Wyoming Conservative Firebrand Rep. Jeanette Ward, Opponent Already Slinging Mud

One of the most outspoken members of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, state Rep. Jeanette Ward, has a challenger for her House District 57 seat — and they’re already slinging mud.

Leo Wolfson

April 23, 20247 min read

State Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, left, and Julie Jarvis.
State Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, left, and Julie Jarvis. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily; Courtesy Julie Jarvis)

During her 18 months in office, state Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, has quickly earned a reputation as one of the most outspoken and most conservative members of the Wyoming Legislature.

She’s proposed bills pushing against COVID-19 mandates, clarifying the state’s definitions of man and women to a person’s biological sex, pushed for increased parental rights and criticized businesses in her own community sponsoring the town’s LGBTQ pride festival.

Now Ward is running for reelection and has an opponent in Casper resident Julie Jarvis. Jarvis officially announced her campaign for House District 57 in a video released Monday night.

“If you’re from Wyoming, you know we value the right to make our own decisions for our families, health, pocketbooks, safety and local communities,” Jarvis said in the video. “We’re not fans of people trying to come in and change us or take our individual rights away.”

Jarvis is referencing the fact that Ward moved to Wyoming from Illinois only a little more than a year before she took office.

Since Ward campaigned in 2022, Jarvis said she hasn’t seen her in the community asking what her constituents want and questioned whether Ward understands the needs of the district she represents.

“Instead, everytime I turn around, I read another proposal that will further limit my right as a parent, voter and community member,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis said her main goal if elected would be to listen to her constituents. She’s conducting a poll on her campaign website to see how voters feel on a number of issues.

Who’s Jarvis?

A Wyoming native from Buffalo, Jarvis is a former school teacher, high school principal and coach, and the current director of Teaching and Learning at the Natrona County School District. She’s also worked in concrete, and the oil and gas industry doing bookkeeping.

Ward said she and her opponent couldn’t be more different, pointing out that Jarvis chaired a committee that allowed certain controversial sexually explicit books to be allowed in Natrona school libraries, while Ward sponsored a bill that would have outlawed many of the books.

Jarvis is the second NCSD employee to announce a run at the Legislature this fall, as Christoper Dresang is running for House District 35 against Rep. Tony Locke, R-Casper, another Freedom Caucus-aligned member.

Jarvis has spent parts of her life in Connecticut and received most of her college education there, but has been a full time Wyoming resident since 2017.

According to her campaign website, Jarvis grew up hunting and practicing responsible gun ownership and supports the Second Amendment. She also wants the smallest government possible without compromising health care, safety and the rights of Wyoming residents.

She also wants to help small businesses succeed and bring more jobs to the state without growing the size of government.

“At the end of the day, you answer to God — not the government,” she said, according to her website.

Jarvis also said she supports parental rights.

Ward’s Vision

Ward has been a major supporter of bills that purport to further parental rights, such as legislation passed this year requiring parental notification for changes to their children’s health status and a bill providing public money for lower income families to enroll their children in private education. None of the bills Ward has brought as a lead sponsor have passed into law.

Ward told Cowboy State Daily the passage of the parental notifications bill was one of her proudest achievements and said it was made much better in the House.

“We drastically improved the bill to require parental consent for all in-school health screenings, to require parental notification for changes in a child's mental health status, and to prohibit classroom instruction in radical gender ideology,” she said.

Ward also co-sponsored legislation vetoed by Gov. Mark Gordon that would have banned all gun free zones in Wyoming, and voted for a special session this spring to overturn some of Gordon’s vetoes.

She also was a major advocate for property tax reform and supported a bill brought by fellow Casper Republican Rep. Steve Harshman that would have eliminated all property taxes for most Wyoming residents in return for a higher sales tax rate.

“Although the bill did not pass, it does demonstrate that I will work together with folks on ideas, regardless of where they originate,” she said.

If reelected, Ward said her goal is to “restore sanity” by passing her “What Is A Woman Act?” legislation clarifying the definitions of male and female.

“After Biden's rewrite of Title 9 and Governor Gordon's unwillingness to stand up to the radical federal government, it's up to the Legislature to protect women and girls,” Ward said.

Ward also said she plans to bring back for a third time a bill that would nullify any jurisdiction for mandates brought by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization in Wyoming.

Voice To The People

Jarvis said her work as a public servant has given her a dedication to working with others to find solutions.

“I am running for House District 57, but I’m going to try and do something they say cannot be done in today’s politics — I’m going to give a voice back to the local people,” Jarvis said in her video.

She described the current state of politics in Wyoming as a “political circus” with legislators who are unaware of how their decisions affect everyday Wyomingites. Jarvis said she holds Wyoming politics to a higher standard and expects legislators to look out for their constituents’ interests.

“We should be able to disagree respectfully, but today there seems to be a lot more concern with national talking points and social media than solutions that benefit us,” Jarvis said.

She also said Ward supports a controversial proposed gravel pit in Casper that many locals there oppose. Ward voted against Senate File 44, a bill that had an amendment added to it that would have stopped some development of the pit.

“This is one example of how our representative isn’t listening to our local community or people, the majority have no voice,” Jarvis said.

Ward said this isn’t true and that she hasn’t taken a position on the pit, which isn’t in their district.

“My opponent started out her campaign with slanderous lies about my position on the gravel pit controversy,” she said.

Key Race

Because of Ward’s prominence as one of the leading faces of the Freedom Caucus, the HD 57 race will likely be seen as one of the key Wyoming Legislature races of the 2024 election season.

HD 57, which makes up southeast Casper, has shown a propensity for very conservative representation in the past. Before Ward took office, HD 57 was represented by current Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who held the seat since 2016.

A Ward loss would be a bad sign for the Freedom Caucus in its efforts to gain, not lose, seats in the upcoming election. Ward said she’s optimistic about their chances.

“Conservatives have the momentum from the grassroots on up, which is evidenced by the recent censure of Governor Gordon,” Ward said. “The people of Wyoming have common sense, believe in limited government and understand biological reality. That's what the Freedom Caucus fights for.”

Jarvis said she’s not seeking out an endorsement or support from the Wyoming Caucus, a group of more moderate Republicans that have organized to oppose the Freedom Caucus, “at this time.”

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter