Cheyenne Legislator Dan Zwonitzer Runs For 11th Term In Wyoming House

State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, a Cheyenne Republican, is the longest serving member of the Wyoming House and wants to keep that going, running for reelection to an 11th term.

Leo Wolfson

May 23, 20248 min read

State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, left, and challenger Ann Lucas.
State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, left, and challenger Ann Lucas. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, has seen the evolution of the Wyoming Legislature during his nearly 20 years in office. Now, he said, is not a good time to leave it.

“You don’t leave the Legislature when it’s at a point of chaos,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “We’re probably in the worst shape we’ve been in in 20 years. That’s not when you bail ship. You right the ship.”

Infighting has become common in the state Legislature of late, with a clear division marking the more moderate and farther right Republican factions.

On a larger scale, Zwonitzer said he sees a concerning lack of effort from younger legislators in getting to know the issues and working hard to find solutions for them. Although he acknowledges the learning curve in the Legislature is steep, filled with dense policies and complicated economics, he said many legislators aren’t even bothering to engage with the curve.

“It seems like it’s easier to sit back and throw rocks and complain and stir the pot than it is to find effective solutions,” he said. “Our decisions have consequences that are wide ranging and extremely dynamic to people’s livelihoods and their lives.”

Zwonitzer has won each of his last two Republican primary elections by about 150 votes. His current district makes up southeast Cheyenne and rural Laramie County.

Running against Zwonitzer in the House District 43 Republican primary is Cheyenne resident Ann Lucas, a farther right Republican and former credit union and banking executive who moved to Cheyenne in 2002. She describes herself as a conservative who believes in limited government and taxation only when its absolutely necessary.

Lucas believes Zwonitzer, who was first elected in 2004 and is the longest-serving current House member, has been in office far too long.

“Citizen legislature is not supposed to be occupied by lifers,” she said.

Vision For The Future

“Righting the ship” is what Zwonitzer considers his top priority if reelected to another term in office.

He has staked his position as one of the more prominent faces in the Wyoming Caucus, a group that has formed in opposition to the farther right Wyoming Freedom Caucus, which is often blamed for most of the infighting.

Zwonitzer said the source of the divide is much more than the Wyoming Caucus or the Freedom Caucus, but rather legislators not being on the same page about what direction Wyoming should move in, giving in to “anger-based politics” instead of accomplishing real policy.

“Somethings got to give, and we’ve got to move Wyoming in a direction, even if it’s a direction some people don’t like, other people will,” he said. “We’re not doing any good just yelling at each other and playing divisive games.”

Lucas said she considers the Freedom Caucus members her friends and the likelihood that she will vote the same as them high.

“I predict that I will likely rarely vote in the same way my opponent has in his 20 years in the House,” she said.

‘Game Of Chicken’ With Federal Money

Many members of the Freedom Caucus have also spoken against accepting money from the federal government because that usually comes with various strings attached. Taking a stand by not accepting money from the feds, Zwonitzer said, “is a game of chicken” Wyoming is not going to win.

He also said many new legislators also don’t understand the boom-and-bust nature of Wyoming’s revenue streams, which are highly dependent on mineral revenue. Zwonitzer mentioned the dire economic straits Wyoming was in around 2020, a situation the state had to use its savings and federal assistance to get out of. Because of scenarios like this, he and many other veteran legislators like to dedicate a certain portion of the budget each year to savings, a move often opposed by members of the Freedom Caucus.

Zwonitzer believes the legislative moves the state has been making for the last 60 years can be attributed to the high quality of life in Wyoming today, not blamed for its problems. Tearing down the status quo only goes so far without a clear vision for the future, he said.

“The Freedom Caucus relies on whatever the hot-button issue of the month is that generates people’s anger,” he said. “I would be interested to know what their vision is for 10 years from now.”

If reelected, Zwonitzer, chair of the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, said he wants to work to keep health care costs down, which have increased significantly in recent years for both private insurance and uncompensated care. He hopes this committee, which is made up of mostly freshman legislators, can do a better job tackling this issue in the upcoming session.

On energy, Zwonitzer said he wants Wyoming to continue to serve the market and what it is dictating. He wants to keep coal production viable as long as possible, in whatever form that might look like. Zwonitzer also believes there could be a real future for hydrocarbons and other alternative approaches to energy in Wyoming, but also wants to keep supporting the state’s fossil fuels industry.

He wants people to realize the reason Wyoming has such low taxes is because of the state’s robust mineral industry, which he estimates supports 80% of the Wyoming state government budget directly or indirectly.

Zwonitzer said Lucas has often blamed him for the increase to the state’s fuel tax and creation of the state lodging tax during his time in office. He responded that only two tax increases in 20 years is “pretty damn good.”

Lucas’ Plan

Lucas said her experience working in the banking industry makes her an excellent fit for the Legislature. She also said she has coached hundreds of people and families on how to improve their personal financial conditions and taught financial literacy at all school levels.

Lucas said she is concerned by the “blatant tax-and-spend culture” the Legislature has developed. She believes property tax solutions could be achieved by cutting the spending.

“We must be far more transparent in reporting to our citizens and more frugal with our citizens’ money,” she said.

On the transparency front, she believes an electronic voting system should be developed for the Legislature so residents can see how their lawmakers are voting on every issue. Zwonitzer complained this spring that roll call votes were being called so frequently that they were being weaponized.

Lucas said the state should do more audits of its financial accounting and eliminate some of its trust fund accounts. She also wants to reduce overall government spending because many Wyoming residents are struggling financially.

“It’s very hard to decide if you can afford your child’s school clothes while watching our Legislature approve building unnecessary, mega schools when smaller schools would better serve the students of Wyoming,” she said.

Specifically, Lucas is concerned about education spending in Wyoming. Wyoming has one of the highest rates for per-pupil spending in the country but falls around the middle of the pack for its test scores.

She also believes progressive ideology has entered Wyoming’s public schools. In conversations with teachers, Lucas said they’ve told her they’ve been instructed to focus on social emotional learning and sexual ideology rather than teaching basic skills.

“Our current Legislature will not stand up to the federal government to protect our families and ensure that the education our children receive ensures the highest academic performance possible,” she said. “If we’re going to spend more than everyone else, our students should be receiving world-class educations.”

On parental rights, she doesn’t believe schools should be allowed to conduct any survey without parental consent, promote any activist organization or sexual ideology with children.

“This is not the purview of public education,” she said.

She also opposes President Joe Biden’s new Title IX rules, which ban sex discrimination and prohibitions on people using the bathrooms of their choice.

Lucas also brought up a 2022 redistricting dispute involving Zwonitzer as a reason he shouldn’t be reelected, which is how she ended up in his district in the first place. She also claimed he voted with Democrats on 84% of votes during the 2024 legislative session.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter