Déjà Vu: Heiner, Crank Face Off For Wyoming House Seat For 4th Time in 8 Years

The ballot in southwest Wyoming will look familiar for the Republican primary for House District 18 with current and former legislators Scott Heiner and Tom Crank facing off for the fourth time in eight years.

Leo Wolfson

June 27, 20247 min read

Former House District 18 Rep. Tom Crank, left, is challenging incumbent Rep. Scott Heiner, R-Green River, for the fourth time in eight years.
Former House District 18 Rep. Tom Crank, left, is challenging incumbent Rep. Scott Heiner, R-Green River, for the fourth time in eight years. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A Republican primary featuring state Rep. Scott Heiner, R-Green River, and former state legislator Tom Crank is becoming a bit of an election tradition in southwest Wyoming.

This year, the pair will meet in the Republican primary for the fourth time in eight years.

The last time they faced each other in 2020, Heiner beat Crank, then the incumbent, by only 10 votes.

Even though they’re both Republicans, Heiner and Crank have sharply different political views.

Heiner is a proud member of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, a group of farther right Republicans in the Wyoming House. He said he has unfinished business helping people in Wyoming fight against governmental overreach.

“I’m doing it because I cheer for the little guy,” he said. “I’ve always cheered for the underdog, and I like representing the people. They’re the underdog against the government.”

Crank, a Diamondville resident, describes himself as a “traditional Republican” and is opposed to many of the efforts of the Freedom Caucus that Heiner has championed.

“It appears a lot of the stuff that’s going on is based on political ideology and not really focused on Wyoming problems,” Crank said. “I’m not aligned with the Freedom Caucus and wouldn’t intend to be.”

Who’s Heiner?

Heiner is seeking his third term in office after dominating the 2022 election. He’s been in lockstep with the Freedom Caucus and their efforts to reduce government spending.

Heiner said he’s not concerned about whether the group grows its membership and influence in the Legislature in the upcoming election. He believes a conservative wave is sweeping the nation.

“What matters to me is that we get more conservatives,” he said. “The citizens of Wyoming wholly are conservatives, and the Legislature right now is not. It’s my hope we get some more conservative voices.”

Heiner is particularly proud of a 2023 bill he passed providing exemptions to state licensure requirements on small-scale day care facilities. He said it saved at least one business from having to close its doors, an important achievement considering Wyoming has a lack of day care facilities.

“It takes people out of the workforce because they have nowhere to take their kids while they go to work,” he said.

He also passed a law earlier this year that will double the state compensation for farmers having to quarantine cattle for brucellosis. Heiner said he knows a rancher who believes this will save his ranch.

Championing issues like these is important for Heiner because he believes people don’t have a voice in government anymore.

“I’m not alluding that I’m anybody of importance, but I’ve got the time to reach out and we’re able to get some things done that normally wouldn’t be able to get done,” he said. “I really feel good in being able to step up and fight the cause for them.”

When it comes to property taxes, Heiner said he wants to see more reform. He supported a bill the governor vetoed that would have provided 25% tax relief on home values worth up to $2 million, which he wants brought back again for the 2025 session.

Heiner believes many legislators don’t want to cut revenue as it means they will also have to cut spending. He mentioned another bill that died that would have automatically lowered the mill levies on taxes if a constitutional amendment going before the voters this fall passes.

“It’s going to be a struggle even if that passes the ballot this election,” he said.

State Rep. Scott Heiner, R-Green River
State Rep. Scott Heiner, R-Green River (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Compare And Contrast

Both Heiner and Crank support the construction of the TerraPower Natrium nuclear plant in Kemmerer, which they say will drive much-needed economic development in the small southwest Wyoming town.

They both said it has improved morale in Kemmerer that had been very low prior to the announcement of the plant because of Rocky Mountain Power’s announcement it would close its Naughton coal-fired power plant.

“You couldn’t get people to invest anything when you’ve got the major employer saying we’re going to shut down and basically collapse the whole community,” Crank said. “Right now, we have a bunch of speculation and people throwing money, but they have started. Hope goes a long way.”

Heiner said he is also working on bringing a coal-to-ammonia plant to Kemmerer that would prevent the shutdown of Naughton.

Heiner said he is decidedly more conservative than Crank and considers the election a clear choice represented by Crank’s votes on Second Amendment and abortion issues while in office.

“There’s a voting record on him and I encourage people to look at those votes those past four years,” he said.

Crank, who is vice chair of the South Lincoln Republican Party, said Heiner has taken too much of a shotgun approach to his legislation and believes the Freedom Caucus as a whole has been too divisive.

“Getting after the governor quite frequently just because they don’t like how the outcome came out, he’s been right in the middle of all that,” Crank said.

Tom Crank
Tom Crank (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Who’s Crank?

Crank, who is retired, served in the Legislature from 2017-2020 as the representative for House District 18. He is one of five former legislators running to get their seats back this election season.

Crank was running a small business when he lost his last election in 2020 and considers this a possible blessing in disguise as he said he needed to focus on his business to keep it alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He sees himself as someone who can bridge divides and get legislation passed in Cheyenne.

“I think we’re all pretty much looking for the same thing, but we don’t need the grandstanding and the political zealot mentality that goes on with some of that stuff,” Crank said. “It’s not always just one way, this is a democracy and we’ve got to balance stuff to move forward.”

During his time in the Legislature, Crank passed laws correcting the legal description of Prexy’s Pasture on the University of Wyoming campus and providing conditional suspensions of municipal fines.

An even more noteworthy accomplishment in Crank’s mind was the progress he made on building wildlife crossings over busy roads. Although he didn’t get any legislation passed building the crossings during his time, laws did get passed after.

“So that’s a win,” Crank said.

On property tax relief, Crank said the Legislature made solid progress during the session earlier this year. He wants to look at a large overhaul of the overall tax structure for minerals and residential property taxes, which he believes is inherently flawed.

“Why does the government get (more) property tax from me when I’ve done nothing, haven’t sold anything?” Crank questioned. “I haven’t sold anything, but my property tax goes up just because somebody else has sold something. That’s a little disconnected to me.”

The District

HD 18 makes up western Sweetwater County from Green River all the way up to southern Lincoln County, including Kemmerer and Cokeville.

Crank beat Heiner by about 160 votes in the 2018 Republican primary and by 28 votes in a crowded field in the 2016 Republican primary.

“It’s always been close. I assume it’ll be close again,” Crank said. “To have nobody run is worse than to have run and lost. At least the voters have a choice.”

Prior to that, the mostly rural district was represented by current State Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer.

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter