Wyoming House Speaker Albert Sommers To Run For Senate, Has Opponent

Wyoming House Speaker Albert Sommers officially announced his campaign for the state Senate on Thursday. Sommers, who was first elected to the legislature in 2012, will be running against sheep rancher Laura Pearson.

Leo Wolfson

May 16, 20248 min read

House Speaker Albert Sommers, left, and Laura Taliaferro Pearson.
House Speaker Albert Sommers, left, and Laura Taliaferro Pearson. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyoming House Speaker Albert Sommers faced an important decision following his final legislative session as House leader this spring — stay in the Legislature or move on with his life.

Sommers said he deeply respects the long-held tradition in the Legislature of House speakers not running again in the House after serving in the leadership role. This tradition does not extend to crossing the aisle to the Senate, where many legislators have made the jump to after serving in the House.

After months of talking with constituents and considering his own life, Sommers officially announced Thursday that he’s running in the Republican primary for Senate District 14. This is a seat held since 2016 by state Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, who announced in February he’s not running for reelection.

“I’ve built relationships in and outside of the Legislature and I believe I can be an effective legislator for Senate District 14,” Sommers said.

Sommers, a Pinedale resident, said he understands the economics and the people of the district he’s lived in nearly his whole life.

He already has an opponent in the race in Kemmerer resident Laura Taliaferro Pearson. Pearson is a sheep rancher and school bus driver who has often testified before the Legislature over the last few years on a variety of issues, consistently expressing farther right views.

Pearson said the people of Wyoming are “fed up” with the way the state is being run.

“I have been asked to run for quite some time, and I feel that God is leading me down this path,” Pearson said. “I can no longer be a citizen of our state who consistently complains and feels that not only my concerns, but the concerns of others are not being addressed without being willing to put myself out there and be that voice that I wish I had.”

Who’s Sommers?

Sommers is one of the more recognizable faces in Wyoming state politics, holding the No. 2 overall leadership role in the Legislature as speaker. He’s served in the Legislature since 2013.

During the 2023 legislative session, he frequently came under fire from the farther right Wyoming Freedom Caucus for holding certain bills in his drawer, an act that drew national coverage from news outlets like Fox News.

The 2024 session involved much less controversy for Sommers. He partially credits a speech he read to the chamber at the start of the session quoting former President Thomas Jefferson, who stressed that politicians need to work together to get things done.

Sommers said he’s ready to move away from the leadership role, a position he said constrained him from being able to debate many issues.

“You don’t want to use the gravitas of the office in debate,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to debating bills on the floor.”

Sommers considers himself a problem solver and believes he can give the people of SD 14 — which covers a massive swath of land in southwest Wyoming, including Green River and the outskirts of Rock Springs and Evanston — effective representation.

He stresses that his campaign is about service to constituents, not himself.

“This isn’t about me, this is about them,” he said. “I look forward to trying to help the economic development of those communities, which are much larger communities than I’ve ever served before.”

House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, during the 2024 legislative session at the Capitol in Cheyenne.
House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, during the 2024 legislative session at the Capitol in Cheyenne. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Property Tax Relief

Southwest Wyoming is one of the most critical areas of the state for Wyoming’s economic future, holding the keys to new forms of energy production, and the Cowboy State’s legacy industries like fossil fuels, tourism and recreation.

“The economy is critically important in Senate District 14,” Sommers said.

Sommers said he wants to continue supporting Wyoming’s minerals industry, agriculture and tourism.

If elected to the Senate, Sommers also wants to continue studying the issue of property tax reform.

There were a few new laws passed during the 2024 session, but Sommers said he was disappointed that Senate File 54, which he supported, was vetoed by the governor.

This bill would have reduced 25% of assessed value of home values up to $2 million. Sommers said he would support bringing back this bill or retooling it to make it more palatable to the governor.

“I hope we can put across a bill that provides more widespread property tax relief like how Senate File 54 did,” Sommers said.

He also supports a constitutional amendment being brought before the voters this fall to add a separate class of taxation for residential properties, an effort Sommers said he helped with and believes could help solve many of the issues with rising residential property taxes.

“It allows us to change that rate and drop that while only affecting the residential property tax rate,” he said.

Sommers said he supports a thoughtful, measured approach to budgeting in the Legislature, and wants the same tactic taken for property taxes.

Many counties in Wyoming have vastly different sources of tax revenue than others, with counties like Sheridan and Niobrara extremely dependent on residential property tax revenue. Sublette, where Sommers lives, is much less so. To help solve this, Sommers said he supports backfilling local governments.

During his time in the Legislature, Sommers also has been a staunch advocate for education and mental health, two avenues he intends to continue focusing on if elected. He considers local schools a fixture in keeping many small Wyoming towns alive.

Sommers said he doesn’t know Pearson and has no comment on her campaign.

Laura Taliaferro Pearson, bottom left, is a fourth-generation Wyoming sheep rancher.
Laura Taliaferro Pearson, bottom left, is a fourth-generation Wyoming sheep rancher. (Courtesy Laura Taliaferro Pearson)

Who’s Pearson?

Like Sommers, Pearson is a Wyoming native. She’s also a fourth-generation sheep rancher who lives on a sixth-generation Wyoming ranch.

Pearson stresses that she’s not a politician, mentioning how this will be her first run for any elected office.

“I feel that is what our citizens want,” she said. “I may not be as polished, but my concerns are heartfelt and genuine. I am a hard worker and have no doubt that my future constituents will see a drastic difference between myself and my opponent or my predecessor.”

If elected, Pearson wants to help Wyoming become energy independent and self-sufficient.

Specifically, she wants to get away from the common fear expressed by some legislators of losing federal money by making certain legislative choices. She said if there’s one thing her time testifying before the Legislature has taught her, it’s that Wyoming is compromised by the federal government in its decision making.

“I don’t know how many times in the last few years I heard the phrase ‘if this bill is passed, we will lose our federal funding,’ or ‘we could be fined, and lose our business,’” Pearson said. “Is money more important than our health, our children, our grandchildren, our ability to preserve the Wyoming way of life or protect Wyoming lands?”

She also wants to pass legislation allowing for the recall of public officials in Wyoming. Currently, there are only narrow grounds for taking this action on a local level, and no mechanism in place for the removal of higher-level officials besides elections.

“All elected officials should be held accountable for their actions and know that ‘We the People,’ their employers, have the power,” Pearson said. “After all, it is a right-to-work state, right?”

While she supports oil, gas and coal, Pearson said she’s “not a fan” of solar or wind energy production, which she believes is an offshoot of the “climate change narrative.” Pearson said she wants to see more committee meetings dedicated to studying the research done on solar and wind.

“We must bring Wyoming’s prosperity back to Wyoming and stop focusing on political agendas that will ultimately destroy our state,” she said.

During the last legislative session, members of the CO2 Coalition presented to members of the Agriculture Committee, relying on questionable evidence and conclusions critical of the benefits of alternative energies.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become a wind farm dumping ground or compromise our wildlife corridors on energy sources that have been proven to be inefficient,” she said.

The Race

Sommers is a prominent member of the Wyoming Caucus, a group of Republican legislators who have banded together to oppose the Freedom Caucus’ efforts. A Sommers loss in this race would be a major shot across the bow in favor for the Freedom Caucus, although the group’s leaders have vowed to not take an active role in Senate races.

Pearson said she won’t seek the endorsement of either the Freedom Caucus or Wyoming Caucus.

“Constituents are going to base their vote on their faith in me, and not group affiliations,” she said.

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter