Former Cheyenne Democrat Takes On Three-Time Incumbent In Republican Primary

Cheyenne resident Thomas Lear was a registered Democrat in Wyoming as recently as February, but now he’s a Republican running against three-time incumbent Clarence Styvar for House District 12.

Leo Wolfson

June 07, 20247 min read

Thomas Lear and state Rep. Clarence Styvar, R-Cheyenne
Thomas Lear and state Rep. Clarence Styvar, R-Cheyenne (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Cheyenne resident Thomas Lear isn’t hiding that he was registered as a Democrat as recently as February and is now running in the Republican primary for House District 12.

In fact, he’s owning it and said his personal politics continue to evolve. Lear said his viewpoints of limited government and personal choice represent traditional Wyoming Republican values, although he’s more “open-minded” on social issues like gay marriage, which he supports.

“Whatever I’ve been, I’ve always been moderate,” Lear said.

Lear is running against state Rep. Clarence Styvar, R-Cheyenne, who’s seeking reelection to his fourth term in office.

Styvar did not respond to multiple requests for an interview for this story. He’s aligned with the farther right Wyoming Freedom Caucus group of the Republican Party.

Who’s Lear?

Lear said he’s running for the Legislature to help as many people as possible and guide the state back to what he remembers it being from his childhood.

Lear is a Wyoming native who graduated high school in Alaska. After a brief collegiate baseball career, he returned to Wyoming to get his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming.

Lear worries that Wyoming is losing its “live and let live” attitude to outside influences and national politics. Lear believes Wyoming state government should be as small as possible with people left to make their own decisions.

“Now the state government is getting into personal and private and health care decisions. This isn’t the Wyoming I knew,” he said. “I really feel like people who don’t truly understand what Wyoming is are pushing these ideas, pushing an agenda that they have that doesn’t represent the majority of Wyoming."

If elected, Lear said he’ll constantly be seeking feedback from his constituents. He believes certain legislators aren’t representing their constituents, but rather are pushing personal agendas. Lear said many are either recent transplants to the state or aren’t natives.

“Wyoming is not far-right, Wyoming is not government interfering in your life,” he said.

After working in baseball for about a decade, he accepted a teaching position at Laramie County Community College in 2016. Lear has served as the lead English as a Second Language and U.S. Civics instructor since that time and is also an instructor in the school’s Sport Management program. When people complete these programs, the school also helps its students attain future employment.

“We are literally helping people achieve their dreams and their goals,” he said.

He’s also worked at Snowy Range Academy in Laramie, which has given him an understanding of the K-12 landscape in Wyoming.

On Education

Lear is concerned about recent developments in public education in the Cowboy State, with school staff often targeted over parental rights issues and funding cut in various instances.

He doesn’t support school vouchers, which allow parents to use public money to send their children to private schools.

“I believe that if you want to attend a private school that is a family decision and that is something that the family should pay for,” he said.

Although Wyoming has some of the highest per-pupil funding for public education in the country, Lear believes the state should spend more. Many conservatives have pointed to this statistic and the fact that Wyoming is around the middle of the pack for school performance as evidence this money is not being spent efficiently.

“I feel like if we just made a few changes, we would provide the best education system in the country,” he said.

He also opposes a bill passed during the most recent legislative session banning transgender care for minors in Wyoming. Although he doesn’t find it to be a genuine issue in Wyoming, Lear believes decisions about receiving treatments like these should be made between a family and their doctor. He worries this will lead to more government intervention into health care in the future.

“For the state to issue an edict that they know better than the family and the physician for a child doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “We don’t want the government making health care decisions.”

He feels similarly about the Legislature cutting funding for the University of Wyoming’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office, causing the school to shutter the program. He believes this will hurt the school’s athletic recruiting, overall enrollment and particularly its minority student population. Declining student enrollment has been an ongoing concern at UW.

Lear believes the true meaning of DEI has been misrepresented and that its true purpose is to teach people about different cultures and perspectives.

“We are going to cut ourselves off at the knees by telling students don’t come to Wyoming because your diversity, your culture, it’s not accepted here,” Lear said.

Lear said he wants to run a clean campaign and is not going to attack Styvar beyond saying he will offer “very different” representation. Styvar has taken a different route, sharing multiple posts on his campaign Facebook page from conservative sources criticizing Lear.

“It’s as ugly as everyone says,” Lear said of politics. “You’ve got a lot of people who want to tear you down. A lot of people who will call you names and oppose you because they think they know who you are but they’ve never taken the time to get to know you or listen to anything you’ve said.”

Who’s Styvar?

Styvar is a Wyoming native and decorated Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. He’s lived in Cheyenne for about 25 years.

In 2023, he passed legislation establishing a special license plate decal for women veterans in Wyoming.

He’s also passionate about the topic of city and town annexation and has brought legislation that would require written approval from a majority of all landowners owning a parcel of the land in an area before its annexed into a municipality. Styvar said on his Facebook page that he plans to bring back this legislation if reelected.

Styvar feels differently from Lear on the issue of school vouchers and brought his own legislation in 2021 that would have created public savings accounts for parents whose children seek private special education services.

He supported this year’s bill establishing education savings accounts for people to attend private schools with public money in Wyoming.

Styvar also co-sponsored the legislation banning transgender care for minors in Wyoming, and supported cutting the university’s DEI program.

He’s also shown some propensity for bipartisanship, getting two Democrats to co-sponsor his 2021 bill eliminating fees and fines for juvenile offenders.

Some criticized Styvar and certain Freedom Caucus members this legislative session for opposing an increase to the state’s duty-related spousal death benefit in response to the killing of a Sheridan police officer this winter. Styvar said the falling police officer, Nevada Krinkee, knew what he was signing up for when he became a police officer.

HD 12, which makes up south Laramie County down to the Colorado border, has shown a propensity to be fairly conservative.

Styvar won both of his contested general election campaigns against Democrats in 2018 and 2020 by comfortable margins.

His closest election came in his first Republican primary, where he beat his opponent by about 100 votes.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter