.

Ultimately, Hendry said he supports the latter camp as he believes the state is in an exceptionally strong fiscal position. The state has fewer employees than it did in 2007 and around $27 billion in savings, boosted with about $700 million more added this year, all of which Hendry said was made possible through strong fiscal conservatism.

Hendry said this fiscal picture should give a green light to various infrastructure projects that might not be possible during leaner years.

“To just not vote for anything that adds people, and just not vote for anything that spends money, I don’t think is right,” he said. “We’re not in that bad of shape.”

Some Republicans have argued the opposite, saying the state’s fiscal position should be a cause for less taxes and more money given back to taxpayers.

He was also disappointed that Scott promoted a redistricting plan back in 2022 that would have moved his part of SD 30 to be represented by a senator from the Big Horn Basin in northern Wyoming.

“I sure didn’t like that any,” Hendry said.

Scott And Hendry

Scott hasn’t had one of his bills pass into law since 2019.

But as chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he’s seen many of the committee’s bills pass, such as one from the most recent session requiring schools to notify parents about any changes to their children’s health statuses, including identifying as transgender.

In recent years, Scott has joined a growing number of senators in aligning with a farther right faction of the chamber on a majority of votes, including the budget.

Because of his longtime experience, Scott, a Wyoming native, is often leaned on by his fellow legislators as a source of historical knowledge and precedent.

Hendry, also a Wyoming native, is too a familiar face at the Legislature due to his longtime commissioner role. He also served as president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, served for six years on the Wyoming Beef Council, and was appointed to the governor’s special Brucellosis Task Force. Hendry has also served with the Natrona County Fire Protection District for 14 years.

Property Taxes

Hendry said he suspects they will, but it won’t be fully known until the 2025 legislative session whether the four property tax bills recently signed by Gov. Mark Gordon into law will make a real difference for property tax relief in Wyoming.

“I think those are good, but we’ll find out,” he said.

Many have complained that the bills don’t constitute enough relief or reform, a belief which has even evolved into a push for a special session to undo the veto Gordon made to one of these bills, which Hendry said he opposes.

Hendry said a well-studied tax needs to be crafted in the Legislature that nearly all members can support.

He also said a constitutional amendment that will be considered by voters this fall to create a fourth class of taxation could also bring significant changes, but cautions that it could lead to an increase in the tax rate on commercial properties, which he does not support.

“It’s an economy that you’re talking about, so I would hate to see the commercial property tax go up to even it out,” he said. “So, someone is going to have to pay if we lower the property taxes.”

Scott voted for all four property tax bills that passed into law and another property tax bill that Gordon vetoed.

General Approach

Hendry said he would welcome any group that wants to support him, but doesn’t expect the endorsement of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus.

“I don’t think I like those guys,” Hendry said. “I’m going to do what I think is best for Wyoming, not necessarily what someone tells me to vote for. I think a lot of that is happening with the Freedom Caucus.”

When Hendry made his campaign announcement on Facebook, Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, and Reps. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne and Martha Lawley, R-Worland, all either “loved” or “liked” his post, with Driskill remarking that he would be a “great candidate.”

If elected, Hendry said he plans to take the same approach he’s taken to his commissioner duties by listening to his constituents and his own conscience.

He’s also concerned about health care and said only about five of the state’s 25 hospitals are generating a profit, while only about half the state’s counties have emergency pregnancy services.

“I think that’s something that’s really going to come to a head and it’s going to be very expensive,” he said.

Scott won his last Republican primary by about 15 percentage points. His last competitive primary came in 2012, when he beat former state legislator Bob Brechtel by fewer than 100 votes.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

Share this article

Authors

LW

Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter