Buffalo 22-Year-Old Would Be Youngest In Wyoming Legislature If She Wins

A 22-year-old woman from Buffalo is joining a crowded Republican race for to replace incumbent House District 40 Rep. Barry Crago, who’s running for the state Senate. If she wins, she’d be the youngest in the Wyoming Legislature.

Leo Wolfson

May 18, 20248 min read

Republican House District 40 Republican candidates Liberty Poley, left, and Marilyn Connolly.
Republican House District 40 Republican candidates Liberty Poley, left, and Marilyn Connolly. (Courtesy Photos)

Sometimes age is just a number. Buffalo resident Liberty Poley believes hers — 22 — is an advantage in her Republican campaign for Wyoming House District 40.

She mentioned how until modern times, some of the greatest historical world leaders were around her age or younger, like Alexander the Great, who she considers “one of the best world leaders ever.”

“It’s really unfortunate that in the last century, younger people have got less involved with politics,” she said. “I think it’s time that we continue that tradition, because our voice is just as much needing of representation as everyone else is, because we’re just as subjected to the will of the government as everyone else.”

Poley is the third Republican candidate to throw her name in the ring to replace outgoing state Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, who’s running for the Wyoming Senate. Also running against Poley in the Republican primary is Gun Owners of America lobbyist Mark Jones and former Johnson County commissioner Marilyn Connolly.

“I think that I’m the strongest conservative voice of the three of us, and I look forward to running against them,” Poley said.

Poley has already earned the endorsement of conservative firebrand state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne. The connection between the two is Liberty’s mother April Poley, who has volunteered for Bouchard’s campaigns.

“The zeal exhibited by the Poleys, during their quest to defend conservative values in Wyoming, is unrivaled,” Bouchard wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post. “You’ll see these same traits in Liberty. Remember, you can judge a tree by its fruit.”

Who’s Connolly?

Connolly believes she’s the right fit for the job, and it’s not a whim; she’s thought about running for political office for years. When Crago announced he wouldn’t run for his seat again, she decided the time is now.

“I feel like it’s the right time for me and I’m the right person,” she said.

Connolly said serving the state and her rural district will be her first priority. She used the metaphor of waving the American flag with one hand while using the other to wrap herself in the Wyoming flag.

Connolly is a Wyoming native who served as a Johnson County commissioner for eight years from the late 90s into the early 2000s.

“I’ve got a lot of experience in Johnson County and Sheridan County,” she said. “I just have a lot of experience working with our agencies and our people in this county, which I think is a good qualification for running for this position.”

She’s also been involved with her local senior center, rural health care special district, the Northern Wyoming Mental Health Board, search and rescue council, homeland security initiatives as an emergency management coordinator, volunteers with her local fire department, and serves on the governor’s emergency medical services subcommittee.

“I know it sounds cliche, but I think I’ve got the background and experience to do it,” Connolly said.

Connolly describes herself as a constitutional Republican who fully supports the party’s platform and wants to reduce government regulation.

Although she appreciates his service, Connolly said she didn’t agree with Crago on every issue. She believes his effort to put a 4% cap on year-to-year property tax increases in Wyoming doesn’t provide enough relief for homeowners.

If elected, she wants to continue the effort to provide property tax reform in Wyoming.

She also wants to make sure Wyoming’s waters remain sovereign to the state. Water issues will likely become increasingly important over the remainder of the 21st century as resources continue to dwindle throughout the West.

Connolly said providing medical service to Wyoming’s rural communities will also be one of her focus points, which has been a major challenge for the state. Local medical facilities and schools are often the lifeblood of Wyoming’s small towns.

She experienced this firsthand, attending one-room schoolhouses throughout her childhood in Johnson and Sheridan counties.

But when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion programs (DEI), Connolly said she’s not a fan, as she believes these efforts are already supported in Wyoming without any mandates needed to ensure it. She supported the Legislature’s cut of money for the University of Wyoming’s DEI office this spring.

She also wants to retool the state’s Title 25 mental health hold laws. These measures often cause local sheriff’s departments to have to take people into custody at their jails when local health facilities don’t have the space or staff to accept people having life threatening mental health episodes.

On energy, she wants to lower utility prices for homeowners and protect Wyoming’s legacy fossil fuel industries. She’s not opposed to green energy production and said the state should consider all of its energy options considering the growing popularity of electric vehicles.

Who’s Poley?

Poley has spent most of her life in Wyoming, but just graduated college from a school in Kentucky earlier this month.

“I think that the state Legislature needs more staunch conservative representation, and I would like to be that voice for House District 40,” she said. “I hold strong conservative values and I don’t waver from those.”

Politically, she considers herself a "complete opposite" of Crago based on what she saw about him on conservative political ranking site WyoRino.com. Poley said she aligns with 90% to 100% of the Republican Party platform.

Although she’s not a homeowner, Poley considers property taxes the No. 1 issue the Legislature needs to address. Last winter, she doorknocked for an ongoing ballot initiative campaign that if successful, would slash property tax assessments by 50%.

She also got experience in politics when she canvassed with others against a locally proposed sales tax, an effort she credits for it being defeated. She’s also been a precinct committeewoman with the Johnson County Republican Party since she was 18 and was recently elected as a delegate for the upcoming Republican National Convention, where she plans to support former President Donald Trump’s election bid.

Poley considers property taxes an exploitation of Wyoming private property owners.

On energy, Poley believes Wyoming needs to focus on fossil fuels moving forward. She mentioned how cities like Gillette, where she spent some of her life, are incredibly dependent on these industries for their resident’s livelihood.

“In a boom-and-bust cycle, you can see it’s entirely dependent on the coal economy so we have to protect that with our legislation,” she said.

Poley said she’s a firm Second Amendment advocate and will seek the endorsement of Wyoming Gun Owners in her campaign, a group Bouchard founded. Wyoming Gun Owners is a no comprises Second Amendment group that has often been at odds with Gun Owners of America and National Rifle Association in its efforts.

“I think Wyoming people should be more loyal to the local organizations such as Wyoming Gun Owners before we align ourselves with national lobbyist groups,” she said.

Although Wyoming Gun Owners was founded by Bouchard, it’s currently run by an Iowa lobbyist.

Young Guns

If Poley is elected, she will be the youngest member of the Legislature. The current holder of this title, Rep. J.T. Larson, R-Rock Springs, turned 23 earlier this spring.

Poley is joined by Larson and Reps. Daniel Singh, R-Cheyenne, Dalton Banks, R-Cowley, and Ocean Andew, R-Laramie, in the under-35 contingency at the Legislature.

Often, there is a stereotype that younger people tend to be less conservative. Although she believes it’s true on a national level, Poley said this certainly isn’t true for herself or other Wyoming people she knows her age.

“I think in Wyoming specifically, we’re just as conservative as our parents were, and we’re upholding conservative tradition,” she said.

Who’s Jones?

Jones, who moved to Johnson County in 2021, is a Second Amendment lobbyist and director of hunter programs for Gun Owners of America. He announced his candidacy in March and was profiled then by Cowboy State Daily.

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter