In Gillette, Challenger May Have More Name Recognition State House Incumbent

The House District 32 Republican primary race between state Rep. Ken Clouston, R-Gillette, and George Dunlap brings a certain amount of intrigue due to the local name recognition that each candidate has.

Leo Wolfson

June 14, 20247 min read

State Rep. Ken Clouston, R-Gillette, left, and George Dunlap.
State Rep. Ken Clouston, R-Gillette, left, and George Dunlap. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Name recognition is huge in politics, which is why incumbents typically have a large advantage in elections.

Someone who’s already spent at least one term in office, if not many, is generally known, along with having established a track record of some of the things they’ve done since being elected.

In the case of the House District 32 race in Gillette, being the incumbent may be less of an advantage for state Rep. Ken Clouston, who is challenged by George Dunlap in the Republican primary.

Clouston is running for a second term in office, before which he was already well-known in Gillette as the owner and founder of Gillette Physical Therapy.

Dunlap carries his own level of local political recognition, however. He was elected many times over to the Campbell County Health Board of Trustees — 28 years in total — and was the founding member of the local Rotary Club.

Clouston said he’s not interested in slinging any mud at Dunlap and said their records speak for themselves.

“One of the reasons I’ve had success is because I’m respectful and listen to everyone’s opinion,” he said.

Who’s Clouston?

Clouston is a former Campbell County School District board member who moved to Wyoming from North Dakota in 1993. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2022, and has made education and health issues his main focus, which aligns with his previous experience.

One of his proudest achievements was passing a bill this year brought by the Joint Labor Committee requiring health insurers and other entities to follow prior authorization regulations, which Clouston believes will decrease patient care delays and serve as a model for the rest of the country.

“There were so many good things in that bill,” Clouston said.

He also was the lead sponsor of a bill that allows parents to access public education money to use for their children to receive private education.

Clouston said he’s running for reelection because he has unfinished business in the Legislature. His biggest concerns are natural resources and making a fiscally responsible state budget.

Clouston was the only member of the Gillette House delegation to vote for the biennial budget this past session, siding with the more moderate Wyoming Caucus Republican faction. He said he mainly did so because of important amendments made supporting construction projects at Gillette College that had been stripped from an earlier version of the bill.

Clouston also believes there’s something to be said for the effort put into crafting the budget. When the budget was initially voted down in the Senate, it led to a hurried attempt to find a compromise between the House and Senate for a final budget, which Clouston believes wasted time.

“We’ve got some very experienced legislators who spent a whole year working on it,” he said. “We have to respect the process.”

Clouston downplayed there being any divide between he and other Gillette state legislators and said they just differ on mental health solutions, social issues and a bill passed during the 2023 session expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers.

If reelected, Clouston said he wants to pass a medical insurance credentialing bill to better streamline payments between insurance companies and medical providers. He also plans to bring a bill that would expand the field of medical practitioners who can make people who have recently received back or leg surgeries eligible for handicap status.

He also wants to lower workers’ compensation costs in Wyoming.

State Rep. Ken Clouston, R-Gillette.
State Rep. Ken Clouston, R-Gillette. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Who’s Dunlap?

Dunlap is a third-generation Wyomingite and Gillette native who owns a local photography business.

He was removed from the Hospital board in 2018 after illegally releasing confidential and privileged information from executive sessions, according to the Gillette News Record.

Dunlap, who has testified before the Legislature on various occasions, doesn’t believe Clouston is effectively representing Gillette.

“Someone with courage had to step up and represent the people of Gillette, so I will fill those shoes,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap said he was first inspired to run after Clouston allegedly made a comment during his 2022 campaign that he was disgusted with former Rep. Tim Hallinan for sponsoring a bill to reduce the severance tax on the coal industry from 7% to 6.5%.

Clouston said this isn’t true and he 100% supported the cut, which passed into law. He said his real comment was that by decreasing the tax, it would also decrease the amount of tax going to the state for schools.

“I’m not sure if I was not clear two years ago when I answered that question or if George misunderstood the details,” Clouston said.

Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, also backed Clouston, who he said his organization plans to endorse.

“He has been a very strong supporter of the mining industry in his first term, and the implication that he has not is just not true,” Deti said.

Friends, But …

Dunlap said he and Clouston are friends but have different philosophies about the role that government should play in society.

“When people are hurting from the huge property tax increases, he should have fought to help the people,” Dunlap said.

Most egregious for Dunlap was that Clouston voted against convening a special session this spring to override Gov. Mark Gordon’s vetoes.

Even though he voted to support every bill Gordon vetoed, Clouston referred back to the lack of success from the last special legislative session called in 2021 as why he didn’t want to assemble.

“In the last session one of the 41 bills passed, it was a huge waste of time,” he said. “If it’s a good bill, we can bring it back to next year’s session.”

Dunlap said there are three main issues that need to be dealt with in his community: property taxes, the federal government not issuing mining permits, and the BLM raising fees to bond the reclamation of abandoned wells.

He believes property taxes should be determined based on the purchase price of a house, with small incremental growth measures allowed and pricing rolled back to 2021 levels.

Dunlap also believes Gordon is falling short in his effort to fight a new proposed BLM rule to end coal leasing in the Powder River Basin by 2041.

“Not only the governor, but all of us fell asleep at the wheel. But it’s not too late to turn this thing around,” Dunlap said. “Not only America, but the world needs Campbell County coal. Eventually, the federal government will realize how valuable our independence on energy is.”

He’s also concerned about a proposal to form a new Healthcare Authority committee in the Legislature that Clouston is interested in. Dunlap said this will only lead to more COVID-era regulations down the road.

“Independent, self-reliant, stubborn people that live here in Wyoming, we don’t need the state government controlling our health care,” Dunlap said. “We don’t need COVID 2.0. Somebody who is willing to put up with almost constant 25 mph winds and winter almost eight or nine months of the year doesn’t need the government to tell them to stay inside, wear a mask and take the shot.”

Similarly, Dunlap believes schools shouldn’t have a say in students’ health care decisions and that Clouston “wants the schools to own the kids and only rent them out to the parents at night and on the weekends.”

This is in likely reference to Clouston’s vote against a bill that would have prohibited minors from consenting to their own tobacco treatments.

George Dunlap
George Dunlap (George Dunlap For HD32 via Facebook)

The District

HD 32 makes up most of west Gillette.

Clouston beat Hallinan, who served eight total years in the Legislature, by about 400 votes in the 2022 Republican primary.

Gillette and Campbell County is one of the most conservative areas of the state, voting for former President Donald Trump by one of the largest margins of any county in Wyoming in 2020. Trump won Wyoming by a larger margin than any other state in that election.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect Ken Clouston moved to Wyoming in 1993, not 2005.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter