Former Legislator Who Lost By 12 Votes In 2022 Wants His Seat Back

Former state Rep. JD Williams of Lusk lost by just 12 votes in the 2022 Republican primary, the closest race for the Wyoming Legislature. Now the Lusk resident says he’s running to win back his seat from incumbent Rep. Allen Slagle.

Leo Wolfson

April 03, 20246 min read

State Rep. Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle, left, and former Rep. JD Williams.
State Rep. Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle, left, and former Rep. JD Williams. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Former state legislator JD Williams of Lusk has announced he’s running to get his seat back in House District 2.

Williams lost to state Rep. Allen Slagle, R-Newcastle, in the 2022 Republican primary, the closest Wyoming Legislature race that year.

The final result was so close that it triggered a mandatory recount. After the recount, Slagle’s win was confirmed, winning by a margin of 12 votes, or 0.4% of the vote.

Since that election, Williams said he’s had many people reach out encouraging him to run again.

Why Run Again?

Williams was appointed by commissioners from the three counties represented in HD 2 in 2021 after former legislator Hans Hunt stepped down.

Although he only served in one legislative session in 2022, Williams quickly made a name for himself as an advocate for practical conservatism.

Williams said it’s not that he’s so discontent with Slagle’s service, but more that he believes he could do a better job representing the people of HD 2, which makes up Weston, Niobrara and a small portion of Goshen counties in eastern Wyoming. The district is highly rural and very economically dependent on agriculture.

“We need a serious, effective legislator who can get their work done for their constituents,” Williams said.

Who Is Slagle?

Slagle is a member of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, a farther right group of legislators in the state House. He confirmed to Cowboy State Daily he’s running for reelection.

“If the people aren’t happy with who they’ve got in there, they have a chance to replace them,” Slagle said in response to Williams’ announcement.

Slagle is similar to Williams in that they’re both Wyoming natives and ranchers. He’s also a member of the House Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources committee.

Slagle has aligned with the views of his fellow Freedom Caucus members on nearly all issues, and most notably private property rights.

He didn’t sponsor any bills in 2024, but passed a bill in 2023 that would have reimposed a moratorium on wind energy producers’ ability to use the power of condemnation to use property through 2032 in Wyoming. Gov. Mark Gordon ended up vetoing this bill, which drew sharp criticism from some conservative legislators.

In 2023, Slagle supported two bills restricting most forms of abortion in Wyoming. This legislation is currently held up in court.

He also supported legislation brought this year to more strictly regulate abortion, which while passed the Legislature, it was vetoed by Gordon.

“That was about providing protection for women still getting abortions,” Slagle said.

Another bill that he supported and Gordon vetoed would have eliminated all gun-free zones in Wyoming.

If there’s one lesson Slagle said he’s learned from the past two years it’s not to adjourn a session before the governor has made his vetoes. Gordon vetoed five bills that had at least two-thirds support in both chambers.

Although the governor is also elected by the people, Slagle believes the Legislature is more connected to them.

“The Legislature is the voice of the people,” he said. “It’s (governor’s vetoes) really kind of a slap in the face.”

Changing The Culture

Williams believes being a good neighbor to people is the highest culture in life. In recent years, the Wyoming Legislature has devolved into infighting within its supermajority Republican faction. Williams said Wyoming deserves and needs a more effective Legislature.

“I can still disagree with my neighbor and not be divided,” he said. “It’s necessary if we’re going to have a brighter tomorrow.”

He pointed to this year’s budget discussions as an example of inefficiency.

Although discussions started earlier than normal this year, the budget stalled out in the Senate, where a rift between legislators led to the formation of multiple committees to hammer out a compromise between the Senate and House. In the end, the final budget wasn’t passed until the last day of the session.

“I think the Wyoming people deserve better. I was not impressed,” Williams said.

Too Much D.C.

Williams also believes too many legislators in Cheyenne are regurgitating national talking points from Washington, D.C.

“Most of us understand what it means to be a neighbor, but the politicians that are repeating Washington, D.C., talking points certainly do not,” he said in a statement provided to Cowboy State Daily. “While the political fringes are screeching that the sky is falling, we are busy and we fail to pay close attention to the issues.

“Wyoming needs more regular folks like us thinking seriously about the next generation and less of these politician types who think only of the next election.”

Many have criticized the Freedom Caucus, which serves under the State Freedom Caucus Network, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative advocacy group, as one of the main sources of the infighting.

“It seems like it’s not complementary with our representative republic if the caucus insists on something that comes in between the representative and their constituents,” Williams said.

Slagle believes this is a phony narrative brought by members of the opposing Wyoming Caucus.

“The Wyoming Caucus can do whatever it wants because they know we don’t have the votes to stop them,” he said. “They can vote to kill anything we want.”

During the most recent session, members of the Freedom Caucus drew criticism for often calling for roll call votes instead of voice votes on routine amendments to get better transparency on lawmakers’ voting records.

Williams said he doesn’t know whether he’ll get support of the Freedom Caucus or the Wyoming Caucus during his campaign.

Future Plans

If elected, Williams said he wants to stand against federal government overreach such as the BLM’s proposed Resource Management Plan for the Rock Springs field office.

He also wants to continue working on the issue of property taxes and continuing Wyoming’s legacy industries.

The small communities that make up HD 2 like Newcastle and Lusk are not well-endowed, which is why Williams said he sees small town infrastructure as an issue that needs addressing.

“It’s a major challenge to be frugal without being stingy,” he said. “It’s much cheaper to keep a cow in shape rather than getting it back into shape. Wyoming’s worth investing in.”

Slagle is a little more hesitant to spend money on projects like these and said local governments throughout the state and the state government need to reconsider what role they should be playing.

“Bottom to top, we need to be looking at priorities with respect to money,” Slagle said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter