Cheyenne’s Battling Republican Cousins Meet In Round 2 For Wyoming House Seat

One of the most intriguing Wyoming Legislature races this summer will be for House District 44 in Cheyenne, where two cousins run against each other again, along with another former state legislator.

Leo Wolfson

June 03, 20249 min read

State Rep. Tamara Trujillo, left, and former state Rep. John Romero-Martinez are cousins and political rivals facing off for a second time for the Wyoming House.
State Rep. Tamara Trujillo, left, and former state Rep. John Romero-Martinez are cousins and political rivals facing off for a second time for the Wyoming House. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

One of the most intriguing state Legislature races in Wyoming this year is in Cheyenne’s House District 44, where a pair of cousins who ran against each other in 2022 are battling it out again.

Along with the incumbent and her Republican cousin, a third candidate and former state legislator is challenging them both in the GOP primary on Aug. 20.

This race is between state Rep. Tamara Trujillo, R-Cheyenne, and former state legislators John Romero-Martinez (Trujillo’s cousin) and Lee Filer.

Trujillo beat Romero-Martinez, who held the District 44 seat before her, in his reelection bid in the 2022 Republican primary by about 110 votes.

Romero-Martinez served from 2021-2023 while Filer represented House District 12 as a Democrat from 2013-2015. After redistricting in 2022, he was moved to HD 44. He’s also since switched parties.

The biggest fireworks in the upcoming race will likely be between Trujillo and Romero-Martinez, who have never been shy about publicly criticizing each other.

Trujillo said the choice for voters in the upcoming election is simple.

“I ask people to look into everybody they vote for,” she said. “Not just me or the ‘homeless guy,’ but also the Democrat running as a Republican.”

State Rep. Tamara Trujillo, R-Cheyenne
State Rep. Tamara Trujillo, R-Cheyenne (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Who’s Trujillo?

Trujillo is running for reelection to a second term in office. During her two years in the Legislature, she expressed fairly conservative views, aligning with the farther right Wyoming Freedom Caucus for most, but not all, votes. This is a departure from the historical representation of HD 44, which had long been a Democratic stronghold.

Trujillo said some of her proudest accomplishments from the past two years came from successfully passing bills that increase parental rights in Wyoming. She also helped pass legislation prohibiting minors from receiving transgender care.

If reelected, Trujillo wants to continue studying the state’s budget, an effort she said she’s received mentorship on from fiscal wonk Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander.

She’s also been working with local nonprofits to help low-income families in her district.

On property taxes, Trujillo said she wants more relief for homeowners. Many have expressed concern that cutting property taxes will reduce the amount of money the state puts into savings each year, an account that could be tapped in the near future as mineral revenues continue to decline.

Trujillo disagrees and doesn’t believe this is the appropriate use of this public money. She finds it hypocritical when considering that people working in the oil fields are usually Wyoming residents, but don’t get access to their own tax dollars.

“They’re putting it into big savings accounts instead of giving it to the people,” she said.

She believes Wyoming should pursue all energy options for the future, continuing to support legacy industries like coal while also exploring new energies like wind and solar. She worries that the younger generation of Wyoming residents will leave the state if there’s not an expansion of job opportunities in the energy sector. This is a similar stance shared by Romero-Martinez and Filer.

“I think we need to look at all aspects of energy and how it benefits the people of Wyoming’s lives,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with expanding our energy and making it better.”

When it comes to the Freedom Caucus, Trujillo doesn’t consider herself a member of the group, but does consider the group to be her “friends” in the Legislature.

Former state Rep. John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne
Former state Rep. John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Who’s Romero-Martinez?

Romero-Martinez is basing his campaign around opposition to the Freedom Caucus.

“They are an ideologically ridden hijack group with inauthentic ideology,” he said, adding that his cousin and opponent “is 100% part of the friends of the Freedom Caucus."

He also had less than kind words for Filer, who he described as an “opportunist.”

“He’s a recent convert, a Democrat-plant,” Romero-Martinez said.

Although Romero-Martinez was firmly pro-life on abortion during his two years in the Legislature, he expressed more centrist to even Democratic views on many other issues. He considers his representation as based around “servant leadership” to his constituents, rather than vying for attention-grabbing headlines or photo opportunities.

“The average person wants to see legislation that actually helps the people,” he said. “They want to see less podium-hogging.”

If elected, he wants to resurrect and pass the Medical Treatment Opportunity Act, 2022 legislation that would expand Medicaid in Wyoming.

Romero-Martinez said he’s not currently homeless as Trujillo claims, but living in a transition home for veterans.

“I’m a disadvantaged vet coming out of homelessness,” he explained.

From 2022-2023, veteran homelessness increased by 7.4% nationally, according to the Veterans Administration. Romero-Martinez wants to pass legislation guaranteeing more health benefits for veterans like himself.

He also wants to bring back his Religious Freedom Restoration Act and pass legislation that would prohibit medically assisted suicides in Wyoming.

On property taxes, he wants relief provided to all income classes. He opposes the veto Gov. Mark Gordon made this spring on a bill that would have provided 25% tax relief on all home values worth up to $2 million in Wyoming.

“I understand the governor’s rebuttal,” Romero-Martinez said. “He was taking a swipe at a segment of the party that has been problematic.”

Romero-Martinez also was a fierce advocate for Native American tribes during his time in the Legislature and said all historical treaties between the tribes and the United States government need to be honored to the full extent of the law.

Former state Rep. Lee Filer of Cheyenne
Former state Rep. Lee Filer of Cheyenne (Courtesy Photo)

Who’s Filer?

Filer runs a small business that builds out data centers and is a Wyoming Air National Guard veteran.

He’s also served on many boards and commissions, which has kept him engaged in state politics since leaving the Legislature. One of the biggest reasons he’s running is out of concern for the dysfunction that’s taken over the Legislature, a development that’s often been blamed on the Freedom Caucus.

He was particularly disappointed about how the most recent budget session went, marked with rampant infighting and budget squabbles that carried out until the last day of the session. Filer doesn’t believe this is emblematic of the Wyoming spirit.

“When I was back in the Legislature … it didn’t matter how conservative you were, it didn’t matter if you were liberal, we all worked together on a lot of different things and we got good stuff passed,” he said. “It wasn’t just a big fight all the time.”

Filer served one term in the Legislature before losing his reelection bid. He ran again for the Legislature as a Democrat in HD 12 in 2020, where he lost to Rep. Clarence Styvar, R-Cheyenne, by about 23 percentage points.

Filer said he moved to the Republican Party as a result of the Democratic Party drifting farther to the left. He also believes that party affiliation isn’t as significant at a state level as it is in national politics.

“I think it’s more of my born-and-bred in Wyoming culture that I have in my morals that bring me a little more aligned to that middle-right than to that middle-left,” he said.

When it comes to Trujillo and Romero-Martinez, Filer didn’t mince words. Filer said he’s running in the race to provide voters with another choice.

“I’m not a one-issue type guy, I know one of my opponents probably is,” referring to Romero-Martinez’s actions on abortion. “As far as the incumbent, yeah I was a Democrat, so was she in New Mexico.”

In January, Romero-Martinez filed an ethics complaint on Trujillo for voting in New Mexico elections while holding a job in Wyoming. During this 2009-2019 time period, Trujillo was registered as a Democrat in New Mexico.

He believes the biggest challenge facing voters in his district are economic barriers. Filer wants to reduce government regulation he believes is currently inhibiting people from starting their own businesses and create a fast track that makes it easier for people to enter the marketplace and create a more diverse economy for the state.

“I think that would really help the folks in (HD) 44 and the state. I think it works the whole way around,” he said. “I think those issues are all Wyoming issues, not just pertaining to that district.”

On property tax relief, Filer believes legitimate progress has been made, but he wants local governments to avoid raising property taxes if they are operating on a surplus.

On abortion, his views are more complicated. Although he considers himself pro-life because he’s had six children, Filer said people should realize that abortion is a highly nuanced issue. But he also said there should be limits on the access that’s granted to this service.

“I just think we need to be a little more sympathetic and open to the mother and what the circumstances are,” he said. “But if you’re playing house, you should understand what actions are going to have to happen afterwards because I’m a pro-family guy.”

When it comes to the Freedom Caucus and Wyoming Caucus, Filer said he won’t seek the endorsement of either camp and believes these caucuses are the root of the divisiveness plaguing the Legislature.

The District

HD 44 makes up most of south Cheyenne, one of the lowest income areas in the state. A significant number of the constituents are Hispanic and work blue-collar jobs.

The voters of HD 44 have shown a propensity to be highly unpredictable and nonpartisan with their voting record, voting in a Democrat, moderate Republican and farther right Republican into office over the last three elections. It also had the worst voter participation out of any Republican primary in the state in 2022, which also makes it difficult to predict what will happen in the upcoming election.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter