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Shooting The Breeze With Rod Miller & Cat Urbigkit: Post-Election Punditry

in Rod Miller Cat Urbigkit/Column

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By Rod Miller and Cat Urbigkit
Miller and Urbigkit are opinion columnists for Cowboy State Daily

Rod Miller: Well, Cat, after the soothsayers and seers read the political tea leaves and examined the political chicken entrails, the voters – the only pundits that really count – have spoken.  So here we are, with the slates set for the general election in the Cowboy State.  I have some thoughts on Tuesday’s results, but I’d like to hear yours first.  What struck you about what the voters of Wyoming said in the primary?

Cat Urbigkit:  The voters said that Wyoming isn’t willing to fall lock-step into the demagoguery coming from the Wyoming Republican Party leadership – and that its tent is indeed larger than state party leadership wants to believe. Hell, even I got re-elected to my precinct seat.

The Trump/Cheney race (with Hageman as Trump’s vessel) was a national-level contest and reflects a lingering anger with Liz, but the same ideology was reflected in the state race between Chuck Gray and Tara Nethercott, with some right wingers comparing Nethercott to Cheney. In fact, the always trashy and belligerent Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGO) dubbed Nethercott as Cheney’s “evil twin sister.” While Wyoming chose the blustery Gray for the Secretary of State position, over the vastly more rational and qualified Nethercott, she will continue to serve in the state legislature.

Yet in the same election, voters returned more traditional Republican legislative leaders such as Senator Ogden Driskill and Representative Albert Sommers. While the right wing did win some seats, it lost in plenty of others. 

The real tell will be what happens in the county party structures. Which faction got more electors in seats at the precinct level? That will determine the future of the leadership in the state party, and whether Frank Eathorne and his ride for the brand posse will continue to try to horsewhip those with independent thought into compliance.

Rod Miller: I certainly didn’t see a Red Tsunami sweep over Wyoming, particularly in the down ballot races. Several MAGA firebrands either lost their legislative seats or were turned away by voters on their first attempt, so the Trump/Eathorne reach didn’t go very far down the ballot.  

The Jameses, Tom & Jennifer, lost their races over on the West Side. And Troy Bray, Sergeant-at-Arms for the Park County Republican Men’s Full Gospel Gun & Glee Club, wiped out trying to surf the Red Wave. And you’re right – a couple of the ol’ mossbacks that were in the MAGA gunsights, Driskill and Case, dodged crimson bullets and will remain burrs under Eathorne’s saddle.

With all the clamor and tumult in the Republican races, and almost every Democrat in Teton County crossing over in the primary, it leads me to wonder about the role of the Democrats in future Wyoming politics. If their only strength lies in crossing over party lines to vote in a GOP primary, what does that say about their future as a statewide political force? Are they content to play spoiler, or do they have plans to reclaim their place at the table as a legitimate counter-weight to Republican muscle flexing?

Cat Urbigkit:  Your questions about the Democratic party gave me pause. I honestly don’t think about that party’s work in Wyoming, for several reasons. First is the adage to get your own house in order, and the second is that I simply don’t consider it a political force at all. It seems hard to believe that not so long ago, Wyoming elected Democrats as governors (think Ed Herschler, Mike Sullivan, Dave Freudenthal).

But those days are gone, and politics has changed. Right now, the Democratic party seems to struggle to fill party precinct seats in the state – let alone getting candidates to file for office to challenge a Republican. It’s no wonder though, since its current national party leadership isn’t advocating a platform that would appeal to Wyoming voters, and the party’s radical left provides an abundance of fodder for Republicans to shoot down.

Speaking of shooting, I want to go back to WyGO a minute. While WyGO is celebrating the Hageman and Gray wins, WyGO’s Aaron Dorr didn’t do so well with his legislative picks. Of WyGO’s 37 legislative candidates selected as “100% pro-gun,” 25 lost their primaries. That WyGO couldn’t read the state isn’t much of a surprise since WyGO is operated by out-of-stater Dorr, and WyGO’s Wyoming headquarters is a just private mailbox service based in a Cheyenne UPS store. In my view, the infamous Dorr brothers and their organizations (money making machinery) serve as parasites on actual Wyoming gun owners.

But these election results won’t really matter to WyGO, because, well, such is the way of parasites.

Rod Miller: Ha! Don’t get me started on those zany Dorr bros!  They remind me of  blindfolded, tap-dancin’, knife-throwin’ snake oil carnies who come to town asking for volunteers. If it wasn’t for their entertainment value, they’d have no value to Wyoming at all. They are an important factor in politics in the 307 only in their own imaginations.

I haven’t seen a final tabulation on voter turnout, but my hunch is that it was big for a mid-term. That means that the voters were engaged enough to get off the bench, and that’s a good thing. Regardless of the issue or personality at stake, the voters moved like a giant hand across the face of Wyoming and created this landscape we have today. We can all take pride in that!

There remain a few contested races that will be decided in the general election, but for all tents & porpoises, the die is cast. It was an interesting election!

Now Cat…where’d you hide that whiskey bottle?

Cat Urbigkit: Cheers to you, friend!

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Shooting the Breeze With Rod Miller And Cat Urbigkit: Pre-Election Pondering

in Rod Miller Cat Urbigkit/Column

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By Rod Miller and Cat Urbigkit
Miller and Urbigkit are opinion columnists for Cowboy State Daily

Cat Urbigkit: Hey Rod, our experiment of shooting the breeze in a column was popular enough that Editor Jimmy wants us to do more. While I generally like the guy’s taste in music, I must say he’s a bit of a glutton for punishment in asking for more of our political opinions.

I just received an email from the Wyoming Republican Party, with the word OUTRAGEOUS in red text overlaid on an image of an FBI agent. As you can image, the GOP was in hysteria over the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. The email urged GOPers to contact our congressional delegation (even Liz Cheney!) and the governor “to DEMAND they take a stand against the weaponization of federal agencies.”

I’ll admit that part made me laugh. Weaponized law enforcement agencies? Um, it’s in their job description. But tell me, Rod, what’s your take on the current crop of law-and-order Republicans?

Rod Miller: It’s not just the current crop, Cat. There is a long tradition of politicians thumping their chests and preaching “law and order” when it suits their agenda. I’m reminded of the Chicago police and FBI raiding Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s apartment and shooting him dead in 1969. There wasn’t much gnashing of teeth among the “law and order” crowd when that happened. And Hampton wasn’t in possession of classified documents when he was killed.

So it’s very much a case of situational ethics for folks to wring their hands about the search at Mar a Lago. 

As an aside, I get almost daily emails from Hageman’s campaign, and each email asks for the same thing in differing amounts. One day its “We only need $3800 to get us over the top!” The next day, its “We are so close to our goal.  We only need $5100 to get us over the top.”  “The top” seems to be a moving target in Harriet’s campaign. Just an observation.

That race is the Main Event in Wyoming politics this year, and it could go either way. I told Bill Sniffin that I think it could go either way, and I just don’t trust the polling done to date.

Cat Urbigkit:  Me either. While some people believe that Wyoming is a fictional place, I’ve been hearing about lots of national and international media teams coming to our great state to cover the final days of the primary election, as well as the usual lineup of out-of-state campaigners coming to knock on doors. I wish Kevin McCarthy would come door-knocking at the ranch, because mercy but I have some things I’d like to say to him. Alas, fat chance. Like people-watching in airports, it is fun to see so much attention turned to the least populated state in the nation.

Shall we take a crack at some predictions? I’ve developed my standard for candidates, summarized nicely in a column by Peter Wehner: “Leaders speak to legitimate grievances and channel them in constructive ways through policies. Demagogues elevate illegitimate grievances and speak to them in reckless ways.” I’m hopeful Wyoming will continue to elect leaders, not demagogues.

For my first pick, I’m going with Tara Nethercott as Wyoming Secretary of State. She checks all the boxes for leadership, and I think she would be a fantastic member of the State Land Board. Chuck Gray fits the demagogue box. What say you?

Rod Miller: I agree with you. Gray is sort of a Sesame Street candidate. Elmo, maybe. My prediction is that Chuck won’t have a very good year. Trump passed him up in favor of Hageman, so he dropped out of the U.S. House race. Like Roberto Duran saying “No mas” in his second fight with Leonard. I guess that makes him “No Mas Elmo.” He’ll have a couple of years to lick his wounds and nurse his dreams of political power, while he whines about Wyoming’s election process.

Tara has run a very admirable campaign for her first foray into statewide politics. I’m impressed.

The Secretary of State race is the one that will have the most tangible impact on life in Wyoming, and I feel better about our future in the hands of a professional like Nethercott. The Park County Men’s Full Gospel Gun & Glee Club will be bitterly heartbroken that they can’t put their grubby paws on our ballots. But politics is full of little disappointments.

On the upside for Gray, his dad will have a couple of years to build Chuck’s warchest back up. And those poor 2000 mules can finally get a rest and eat some oats.

Cat Urbigkit: I’m guessing Mark Gordon is re-elected as governor, Megan Degenfelder will unseat Brian Schroeder for Superintendent of Public Instruction (go Megan!), and Curt Meier will ride his name recognition back into office since his opponent apparently didn’t campaign for the job. Meier’s performance has been criticized, but apparently it’s hard to find someone who wants the job.

Rod Miller: The Treasurer’s Office was a springboard for Gordon, and I agree that he will be re-elected. But Meier is saddled with concerns about his office producing timely reports for the legislature, so if he wants to rise up the foodchain, he’ll need to get his assignments turned in on time.

Superintendent races used to be sort of a yawn, but now the office has turned into a battleground in the culture wars. And that’s a damn shame. It shortchanges both the students and the First Amendment.

The race should be close but I agree with you, Cat. Degenfelder will win a squeaker, and I think that will be a good thing. My hunch is that she’ll burn fewer books than the other candidates.  

Cat Urbigkit:  I’ve been cruising through the campaign reports filed thusfar to check on candidate spending and Political Action Committee (PAC) support.

One that jumped out at me was the “Allen Jaggi PAC for Constitutional Issues.” Jaggi was a state representative until about 6 years ago, from the Lyman area, and now he has a PAC! But when I looked at the PAC’s finances, I see Jaggi contributed $50 to his own PAC, but the only other donor to the PAC dropped some big money: $10,000 from Curt Meier, current State Treasurer who is seeking re-election. This Meier-funded PAC put $1,000 toward Brian Schroeder as state superintendent of public instruction and handed out a bunch of $500 contributions for Chuck Gray, Karl and Vladimir Allred (who are running for seats in the legislature from Uinta County), Bob Wharff, Mike Schmid and a few others.

Anything else we ought to cover this time?

Rod Miller: As Deep Throat famously said, “just follow the money.” I believe that’s good advice.

And Mark Twain said, “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.” That is horrible advice.

Wyoming should be leading the nation in percentage of voter registration and turnout. There’s no excuse for so many voting-eligible Wyomingites to remain unregistered, and so many registered voters to stay home on election day. If there is a weakness in our election system, its US.

We should tell folks to get off their lazy duffs, register and vote. Wait! We just did!

Let’s get our noggins together after the election and shoot the breeze like good Monday morning quarterbacks.

Cat Urbigkit: Will do! See ya’ll at the polls.

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