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Wyoming GOP Wants To Host Debate After Wyoming PBS Banned Public From Attending

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The Wyoming Republican Party is giving consideration to hosting its own U.S. House debate in response to a Thursday Wyoming PBS and Wyoming Public Radio debate prohibiting the public from attending.

“There’s no reason a debate like this shouldn’t be open to the public,” said Corey Steinmetz, State GOP national committeeman. 

Many Wyoming residents took to social media to air their frustrations about the closed nature of the event, with some of Wyoming’s most prominent columnists expressing their displeasure.

“Regardless of who decided to bar the doors, the decision has raised the hackles of Wyomingites across the political spectrum,” columnist Rod Miller wrote. “To say that this was a stupid move is to test the boundaries of understatement.”

Terry Dugas, WyomingPBS general manager, claimed sole responsibility for the decision to close the doors at Sheridan College, citing safety concerns for the candidates and Wyoming PBS staff. 

“Even in Wyoming, political figures receive death threats,” Dugas wrote. “One of the candidates even describes such a death threat on his Facebook page.”

In a June 25 Facebook post, candidate and State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne mentioned how he received a death threat from Laramie man Christopher Podlesnik in early January 2021, but Steinmetz expressed doubt this event intimidated the Second Amendment proponent.

Podlesnik left three voicemails for Sen. Cynthia Lummis, two for Sen. John Barrasso, two for Bouchard and one for Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was holding a rally at the Wyoming Capitol that day to denounce Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s impeachment vote. Podlesnik was sentenced in November 2021 to 18 months in federal prison.

Cheney spent $58,000 on security in early 2021 after receiving death threats, according to the New York Times.

Typically, it wouldn’t be surprising for a major candidate to take part in a debate hosted by their own party, but Cheney and the State GOP have a frayed relationship due to her speaking out against former President Donald Trump. The party’s leadership has defended Trump and many see the August primary as a barometer to how much support Trump retains throughout Wyoming and how representative the State GOP is of Republican voters in the state.

The debate’s moderator said on Tuesday evening he and PBS both worked to open the debate and that it was Sheridan College’s decision to originally bar the press. 

“The moment I learned this event would be closed to the press, I fought back hard, and my former colleagues at WyomingPBS did as well, ” said Craig Blumenshine, debate moderator and former PBS employee. “It is the right decision to allow a free and independent press to cover the event in person.”

In an earlier statement, Dugas did not specify that it was Sheridan College’s decision to close the event to the media and the public but credited the Sheridan Press newspaper for convincing the college to allow media access. Sheridan College President Walter Tribley would not personally respond to questions about the decision that was made.

“For reasons related to the safety of all in attendance at the event, I am not responding to questions about the event at this time,” he said in a Tuesday morning email.

The application for press credentials includes a stipulation that signees agree event organizers are not liable for any “bodily injury or death” that may come to journalists while covering the event.

Even though the GOP sent an email to its members on Monday speculating about the idea, Steinmetz said it isn’t likely the State GOP will be able to find a venue and host its own debate with less than two months to go before primary election day.

“Right now, it seems kind of remote,” he said. “I’m not holding out a lot of hope.”

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Democratic Candidate Maldonado Accuses Superintendent Schroeder Of Bigotry

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The lone Democrat running to take over as the state’s superintendent of schools is accusing incumbent Brian Schroeder of being guilty of bigotry because of his position on federal funding for school lunches.

Sergio Maldonado Sr., a Wind River Reservation resident running for superintendent of public instruction, issued a statement criticizing Schroeder for his position against accepting federal demands that the state update its non-discrimination policies to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“His comments today would be laughable, if it were not for the fact that his brazen display of bigotry is harmful to Wyoming’s children, putting some kids in danger while displaying complete ignorance and lack of respect for marginalized people,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is calling for Wyoming and all other U.S. states to update their non-discrimination policies to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

State officials have resisted the request, saying past federal court rulings have found that actions such as labeling bathrooms as only available for “boys” and “girls” are a form of discrimination.

Cover The $40 Million

Schroeder, a Republican who was appointed by Gov. Mark Gordon in January, has suggested that Wyoming find its own way to cover the $40 million the USDA provides each year for school lunches to avoid having to comply on the issue. He pledged that children from low-income households will not go unfed in Wyoming and he will not allow boys in girls’ locker rooms. 

“Therefore, I call on all Wyomingites to appeal to their local legislators concerning the liberating prospects of severing our dependence on federal dollars,” Schroeder said in a news release. “Washington has shown its hand, and will never stop at forcing its woke agenda and ever-changing value system on people who refuse to embrace it. Be fully assured, this is not the end – they will be back (i.e. boys in girls sports, forced usage of pronouns, etc.).”

Schroeder did not immediately respond to requests for follow up comments regarding Maldonado’s statement.

Although the USDA school lunch funding does make up a small percentage of Wyoming’s roughly $2 billion biannual K-12 schools budget, the state receives more than 40% its Wyoming Department of Education funding from federal sources.

The state can ill-afford to give up federal funds at a time of falling state tax revenues, Maldonado said.

“Wyoming already struggles to meet the education funding mandates enshrined in our Wyoming Constitution,” he said. “If it weren’t for the infusion of federal dollars in the wake of the COVID pandemic massive cuts in all areas of the budget would have happened.”

“Back to Michigan”

Maldonado said Schroeder has been attempting to politicize education and said he looks forward to beating him in the election and “sending him back to Michigan where he lived until recently.” 

Schroeder hasn’t lived in Michigan since at least 2009. He moved to Wyoming from Wisconsin a few years ago.

Schroeder said he supports “the process of cutting ties with federal funds while upholding the constitutional mandate to financially sustain Wyoming public education,” an effort he considers “completely doable.”

But Maldonado disagreed.

“There is no way the state of Wyoming is going to turn away federal dollars, so his posturing is ridiculous,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado is the only Democratic candidate in the race for superintendent of public instruction. 

Jennifer Zerba, Megan Degenfelder, Robert White III and Thomas Kelly are running against Schroeder in the Republican primary.

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Al Simpson To Receive Presidential Medal Of Freedom, Nation’s Highest Civilian Honor

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson is being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“It’s the highest honor, I’m very touched,” Simpson said.

President Joe Biden has chosen Simpson as his first recipient of the medal. The award is presented to individuals who are considered to have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Simpson, a Cody native and resident, served as a U.S. senator for 18 years, a timespan that included leadership positions as Senate majority and minority whip. He also was the co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010. 

Simpson said he found out about the medal a few days ago.

“It’s a very powerful and moving thing for me,” he said. “It’s something that’s cherished.”

The award was started by former President John Kennedy in 1963 and has been continued by every president since. Recipients include musician Duke Ellington, Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Colin Powell, Babe Ruth, Rosa Parks and Tiger Woods. Biden received the medal himself from former President Barack Obama in 2017. 

“You don’t have to agree with them all but it’s a hell of a list,” Simpson said of the award recipients.

Obama issued the award to 132 people while former President Donald Trump only gave it to 24.

Simpson’s childhood friend and former U.S. Rep. Norm Mineta received the honor in 2006. Simpson recently gave a eulogy at Mineta’s funeral.

Simpson said he has known the president for 55 years and worked hand-in-hand with Biden from 1989-1996 while the two were members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of their fellow members, Orrin Hatch, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump in 2018. All three oversaw many important hearings together such as the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas and the associated testimony from Anita Hill. 

“We went through many ups and downs on that committee,” Simpson said. “Most of us thought we were Americans first and then Republicans second.”

Simpson is not optimistic about the future of American politics.

“It’s all based on hatred,” Simpson told Cowboy State Daily. “The parties, they hate Trump, they hate Biden, they hate (U.S. Rep.) Nancy Pelosi, they hate (U.S. Sen.) Mitch McConnell.”

Simpson’s award comes at a time when he finds himself at odds with many in the Republican Party after speaking out against Trump.

He has also criticized other party leaders, such as Wyoming Party Chairman Frank Eathorne for his participation at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“We don’t have to listen to someone like that and he certainly doesn’t represent Wyoming values,” Simpson.

It’s an interesting position for him to be in, considering his father, former U.S. Sen. Milward Simpson, was called too conservative for supporting presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964.

“It’s the party trend because the party always changes,” Simpson said, explaining that his viewpoints haven’t changed, but the party has.

Simpson has also spoken out against the purity tests used by some Republicans to determine which party members truly deserve to be called “Republicans.” Those who fall short are called “RINOs,” short for “Republicans In Name Only.”

Simpson has his own version of this phrase and applies it to those making such determinations — Republicans Ignorantly Needling Others.

On Tuesday morning, Simpson appeared in a new commercial for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in her reelection campaign. Cheney has spoken out against Trump for his attempts to question the results of the 2020 election and his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

Simpson has missed out on a few ceremonies in recent years due to personal illnesses and injuries, missing the funeral of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi. Despite recently suffering a small fracture on his pelvic bone, Simpson said he will tough out this injury to receive his award.

“I’m still recovering from that but I’ll be there,” he said. “I’m making it a point to show up.”

Simpson said he will be presented the award at a ceremony at the White House on July 7. He will be accompanied by seven guests, including his wife Ann Simpson, children and grandchildren. 

A man who grew up in rural Northwest Wyoming, Simpson’s career should serve as an example that no matter one’s background, there is no limit to what can be accomplished in America’s highest political sphere.

“If you do what’s right, and you’ve got to have a thick skin,” Simpson said.

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Wyoming PBS To Allow Media To Attend Debate But Not The Public

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A debate featuring all five Republican candidates for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat will be open to the media, the debate’s host has announced.

WyomingPBS, after first announcing Thursday’s debate in Sheridan would be closed to both the media and public, on Tuesday announced that Sheridan College had decided to allow credentialed media to cover the event in person. There was no mention of allowing members of the public to in person.

The debate, which begins at 7 p.m., will be live-streamed.

Terry Dugas, general manager for WyomingPBS, did not specify that it was Sheridan College’s decision to close the event to the media and the public, but he credited the Sheridan Press newspaper for convincing the college to allow media access.

Dugas said the safety of the candidates and WyomingPBS staff was a primary concern in the original closure.  

“Daily, there are news reports of political figures and public servants being assaulted,” he said. “Even in Wyoming, political figures receive death threats.  One of the candidates even describes such a death threat on his Facebook page.”

Sheridan College President Walter Tribley would not personally respond to questions about the decision.

“For reasons related to the safety of all in attendance at the event, I am not responding to questions about the event at this time,” he said in a Tuesday morning email.

Dugas said PBS was also concerned about the possibility of a vocal supporter disrupting the live event.

“The intense passion among supporters of all the candidates led us to close the debate to the public,” Dugas said. “We were not asked to do this by any of the candidates.”

Several of the candidates taking part in the event told Cowboy State Daily they did not ask for the debate to be closed. State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, blamed incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, but Cheney’s press manager Tammy Hooper said the Cheney team had no input on the decision and were simply given the same rules and guidelines as the other candidates.

None of the candidates said it was their preference to have the debate closed and Harriet Hageman and Denton Knapp said they wanted it open.

Last week, Dugas said PBS would confer with the “security team” for the event, which he said made the decision to close the event to the public. He did not disclose the identity of the security team.

The debate’s moderator said he and PBS both worked to open the debate.

“As the moderator for Thursday’s upcoming Republican U.S. House Debate, I am very pleased about this announcement,” said Craig Blumenshine, debate moderator. “The moment I learned this event would be closed to the press, I fought back hard, and my former colleagues at WyomingPBS did as well. It is the right decision to allow a free and independent press to cover the event in person.”

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Election Watchdog Group: Wyoming Company Illegally Contributed $50,000 To Hageman PAC

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Photo by Matt Idler.
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A complaint alleging a Wyoming company improperly contributed $50,000 to a political action committee supporting congressional candidate Harriet Hageman has been filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The Campaign Legal Center, an election watchdog group, filed the complaint with the FEC on June 22, alleging that Snow Goose LLC is a “shell company” formed to hide the actual identity of those who donated $50,000 to Wyoming Values.

Wyoming Values is a super PAC formed to support Hageman’s campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

“Shell companies like Snow Goose, LLC are one of the ways special interests funnel secret spending (also known as dark money) to super PACs and conceal the true contributor’s identity,” said Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform at Campaign Legal Center. “Voters have a right to know who is spending that money and attempting to rig the system in their favor.”

However, a spokesman for Wyoming Values took exception to the complaint.

“This complaint from Liz Cheney’s liberal friends at CLC doesn’t even allege any wrongdoing by our PAC,” James Blair, one of the Republican strategists who oversees the PAC, told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday morning. “Wyoming Values has always fully complied with the law and will continue to do so.”

No accusations of wrongdoing have been raised against Wyoming Values.

In the complaint, CLC said Snow Goose, which was formed in December by Jackson attorney Matt Kim-Miller, has no known business operations, investments, assets, or commercial ventures.

It also said that Snow Goose donated $50,000 to Wyoming Values in February.

Kim-Miller did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment.

Records from the secretary of state’s office show the company shares an office with Corporate Creations Network in Casper, which is Snow Goose’s registered agent. CCN is a national company which acts as a registered agent or companies across the country.

Elaine Gonzalez, a spokesperson for CCN, declined to answer questions about Snow Goose and who runs it.

The evidence indicates Snow Goose is a “shell company” created just to send money to a campaign, making it a “straw donor” under FEC rules, according to the CLC.

FEC law states single member LLCs like Snow Goose can make contributions to super PACs, but these contributions must be attributed to the single member, not the LLC.

CLC is requesting an immediate investigation into the allegations and appropriate sanctions. 

Ghosh told Cowboy State Daily it’s not one particular infringement made by Snow Goose that is at the heart of the issue, but rather, the whole cohesive picture of how the contribution was allegedly made in a manner to conceal the identity of the contributor.

He said his nonprofit organization combs through campaign finance documents to find LLCs it suspects of wrongdoing. Although $50,000 is a relatively small sum in a race where the top two candidates have raised millions of dollars, Ghosh said the Snow Goose donation still rose to the level where it was considered deserving of an official complaint.

“$50,000 is $50,000,” he said.

Straw donor investigations have led to criminal indictments and convictions in recent years.

Wyoming Values, the super PAC to receive Snow Goose’s donation, is overseen by Republican strategists Blair and Andy Surabian, with Donald Trump Jr. serving as honorary chairman. 

Trump Jr. has been active in lobbying for Hageman, appearing in a campaign commercial on her behalf and speaking at one of her campaign events in Alpine two weeks ago. 

Ghosh said although he agrees with Blair that Wyoming Values did nothing illegal in accepting the donation from Snow Goose, he said from an ethical standpoint, all super PACs should be vetting who they receive their donations from.

He added the investigation could yield more information the donation.


“There definitely could possibly be a story we don’t know there that the FEC might find,” he said.

According to FEC reports, Wyoming Values had spent $562,224 in support of Hageman’s campaign as of the last FEC filing date of March 31.

Wyoming Values helped organize a rally featuring former President Donald Trump in Casper in May.

Blair also declined to discuss the principals behind Snow Goose.

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Cheney Says She Didn’t Ask For A Closed Debate; Wyoming PBS Won’t Talk

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Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney had nothing to do with the decision to exclude the media and public from a debate between her and the other Republican candidates for Wyoming’s U.S. House spot, a spokesman said Monday.

“It appears false rumors are spreading as they relate to the upcoming debate in Sheridan,” said Tammy Hooper Cheney’s campaign manager.

Hooper said the debate organizers set the rules for the debate and the Cheney team was given these rules. She said no one from the campaign ever asked or requested the debate be closed to the public or the media.

“PBS organizers decided the rules for the debate without input from campaigns and we respect the decisions they’ve made since it’s their debate,” she said.

The debate is to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday and will be live streamed.

Wyoming PBS, the host for Thursday’s debate at Sheridan College, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that other than the three panelists selected to question the candidates, no other media would be allowed into the building. Nor would members of the public.

A spokesman for the partially publicly funded institution said the public and the media would be excluded because of “safety concerns.”

“To ensure the safety of the candidates, the debate is closed to the public and the press,” Terry Dugas said.

Dugas said PBS would confer with its “security team” this week, which he said made the decision to close the event to the public. He would not disclose the identity of the security team.

When reached for follow up questions Monday morning, Dugas declined to comment further.

“I can’t answer your questions until after the debate ends,” he said. “If you’re still interested on Friday, I can add a little more light.”

Cheney opponents Harriet Hageman and state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, said they had nothing to do with the event’s closure to the public.

“We would prefer that the debate be more open, but these were the rules as presented to us. We did not make these demands or any others,” Hageman campaign manager Carly Miller told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Meanwhile, Bouchard blamed the closure on Cheney. “Spend millions of out of state grifter money, and it turns into a circus,” he said.

Hooper said PBS organizers decided the rules of the debate without any input from campaigns. She added the Cheney campaign will not oppose the rules “since it’s their debate.”

“These are important points to counter any misleading narratives that are taking hold,” Hooper said.

Another one of Cheney’s opponents, Denton Knapp, said he is very disappointed the event is not open for the public or the press to attend, as he was the one who reached out to PBS to host a debate in the first place.

“I find it really hard to believe with five candidates in this race it’s not allowed to be open to the public,” he said.

Knapp said he won’t boycott the event if it remains closed but is planning to issue a press release imploring PBS to change its rules.

“The public needs to be allowed to read the reactions and emotions taking place,” Knapp said. “It’s important to have open doors. We really need to be asking why this is being closed.”

Longtime political moderator and past host of the popular Wyoming Chronicles television program Craig Blumenshine said despite the format he was looking forward to hosting the discussion on Thursday.

“I was asked to moderate the debate and I believe it is very important to hear what these candidates have to say,” Blumenshine said. “On Thursday, I’ll have more to say about what led up to this debate.”

Three members of the media, Wyoming PBS Producer Steve Peck, Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck and Sheridan Press reporter Stephen Dow, will be allowed into the event, but they will be operating as panelists for the debate.

In a weekend Facebook post, Beck said he did not become aware the event was closed to the public until Friday, the same day Wyoming PBS put out a press release announcing the event.

“I’m not sure if Wyoming PBS or any of the candidates played a role,” he said in the post. “I’m surprised media members were included and I requested that be changed.”

Peck, Beck and Dow did not immediately respond to requests for follow up comments. 

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Editorial: Denton Knapp Is the Only Candidate Who Cares About The Public Right Now

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Cowboy State Daily Editorial

Is it that surprising that the only person who isn’t playing the victim card in Wyoming PBS’ debate debacle is a veteran?

U.S. House candidate Denton Knapp isn’t the only one to say he’s not pleased with Wyoming PBS’ decision to bar the public from attending Thursday’s debate.

But he is the only person who is trying to do something about it. 

Yes, we know that Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman say they don’t like the idea of a private debate.  But they are resigned to it. We heard from their spokespeople. There’s nothing they can do, they say.

And we heard from Anthony Bouchard too. He was a bit more creative laying the blame on Cheney, of course without any proof. But he isn’t doing anything about it either.

We know that one of the three media panelists — Bob Beck — isn’t pleased the media can’t come and was going to ask that be changed. That’s fine if you are a member of the media. But what about the public?

We don’t know what journalists Steve Peck and Stephen Dow think because they won’t go on the record.

Wyoming PBS says there is nothing they can do about it and lays blame on some mysterious “security team” out there.  

It couldn’t be the same security team that made sure President Trump’s rally was safe a month ago. This is apparently a security team that has deemed an auditorium in Sheridan College impossible to secure.

That the claim is ludicrous said candidate Denton Knapp, the war hero from Gillette.

Hero isn’t a throwaway word.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals (one with Valor) after being deployed to combat three times for Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

After serving for over three decades, he retired as a Colonel in 2017.

Knapp doesn’t think it’s right that the public should be barred from a debate for public office.

Knapp doesn’t think it’s right that the public should be barred from a debate for public office being hosted by an entity that is publicly funded and has “public” in its name — Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service.

Knapp said he was going to reach out and actually try to do something about it. We know that because we spoke to him, not his “spokespeople.”

“The public needs to be allowed to read the reactions and emotions taking place,” Knapp told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s important to have open doors. We really need to be asking why this is being closed.”

Regardless of what happens, there is only one leader here who is standing up for the public right now.

That leader risked his life for the public for three decades.

And now that leader is the only one who is committed to serving the public right now.

You might want to give Denton Knapp another look. Because at least when it comes to serving the public right now, Denton Knapp is the only one who appears to care.

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GOP House Candidate Robyn Belinskey Runs Self-Funded Campaign

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Robyn Belinskey traveled to Bedminster, N.J., in 2021 in hopes of getting a meeting with former President Donald Trump and earning his endorsement in her run for U.S. Congress. 

Belinskey never got that meeting or Trump’s endorsement after six days of trying, but she didn’t let that dissuade her from running. 

It’s no surprise, as her entire campaign has been self-driven and self-funded from its beginning.

“If I can prove a point why not?” she asked rhetorically.

Belinskey, a Republican and Sheridan resident, has no major campaign donors and still had not filed any campaign finance information as of the first quarter filing deadline of March 31. 

She is running her campaign on the appeal of being “the relatable candidate” running for everyday people in Wyoming.

“The reason I’m running is so we have a voice in Wyoming,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “I’m not happy with Liz Cheney being our representative and I’m …definitely not happy with Harriet Hageman, her friend, being it either.”

Belinskey finds herself competing in a race where out-of-state interests have had a sizable impact and $12.8 million has been raised by primarily two candidates. 

As an owner of a small housekeeping and property management business who was once homeless, Belinskey is about as blue collar as it gets and ironically said she plans to “clean house” when she gets to Washington, D.C. 

“People are buying their seats instead of actually doing their jobs,” she said. “I don’t have millions of dollars. I’m trying to get it done with my car.

“Not everyone that is well dressed or well educated is the best person for the job,” she continued.

Belinskey doesn’t have a massive war chest to lean on, so her primary focus is connecting with Wyoming residents as she travels the state in her 1999 Buick Park Avenue sedan, painted across its body with an American flag and flying bald eagle.

“It’s a good conversation piece, it’s my traveling billboard,” she said.

Although she describes herself as “not an attorney and definitely not a politician,” she does have a paralegal degree and experience working in the state Legislature. 

Belinskey started her campaign in early 2021, around the time many county GOP parties in Wyoming were censuring Cheney for speaking out against Trump. 

She said just because a politician may have deep family roots in the state, it does not mean he or she is reliable.

Belinskey is pro-life and is also against euthanasia of the elderly and sick, finding these type of decisions best left up to God. 

She also supports private property owners when it comes to the issue of corner crossing, the practice of crossing over corners of private property to gain access to public property. 

“People have their maps on their phones,” she said. “There’s no reason someone should be crossing over and doing all sorts of hokey stuff.”

A lawsuit filed against four Missouri hunters for allegedly violating airspace above private land in Carbon County is currently working its way through federal court. The hunters used a ladder-like device to cross over private land owned by Iron Bar Ranch without touching the land itself.

She also disapproves of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s recent purchase in Natrona and Carbon counties of more than 35,000 acres of private land.

“We shouldn’t allow the federal government to dictate how we use our land,” she said.

Stopping human trafficking is a passion for Belinskey and she said she is collaborating with Project Veritas, an organization that performs political activism and undercover investigative journalism, to quantify the level of the problem in Wyoming. 

She said she has been talking with as many Wyoming people as she can, including Democrats, to identify issues that are most pertinent to residents.

One of the key issues she has identified is President Joe Biden’s hostile stance toward Wyoming’s energy industry. She said the recent war in Ukraine has made it abundantly clear how important it is for America to avoid foreign oil dependence. 

“We don’t need to be dependent on another country for our resources,” she said. 

To grow Wyoming’s economy, Belinskey wants to make the state a more friendly place to start a small business by providing incentives for people who set up shop here.

Belinskey also wants to bring film companies back to Wyoming, an industry that frequented the state more often in the 1980s and 1990s. Recently, Wyoming lost out to Montana to host shooting of the hit TV series “Yellowstone,” along with other major productions such as “Joe Pickett” and “1883” because the state lacks a film incentive program.

“There should be no reason why our films that are supposed to be taking place here are being filmed in New Mexico,” Belinskey said.

After Hageman received Trump’s endorsement, Belinskey, like a few of the other Republican candidates, received requests that she drop out of the race. Although she still is a Trump fan and even invited him to come golf in Sheridan, she refuses to be a “sheep and a lemming.”

“I’m in this to make a difference,” she said. “Sometimes you have to make a stand and you’re not going to do that sitting. Liz Cheney has nothing to do with the people in Wyoming. The government has invested millions of dollars on a sham investigation orchestrated by the Democrats.” 

Belinskey considers those still awaiting trial on charges related to their alleged actions at the Jan. 6 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol to be political prisoners and said politicians should be more concerned with Biden’s actions against the energy industry.

Belinskey said she decided to launch her first campaign with a U.S. House race rather than a legislative office or county commission seat because it came down to a matter of going big or going home.

“I wanted to represent Wyoming,” she said. “Since we the people weren’t being represented, (it) was a call to action.”

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House District 13: Albany County GOP Candidate Anti-Trump, Supports Gun Control, Pro-Weed

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Albany County is one of the few places in Wyoming where one can find a Republican legislative candidate who supports some gun control, opposes former President Donald Trump and supports full legalization of marijuana.

But Wayne Pinch, running for House District 13 in Laramie, said he knows his audience. He describes himself as a centrist, supporting Democrat presidential candidate George McGovern the first time he was eligible to vote in 1972.

“I’m a Democrat with soul,” said Pinch, who worked in the music industry most of his life. “The far left is completely out of left field. We have to think about that.”

More Liberal Venue

HD13 is an area encompassing the eastern part of Laramie and southern half of the University of Wyoming campus, an area filled with dormitories, university students and faculty and a more liberal venue than most other Wyoming communities.

HD 13 is the current seat of Democrat Rep. Cathy Connolly, one of the most progressive legislators in the state and the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Wyoming Legislature. Connolly is not running for reelection this fall.

A Republican has not run in HD13 since Joey Correnti IV lost to Connolly in 2016.

Due to redistricting, only a small swath of land remains from the district that elected Connolly when she ran unopposed in the general election in 2020.

Ken Chestek, a Democrat running this year to replace Connolly, said these changes have made the district more conservative and competitive, with more registered Republicans than Democrats, but with more unaffiliated voters than either party.

“I’m here to help people and empower people,” Chestek said. “I want to level the playing field so everyone has an equal chance at success.” 

Modeling

Both candidates in HD13 are modeling themselves after others. Chestek said he shares the same political views as Connolly, while Pinch compares his political views to former President John Kennedy.

“Jack Kennedy would be a Republican these days,” he said. 

Pinch said he is a progressive when it comes to women’s rights. He supports abortion in during the first trimester of pregnancy or in cases of rape or incest, but said his position becomes “sticky” for anything beyond those circumstances. 

Pinch said he is a firm believer in the Second Amendment but supports increasing the legal age to buy semi-assault rifles to 21 years of age. Chestek said he supports most of the gun control legislation being considered in the U.S. Senate right now, and favors reasonable restrictions on firearms such as increased background checks, repealing Wyoming’s gun show loophole and initiating red flag laws, which allow friends, family members and police to seek the confiscation of an individual’s firearms. 

Albany County GOP

Although he has attended a few Albany County Republican Party meetings, Pinch said he doesn’t associate with the group.

Chestek is the state committeeman for the Albany County Democratic Party and is actively involved in Democratic State Party politics. He said he came away from the party’s recent state convention with a renewed passion and vigor.

“Our platform is very positive,” he said. “We have a vision for what we want to do. I’m proud to be a Democrat.”

Chestek ran in House District 46 in 2016, losing to former Republican Rep. Bill Haley by around 17%. Now he lives in HD13, but shares many of the same neighbors from his canvassing drive of six years ago, a connection he believes will give him an advantage in the race.

Chestek believes Wyoming needs to diversify its economy and become less dependent on mineral revenue. He doesn’t favor moving away from oil and coal entirely and said creative thinking needs to take place to find new uses for these fossil fuels, such as using coal for construction material. 

Retooling

He said towns like Kemmerer and Rock Springs, cities highly dependent on coal, can be kept alive by re-tooling these resources for new purposes.

“Rather than stomping our feet and being mad, let’s treat it as a tool to our future,” he said. 

Chestek said Wyoming should be harnessing solar and wind energy, two renewable energy sources readily available in the state. To Chestek, the environment and economy have a symbiotic relationship. 

“We should be getting ahead of this market instead of falling behind,” he said. “Every time there’s an upheaval effect of the economy you like to get out ahead of it.”

Chestek is also passionate about eradicating dark money from politics and cites the 2010 Supreme Court decision “Citizens United” that lifted prohibitions on corporations making independent expenditures and electioneering communications as being highly detrimental to the current state of politics. 

Dark Money

He predicted a large amount of dark money will be spent on this year’s election and wants to pass a resolution demanding federal campaign finance reform by joining 22 other states in supporting an amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court decision.

“Corporations are not people,” he said. “We can’t solve any of the things that are wrong in this country until we solve money in politics.”

Pinch has never worked in politics. He ran an entertainment company for many years and is now working on a patent for a center pivot irrigation system that covers square chunks of land rather than traditional circular patterns.

If elected, he said he will work for veterans’ rights and legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. 

Pinch’s son is an Iraqi War veteran and depends on marijuana to function in his everyday life. Pinch finds it “outrageous” that alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs are federally legal but not marijuana. 

He acknowledges fighting for these goals will be an uphill battle in Wyoming but said it’s worth the effort.

“If someone is found by the police with anything (marijuana) in their system that person loses everything,” Pinch said. “There needs to be a way for it to be seen as a normal medicinal treatment.”

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House District 33: Three Republicans Battle For Shot At Seat In Formerly Democratic District

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

Three Republican candidates are battling over a Wyoming legislative district that has been Democratic until recently.

Wade LeBeau, Valaira Whiteman, and Sarah Penn are campaigning for the Republican nomination for House District 33. The winner of the primary on Aug. 16 will challenge Democratic incumbent Rep. Andi LeBeau in the general election on Nov. 8. 

LeBeau is running unopposed in the Democratic primary election.  

Re-drawn in the early 1990s to satisfy congressional and U.S. Supreme Court standards for keeping a majority of racial-minority voters in legislative regions wherever possible, House District 33 is Wyoming’s only American-Indian district.  

In recent months, the district’s registered voter numbers showed more Republicans than Democrats for the first time since the district was re-drawn. There were 1,393 Republicans and 1,272 Democrats registered in HD33 as of June 21, according to the Fremont County Clerk.  

HD33 is about 67% American Indian, with white voters comprising most of the remaining margin.  

Penn, Whiteman, and Wade LeBeau are all fiscally conservative Republicans and all live on the Wind River Indian Reservation. But they’re not cookie-cutter candidates.  

A Rivalry Revived  

Valaira Whiteman came within 96 votes of defeating LeBeau in the 2020 general election and she’s hoping to close that gap in November if she wins the August primary.

Whiteman, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily, remarked on her many similarities with the incumbent. Both are women, enrolled Northern Arapaho Tribal members, mothers, residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation and both passionate about preventing crimes against Indigenous women.  

But as a Republican, Whiteman, who describes herself as fiscally conservative, a pro-life advocate and a proponent of traditional interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, has big plans to change the district’s policy approach.  

Whiteman has an associate’s degree in criminal justice, is working on her bachelor’s degree and also works as a manager in automotive maintenance.  

“I feel there’s a large portion of my district that’s not represented,” said Whiteman, listing rural areas such as Atlantic City, the outskirts of Lander, the river overlook in Riverton.  

Property tax reform is a key priority for those areas, said Whiteman, adding that she’d like to advance legislation to manage the property tax hikes that lambasted homeowners in the recently booming housing market. She said she is eager to brainstorm with other legislators.  

Federal Pushback 

Housing is an issue on the reservation as well, said Whiteman, but it’s a different animal.  

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs manages land titles on the reservation and properties often grow more and more fractured as they’re split between new generations. 

Whiteman said if elected, she’d like to use her position in the Legislature to encourage the BIA to involve the residents in its decision making in a more inclusive, transparent process.  

“The people being left out (of the process) are on allotted lands, and have got no place to voice their concerns,” said Whiteman. “These are problems state and tribal officials, leaders, need to be aware of.”  

Whiteman, an official on the Wind River Tax Commission, said she is prepared and willing to work smoothly with the sovereign governments of both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes.  

‘If Children Are Challenged’ 

Another priority for Whiteman is reforming the state’s K-12 education system so state education funding allotments will follow each individual student, wherever that student chooses to go to school. The candidate theorized that this would promote a healthy competition between schools, which in turn would help children excel.  

“If children are challenged and you have an expectation for them, they will reach it,” said the mother of six.  

Education is the key to a better life, said Whiteman, who said she hopes that better education prospects will help individuals “navigate through life without dependency on either the tribal government or the U.S. government.”  

Whiteman is pro-life. She also does not support the death penalty because of her Catholic faith and her deeply held belief that “all lives are precious; all lives matter from conception until death.”  

She said the Republican Party appeals to her because she believes in less government interference and self-sufficiency.  

Whiteman said she also believes that public servants should be as transparent as possible, especially where the people’s money is concerned.  

‘I Need To Become The Bridge’ 

Wade LeBeau is a father of five, a Wind River Indian Reservation resident, an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and a Navy veteran who works in telecommunications.  

He served five years in U.S. Naval active duty, two years in Navy Reserve and two years in Army Reserve.

He was deployed in 1997 to the Persian Gulf with Operation Desert Shield.  

Wade LeBeau is not related by blood to Rep. Andi LeBeau, but is a distant cousin by adoption.  

Often forthright, LeBeau said he is a Republican because he “outgrew being a government baby.” 

He remarked that a majority of American Indians are Democrats, but he attributed that to actions by the Democratic Party that appear to help, but don’t actually help tribal people.  

“Realistically I’ve never really seen either party be help or hinder the native (community) any more or less than the other,” said LeBeau. 

He also remarked that there is much more to tribal politics than the national partisan picture.  

“I think one of the biggest issues with the native community is it’s misunderstood. The native politics are misunderstood, the tribes themselves are misunderstood, with the differences between them,” said LeBeau. 

Tribal populations contend with tribal governments, the over-arching federal government that oversees reservations and the smaller but sometimes crucial family politics between and within certain tribes. LeBeau said he’d like to see sensitive, nuanced policy-making that takes all these factors into account.  

He also said he’s not against leveraging state funding for tribal causes, but would embrace business or grant contracts that promote “economic development” and business expansion throughout the district, rather than “handouts.”  

LeBeau said he’s willing to work with both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shosone tribal governments but also would like to ensure that they are following their governing federal and tribal policies. He said his goal as a legislator would be to open communications between both tribes and between non-tribal members.  

“There seems to be a lot of animosity or prejudice on both sides, and there just needs to be a bridge gapped,” said LeBeau. “I need to become the bridge.”  

Treaty Rights 

Wade LeBeau said he feels the Democrat incumbent has not done enough to push for tribal treaty rights to be actualized in Wyoming legislation.  

Wade LeBeau favored a resolution drafted by Rep. John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne, addressing treaty land grants. The resolution was rejected by the Legislature tribal relations committee, but if it had passed, it would have prompted the Wyoming Legislature to ask Congress to acknowledge and promote “verified land designation history and support collaboration with all heirs of treaty lands.”  

Rep. Andi LeBeau slammed the proposed resolution in a March meeting of the Legislature’s Tribal Relations Committee, calling it “divisive” between the two tribal governments.  

The 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty promised a vast segment of Wyoming to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. The Northern Arapaho Tribe is not listed in the document as a land heir, however, the tribe has since come to co-govern the Wind River Indian Reservation along with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.  

Although Rep. Andi LeBeau disputed Romero-Martinez’ draft, her would-be challenger Wade LeBeau said it’s not intended to disenfranchise anyone – and that is not his goal, either.  

“When I look at this as a whole, I look at everybody. At everybody’s rights,” said Wade LeBeau, adding that areas where the Eastern Shoshone Tribe maintains specific treaty rights, “that doesn’t mean those rights aren’t used to protect everybody.”  

“The treaty rights by the Shoshone are being used by every single person in this county (Fremont County), whether they know it or not,” said Wade LeBeau. Specifically, he said, as a legislator he would put the reservation’s access to water to use to benefit the entire county and the state.  

Faith And Life 

Wade LeBeau described himself as pro-life, but said he believes abortion should be available in cases of rape, certain medical conditions and other scenarios.  

He said his faith system is rooted in the traditional “cultural ways” of his tribe.  

For God And Country 

Sarah Penn hopes for a return to family values and moral decency.  

A Fort Washakie resident of eight years who grew up in Utah and attended graduate school in Colorado, Penn is now a family nurse practitioner, a wife and a mother of three.  

She’s running to fight against the moral and fiscal decline she sees in Wyoming and nationwide, she said in an email.  

Penn declined to be interviewed by phone.  

“I am growing increasingly concerned about the direction this state and country are taking. Our spending is out of control, our morals are disintegrating, our families are under attack,” Penn wrote. “I want my children to have the opportunities this great nation offers and if we don’t restore some of the conservative values that made this country great, those opportunities will be lost.”  

Down, Taxes 

A republican since attaining voting age, Penn said she would like to see less government spending and regulation.  

“People are being taxed at increasingly higher levels, levels that are unsustainable,” wrote Penn, adding that government regulation slows business and halts the economy.  

She also hoped to establish parental rights over children’s outcomes.  

“We need to put God back into our lives,” and protect “forms of worship,” Penn wrote, adding that she considers it her duty to “stand in the face of tyranny.”  

Penn said it is her hope that by reimplementing conservative, God-fearing values, citizens “can once again begin to thrive as God intends.”  

Sometimes that requires self-sacrifice, wrote Penn.  

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it,” she said, quoting Thomas Paine. She also quoted John Stuart Mill, who said that humans must “take part” and form opinions if they hope to advance good causes.  

Link To The Land 

Penn said she loves the beauty of the land on and around the reservation.  

She is not an enrolled tribal member. Her husband’s father is enrolled in the Omaha and Rosebud Sioux tribes and her husband is a schoolteacher on the reservation 

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Public And Media Banned From U.S. House Debate Due To “Safety Concerns”

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor, Cowboy State Daily

An upcoming debate between U.S. House candidates will be a private affair, closed to the public and media, according to Wyoming PBS officials.

The public and the media will not be invited to attend because of “safety concerns,” the general manager of Wyoming PBS told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

“To ensure the safety of the candidates, the debate is closed to the public and the press,” Terry Dugas said.

When asked to clarify if he thought the media would endanger the candidates, he repeated his statement.

“If the decision is made to allow press with proper identification, we’ll let you know,” Dugas said, mentioning that it will be reviewed with a “security team” next week but would not detail what security team he was referencing.

Hageman Reaction

Harriet Hageman’s campaign manager told Cowboy State Daily that the Hageman campaign would prefer the debate remain open.

“We would prefer that the debate be more open, but these were the rules as presented to us. We did not make these demands or any others,” Miller said.

Bouchard Reaction

Anthony Bouchard, another candidate for the House, said he too wanted the debate open.

“I would prefer the forum to be open to the public. You can thank Cheney for the closed forum,” he wrote on Facebook.

Wyoming PBS

In a press release distributed late Friday, the taxpayer-funded organization announced the time and date of the debate but did not mention it was closed to access from the public.

It did detail the format of the debate mentioning that it would last 60 minutes and would follow a question-and-answer format, with a short ‘lightning round’ of quick-response topics.

The moderator of the debate will be Craig Blumenshine.  Panelists will include Wyoming PBS Producer Steve Peck; Wyoming Public Radio news director Bob Beck, and Sheridan Press reporter Stephen Dow.

All five of the Republican candidates seeking the GOP’s nomination to Wyoming’s lone House seat, including incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, have been invited to the debate. Others invited include Harriet Hageman of Cheyenne Sen. Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne, Robyn Belinskey of Sheridan and Denton Knapp of Gillette.

Wyoming Public Media did not announce which candidates had accepted the invitation.

The debate is to air at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

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Judge Rules It’s OK For Weston County Commissioner To Keep Seat Despite Not Living in County

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A lawsuit challenging the ability of a Weston County commissioner to serve in one county while living in another has been dismissed.

On June 1, state district Judge James Causey in Newcastle dismissed the lawsuit against Commissioner Tony Barton that had been filed by Garrett Borton, a citizen of Weston County.

The lawsuit stems from Barton’s decision to move out of Weston County and into neighboring Crook County in the middle of his term.

In his lawsuit, Borton claimed Barton was no longer a “qualified elector” in Weston County because he moved outside of the county and became a qualified elector in Crook County. 

Borton asked the court to issue a temporary injunction that would prevent Barton from voting on the commission or receiving pay from the county. The injunction requested by Borton would have allowed Barton to sit on the board through the end of his term that ends in January 2023. 

Causey, in ruling the lawsuit raised no claim for which there as no remedy, centered his dismissal on the question of whether state law specifically requires a person to be a resident of a county to serve in office.

“Although (Borton) is correct that the courts must read the statutes together as a whole, his argument necessarily assumes that a residency requirement exists in the statutes, if only because a ‘qualified elector’ must be ‘registered to vote,’ and the process of registration can involve making such determinations as residency,” Causey wrote. “Neither the statute setting forth the qualifications of county commissioners nor the statute defining ‘qualified electors’ contains an explicit residency requirement.”

As of June 2021, Barton was set to make $1,200 a month in his role as a commissioner. Borton’s lawsuit did not seek any back pay.

Barton said he is a qualified elector because of his lawful 2018 election that allows him to continue serving all his commissioner duties. He said Borton’s demands were illegal and he did not pursue the proper legal course to have Barton removed.

Borton represented himself in the case, which he said was to his detriment. 

Borton and some other citizens asked Barton to resign in April 2021 and he said Barton told the group he would consider doing so, but never did. Borton filed his lawsuit in October 2021.

Borton said he is worried about the implications of Causey’s decision because Barton could vote for tax increases and other important measures for Weston County that won’t affect him as a Crook County resident.

“Quite a few of us are concerned about the exposure of the commissioner on this,” Borton said. “He needs to be held accountable to the decision he made.”

Barton did not return requests for comment.

Wyoming law requires people to vote in the county where they live, Borton said, a rule that also applies to elected officials.

The Wyoming Constitution requires voters to be residents of the state and county they vote in, but is unclear about whether elected officials need to live within the jurisdictions they serve.

The Legislature made changes to state statutes in 2021, according to Causey, “at least in part because of facts of this case.” 

In the 2021 Wyoming Legislature, lawmakers approved House Bill 187, sponsored by former Rep. Hans Hunt, to require each county commissioner to be a resident of the county in which the commissioner serves.

The law took effect in July 2021, but only applies to elected or appointed county officers whose terms commenced on or after that point. 

“Should Wyoming be doing things in the Legislature to address current things that are happening outside it?” Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said in reference to this bill and others he found to be too reactionary and politicized in nature.

Borton said the bill was inspired by Barton’s actions, but added he never thought it could pass. He said its passage will prevent future scenarios like these from happening again. 

Borton said Barton brought up the law during a March hearing in his defense, saying it cannot be applied retroactively.

Borton said the law should not have affected the judge’s decision and argued Barton should be disqualified from office because of of other laws defining “registration” and “registry list” in relation to what determines a qualified elector.

In 2019, Weston County elected a county attorney who did not reside in the county at the time of the election. Borton said he found this situation to be a little different because the voters knew that attorney, Alex Berger, lived outside the county at the time they were voting for him. 

Borton said he found it ironic that Barton, who he said opposed Berger being allowed on the ballot that year, also used the situation as part of his defense.

Borton said the voters were not made aware Barton was moving outside the county and may not have voted for him if they had. 

Barton is not running for re-election as he is now ineligible to do so.

Despite losing his case, Borton still considers it a success.

“To me, by exposing the person in this decision, this may lead to people like Tony Barton getting exposed to citizens around the state,” Borton said. “Some of those things are getting exposed that are happening right under their chins.”

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Eight Legislators Join Cheney Re-Election Leadership Team

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Eight legislators are on the campaign leadership team of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, evidence of support within a body whose members have included vocal critics of the incumbent.

Cheney on Tuesday announced the members of her state leadership team, which included the group of moderate Republican lawmakers.

Few Wyoming officials generate more of a passionate response from residents than Cheney, seeking her fourth term in office. 

Cheney and her opposition to former President Donald Trump have been a constant divisive force within the Wyoming Republican Party.

The legislators include some of the most long-serving lawmakers in the state, such as Sens. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, and Cale Case, R-Lander. Others on the list are Sens. Jim Anderson, R-Casper, Dan Furphy, R-Laramie, and Reps. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs and Danny Eyre, R-Lyman.

Cheney is facing several opponents in the August GOP primary for Wyoming’s lone House seat, including Harriet Hageman, who has been endorsed for the job by Trump. Other candidates include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard and veteran Denton Knapp.

“Lonely Voice”

Brown was one of state’s few legislators to voice support for Cheney after she voted for Trump’s impeachment and agreed to serve on the U.S. House committee investigating the incidents surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Brown said serving on a team with other Cheney supporters is an uplifting experience compared to being a “lonely” voice in the Legislature advocating on Cheney’s behalf.

“I think the work Liz Cheney is doing is incredibly important and I’m very thankful to have her as our congresswoman,” he said. “I’m just happy to see more people stand behind her.

Furphy said Cheney’s courage, as demonstrated by her work on the Jan. 6 Committee hearings, is part of why he is offering her his support. He also said he agrees with her political stance on most other issues.

“I think she’s doing a very good job in Washington,” he said. “She can debate and stand up to the press. She can debate and express herself well.

On Tuesday morning, Cheney continued her role as vice chair on the Jan. 6 Committee.

“I would urge all of those watching today to focus on the evidence the committee will present,” she said in her opening statement. “Do not be distracted by politics. This is serious. We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.”

Furphy added his home county of Albany tends to have more of a balance of Democrats and Republicans than most other counties in Wyoming.

“My local constituents are in favor of her,” he said. “I’m not worried about my constituents, although some Republicans might jump on me.” 

Bouchard Factor

Brown said he feels confident Cheney will win the race by a small margin.

He predicted that Bouchard will garner enough votes to split the ticket with other primary candidates, allowing Cheney to take a majority.

“There’s enough people supporting Bouchard to split the vote,” he said. “When it comes to Harriet, there’s a lot of people that see her as an establishment pick.”

The majority of legislators endorsing Cheney represent higher population areas in the state, with two legislators on her team coming from Cheyenne and two more coming from Casper. 

In contrast, Eyre and Case, from Lyman and Lander, respectively come from areas with lower populations.

Second Thoughts

Eyre represents the most rural and deeply conservative district of the eight legislators who signed on to the leadership team. He is not running for re-election this fall.

“If I was running I might have given it (endorsement) second thoughts,” he said.

Eyre said Cheney has represented rural Wyoming well, although he wishes she would soften her tone when it comes to her role on the Jan. 6 Committee.

“But I do think Trump should be kept from ever running for office again,” he said. “The hallmark of our republic is a peaceful transition of power when someone wins an election and he tried to subvert that.”

Case, meanwhile, was recently censured by the Fremont County Republican Party for his support for Medicaid and other programs opposed by the party.

RINOs

In fact, all eight of the legislators on Cheney’s team are considered “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only) by wyorino.com, a private organization that ranks Republicans according to how they vote on conservative issues.

Hageman’s leadership team has been in place for several months and includes four current legislators: Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, and Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette. 

A few former officials have supported her as well, including former U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin and former state Reps. Marti Halverson, Gary Piiparinen, Jim Allen and David Miller.

Other notables endorsing Cheney include former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, former Wyoming State Auditor Rita Meyer, former Wyoming Senate President John Turner and former Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justices Marilyn Kite and William U. Hill.

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Wyo Dem Leaders Prefer Crossover Voting To Continue

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Crossover voting, the practice of joining the opposing political party to influence the outcome of its primary election, is a practice a number of Democrat leaders in Wyoming say some of their colleagues are participating in.

But none of the Democrat leaders interviewed by Cowboy State Daily said they took part in the strategy which has been condemned by some in Wyoming’s Republican Party.

Wyoming Republicans have long complained that Democrats, facing their own limited primary field of candidates, often switch party affiliation on the day of a primary election to vote in the Republican primary.

Merav-Ben David, a former Congressional candidate and current candidate for the state House of Representatives, said nearly every Democrat she knows is planning to cross over this year, but said she would never do it herself. 

Wyoming Democratic Party (WDP) Chairman Joe Barbuto said he has never participated in it either but thinks it’s important to continue to allow same-day voter registration, a portion of Wyoming’s election law that has been eyed for removal to prevent crossover voting.

Dean Ferguson, interim communications director for WDP, said he hasn’t seen a lot of Democrats crossing over, at least within the leadership ranks. 

He said many Republicans have argued in the courts that not being able to close their primaries violates their freedom to identify as an association, which he finds fault with.

“If your primaries are a casting, because you’re a super majority and we’re a minority and suddenly the primaries get to decide who wins that statewide race, then I can’t think how an informed voter would really think too much about party later,” Ferguson said. “Democrats vote for Democrats for a reason.”

Excitement

Ferguson said the excitement of influencing a contested race may be too much for some Democrats to pass up this year, particularly when it comes to the high-stakes race for Congress between U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman. He said he expects more of a Democrat voter presence in this race than past races. 

Cheney has spoken out against former President Donald Trump and voted in favor of his impeachment on allegations he incited the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. She is also a member of the U.S. House committee investigating the riot.

As a result, Democrats are more interested in this GOP House primary race than usual, Ferguson said.

“They’re (Democrats) still looking at the stakes of Jan. 6,” Ferguson said.

But Crook County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Leinen describes the topic of crossover voting as a “non-issue.” He said the only crossover voters he knows changed parties so they could vote in a county-level race.

“I think we’re way too partisan. Open primaries eliminates that,” he said. “We’ve always say we vote for the individual versus the party. I’ve done that. I’d like to see more people do that. Open primaries and things like that are how you get there.” 

The Wyoming Democratic Party passed a platform plank at its convention last weekend in Rock Springs supporting both open primaries and ranked choice voting.

Under open primaries, voters are not separated by party and vote for any candidate. Under ranked choice voting, voters from all parties rank candidates on the ballot by preference.

Apathy In GOP

State Sen. R.J. Kost (R-Powell) agreed with Leinen, describing the concerns about crossover voting as the result of “apathy” within the Republican Party.

At a forum June 8 in Cody, Kost suggested removing political parties from ballots to force voters to research who they are voting for.

“I think it’s important to look at this,” he said. “Are we gaining or trying to win on our side or are we just a little worried about the Democrats trying to take control?”

Wyoming’s Republican Party, with support from former President Donald Trump, has lobbied legislators seeking a bill to make it more difficult for voters to change their affiliations.

Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester heeded these calls and sponsored a bill that would have required people to change their party affiliations about three months prior to a primary election or between the primary and general elections. Currently, voters may change party affiliation at the polls on the day of a primary or general election.

The legislation passed the Senate this past spring but came out of the House Appropriations Committee with a recommendation that it not be approved. The House adjourned before lawmakers could consider the bill.

If Biteman’s bill had passed, it would largely only have influenced state and county-level races. The law stipulated voters could switch their vote up until the day before the filing period begins for Wyoming offices.

However, prominent congressional candidates typically announce their candidacy many months or even years before the race and filing open up.

Friess vs Gordon

One of the most common Wyoming races used as an example of crossover voting was the 2018 gubernatorial primary, when Gov. Mark Gordon was elected as the GOP candidate over candidates deemed to be more conservative, including Hageman and the late Foster Friess. 

A small group called “Switch for Wyoming,” encouraged voters to cross over and vote for Gordon in that election.

But the claim that crossover voting changed the result of this race is most likely false, as Gordon won by around 9,000 votes. The GOP added around 8,200 registered voters on primary day that year, but the Democrats lost only about 1,800 registrants, while independents and other third-party registrations dropped by about 2,700 voters. 

“It didn’t flip the race,” Ferguson said. “They could have gone ahead and stayed home.”

Gordon’s lead Republican challenger this year, Brent Bien, has also cited crossover voting as a concern.

Many Republicans said they expect the practice to continue in the primary race between Hageman and Cheney. Barbuto said there “may be some but it won’t be enough to change the results.”

“After every election when a moderate Republican gets the nomination in a primary, then Republicans will say it was because of a Democratic crossover, time and time again,” he said. “When you look at the numbers, that’s just not true.”

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Hageman Blasts Committee Investigating 2021 Capitol Riot

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Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images
21097

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Congressional candidate Harriet Hageman strongly criticized the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, calling its work an attempt to discredit former President Donald Trump and influence future elections.

“It’s clear that this is an effort to make sure that President Donald Trump is never able to run for presidential office again,” Hageman said on Newsmax on Tuesday. “That’s what this committee is about. This is a politicization of the congressional process.”

There have been no counter-proposals issued from any committee member offering alternative opinions to the committee’s majority consensus that Trump was connected to the Capitol riot. 

Hageman’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, was selected by House Speaker Pelosi, D-California, for the panel.

“It isn’t for Liz Cheney to determine without any defense whatsoever that Donald Trump is guilty,” Hageman said. “We did not send her to Washington D.C. to be the judge and jury against Donald Trump.”

Hageman said Cheney should turn her attention to issues affecting Wyoming residents. She said the purpose of the committee is to distract from the failures of President Joe Biden’s administration.

“We support the America-first agenda, which she has not, and never has,” Hageman said. “That’s the real battle between Liz Cheney and the rest of Republicans and Donald Trump. Liz Cheney wants to make this all about Donald Trump. Donald Trump wasn’t there that day.”

Trump was in the vicinity of the Capitol earlier in the day, giving a speech many have said inspired his supporters to start rioting at the Capitol later in the day. Hageman said the people involved with the 2021 riot are being prosecuted and “rightfully so.”

During Thursday’s hearing, the third day of hearings, the committeefocused on the pressure Trump placed on former Vice President Mike Pence not to vote for certification of the election results. As president of the Senate, Pence could have cast a tie-breaking vote if needed.

During the testimony, evidence was also given that Trump ignored pleas made by his staffers to condemn the rally, and instead stoked the flames by attacking Pence on Twitter.

“What the President wanted the vice president to do was not just wrong. It was illegal and unconstitutional,” Cheney said.

More than a dozen former Trump staffers, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, have testified to the committee on the former President’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections. Donald Trump Jr., who appeared at two events with Hageman in Wyoming this week, gave testimony to the Committee last month. None of his testimony has been publicly aired at this point.

As she has in each of the previous two hearings in her role as vice chair, Cheney gave opening and closing remarks for the Committee on Thursday morning, referencing advice Trump was given on the election.

“An honorable man receiving the information and advice that Mr. Trump received from his campaign experts and his staff, a man who loved his country more than himself, would have conceded this election,” Cheney said. “Indeed, we know that a number of President Trump’s closest aides urged him to do so.”

Hageman, meanwhile, said Wyoming voters aren’t concerned with the Capitol riot, but rather with the skyrocketing inflation and high gas prices hitting the country.

“We know what happened on Jan. 6, but what this committee is not going to do is actually disclose what happened in terms of the failure in security,” she said.

It was disclosed during a committee hearing that Trump brought up the idea of bringing a large number of National Guard troops to be deployed in D.C. on the day of the rally. His recent claim that Pelosi rejected this idea has been disproven.

“He hit the nail on the head,” Hageman said, continuing to support Trump’s statement.

She said the committee will collapse like a “house of cards” when more details come out regarding what Pelosi, Cheney and the Democrats have done over the past year.

A variety of political action committees and Super PACs have supported Hageman in her campaign against Cheney, most prominently the Wyoming Values Super PAC, which has provided $562,224. The group has contributed $432,224 on behalf of Hageman and $130,000 directly against Cheney.

Super PACs spend money on behalf of candidates but cannot give money directly to them, while PACs can only give money directly to a candidate. 

Wyoming Values was organized by James Blair and Andy Surabian. Blair is a Republican strategist from Florida while Surabian is a Massachusetts man who served as an advisor to Donald Trump Jr., who is the honorary chairman of their super PAC.

Surabian was subpoenaed to appear for and present documents to the Jan. 6 Committee. 

The second largest fundraiser for Hageman has been the House Freedom Action super PAC, contributing $163,394 on behalf of her campaign. House Freedom Action is an arm of the conservative U.S. Congressional House Freedom Caucus. This group also runs the House Freedom Fund PAC, which has donated $35,193 to Hageman’s campaign.

The Club for Growth Action super PAC, which campaigned against Cheney in the summer of 2021 before Hageman entered the race, recently released a commercial on Hageman’s behalf. CFGA has spent $59,355 against Cheney.

The House Freedom Fund has endorsed some of the most conservative members of Congress in the country, including U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania, Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia.

The biggest contributor to Cheney’s campaign has been the Great Task PAC, which has given $550,735 to her campaign. Great Task is based out of Cheyenne and managed by Beverly Shea. Cheney has received more than 10 times as much direct in PAC contributions as Hageman at $832,645. She has also received $79,500 from GOP leadership PACs and $12,900 from candidate committees.

Priorities USA Action, a left-wing hybrid PAC and super PAC, has spent $9,622 against Hageman.

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Cody Firefighter’s Widow Endorses Cheney In Commercial; “She Doesn’t Back Down,” Widow Says

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Despite the slow churn of government bureaucracy, Cody woman Michelle Hart has reason to be optimistic about the federal legislation developed in honor of her firefighter husband.

Hart is the widow of wildland firefighter Tim Hart, who passed away while fighting a fire in New Mexico the spring of 2021. In her late husband’s honor, Hart helped craft federal legislation known as “Tim’s Act,” in 2021, a bill that, if passed, would give better pay and other benefits to wildland firefighters.

Although the bill hasn’t made any visible progress since last November, Hart said there have been countless conversations taking place behind the scenes promoting the bill and its purpose.

“We’re making sure what we can put in place is a real fix,” Hart said.

In a commercial released Thursday morning, Hart issued an endorsement for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who she said has worked with her on and supported the legislation.

“I know Liz on a personal level and she’s an amazing woman,” Hart told Cowboy State Daily. “The way she speaks, she doesn’t back down. I couldn’t think about endorsing anyone else.”



Cheney is seeking election to a fourth term as Wyoming’s representative and faces several challengers in the GOP primary for the office, including Harriet Hageman and military veteran Denton Knapp.

Hart met with Cheney in Washington, D.C., just weeks after her husband died as the result of injuries he suffered while parachuting in to a New Mexico wildfire. 

Hart said Cheney was genuinely shocked when Hart told her the harsh conditions wildland firefighters work under.

“She really wanted to do something about that. Those words were followed up by action,” Hart said in the commercial.

Cheney is one of 13 cosponsors on the bill and the only Republican. 

“For Liz to step up made me so happy,” Hart said. “We had an allegiance from there on.”

The bipartisan legislation aims to implement reforms many in the firefighting community say are sorely needed to support their workforce, a group of emergency responders often sidelined because of their seasonal work cycles and whose firefighting seasons are being stretched longer and longer due to more frequent firefighters.

“Really putting pressure on these legislators to be able to do something to fix these issues that are really critical to public safety,” Hart said in the commercial. “I look forward to getting to work with (Cheney) until these issues are resolved and I know I have her commitment in doing that.”

Under President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed last November, these firefighters were set to receive an increase in annual pay of $20,000 or 50 percent of their base pay, whichever is less. 

Hart called this piece of the legislation “a huge win” that she helped indirectly influence. 

The problem is that this raise is only a one-time supplement scheduled to last for only two years. If this supplementary salary is adjusted at some point in the next two years, firefighters will face a cut in their pay, which will have the largest impact on new firefighters starting their jobs under the higher rate.

The money was supposed to be doled out in May, but Hart said the uncertain future is causing hesitation within the U.S. Forest Service Office. 

She said this department and the powerful Office of Personnel Management are working on a way to raise base salaries or revert to an old pay scale used decades ago so that there is no drop in pay two years from now. Hart said many in the firefighting community oppose reverting to the old pay scale.

Hart said members of the wildland firefighter community are “incredibly frustrated” with the pay raise delay.

“All these firefighters thought they were going to get raises,” Hart said. “They’re already having a hard time getting them to come back each year, morale is already bad.”

U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore took questions from U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last week on the topic.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso made an impassioned plea for Moore to do something to get the raises in place.

“Years of low pay, a host of other issues, have significantly depleted the federal firefighting workforce,” Barrasso said. “As the wildfire season gets longer and more intense by the year, we simply can’t afford to do without these brave defenders of our forest and surrounding communities.”

Sen. Angus King, D-Maine, was less polite.

“Eisenhower retook Europe in 11 months?” King said. “You can’t do a pay raise in seven months? Come on.”

Moore said the goal is for the pay raise to be disbursed by the end of June. 

Moore told the committee he has 10,184 firefighters on board for this season, a number he said is not enough to effectively slow the spread of a very large, “catastrophic” fire.

Forest firefighters leave their families for weeks on end, often working 16-hour shifts in extreme and hazardous conditions and sleeping on the ground. 

According to Grassroots Wildland Firefighters, recent studies showed firefighters commit suicide at a rate 30 times higher than the national average and have a 30% higher risk for cardiovascular diseases and a 43% increased risk for lung cancer. 

On the bright side, changes brought on by the Forest Service and OPM discussions could achieve individual pieces of the Tim’s Act legislation, which centers around increasing pay and classification benefits for wildland firefighters.

“I would love to see OPM do it the right way,” Hart said.

If passed, Tim’s Act would raise federal wildland firefighter pay to at least $20 an hour, increase annual pay to at least $20,000 per season and provide health care and mental health services to temporary and permanent wildland firefighters, among other benefits.

Hart said the introduction of Tim’s Act alone has sparked valuable conversations that will pave the way for improved wildland firefighter benefits, regardless of whether the legislation passes.

“It’s about building a coalition and strategy for needed reforms,” she said.

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SOS Candidate Chuck Gray Hosts Screenings Of 2,000 Mules Movie

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Screenings of a film that claims to show evidence of coordinated voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election are being hosted by one of the Republican candidates for the secretary of state’s office.

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, has hosted screenings of the Dinesh D’Souza film “2000 Mules,” which Gray said bolsters his case for an end to ballot drop boxes.

“‘2000 Mules’ clearly demonstrated how the woke, big tech left has stolen elections with ballot drop boxes,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

The secretary of state is in charge of overseeing Wyoming’s elections and Gray has cited election integrity as his primary issue for the campaign.

“It is extremely relevant for the preservation of our republic and for the secretary of state race,” he said.

Gray wants Wyoming to immediately get rid of ballot drop boxes. These boxes allow voters to turn in their absentee ballots after governmental buildings have closed for the day or without having to enter the building.

D’Souza’s movie makes use of surveillance footage and data collected through the tracking of digital devices to show what is described as thousands of people making multiple stops at ballot drop boxes to stuff them with competed ballots in key states in the 2020 presidential election.

Former President Donald Trump has embraced the movie and held its premier at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, featuring guests Republican U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Nationally, a number of congressional candidates have adopted the idea that the 2020 election was tampered with. According to the New York Times, at least 72 members of Congress who voted to overturn the presidential election have won their primaries.

The movie was also shown independently from Gray’s campaign in Cody last weekend and was played at an event hosted by the Wyoming Republican Party the night before Trump made his appearance in Casper in late May.

Wyoming allows the use of secure voting drop boxes. Due to COVID-19 concerns, these were used to accept many absentee ballots in 2020.

Certain Wyoming counties like Albany and Park kept a ballot drop box for absentee ballots available for the public to access 24 hours a day, seven days a week, outside their courthouses. 

Park County Clerk Colleen Renner said this was done to handle the roughly 6,000 absentee ballots people had requested from the county. She said the option was provided when many voters said they did not feel safe mailing their ballots to the county.

Her staff kept the box under constant surveillance, with multiple staff members present when it was opened twice a day.

“We haven’t decided whether we will do this again this year or not,” she said, adding the county has mailed out far fewer absentee ballots so far this year.

In Lincoln County, State Sen. President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, also a secretary of state candidate, said his county kept its ballot box indoors and only available during business hours.

Gray has been actively campaigning throughout the state, appearing on a float in the Burns Day Parade and at forums in Hudson, Cheyenne and Worland. He also spoke at the Hot Springs County Republican Party’s Reagan Day Dinner June 3 in Thermopolis.

Dockstader has also been actively campaigning. He said he will consult with county clerks and commissioners across the state before making a decision or issuing a formal opinion about the ballot boxes, but added he has not heard of any issues with them so far.

“(Clerks) are the first in the frontline who deal with these,” he said.

Another candidate in the GOP primary for the secretary of state’s office, State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, has also has been active on the campaign trail, making a stop in Sheridan on Wednesday and at the Wyoming Stock Growers Association’s 150th anniversary celebration held in Cheyenne last week.

Nethercott said she supports the use of outdoor ballot boxes as long as they are supervised and their security can be guaranteed.

“My position is that the need to make voting available to the public is paramount so the use of ballot boxes may be considered, but must be balanced with security to ensure secure protection,” she said.

Nethercott, who served on a task force to explore the type of voting equipment needed in Wyoming, said she was aware of only a handful of counties using the drop boxes, including her home county of Laramie. She added she believes there are adequate safeguards in place to protect the boxes.

Nethercott rejected the idea that there might have been any fraud in Wyoming’s general election of 2020.

“If any allegation is made to the contrary, it is a false statement being alleged and served to undermine our democracy,” she said. 

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It Ain’t Easy Being A Democrat In Wyoming

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20998

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Democratic Party is aware of where it stands within the state’s political pecking order.

“Sometimes it feels like we have too small of numbers to get it done, but if we don’t get it done, no one’s going to do it,” Party Chairman Joe Barbuto said during the party’s state convention Saturday in Rock Springs.

Barbuto is passionate about the cause of Democrats within the state, believing people in Wyoming count on the party “whether they know it or not.”

“We’re the party that’s still fighting for everybody in Wyoming, regardless of their political affiliation, we want them to have that access to opportunity, that ability to pursue happiness,” Barbuto said.

Tough sledding

The Democratic party in Wyoming arguably faces a more difficult uphill battle than in any other state. In the last presidential election, former President Donald Trump won by a wider margin in Wyoming than in any other state.

“Being a Wyoming Democrat isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do,” Barbuto said. “I don’t know how any self-respecting person could be a Republican person right now.”

Barbuto described Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, as a “domestic terrorist” during the convention, because of Eathorne’s attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Although the Wyoming GOP holds a dominant share of the votes in the state currently, it is not free from infighting, with many members of the party accusing the others of not being real Republicans.

“You got super conservatives vs. people that are off-the-rail extremists,” said Dean Ferguson, interim communications director for the Wyoming Democratic Party. “That’s what his whole bunch is that won’t let in the so-called ‘RINOs’ in their own convention because they’re not pure enough.”

There are many within the Wyoming Democrat Party who believe their party is capable of getting more votes than it has received in recent elections. 

It was fewer than 16 years ago that Wyoming voters re-elected a Democrat in Dave Freudenthal to be governor. Prior to Freudenthal, two of the three governors preceding him were also Democrats.

“We elected Democratic governors, we elected Democratic legislators,” Evanston resident Sharon McPhie said. “Even then, both parties talked. You were able to sit down and have conversations.”

McPhie said she has seen the Democrat party drift a little toward the center in an effort to find middle ground with Republican voters.

Decline Of Dems

What Barbuto has experienced first-hand in his home of Sweetwater County is in many ways emblematic of what has happened to the Democratic Party statewide in Wyoming. 

A former state representative, Barbuto served for four years in the Legislature from 2008-2012. He was narrowly defeated by Rep. Mark Baker, R-Green River, in 2012 and lost an even closer comeback attempt against Baker in 2014.

Sweetwater County, like the state, has slowly drifted to the right politically. Following former President Bill Clinton’s win in the county in 1996, Sweetwater voted for Republican presidents in every subsequent election. In 2020, Trump took 73% of the vote in the county.

Barbuto said in Sweetwater County, many of the older Democrats, loyal to the party because of the New Deal programs ushered in by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, passed away no younger Democrats stepped up to take their place. 

Rock Springs, the county’s largest city, is a town built on coal and railroads. When those industries started to decline, Barbuto said Republicans struck a chord with the public.

“I think you’ve seen a really organized message from the right, from the Republican Party, about what’s happening, particularly with energy and some of those social issues where they have been successful at pointing the finger at Democrats,” Barbuto said. “That’s not always an honest message. In fact, a lot of the time it is misinformation.”

Party Has Lost Touch

But Mark Martin, a longtime Rock Springs resident and Democrat, said his party has lost touch with the middle class. He said many of the union battles the Democrats championed in the 20th century aren’t being recognized by a new generation of workers who weren’t alive when these battles were being fought. Martin said one of the local coal mines has lost more than half of its union membership.

“The Democrats, they’re just not reaching those people,” Martin said. “That’s what got them, there wouldn’t be unions if it weren’t for Democrats. But this younger generation has no idea.”

Barbuto did point out Democrat gains made in Albany, Teton and Fremont counties, and said claims the party has lost touch with rural Americas aren’t accurate. Some of the state’s most rural counties also have some of the party’s most passionate Democrats he said. 

Barbuto also said the national Democratic Party has been making inroads in more conservative, rural states like Wyoming, an effort Barbuto said he and his staff have been vocal about promoting.

“You have to understand there’s a lot that every American shares in common,” he said. “Everybody wants a good job that pays wages they can raise a family on. They want access to health care, they want quality education. That’s not rural or urban or suburban.”

Ignoring Knowledge

Randy Leinen, chairman of the Crook County Democratic Party, said the party hasn’t been reaching out to former Democrats who achieved success like Freudenthal and former state Rep. Floyd Esquibel, D-Cheyenne, “ignoring” their knowledge.

Declining representation has become so concerning for the party that on Saturday, the 134 delegates present established a five-member task force to address the problem.

“If we don’t lay out those goals and how to build that base and how to move forward and we don’t prioritize this, as a party, we’re done,” said State Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, her voice trembling at multiple junctures while advocating for the task force. “That’s grim and I don’t like it. But I desperately need progressives next to me in Cheyenne.”

For Barbuto, better messaging will be the key.

“The thing is about Democrats, I think that sometimes we’re passionate about being smart,” he said. “We want to have the facts and the figures to back up our argument. Whereas, Republicans have been smart about being passionate. They understand the need to pull on heartstrings and appeal to that emotional side of people.”

Barbuto was not optimistic about Democrats’ chances on a national level in the elections this fall, but also said there is still time for his party and Biden to gain some ground with Americans.

“Things happen so fast these days,” he said.

Stand up and pushback  

Many counties only had a few delegates present at the state convention on Saturday, while Weston County had none, as there is no active Democrat Party in that county despite 360 people there voting for President Joe Biden in 2020.

Leinen said a Democrat recently reached out to him from Weston County to ask for advice. That gentleman, Leinen said, purchased a firearm for the first time in his life because he felt so threatened for being a known Democrat.

“That’s where we’re at with this country,” Leinen said.

McPhie is another Democrat living in a deeply conservative part of the state in Uinta County. She said it’s difficult to express her political views as people tend to treat her differently when they find out she’s a Democrat. But she added she still believes her voice “should be heard.”

“You get up to the Bridger Valley and you have to be very very careful,” she said. “You can’t put bumper stickers on your car. You can’t put pamphlets out on your street because then you’re going to get looked down upon and you can get yourself into trouble for voicing your opinion.”

McPhie still loves Wyoming though and said she feels safe here. She recently moved back to Wyoming after spending eight years in Nevada. She said it’s the gentle kindness people in Wyoming possess that drew her back in.

“You come to an event like this (convention) and you can share and talk and it is so nice and stimulating,” she said. “You get fired up. Maybe this year someone will make a difference. It makes me excited because I hear people agree with me.”

Jason Bloomberg



One of the most eye-catching people at Saturday’s convention was Jason Bloomberg of Cheyenne, wearing a blue vest completely filled with political buttons. 

Bloomberg and other Wyoming Democrats gained notoriety in 2016 for wearing shirts to the Democratic National Party convention that read “Black Lives Matter In The Equality State,” gaining national media attention and causing an individual on Twitter to remark that Wyoming had the “wokest” delegation.

Along with that shirt on Saturday, Bloomberg also sported his vest filled with more than 50 buttons promoting progressive ideals and past candidates. The back of his vest was filled with “Trumpbusters” buttons, a parody graphic on the Hollywood flick “Ghostbusters.” In the buttons, Trump is portrayed as a black and white ghost, save for his signature golden blonde hair sitting atop a phantom head.

“We need to not kill ourselves even though we strongly disagree,” Bloomberg said of the spoof button. “I think the Constitution has been violated by the Trump administration. I’m not shying away from these issues, but at the end of the day we still have people who see the world differently than I do and their views are just as legitimate as mine.”

Bloomberg said the Smithsonian Museum reached out and asked him if he would donate his political vest to their collection.

“I said, ‘it depends how the (2024) election turns out,” he said. “Because if I need this again, this is my political chainmail. We’re battling for the heart and soul of our nation.”

Wyoming Democrats Call For End To Electoral College at Democratic State Convention

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20882

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

ROCK SPRINGS–The Electoral College should be abolished so that votes are counted equally across the country, Wyoming’s Democratic Party agreed Saturday.

Party members, meeting in Rock Springs for the Democratic State Convention, approved by a vote of 84-39 a platform plank calling for a constitutional amendment to end the Electoral College.

“I think it speaks for itself,” Heather Hronek of Uinta County said. “I’m tired of my vote not counting.”

The idea to abolish the Electoral College is one that has been pushed for more than a decade, particularly by Democrats, who believe their majority populations in more densely populated states are not being counted equally to those in more rural ones, whose voters tend to vote Republican. 

“There should be one person one vote,” said Jason Bloomberg of Laramie County. “Land mass should not be having a voting leverage that outweighs actual citizens. A single voter has the leverage of 27 other voters in other states.”

The plank also calls for Wyoming to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a group of 16 states and the District of Columbia that have decided to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate winning the overall popular vote. All the states that have signed the compact voted for President Joe Biden in the last election.

The compact would take effect only when states representing at least 270 electoral college votes — the number needed to win the presidency — pass it. 

Most Republicans have opposed ditching the Electoral College, but a few — including former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Saul Anuzis, a supporter of former President Donald Trump — support it, according to the Washington Post. 

A change to a popular vote would likely increase the power of Wyoming’s Democratic votes but decrease the influence of the state’s overall vote. Currently, Wyoming’s three electoral votes make up 0.5% of all Electoral College votes. Under a popular vote, Wyoming’s votes would have represented 0.17% of votes in the 2020 presidential election.

“We have to remind ourselves where we live,” said Bernard Phelan of Laramie County. “All of those people (in other states) don’t give us a whiff about us in Wyoming. So that at least we small states can retain that Electoral College. Now, whether we carry the Electoral College for the Democratic Party is up to us. Changing the Electoral College will diminish us tremendously.”

Leighton Wessel, a Rock Springs resident, agreed, saying political change needs to be achieved under the Electoral College system.

“We in Wyoming will not have a chance to pass anything compared to California, New York,” he said. “We need an institute or an institutionalized way to make our vote count more.”

The Electoral College has had a major influence on presidential election outcomes in recent years.

Urban and rural voters both voted for former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, but in the 2020 election, there was about an 18% difference between how rural and urban Southerners voted, a 22% difference in the Midwest and 20% in the West, Suzanne Mettler, a government professor at Cornell University, said in a school publication. 

If the election had been determined in 1988 and 2016 by the popular vote, Democratic candidates Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would have won their respective presidential elections. 

Despite the overwhelming Republican majority in the state, the Wyoming Democratic Party has grown in recent years. There are 4,159 more registered Democratic voters in the state now than in June 2020 and 2,056 more since primary election day 2020. 

However, this growth has been dwarfed by that of the Republican party, which has 41,300 more registered voters than in June 2020 and 36,651 more than primary day 2020. 

Merav Ben-David, a former U.S. Senate candidate at current House District 46 candidate, proposed establishing a party task force by July 2023 to establish political action committees, work on pertinent issues in the party and recruit viable candidates to improve the party’s standing in the state.

“We haven’t had an organized effort to build our base,” Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie said in support of the task force, her voice trembling at times. “How are we going to flip this state blue? Because it can’t stay this way.”

The party also passed a resolution supporting “common sense” gun laws during the convention, which was attended by 134 delegates from around the state. 

The party’s platform regarding firearm safety resolution was amended to only include a requirement for secure storage of guns and ammunition, removing language regarding magazine sizes, red flag laws and restricting sales of assault style weapons, 

Some members speaking in support of the change said they didn’t want to pigeonhole Democratic candidates on the topic of gun control.

“We have a large umbrella for a lot of candidates that are trying to find the principles we all support,” said Lindsey Hanlon, secretary of the Laramie County Democratic Party. “And the less we can break things down, the more we stick to those guiding principles.”

The party also passed resolutions that called for full legalization of marijuana, abolishment of super PACs, open primaries and ranked choice voting, federal management of all federal lands, the creation of a statewide recycling program and freedom of reproductive choice.

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Wyoming Democrat Gubernatorial Candidate Rex Wilde Focuses On Water

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Water is by far the most important natural resource in Wyoming, according to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rex Wilde.

As one of the headwater sources for the Columbia, Missouri, Colorado, North Platte and Snake rivers, Wilde believes Wyoming is not fairly compensated for the water it provides the West.

“I’m all about doing what’s right for this state and the people in this state. Water is the main thing,” Wilde told Cowboy State Daily.

Water shortages are an issue significantly affecting the West. With a historical drought prevalent throughout the region, Lake Mead and Lake Powell have dropped to dangerously low levels. 

Although Wyoming has been relatively insulated from water pressures in the past due to its low population, Wilde said the effects of climate change should force Wyoming to take a strong stand when it comes to defending its water.

“It shouldn’t be on the back of Wyoming to provide a lot of water,” he said. “It should be sustained by Mother Nature.”

If elected governor, Wilde said he would push for legislation allowing Wyoming to become an autonomous water region, which could allow the state to receive rewards for the water it provides the West. 

Wyoming is a member of the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement dividing states along the Colorado River System into the upper and lower basins. Under the agreement, each basin is allocated 7.5 million acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River. According to the University of Wyoming, the state receives 1 million to 4 million acre-feet of snowmelt per year.

As a result, the state needs to be treated better in recognition of its important status as a water provider, Wilde said.

“They put us in a highchair and put us in a closet,” he said. “What flows out of our state is ours.”

Wilde said Wyoming should build more reservoirs and hold back some of the water it gives other states to prepare for the future, especially if the federal government and other states refuse to compensate the state properly for its water. 

“The federal government doesn’t own Wyoming,” he said, adding he also believes all U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in Wyoming should be state-managed. 

Wilde said Gov. Mark Gordon, the Republican incumbent seeking election to his second term, has failed to take meaningful action on water since taking office. He added the only attention Gordon will give to the liquid is the mineral water he drinks at his Governor’s Mansion.

“He hasn’t done anything right now and he’s not going to do anything,” Wilde said. “The only reason he’s re-running is he found out how easy it is to not do anything.”

Wilde’s other bread-and-butter topic is marijuana legalization.

Earning the nickname “the marijuana man,” Wilde supports full legalization of the substance for medicinal and recreational use, citing the revenue cannabis could bring the state. 

Legislation to decriminalize marijuana failed in this past year’s legislative session, but Wilde believes a silent majority of Wyoming voters support the idea.

“It’s Mother Nature, it’s not something man-made like cocaine or heroin,” he said. “I think it should be legal.”

Wilde is also a “staunch” supporter of gun rights outlined in the Second Amendment, but with some caveats. For instance, he would like to see a law limiting the sale of semi-automatic weapons to those age 21 and older and supports “red flag laws” which allow police, relatives and others to file a petition to ask for the temporary removal of an individual’s firearms. He also supports universal background checks.

“You don’t take weapons away from honorable citizens, you just don’t take it away from law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Wilde would also like to see toll stops put on Interstates 25 and 80, with charges limited to those with out-of-state license plates. Wilde also wants increases made to the price of out-of-state fishing and hunting tags.

“That way we take those revenues and keep our infrastructure running,” he said.

Wilde, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper and retired cabinet maker, has never held a political office before. 

He does have experience running for office, as this will be his third attempt at running for governor. Wilde also ran for U.S. Senate in 2014 and 2020 and Cheyenne mayor in 2016. All these bids were unsuccessful.

“I’m a loser,” he said, laughing.

Wilde will only face one Democratic opponent in the primary election, Worland resident Terry Livingston, giving him a shot at his first-ever primary win. There were four Democrats in the 2018 gubernatorial primary, in which Wilde placed last.

The self-described “wild man” has no illusions he will be a strong contender if he makes it to the general election, but for Wilde, forcing Wyoming’s politicians to give more attention to water issues will be his campaign win.

“I’m probably not going to win, but by God, people are going to hear about water,” he said.

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Wyoming Senate District 19: Battle of Legislative Veterans

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Each of the three candidates vying for Wyoming Senate District 19 in the Big Horn Basin area is either a current or past Wyoming legislator.  This makes the combined years of legislative experience of the candidates more than in any other race in the state.

In total, Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell), Sen. R.J. Kost (R-Powell), and Ray Peterson have 24 years between them working in the legislature.

Despite each of the candidates also being Republicans, this is where the commonalities mostly end between the candidates.

Kost is the incumbent. This past year, the legislature passed a bill he sponsored and two he cosponsored.  The bill he sponsored expanded 911 services in Wyoming. A bill exempting certain after school programs from child care facility certification requirements and the “Second Amendment Protection Act” were other bills he cosponsored that passed. 

He said during a candidate forum hosted by the Park County Republican Women Wednesday night in Cody, if reelected, he will focus on keeping a balanced budget, support education and career and technical education, and finding new sources of revenue for the state. 

Peterson, a Cowley resident, served as a senator from 2005-2018 and has 27 total years of political experience. In 2018, he lost his first contested election to Kost, which Peterson said resulted in “a four-year vacation.”

“I’m a giving guy and want to return the favor,” Peterson joked.

Peterson was a leader in the legislature during the more than two dozen years he spent there. He was chairman of the Revenue Committee for six years, vice chair on the Select Committee on Capital Financing and Investments in 2017, and also served on the Appropriations Committee for six years. If elected again, he plans to continue this level of leadership.

“It concerns me that we don’t have a lot of our delegation from the Big Horn Basin in those leadership positions and there’s no excuse for that,” he said.

The Basin is already guaranteed to lose some leadership as Reps. Jamie Flitner (R-Greybull) and Mike Greear (R-Worland) are both retiring. 

Pledge

Peterson said he would not sign an affidavit pledging to voting with the Republican Party platform at least 80% of the time. Peterson said he met this quota while serving in the legislature anyway.  Kost also said he would not sign the pledge.

“Right now I agree with them (Republican values),” Peterson said. “Possibly in six months to a year, four years from now, they might be labeled themselves as extremists and I might disagree with one or two of these issues, so I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into agreeing or forced into agreeing with a party.”

In addition to Kost and Peterson, a few other relatively conservative candidates at the forum, including Libertarian-minded House 25 candidate Troy Bray, also refused to commit to the pledge.

“I’m a problem solver and don’t need anybody to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong. I trust my own values,” Peterson said.

Laursen said he would make the pledge of sticking to the Republican Party platform at least 80% of the time. Wyorino.com gave him a passing 80% score or his voting record. After serving in the House for four terms, he is now making a run at the Senate in order to make that body more conservative. 

“I’m one of 18 conservatives out of 60 members in the House and I’m running for the Senate to increase their conservative numbers,” he said. “Conservatives need to gain the majority and change what is going on in Cheyenne.”

Mandates

Peterson opposes all shutdown mandates when it comes to future pandemics.

“Individual freedoms are under attack,” he said. “Right now, it’s monkeypox. What’s it going to be in six more months or a year from now?”

Kost took a different stance.  He said it’s important to remember freedoms should be cherished for all of the community. 

“As we look at all the different possibilities, we need to make sure that we’re protecting everybody and from there, as we get data, we can certainly relax those (regulations) as we move forward,” he said.

In recent years Laursen has been complimented by Park County Republican Party leadership for his firm anti-tax and spending, pro-life agenda. He also pushed for a few anti-mandate bills during the special session on COVID-19 restrictions held last fall, including one allowing healthcare workers a vaccine exemption.

“It is your personal freedom to do what you want with your body,” he said. “We need to take control.”

Votes

Kost voted against six bills in that special session, supported two, and declared a conflict of interest with one. In response to his votes, the Park County Republican Party sent a letter to Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and Attorney General Bridget Hill requesting they investigate Kost for having an alleged conflict of interest. Kost sits on the Powell Valley Healthcare board.

Kost sees the issue of crossover voting as “an apathy within the Republican Party” remedied by getting more Republicans to vote. He also suggested the idea of removing political parties from ballots to force voters to research who they are voting for.

“I think it’s important to look at this. Are we gaining or trying to win on our side or are we just a little worried about the Democrats trying to take control?” he said.

Laursen supports having runoff elections in Wyoming when the winning candidate doesn’t win by at least a 50% margin.  

He opposes the legalization of both recreational and medicinal marijuana. Peterson opposes recreational use, but he previously voted for a bill to support medical consumption of cannabis, which he said he would do again.

“There is a benefit to those people and some of those diseases they have,” Peterson said.

Kost shares the same opinion, but said he would only support legalization of medical marijuana with adequate controls put in place.  He cited concerns with how other states regulate the substance.

Feds

Peterson is a firm believer in state’s rights and said Wyoming has “more authority than we assume sometimes.” He said the federal government treats Wyoming unfairly, especially when it comes to public lands.Wyoming has more public land than almost every other state. 

Peterson said the state should take legislative action to override the federal government’s blocking of drilling leases on public land. He said the state should take control of these lands. He supports a Convention of States Action, which with a convening of 34 states, gives the power to states to propose amendments to the United States Constitution.

Laursen agreed and said similar action could be taken in regards to removing grizzly bears from Endangered Species Act protection.

“I think the state needs to take the initiative and tell the federal government it’s not happening here,” Laursen said. “The government has just got to quit telling us what to do.”

Kost said taking these actions would not be a solution and would lead to some “serious consequences” if taken.

“I think you need to look at both sides of it,” he said. 

He pointed out that 90% of Wyoming’s highway and transportation funding comes from the federal government.

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Gun Group Endorses Hageman Over Cheney

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* A correction to this story has been made (see below)

By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney voted Wednesday night against a gun control package that includes a ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under the age of 21 and ban of large-capacity magazines. Second Amendment group, Gun Owners of America (GOA), still endorsed her opponent Harriet Hageman on Thursday morning.

“Hageman earned GOA’s support because of a 100% score on our Second Amendment rights survey and her long history of standing against federal overreach through her work as a constitutional attorney,” Mark Jones, GOA National Director of Hunter’s Programs and a Wyoming resident, said in a press release.

In the press release, Hageman complained about Cheney’s alleged failure to represent Wyoming and her focus “on her personal war on President Donald Trump and working for Nancy Pelosi on the illegitimate January 6th Committee.”

But Jones told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday these actions did not factor into the group’s endorsement of Hageman.

“It did not factor into the equation,” he said.

A Cheney spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Although Cheney carried a 92% voting record with the National Rifle Association and 100% record with the National Shooting Sports Foundation in 2020, Cheney earned a 69% rating with GOA in 2021 and 2020. Hageman has no legislative votes to grade, but GOA reported she earned a 100% on the group’s Second Amendment survey. 

Jones said his organization has never endorsed Cheney.  He cited her vote on a military funding bill that the organization said contained allowances for red flag law gun confiscations, and in 2018, a vote for an omnibus bill the group said allowed for hundreds of people to be added to background check lists for past infractions as minor as speeding. 

“A lot of its procedural stuff but we expect our party members to set an example and stand up for the Second Amendment,” Jones said.

On Thursday morning, Cheney also voted against a federal red flag bill. The bill passed through the House on a 224-202 vote.

In her statement expressing gratitude for the endorsement, Hageman did not comment on Cheney’s gun record.

“By doing Nancy Pelosi’s political dirty work on the January 6th Committee, Liz Cheney has entered a partnership with the very people who are trying to strip these rights away,” Hageman said.

“She has completely lost the respect and trust of Republicans in Congress, and the Democrats will discard her as soon as she’s no longer useful, so she can never be effective for Wyoming again. When I am the next congresswoman from Wyoming, I will fight against government intrusion and defend all the God-given rights we’re born with as free people under our Constitution.” 


*A version of this story published on Cowboy State Daily on June 9 erroneously reported that Gun Owners of America endorsed Harriet Hageman because of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s statements against former President Donald Trump.
In fact, Gun Owners of America said its endorsement was based entirely on Hageman’s score of 100% on the group’s Second Amendment rights survey.
The error was the result of a misreading of a news release, which also led to the writing of an inaccurate headline.

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U.S. House Candidate Denton Knapp Takes New Job But He’s Not Dropping Out Of The Race

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Although retired Army colonel Denton Knapp admits he’s not a frontrunner candidate in the Republican race for U.S. Congress, he’s not letting a new job be an excuse to drop out of the race.

Earlier this week, Knapp started working as an administrative director for the Campbell County commissioners. Knapp has been campaigning for more than a year to unseat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, after announcing his intentions to run in May 2021.

After receiving an endorsement from former President Donald Trump last fall, former gubernatorial candidate Harriet Hageman quickly became the lead challenger to Cheney as far as public recognition and financial contributions. 

Knapp has raised $26,235 for his campaign so far and spent $20,243. Cheney has raised around $10 million and Hageman has raised more than $2 million. If financial contributions are a marker of how candidates in the U.S. House primary race will finish, Knapp would finish fourth behind Cheney, Hageman and Anthony Bouchard. Challenger Robyn Belinskey has not released any financial statements to the Federal Election Commission.

Knapp said he will juggle his new full time job with campaigning by spending a few hours each night after work and weekends attempting to reach voters. He recently visited 60 homes in Casper getting the word out about his campaign.

He said requests made by the Trump team, the State GOP party and some potential constituents to drop out of the race have not dissuaded him. Knapp believes staying in the race is the right thing to do.

Knapp, Gillette native, said many Hageman supporters have urged him to quit because they fear a higher number of candidates will create a split among voters and allow Cheney to win.   He said a Cheney victory would be an affront to the Wyoming way of life.

“The fact is, people in New Jersey selected our candidate for us and expect us to support it,” he said.

No matter what place he finishes, Knapp said he will judge his campaign as a success by sticking it out to the end.

“Just going the distance,” he said.

Knapp is looking forward to a June 30 PBS debate he will participate in with all the Republican U.S. House candidates.  He believes the debate will allow him to separate himself from the pack with his Wyoming-focused platform.

“The current policies are not effective,” he said. “We have the potential to make change immediately.”

Knapp said he chose to run for Congress rather than a state or county level position because of the desire to make more of an immediate state-level impact.

If he does win, Knapp said he will quit the administrative director job. He said the Campbell County commissioners were made aware of the possible conflict this could create down the road.

In his new role with the county, Knapp is the public liaison for the board.  He will  manage the order of each meeting and who speaks before the board. He said the job has been vacant for several months. The job opening was posted in April.

Knapp has lived in 13 states during his life and most recently California, but is a Wyoming native. He moved back to the state in 2021 to pursue his campaign.

“This is home,” he said.

Knapp won an appointment to West Point, which began his 30-year career in the U.S. Army. He was nominated for the school by former U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney, along with Cheney’s colleagues U.S. Sens. Al Simpson and Malcom Wallop. Unemployed since last August after serving in the California State Guard and as director of veteran services for Goodwill Industries of Orange County, the retired military colonel said his new job is a perfect fit.

“I wanted to serve, I thought it was a great opportunity to do that,” he said. “I’ve been doing service all my life.”

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Cheyenne’s House District 44 Race: Purple, Crowded, Contentious

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

One of the most dramatic races in the state legislature may be in House District 44 in Cheyenne.  Two candidates are related to each other.  Another is trying to win the seat back. Two of the four candidates are making their first foray into politics.

House District 44 is a working class area in South Cheyenne that leans left historically, but has also demonstrated strong potential to swing right, especially in recent years. In 2018, Democrat Sara Burlingame won the district by 69 votes. In 2020, Republican John Romero-Martinez beat Burlingame by 48 votes. Prior to Burlingame, Democrat James Byrd represented the seat for 10 years. 

Three Republicans and one Democrat are vying for the seat this year. The field will be whittled down to two candidates after the primary elections on Aug. 16.

Due to redistricting, the district lost a chunk of land in the southern, downtown portion of Cheyenne.  It picked up voters in a slightly more conservative corridor southwest of the I-80/I-25 juncture.

The Incumbent

The incumbent, Romero-Martinez, describes himself as centrist to center-right politically, willing to work with both sides of the aisle to get things done.

Romero-Martinez, 45, ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2016 and 2018. Before that, he was involved in student government at Laramie County Community College and started a nonprofit organization at the age of 16. He also campaigned for former House 44 Rep. Floyd Esquibel, a Democrat, while growing up.

“I’ve always been involved in local politics,” he said.

Adamantly pro-life,  Romero-Martinez said the issue he’s most passionate about is abortion.

“From conception, a woman has her own body and a child has their own body,” he said. “The only difference is the umbilical cord, where the mother serves as an incubator center.”

He sponsored and co-sponsored three abortion bills in this past year’s legislature and five during the 2021 session. Although HB 149,  a bill he sponsored to prohibit abortions based on selective reasons and disabilities, died in the Senate, the House passed it.

“I’m super involved in looking at policy,” he said. “I take a deep dive when it comes to important policy of the (Republican) party.”

Despite it getting very little traction in the legislature, Romero-Martinez was also proud of the religious freedom bill he crafted.  He is also a vocal supporter of Medicaid expansion.

“It became a nice joint labor House thing,” he said of the 2021 Medicaid expansion bill. “It’s something we’ll look at for a few more years.”

Romero-Martinez leans to the left when it comes to labor rights. He wants third-party minimum wage laws improved in Wyoming.  These are typically used by temporary worker hiring agencies.  He also wants to abolish a law that allows employers to terminate their employees for any reason at any time. This is the at-will employee clause.

He also believes all past Native American and Hispanic treaties need to be recognized in Wyoming. He believes this combined with outlawing abortion would mean a stronger economy. This past year, he crafted a resolution requesting Congress to acknowledge and promote verified land designation history and support collaboration with all heirs of treaty lands.

“How do you move economically forward when you cut out certain communities out of a piece of the pie?” he asked.

The Former Incumbent

The issue of abortion is where Romero-Martinez and Burlingame most differ. She is pro-choice. Burlingame believes it is unconstitutional for a governmental authority to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body.

“I believe women in Wyoming are smart when you give them the ability to make their own reproductive choices, they make the right ones for themselves and family,” she said. “It’s not the business of the legislature to tell a woman how they should start their family. Conversations that take place with partners, a clergy member, those are never questions you would ask a legislator.”

Burlingame said the state is at an important juncture right now after having received more than $2.4 billion in federal grant funds for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the past that money and those opportunities have gone to other parts of the state,” she said. “South Cheyenne is due for really strong representation.”

Burlingame is the director of LGBTQ advocacy organization Wyoming Equality. In her advocacy for this community, she has often brought up values such as local-control and Constitutional rights.

Burlingame said certain divisive national issues have become misappropriated as important topics for Wyoming in recent years.

“I’m going to be listening to my constituents, not national talk radio and trying to score political points,” she said. “I think that’s a really boring way to do politics and think it’s a shame electing people has become obsessed with that.”

Burlingame is proud of her ability to get more conservative-minded legislators to work with her and conservative voters to support her. She mentioned a neighbor who simultaneously had yard signs in their yard for her and former President Donald Trump.

She said her decision to wait until the months leading up to the general election to talk to all her constituents was what led to her loss in 2020.

Burlingame is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face off against the Republican primary winner in the general election.

“I care about the economy, inflation,” she said. “I care about public lands. Even if someone is not a hunter, they may hike, they recreate. There is a lot of uncertainty with corner crossing. What’s going to happen with public lands that are turned over? That’s part of our life.” 

In March, Romero-Martinez came under scrutiny for allegedly making indirect threats to the lives of Rep. Andi LeBeau (D-Riverton), Burlingame and himself. 

“None of that is acceptable to me,” Burlingame said. “I’m not going to play politics with that or sort of pretend it’s a milder issue than it is.”

Romero-Martinez wouldn’t say much about the incident during a phone interview on Tuesday. 

“I have rules in the House I go by,” he said. “I’m going through that process.”

The Incumbent’s Cousin

Also running in the Republican primary is Tamara Trujillo, Romero-Martinez’s cousin. Trujillo said she doesn’t differ greatly from her cousin politically, but does have better attention to detail. Her bread-and-butter campaign focus is education and she is running for her grandchildren’s future. About 20 years ago she ran a Head Start preschool program in New Mexico.

“Public schools need to stick to teaching our kids to navigate the world financially,” she said. “They don’t teach financial responsibility in high school.” “The basics they are being taught in school has nothing to do with going out and financing the first home on their own, getting credit cards to build credit. If we’re going to teach success we need them to learn the fundamentals of life. Without teaching those, people become very dependent to have to navigate those waters.”

Trujillo wants the state to provide better support for school of choice options such as charter schools or implementing voucher programs. Like her cousin, she also supports freedom of religion.

“If people would just be able to accept everybody, even religious people- the world would be a happier place,” she said. I feel that people shouldn’t be looked at negatively for having their own religious beliefs.”

Trujillo, a former employee of the HollyFrontier refinery, said she supports green energy sources like wind and solar and believes most of the world will be using electric cars at some point in the future. But she also opposes moving away from fossil fuel energy in the present or near future in Wyoming.  

“Fossil fuels are still a reality for today and tomorrow,” she said.

She is pro-life.

“You need to listen to everybody you want to represent,” Trujillo said. “Your personal views are no longer your views anymore.”

The Outsider

Also running in the Republican primary is Michael Reyes. Reyes said he is more conservative and professional than Romero-Martinez.

“John voted on subjects that show he’s not so conservative,” Reyes said. “I’m an open book. What you see is what you get.”

Reyes said his decision to run had been a long time coming.  It was inspired by the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Although he considers himself a “major conservative” with a “base of conservative values,” he does appreciate some liberal social perspectives, having been raised in the foster care system. 

“I want to make good decisions based on what’s right, not just for the party,” he said.

Reyes, a truck driver who also owns a small repair shop, said Wyoming should continue to harness fossil fuels while keeping an eye on and pursuing alternative energy sources. He also wants to advocate for the cattle industry and others that protect the “Wyoming way of life.” 

Reyes, like the other two Republican candidates, is pro-life.

“It’s not a decision I can make,” he said, “There is only one power to make that.”

Reyes has also been involved in community service, starting Wyoming Advocates for Youth and running a volleyball league in Cheyenne.

When it comes to transgender athletics, he believes a third gender division should be created for transgender individuals in which to compete in.

“Wyoming is the equality state,” he said. “That would level out the playing field. It’s not my decision to make, it’s up to them to decide what they want to do.”

He said he has an unquenchable thirst for improving himself and learning and will bring these traits to the legislature if elected.

“I want to do what’s good for the community, do good on a bigger scale,” he said.

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Cheney Prepares For Prime-Time January 6 Hearing

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Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
20703

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

When U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney appears on primetime television on Thursday night as part of the House Select Committee investigation of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, it will be one of the most prominent roles a member of the Wyoming congressional delegation has ever played in such a high-profile legislative hearing. 

Cheney is vice chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. The purpose of the committee is to investigate and report facts and causes relating to the Capital riot, its interference in the certification of the election, and law enforcement’s response to the event.

New Political World

In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Cheney described the conspiracy that led up to the Jan. 6 event as “extremely broad” and “well-organized.” She also finds its root causes to be “ongoing.”

“We are not in a situation where former President Trump has expressed any sense of remorse about what happened,” Cheney said. “We are in fact in a situation where he continues to use even more extreme language, frankly, than the language that caused the attack. And so, people must pay attention. People must watch, and they must understand how easily our democratic system can unravel if we don’t defend it.”

Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, attended the Jan. 6 event. New information recently surfaced disputing his location and the length of time he spent at the protest. Eathorne described the event as “moving” when talking about it to the party’s State Central Committee in January.

 “In my state, the state party chairman is a member of the Oath Keepers,” Cheney said during the interview.  “He was here on January 6. He was here with a walkie-talkie in his hand on January 6. That is a mortal threat. And it is a moral test. We can’t fail that moral test. But there are too many right now in my party who are failing it.”

Downplayed Significance

Trump has consistently downplayed the significance of the Jan. 6 event and so have his supporters, with some expressing conspiracy theories about the event contrary to the mainstream narrative. During a May 28 speech in Casper, Trump referred to Jan. 6 as “the insurrection hoax.” 

“As one of the leading proponents of the insurrection hoax, Liz Cheney has pushed a grotesquely false, fabricated, hysterical, partisan narrative, and that was the narrative of the day,” he said.

Cheney’s opponent Harriet Hageman has been vaguer on the topic of Jan. 6, saying she is unsure what happened that day, but described the Jan. 6 committee as a witch hunt.

At least one of her supporters agree.

“I hate to break it to you, but most of us feel like it was a peaceful protest that was set-up by our own federal government to look like a coup,” said Cara Peterson, a Johnson County Republican Committeewoman, in an email discussing Eathorne’s presence at the event. “Trying to discredit Frank Eathorne by scarily alluding to mysterious January 6th activities just makes you look like a hated liberal Biden-ite.”

Defending Democracy

How much Trump is brought up during the committee meeting is yet to be seen. He has not been connected to any formal planning of the Jan. 6 protests, but in March, the select committee said it had evidence that Trump and allies engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” by trying to block Congress from certifying the election.

Cheney said she sees her role on the committee as a matter of defending democracy and holding people responsible for their attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. For her actions, Cheney has lost ties with many congressional members of the Republican Party and her constituent base. She also lost her post in the House Republican leadership.

“We have too many people now in the Republican Party who are not taking their responsibilities seriously, and who have pledged their allegiance and loyalty to Donald Trump,” Cheney said. “I mean, it is fundamentally antithetical, it is contrary to everything conservatives believe, to embrace a personality cult. And yet, that is what so many in my party are doing today.”

The committee issued a subpoena to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) but he is refusing to testify. He recently received a formal endorsement from Trump in his reelection campaign.

Fear

In her interview with CBS, Cheney said it’s McCarthy’s fear of blowback that is leading him to defend Trump.

“I think some of it is fear,” Cheney replied. “I think it’s also craven political calculation. I think that he has decided that, you know, the most important thing to him is to attempt to be Speaker of the House. And therefore, he is embracing those in our party who are anti-Semitic; he is embracing those in our party who are white nationalists; he is lying about what happened on January 6; and he’s turned his back on the Constitution.”

In a Jan. 13, 2021 speech, McCarthy said, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” 

Later, McCarthy opposed the formation of the commission to investigate Jan. 6. He subsequently attacked the committee and stripped Cheney of her position. McCarthy referred to the committee as “political theater” on Tuesday.

Prime-Time

The event is being broadcast nationally at 6 p.m. Thursday, a contrast to the typical daytime slot when most hearings usually take place.

During the interview, Cheney said she routinely receives guidance from her father and former Vice President Dick Cheney. She also brought up her great-great-grandfather Samuel Fletcher Cheney, who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War, as a point of inspiration to her commitment to the country.

“We are absolutely in a moment where we have to make a decision about whether we’re gonna put our love of this country above partisanship. And, to me, there’s just no gray area in that question.

“Every American should be able to say, ‘We love our country more.'”

Cheney was one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for allegedly inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol in January, when Congress voted to certify the election. She is one of just two Republicans who has chosen to serve on the House’s January 6 Committee.

The Jan. 6 investigation has involved thousands of witness interviews and document analysis, including communications made by members of the Trump administration, senior Republicans in Congress, and outside organizers of the protest.

Spotlight

It’s not the first time a Wyoming lawmaker has been in a spotlight like this however. Former Sen. Al Simpson gained national attention for his interrogation of Anita Hill in the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas.

Former Wyoming Governor Stan Hathaway also was put in the national spotlight.

Jack Speight, who worked as chief of staff and as attorney for Hathaway, remembers clearly the well-publicized spectacle Hathaway underwent during his confirmation hearing to be U.S. Secretary of the Interior under former President Gerald Ford. Hathaway’s appointment was highly contentious as many environmental groups rallied against him, creating what at the time was the second longest confirmation process in history at 71 days. 

“The Democrats told the Senate not to accept him,” Speight said.

Hathaway would step down from the position less than two months after taking it due to health reasons.

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Wyoming GOP Chair Frank Eathorne Says He Won’t Resign

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Wyoming GOP Chair Frank Eathorne. Photo by Matt Idler
20684

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Although calls have been made by several GOP officials within county party organizations asking State GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne to resign, he is refusing to do so.  

Late Sunday night in an internal email sent to party members, Eathorne responded to his detractors and the most recent allegations, likening them to the spreading of false and misleading information. Eathorne never directly addressed or countered the allegations made or explained how they are inaccurate, but rather, spent most of his statement correlating it to an attack on the State Party, “conservative leaders, voters, platforms, and policies.”  

“I have spoken to the SCC (State Central Committee) openly regarding the matters contained within the allegations and consider the matter at rest,” Eathorne wrote in his letter. “If you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly. I honor and respect you as leaders from your respective counties and am always happy to talk to you.”

Last week, a report with numerous pieces of photo and video evidence surfaced, showing Eathorne, much more involved and closer than he originally claimed to be to activities taking place during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in Washington, D.C.  The evidence was verified with medium to high likelihood by facial recognition technology. Eathorne did not respond to a request for comment made by Cowboy State Daily last week.

During a Central Committee meeting earlier this year, Eathorne described the protest as “moving”. The audience applauded when he said the media’s coverage of him “doesn’t necessarily involve the truth.” 

Eathorne said he only made a “brief stop in the vicinity of the Capitol building property” and once he became aware there was violence occurring there, he left the premises. 

Time stamped photo and video evidence supplied by CapitolHunters, a group collecting and disseminating information on Twitter regarding the riot for the purpose of exposing those involved, shows he spent at least two hours at the event. The evidence also shows he was much closer to the Capitol building than he originally said, and would have been present when “flash bangs,” explosive devices designed to disorient people, and tear gas canisters were lobbed into the crowd.  

Call For Resignation

Natrona County Republican Party State Committeeman Joe McGinley sent an email Friday to the State Central Committee, calling for Eathorne to resign.

“Would this be acceptable to you in your home or family?” McGinley wrote of Eathorne’s action.  “Do you feel our chairman is leading by example?  Do you agree with destruction of public property and the Capital invasion?  I would encourage each of you to reflect on the platforms and then assess just how many were violated with the most recent and past behavior.”

CapitolHunters said based on the photos and videos, Eathorne would have also heard the crowd’s cheers for the breach of scaffolding and the seizing of the Capitol’s West Plaza. 

“The most disappointing fact is that Frank lied to each and every one of you,” McGinley wrote.

McGinley also referenced a recent report from WyoFile and the Casper Star Tribune outlining Eathorne’s history of infidelity and abuse of power as a law enforcement officer in 1994.   

“At some point, the acceptance of this behavior has to end,” McGinley wrote. “Many of you are strong conservatives with values based in Christian faith.

“I find this behavior despicable and not in line with our party values.”

McGinley has been involved in several instances of infighting within the party in the past.

“GOP Is United”

In his response to the letter, Eathorne said the “vast majority” of the Wyoming Republican Party is united, an accurate statement, at least with delegates to the state convention in May.

McGinley’s Natrona County Republican Party recently lost a lawsuit over a bylaw change that allowed the state party to greatly reduce the amount of Natrona delegates seated at the convention, as punishment for not paying its party dues.  

Kevin Taheri, Natrona County GOP chairman, said although he agrees with McGinley’s letter, which was written independently of his county party, he said it’s ultimately the chairman’s decision. Eathorne will be up for reelection as chairman next spring.

“It might be the best thing right now,” said Taheri of the proposition that Eathorne should resign. “In the light of all that’s happened.”

Others rallied behind Eathorne and against McGinley’s letter like Kari Drost, Weston County Republican party chairman. 

“I just felt the need to say that I am SO proud to be a part of the Wyoming Republican Party and feel blessed that we have Frank as our leader,” Drost wrote in a response to Eathorne’s letter.

“I would walk through barbed wire for him, and for the majority of this great group of principled individuals on this email. We are all accomplishing great things in our respective communities- and that is why the left- and the RINOS are afraid of us,” she wrote.

GOP Spike

Eathorne also made the claim that party membership is increasing daily. According to Secretary of State’s office data, there were 2,560 more registered Republicans last Wednesday compared to the same date in 2021. However, there were 13,052 more Republicans registered in January 2021 than the same time in January 2022, and 11,363 more registered than are today.

Due to the national spotlight cast on the U.S. Congressional race between frontrunners U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman, this year’s primary election could see a record voter turnout competing with or even beating turnout from the presidential election 2020 year.

Election

On Thursday night, Cheney will oversee hearings where findings from an investigation on the Jan. 6 event will be presented to the public on primetime national television.

Traditionally, presidential election years fuel a much greater voter turnout than non-presidential years like 2022, but compared to June 2020, there are already 41,300 more people registered as Republicans. 

Many GOP leaders and former President Donald Trump have accused Democrats and Independents of crossover voting in Wyoming, a process of registering with the Republican Party to influence the primary election, and then changing one’s vote in the general election in November to a candidate of their own party.   

One of the most common races used as an example of this was the 2018 gubernatorial primary, where Gov. Mark Gordon was elected as the GOP candidate over certain candidates deemed more conservative like Hageman and the late Foster Friess. There are 2,337 fewer Democrats registered today than there were in June 2018 and 8,363 fewer than June 2014.

Democrats do have 4,159 more registered voters since June 2020 and 2,056 more since primary election day 2020.  

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Four Candidates Vying To Win Wyoming’s Only American Indian Legislative District

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Any delegate hoping to be elected to Wyoming’s only American-Indian legislative district should be racially colorblind, according to a former representative of the area.  

Former Rep. Jim Allen reflected on the busy House race Friday, and offered his experience and advice to the three Republicans and one Democrat registered in the Aug. 16 Wyoming primary election.

Valaira Whiteman, a Republican who came within three percentage points of Andi LeBeau’s majority win in the 2020 general election is vying in the primary against Wade LeBeau, who has registered for the race for the first time; and Sarah Penn, another newcomer to the House District 33 political race.  

None of the three Republican candidates, nor incumbent Andi LeBeau were available Friday morning for interviews.  

Andi LeBeau, D-Ethete, filed last month for reelection. She is unopposed in the Democratic primary. 

Undiluted

House District 33 is the lone “majority-minority” district in Wyoming, which is a designation set by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1986 interpretation of the Voting Rights Act enacted by Congress in 1965. The precedent mandates that wherever a majority of voters in a racial minority can be gathered into a single voting district, they should be, so their votes aren’t diluted.

Since it became a majority-minority district in 1992, House District 33 has had more registered Democrats than Republicans.  That changed this spring, according to Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese, who told Republican precinct people in a May meeting that House District 33 was, for the first time in recent memory, registered mostly to Republicans.  

Despite being a Republican, former Rep. Jim Allen held the historically Democratic House District 33 seat from 2015 to 2018 after he defeated Democratic incumbent Patrick Goggles in 2014.  

Allen also had finished former Republican Rep. Harry Tipton’s term in 2004 when Tipton died.  

Allen said surviving two elections as a Republican in the Democratic district centered on the Wind River Indian Reservation takes hard work.  

“I worked my tail off,” said Allen, recalling that he hung signs, advertised, and mobilized his campaign as often as he could.  

‘May The Best One Win’ 

Allen is not endorsing any one candidate, he told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.  

“May the best one win,” he said.

The former lawmaker did furnish some hard-won advice for the House hopefuls, however. 

“My attitude and my philosophy was, I’m colorblind,” said Allen, who is not a tribal member.  

While running for election, Allen informed voters that race, tribal affiliation, and town wouldn’t affect his efforts to represent everyone fairly.   

“I don’t care which tribe they are, if they’re a mixture, if they’re white, if they’ve just moved here from some other country – I don’t care,” he recalled saying. “There’s no provision for that in the Constitution.”

Tribal thinking is common on the Wind River Indian Reservation, as it is occupied and governed by both the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes, which govern both separately and jointly. 

Tribal members can legislate within direct democracies in their own sovereign tribes. They can elect executive-branch leaders in tribal leadership, and they can participate in county and state elections, as well as city elections if they live within an incorporated city.  

House District 33 is about 66% American Indian, with white individuals comprising most of the remaining 34%.   

“My job was to represent everyone regardless of their race, their tribe,” Allen said. “My job was to make sure Constitutional rights were upheld equally, for everybody.”  

One of his proudest accomplishments in office was advancing and passing the Indian Education For All Act, which ensured that state schools include American Indian heritage in their social studies programs.

While there may be a temptation to pander only to tribal interests, the House District 33 delegate also must balance the interests of the 34% of non-native voters, said Allen.  

“Their rights are just as important. So I tried to represent everyone equally,” he said.  

Allen encouraged the four candidates to advertise as much as they’re able, remembering that while many community members can be reached with internet advertising, there’s still a newspaper crowd out there.  

He said that candidates will do well to realize each person’s vote is valuable.  

“When people go to vote, they want to get value for their investment, just like they would if they bought a product,” said Allen.  

Allen said he thought about running again, but decided ultimately that that phase of his life has passed.  

“And that’s fine,” he said. “People change with the times, and their leaders should as well.”  

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Cheney’s First Commercial Features Who’s-Who List of Republican Supporters

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney has released her first set of TV and radio commercials of the 2022 primary campaign, featuring a who’s-who list of prominent figures in Wyoming politics who support her reelection bid. 

Although she doesn’t provide the last name of any of these on-camera speakers, Rod Miller, longtime policy advisor to two former Wyoming governors and now a Cowboy State Daily political columnist, said she doesn’t have to.

“The people she is trying to reach recognize these guys,” he said, describing the traditional Republicans that make up Cheney’s base. Miller said if there’s enough of these people left in Wyoming, Cheney will likely win the election.

Of the 10 people in Cheney’s first spot which was released on Thursday, Rita Meyer may be most recognizable by a statewide audience. Meyer served as the State Auditor from 2007 – 2011 and was narrowly defeated in the 2012 Republican gubernatorial primary.

Meyer, a veteran, was a staple of Republican politics for years serving in many capacities including chief of staff for former Republican Governor Jim Geringer.

Two national figures appear in the commercial including Teton County’s John Turner, former president of the Wyoming Senate and head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President George H.W. Bush, and Phillip Ellis, a Chugwater rancher who was the president of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

Ellis said Cheney “stands up for farmers and ranchers against crippling regulation” while Turner endorsed her conservation credentials.

“She knows that we need to protect and conserve the special things about Wyoming: our working ranches, our open space, our rivers and streams,” Turner said.

Going back in time even further than Turner is Jack Speight. Speight’s GOP credentials are unrivaled serving as chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party and chief of staff to Wyoming Gov. Stan Hathaway among many other duties.

“Cheney has the courage to do the right thing to stand up to bullies,” he said.



Ronna Boril, a prominent Casper real estate agent, also made an appearance.

“So many people today claim to be a ‘constitutional conservative.’ Liz truly is one,” Boril said, using air parentheses to make her point.

Cheney’s opponent, Harriet Hageman, has referred to herself as a “constitutional conservative” numerous times during her campaign. 

Shane True, a petroleum geologist from Casper, spoke to Cheney’s support for the oil and gas industries.

Alexandra Jajonie, a Jackson resident, begins and ends the guest part of the commercial. Jajonie was a personal assistant to Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Liz Cheney from 2009-2014. 

Although other groups like Donald Trump Jr.’s Wyoming Values super political action committee have run TV ads on behalf of Cheney opponent Harriet Hageman, the candidate has only released her own commercials online. Wyoming Values, a super PAC set up on behalf of Hageman, has raised $706,000 with a $300,000 donation from Lynn Freiss, widow of former gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess.

Cheney’s campaign has outraised Hageman’s by nearly $8 million so far. Hageman’s campaign will likely get a big bump from the rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on her behalf last Saturday. 

Hageman has raised $2.06 million and spent around $1 million on her campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

Hageman has more than twice the amount from individual Wyoming contributions as Cheney, $543,094 compared to Cheney’s $255,336.

Hageman’s biggest contributor has been $15,822 from the House Freedom Fund, a Washington, D.C. based political action committee led by U.S. James Jordan (R-Ohio).  

Great Task PAC, a Cheyenne-based political action committee formed to support Cheney’s third re-election bid, made the largest single donation to Cheney’s campaign at $296,835. 

Hageman’s Cheyenne-based PAC, the Hageman Victory Fund, has raised $51,200.

The new filing reports will come out after July 15.

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House District 46: Albany County Race One Of The Few “Purple” Areas In Wyoming

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

In one of the few “purple” areas of the state, a race in Albany County is emerging featuring candidates representing the entire political spectrum in House District 46.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Ocean Andrew (R-Laramie) will face off against challenger Richard “RJ” Lennox in the GOP primary. Whichever candidate wins this battle will take on Democrat Merav Ben-David, who is currently running unopposed in her primary. Ben-David was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2020, losing to U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis.

Albany County, Ben-David’s home county, voted for President Joe Biden and nearly voted for Ben-David, who only lost by 1% to Lummis there. Lummis overwhelmingly won the overall vote against Ben-David by more than 46%. 

“Skin In The Game”

Home to the University of Wyoming, Albany County hosts a sizable demographic of younger adults. The focus of the House 46 race reflects this, with each candidate putting a large emphasis on their vision for Wyoming’s future.

“I think the biggest benefit of that is that someone in their 20s has the most skin in the game,” said Andrew, the youngest legislator in the state at 28-years old.  “How I as a legislator choose to affect the future of our economy, the future of our education system, and the future of our state in general will have very direct implications for everyone who is part of my generation.”

A Washington native, Andrew has lived in Wyoming since 2013 and runs a successful food truck business. A firm believer in local control, Andrew said the best route for Wyoming’s economy is to cut out government over-regulation and “support our small local businesses by not allowing large out-of-state corporations to create more legal barriers to entry.” 

In the 2020 House District 46 race, Andrew easily knocked off Democratic challenger Tim Chestnut by nearly 19% of the vote. In his primary that year Andrew faced even less challenge, beating his opponent by nearly 46% of the vote.

Andrew is one of the more conservative lawmakers in the legislature, earning an 80% rating from Wyorino.com. 

Due to redistricting,House District 46 changed its boundaries this spring picking up swaths of land northwest and east of downtown Laramie. This was land previously located in House District 14, the district of Rep. Trey Sherwood (D-Laramie). Sherwood narrowly won her 2020 election by 85 votes. She will pick up portions of conservative-leaning House District 47 in her reelection bid this year. 

“Made-Up Issues”

Due to redistricting, Ben-David was moved to House District 46 from House District 14. She said was happy with Sherwood and would have never considered running against her, but the proposition of being represented by Andrew changed everything for her. 

“I think Ocean Andrew, like many other Republicans in the legislature, is toeing the party line,” Ben-David said. “Wyoming people would rather hear about Wyoming-specific issues.”

Ben-David said “made-up issues” like critical race theory, transgender athletics and cryptocurrency are national topics currently distracting Wyoming politics. A professor and researcher at the University of Wyoming, Ben-David said more focus should be given to retaining young people in Wyoming, who she said have a narrow range of jobs to choose from.

“I can count on one hand how many students I’ve had that have found a job in Wyoming,” she said. “They want to stay but have to leave because there’s no jobs.”

Ben-David believes Wyoming needs to harness renewable energy in the future, which is one of her key platform topics. She said it’s time for the state to move on from oil, coal, and natural gas, and start embracing wind and solar energy. She said declining fossil fuel revenues have made the state dependent on COVID-19 relief money.

“We’re burying the state in the 1950s without looking forward,” she said. “We need to build our own economy. Right now we don’t have one.”

Ben-David said focus needs to be put on the small towns of Wyoming. She didn’t have a clear solution for what may happen to mine communities like Kemmerer if coal goes away but said town residents should look to other opportunities and alternative energy sources like helium so they can adapt for the future.

“There’s a lot of things we can do,” she said. “We need to find a new ride.”

No matter which candidate is elected in November, House District 46 will have a legislator with experience in education.

Both Ben-David and Lennox have spent most of their lives working in education, while Andrew is a member of the legislature’s Education Committee.

Andrew and Ben-David express conflicting views on the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Ben-David supports it and wants teachers to have the primary decision making to what is taught to students, while Andrew opposes it, but wants the decision of whether it’s taught or not made on a local level.

“The problem with our education system is that we live in a polarized society and we are never going to be able to cram everyone’s values into one system,” Andrew said. “Trying to do so makes the system ineffective for our students and miserable for our teachers, this is what we are seeing now. As a state, we need to fund students and not systems.”

Andrew supports private school choice programs that allow parents and teachers to directly choose what type of schooling children receive.

Middle Ground Candidate

Lennox grew up in Cheyenne and worked in the legislature as an intern while attending the university in Laramie. He worked in education in California for 23 years but returned home to Wyoming in 2018.

Now a small business owner, Lennox describes himself as a “middle ground candidate” who leans conservative on most issues and will vote to support reasonable and needed legislation. 

He agrees with Andrew when it comes to opposing big government.

“I’m all for limited government,” Lennox said. “We’re independent in Wyoming, we can get this done. We don’t need government in our lives. Let them do their thing, let them be who they are.” 

He said he also agrees with Ben-David on certain issues and wants to reach across the aisle if it means getting things done for his constituents. 

“I’m fully aware of the death nail that could mean in the campaign,” he said.

Lennox finds bipartisanship sorely missing in politics today. His top concern, he said, will be listening to the needs of his constituents and responding to their concerns. This is one criticism he has of Andrew, who he said has been “missing in action” when it comes to always responding to his constituents. 

“I’m going to guarantee you, I’m going to be talking to you,” Lennox said. “Finding out what your needs are. I’m going to be someone available to you and I’m going to be listening, or someone who is on the same page as you.”

During the 2022 session Andrew sponsored one bill and co-sponsored five. 

“I was privileged to play small parts in large efforts in my first term,” Andrew said. “My main accomplishment from this experience was gaining a solid understanding of the legislature and how it operates with which I was able to help my constituents more successfully engage in the process. Public participation is essential to good government and people want to participate, but they often just need a little help navigating it.” 

Although Lennox’s views may not represent every voter in his district, he said he wants to be as transparent as possible about where he stands on issues so the voters know exactly who may be representing them.

“I’m going to be an absolute neighbor available to you,” he said. “You may say, ‘Look RJ, this is ridiculous, this is the policy, this is the laws,’ and I’ll be forthcoming and listen to that. You may say after the vote, ‘Hey RJ, I’m not feeling that.’ But at least when the vote happens they’re not shocked. They’ll say, ‘He listened to his constituents.’”

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Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Filed By Natrona County Republican Party Against State GOP

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the Natrona County Republican Party against the state GOP. 

Laramie County Judge Peter Froelicher ruled that Natrona County had no existing grounds to complain because the party had since adopted bylaws that make the complaint moot. Froelicher chose to delay ruling on the matter until after the State GOP convention took place in early May. 

The State GOP sent out an email to its members on Friday about the ruling.

“We’ve talked about lawfare in the past,” the state party said. “It’s a tactic used by opposition to derail, defund, and demoralize a group using baseless litigation. Sorry, that won’t work in Wyoming! The good people of this state understand the petty tactics being used to criticize the party in efforts to defund and stifle the conservative voice in Wyoming politics.”

The dispute stems from the state party’s 2020 convention, where new bylaws were adopted requiring each county party to pay dues to the state party. 

Natrona County opposed the way these 2018 bylaws were amended because the state GOP took a vote from the delegates present at the convention, not the total number of delegates elected. The county party filed a lawsuit over the bylaw change shortly after. Those bylaws were then ratified at the 2022 convention held earlier this month.

“Standing requires parties to have existing and genuine, as distinguished from theoretical, rights or interests, and there must be a controversy upon which the judgment of the court may effectively operate, as distinguished from a debate or argument evoking a purely political, administrative, philosophical, or academic conclusion,” Froelicher wrote in his May 20 decision.

The bylaw change occurred in response to Natrona’s refusal to pay dues to the state party, prompting the state Republican Party this January to cut the number of Natrona County delegates allowed to participate in this year’s convention, from 33 to six. This was a sizable drop for the second most populous county in the state, leaving it with less delegates than Niobrara, the least populous county in the state.

The state party also stripped Laramie County, the most populous county in the state, of all but three of its delegates due to an unrelated matter.

Even if the state party had not removed the delegates from the two counties, that would not have been enough to stop the ratification of the 2020 bylaws.  Ninety percent of the delegates supported ratification in the 254-25 vote. 

“The 90% majority amply demonstrates that those who are discontent within the Wyoming Republican Party are merely a vocal minority,” the state party said. “Even with Laramie County delegates not seated because of a county level failure to hold delegate voting according to local bylaws, the above vote vividly reflected the will of the convention delegation. Furthermore, even if Laramie County delegates had been seated, there would have been a supermajority ratification of the bylaws.”

Froelicher said the case was moot because it did not have any practical effect on any existing controversy, citing past Wyoming Supreme Court precedent.

“By its ratification at the 2022 State Convention, the defendant has cured the alleged error of not applying the plain and unambiguous language,” Froelicher wrote.

As of late April, the Natrona County Republican Party owed the state GOP $25,217 for dues that state party Treasurer Bob Ferguson said have been accruing since July 2019.

“It was not the ruling we were hoping for,” said Kevin Taheri, chairman of the Natrona County Republican Party.

In documents filed with the state district court in Natrona County, the Natrona County GOP said it refused to pay its dues because it did not support how the state GOP was being run and because of fundraising difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Froelicher said no specific harm was caused to Natrona County GOP during the interim period between the 2020 and 2022 conventions.  He also said there are disputed facts regarding the application of the 2020 bylaws in the interim. 

“The court’s decision that the case is moot is also supported by the doctrine of standing and the cases cited by the defendant which demonstrate that courts are generally reluctant to intervene in the internal affairs of voluntary associations,” Froelicher wrote. “Judicial intervention into the internal workings of a political party should be done cautiously and only where there is a clear justiciable controversy.”

County party precinct committee members are elected by the voters in public elections, but state delegates are elected by these committee members at the county conventions. Froelicher’s ruling indirectly gives precedence to public participation at county-level meetings and conventions rather than the state convention.

Taheri said the county party’s central committee will have to decide moving forward if it would like to pay its dues. Although the central committee opposed setting up a fund for people who wanted to donate to the party, Taheri said he set up a different committee to help raise funds for the party, which to date have raised $50. 

“Hopefully going forward some progress will be made,” he said.

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Mr. Pillow: Wyoming Voting Machines Are Fraudulent And If You Don’t Agree, You’re A Traitor

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

What do pillows, a sweaty man in a suit and the 2020 election have in common? Mike Lindell.

Lindell, also known as the “My Pillow Guy,” attended former President Donald Trump’s “Save America Rally” in Casper on Saturday. The “My Pillow” CEO and founder worked the crowd at a tireless pace, working up a sweat as he stopped to take selfies and photos with hundreds of people over the course of the day.

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily, Lindell said people need to get behind him to “Help save our country, help save the American dream.”

The Minnesota businessman has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s claim the 2020 elections were rigged and stolen from him. Lindell said he has spent more than $30 million investigating 2020 election fraud and “has more information than anyone in the world.”

“It was an algorithm that went nationwide, from Hawaii to Alaska to California to New York island,” he said. 

Lindell has cast his net of election fraud allegations over all 50 states, including Wyoming. 

Lindell said anyone who says Wyoming’s election results weren’t part of the problem, despite the fact the state had the largest margin of support for Trump in the country, is a traitor to America. 

“Any politician says that — 100% traitor,” he said. “Wyoming had 20-some thousand votes stole in the president election. That’s almost 10% of your home (total cast) votes in Wyoming. Everything was taken.

“When you do it with computers you have to smooth out all 50 states,” he added.

Lindell said California, a state with one of the largest margins of victory for President Joe Biden against Trump, was also home to the most stolen votes.

He also said the recent primary election in Georgia was thrown. 

This election saw the candidate endorsed by Trump, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, defeated by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Also losing in Georgia was U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who was endorsed by Trump in her race for the secretary of state’s office against incumbent Brad Raffensperger.

“Kemp, (Attorney General) Chris Carr, Brad Raffensperger- the triple crown of crime,” Lindell said. “It was all done through the machines, we have all the evidence. We sat outside (watching) for guys, we watched it all.”

Although it was reported Raffensperger received 52% of the vote in the election, Lindell maintained he did not receive even 40%.

Lindell has also promoted an unproven conspiracy theory that voting machine companies Smartmatic and Dominion conspired with foreign powers to rig voting machines. His rhetoric resulted in a $1.3 billion lawsuit against him that is still ongoing. His countersuit was thrown out.

Lindell is backing a preliminary injunction filed In Arizona in April demanding a change be made to allow ballots to be counted by hand. He said more injunctions will be filed in Alabama, Wyoming and Texas, and said the recent election in Georgia will only help his case.

“We’re going state by state,” he said.

In April 2021, Lindell launched his own social media site called “Frank.” Here, Lindell has promoted a number of conspiracy theories and has offered ideas how election security can be ramped up in the future. 

“You’re not going to find it on Fox rotten news, they don’t talk about the election,” he said, “They don’t talk about it at Newsmax.”

He said holding elections by hand-count is the only way to guarantee a safe election. 

“You don’t have a country if they don’t go,” he said.

The Frankspeech.com homepage features links to a “Terminate the Machines Petition,” a buy-one-get-one-free ad for his Giza Dream Sheets and another ad for the Lindell Legal Fund, featuring a cross prominently in the logo.

When asked if Trump would be the only candidate Lindell would support in the 2024 presidential elections, he responded, “that’s the dumbest question you’ve asked me” and stepped away to take a photo with a fan, ending the interview.

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Trump Rally Recap: Wild Costumes, Travelers From All Over, “Fake Media” & “Let’s Go Brandon” Chants

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

People came from far and wide, sleeping on the ground and waiting in line for hours, if not days, all for the chance to hear former President Donald Trump speak in person at the Ford Wyoming Center on Saturday, his first-ever speaking appearance in the Cowboy State.

Loyalty for Trump was on fierce display Saturday, with nearly every attendee wearing a shirt, hat or cape endorsing him. The question of how much of the state agrees with the roughly 10,000 who attended the rally will be settled in the upcoming midterm primary and general elections.

In terms of what rally organizers had expected for turnout, up to 20,000, attendance at the free event fell a bit short.

Those who did show up, expressed fervent support for Trump and his band of loyalists who also spoke at the event, giving more than 20 standing ovations over the course of the afternoon.

“We love you,” one woman screamed out at Trump as he gave his address. 


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Slept On The Ground

Amie and Kash Richmond drove down from Powell, nearly four hours away, to see the event. Not only did the couple make the drive, but they also arrived at 7:30 a.m. Friday, a full 32.5 hours before Trump was scheduled to speak. 

The Richmonds slept on the ground for the chance to see the former president who hasn’t yet officially declared he will run in 2024. They were some of the first in line Saturday morning.

“We love Trump and we love what he did for us,” Kash Richmond said, wearing a large Trump cowboy hat. “He’s an American hero, absolutely 100%.”

Despite the fact she endorsed Trump in 2016 and 2020 and voted with him more than 90% of the time, there was no support for U.S. Rep Liz Cheney expressed in any way on Saturday. That’s because Cheney has become one of the most vocal critics of Trump following his claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him and voted for his impeachment.

It was clear Trump was the primary reason for most attendees to come. Although the rally was a fundraiser for Cheney’s U.S. Congress opponent Harriet Hageman, only a few attendees wore attire promoting Hageman or told Cowboy State Daily they were at the rally to see her. Even fewer wore shirts criticizing her opponent U.S. Rep Liz Cheney.

One of the few who did was Riverton resident Tom Eustice, wearing a T-shirt referring to Cheney as a “swamp rat” with similar imagery.

“She basically stabbed Trump in the back,” he said.

Eustice said he had questions about who actually instigated the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“It could have been all set up by the Democrats for all I know,” he said.

He added he was frustrated with Cheney for taking up the role on the U.S. Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, on which she holds a leadership position. 

Frank And Unapologetic

Many of Trump’s supporters have said their steadfast loyalty to Trump comes from the former president’s willingness to speak in a frank, unapologetic nature. In situations where many politicians may look for compromises or mince words, Trump almost always does not, outraging his critics and inspiring his fans.

“Seeing his speeches makes you all riled up,” said Isaiah Cox, a South Dakota resident who traveled to the rally. “He’s got a backbone.”

For the Richmonds, Trump is still a candidate they see more electable than any other in 2024.

“If Trump is running for 2024, he’ll blow it out of the park,” Kash Richmond said, citing the vast amount of money Trump has in his war chest. 

Similarly, San Diego resident Amy Lee said seeing Trump or someone he endorses becoming president is the only way the “Make America Great Again” movement can continue. A Vietnamese immigrant, Lee said many Americans don’t realize how good they’ve got it.

“We clearly know what communism is like,” she said. “We’re not about to lose this country to the communists.”

Lee said she sees a stark difference between the country now compared to when Trump was in office, criticizing President Joe Biden’s actions on energy, the border and foreign diplomacy. She regularly attends Trump rallies and said it is her goal to reach young people to prevent the next generation from being “brainwashed.” 

Kash Richmond went further with this sentiment, calling the American people “asleep,” “naive” and “dumb.”

“We need to go back to our local politics,” he said. “We need to teach that in schools and make that a priority in our lives. It’s a little bit the country is the way it is because we let it happen.”

Fake Media Is The Virus

Lee and her husband and about a dozen other friends traveled to Wyoming to attend the rally together. Each wore a shirt proclaiming “Fake Media is the Virus” on the front. On the back of these shirts, each person had their own letter spelling out the message “Media is the Liar.”

“They know that there’s a cure for the virus and all the vitamins, Ivermectin and all that,” she said. “They don’t want to report it and it’s proven.

“They want to dictate how you should live your life.”

Neither the Centers For Disease Control or World Health Organization have recommended Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. It was Trump who oversaw the rollout of the vaccines approved for use today.

Riverton residents Ray Abodaca and Paul Cross wore oversized red and blue bow ties to the event.

“I want to be around people that have the same values that I do,” Abodaca said. “The people who have the same values, you can just feel it. When I was standing outside, I felt like a power. I feel an equal bond with each other”

Jonathan Riches, a Florida resident known for posing as different figures to give false interviews to the media and a prolific online troll, has been to 48 Trump rallies in his lifetime. He said his first Trump rally in February 2016 was a defining moment in his life.

“He knows how to electrify the crowd, he says the right things,” Riches said.

Following Trump’s speech, Oklahoma resident Melissa Cole excitedly filmed her fellow Protzmanians walking out of the arena. 

Prozmanians are a group of people named after QAnon cult leader Michael Protzman. They believe Trump is using secret code in his speeches, tapping into Gematria, the practice of assigning a numerical value to a name, word, or phrase according to an alphanumeric cipher. A few their members wore red ties at the event to distinguish themselves.

“It’s God’s hidden language,” Cole said.

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Trump Rips Cheney, Endorses Hageman, Gets Standing Ovation At Packed Rally In Casper

in News/politics
Photo by Matt Idler.
20453

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Former President Donald Trump brought his message of conservatism to Wyoming on Saturday, addressing old grudges, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and what he believes to be the failures of President Joe Biden.

The 45th president, speaking to a crowd of about 10,000 at the Ford Wyoming Center, brought the crowd to its feet by pledging that Cheney would be told “you’re fired” by Wyoming’s voters this fall.

“I think this is the most important election that we have, right here,” he said, adding later he finds the 2022 mid-term elections to be the most important mid-terms in U.S. history.

“We’re going to take back our country,” he said.


RELATED COVERAGE:
Hageman Energizes Crowd At Trump Rally
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Trump’s appearance was a fundraiser for the congressional candidate Harriet Hageman, who he described as “one of the greatest lawyers.” Trump made a point to attack Cheney a number of times, at one point calling her a “crazy RINO,” a nickname for a ‘Republican in name only.’ 

“The Liz Cheneys of the world … they’re far worse,” he said. “Because you don’t know as much where the hell they are coming from.”

Cheney has spoken out against Trump a number of times over his insistence that he was cheated out of victory in the 2020 presidential election. She also voted for his impeachment on allegations he incited the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

A mashup photo of Cheney and former President George W. Bush generated great laughter from the audience.



Trump came back to Cheney time and time again, bringing up her role on the Jan. 6 Select Committee to Investigate the attack on the Capitol.

“What a load of crap,” he said. “Most of this country knows it.”

Trump expressed frustration that certain members of Antifa and Black Lives Matter are not in jail. He said he believed the crowd he spoke to on Jan. 6, 2021 at the Capitol before the riot to be the largest crowd he’s ever spoken before, and accused the “fake news media” of downplaying this achievement.

He also addressed a cast of other past adversaries throughout his more than 90 minute-long speech.

Trump claimed Ukraine would never be under attack if he was still president, and said the Russian aggression may turn into a third World War. 

Trump and Russian President Vladimir consistently maintained a cozy relationship throughout his term. But on Saturday, Trump expressed a different opinion, saying “he (Putin) has come down a long ways.” Trump said while president, he threatened Putin and China President Xi Jinping against crossing him.


Photo by Matt Ider, Cowboy State Daily

He also criticized President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We wouldn’t have left American citizens behind,” he said.

Trump brought up the border, vowing to finish the remainder of the wall he was building there if elected again. This issue, historically one of his biggest talking points, wasn’t given much time during the speech.

Trump gave more attention to his foreign policy governance at a number of different points, mentioning his negotiating to have the United States paid back for debts from other countries in the North American Treaty Organization.

He said accusations made of his collusion with Russia during the 2016 election were a scheme drummed up by his former presidential opponent Democrat Hillary Clinton, causing him and his team to “go through hell.” 

Cheney, he said, should have been just concerned with the allegations of Russian collusion as she is with Jan. 6.

Trump also complained about the media under-covering claims that his 2016 campaign was spied on by Clinton and former President Barack Obama. Trump said he has been persecuted more than Billy the Kid and Al Capone.

“If the tables were turned, it would be perhaps the death penalty,” he said.

Trump said he wants to know what happened during the 2020 elections and that under his leadership, Americans “lost nothing,” unlike under the administrations of Bush and President Joe Biden. He brought up a number of stolen election claims.

“If we’ve learned one thing from Trump is that our elections are seriously flawed,” he said, speaking in the first-person. 

Trump described Biden as the worst president of all time, saying the difference between him and Biden “could not be more stark.”

Trump said “Trumpism” means low regulation, low taxes, taking care of veterans and not letting other countries take advantage of U.S. on trade. He described “Make America Great Again” as the greatest movement as “by far the greatest political movement in the history of our country, not even close.”

“There is no victory we cannot have,” he said.


Photo by Matt Idler

Trump dedicated a portion of his speech to transgender issues, criticizing instances of biological males being allowed to participate in women’s sports. 

Trump also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and said Democrats are trying to ruin America.

He also had negative comments about the “fake news media,” remarking on how many media members were present at the event. Trump referred to “left-wing censorship” and said America no longer has free speech in America. He also said the media is against God and the U.S. founding fathers and is attempting to tear down the American fabric. 

He said Democrats want Cheney to win her race because they want to hurt him.

“She’s the face of the Washington swamp,” he said.

Nearly every seat was filled at the Ford Wyoming Center, which has a capacity of 9,700. 

The claim was falsely made however, as Trump walked on stage that it was the biggest crowd ever for a political event in Wyoming history. A few other events drew more people, including former President Barak Obama’s speech in Laramie in 2008 that drew around 16,000.

A little more than an hour into his speech, Trump seemed to lose focus, remarking on the quality of the TV screens on each side of the stage.

“What’s more fun than a Trump rally?” he questioned to loud applause. 

More than 75 minutes in, a member in the audience behind him started yawning. A few people trickled out before the speech was over but most stayed and cheered loudly until the end. “Wyoming is Trump Country” displayed on the video screens immediately following his speech. 


Photo by Matt Idler, Cowboy State Daily

Trump referred to Wyoming as “majestic,” “MAGA-country,” and “ultra-MAGA-country.” He also expressed his love for the Wyoming Republican Party, and said he is very proud of party chairman Frank Eathorne.

“You’ve done an outstanding job,” he said to Eathorne. “But this is politics, so if you don’t win Frank, you did a lousy job.”

But earning the most attention of all his supporters was Hageman.

“Harriet, you better never let them down,” he said.

Hageman came up with Trump at one point in the speech, and mentioned how the country had a 4% surplus in terms of national oil production when Trump left office in January 2020. Now, the country has a roughly 4% deficit. 

“Do you miss him yet?” she questioned the audience.

Trump asked if anyone wants him to run again, bringing the loudest cheer of the night from the audience and a standing ovation.

“We will make America great again,” Trump said, closing out his speech to a loud cheer.

Whatever questions about how much loyalty remains for Trump within his Republican base, the 10,000 people in attendance showed their support for the former president is steadfast.

Isaiah Cox, a South Dakota resident, drove three hours with his mother Larissa Cox to the event. The two said its Trump’s relatable nature, unafraid to offend his detractors or speak transparently that makes him so appealable. 

“Seeing his speeches makes you all riled up,” Isaiah Cox said. “He’s got a backbone.” 

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Hageman Energizes Crowd At Trump Rally With Vow To Fight Cheney, Democrats

in Harriet Hageman/News/politics
Photo by Matt Idler
20442

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Vowing to fight against Democrats in Congress if elected to replace U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Harriet Hageman told her cheering supporters on Saturday she is determined to defeat the three-term congresswoman.

Hageman, speaking to about 10,000 people at the Save America Rally at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper, offered a laundry list of items she intends to battle in Washington, D.C.

“We’re fed up with the Democrats who want to destroy our country and take away our rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” she said.

Hageman took the stage around 4:25 p.m., following a series of national and state political figures who all expressed their support for her in her GOP primary race for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

Her promise to defeat Cheney brought an enormous roar from the audience, with nearly every spectator standing up. 


Photo by Matt Idler

She referred to Cheney as a “Virginian,” and said constituents have told her they are fed up with the federal government, baby formula shortages, gas prices, fertilizer prices, illegal immigration, fentanyl and the overall supply chain.

She also criticized the Green New Deal and attacks by the Biden Administration on fossil fuel industries.

“In short, we’re fed up with inflation,” she said.


RELATED COVERAGE:

RELATED COVERAGE:
Photo Gallery
Trump Rips Cheney, Endorses Hageman
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Hageman ramped up from here, moving on to bread and butter conservative talking points and Cheney.

Hageman started her speech promoting her Wyoming heritage and upbringing.

“I know what it means to ride for the brand,” she said. “I have fought for Wyoming and will fight for you in Washington D.C.

Hageman, a land and water attorney, said she will protect Wyoming residents’ liberties and said on Aug. 16, “we’re taking our country back.”

Hageman entered the race for U.S. House in September and won Trump’s endorsement just hours later.

Cheney and Trump have been at odds since Cheney began criticizing Trump’s claims that the presidential election of 2020 was stolen from him.

She also voted for his impeachment an allegations he incited the invasion at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.


Photo by Matt Idler

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GOP Chair Frank Eathorne Leads Wyoming Speakers Hailing Harriet Hageman At Trump Rally

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20452

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, told the Wyoming Ford Center audience in Casper on Saturday he “would run through a barbed wire fence” for former President Donald Trump.

Eathorne was the first in a series of speakers to express fierce loyalty to Trump and strong support for congressional candidate Harriet Hageman at the “Save America Rally” at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. 

Before Trump’s scheduled arrival at 4 p.m., a series of Wyoming and national political figures took to the lectern to express their support for Hageman in her GOP primary race against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

While most speakers did not address Cheney directly, some, like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, took pointed shots at the three-term representative.

“Liz Cheney is leading the pack to block everything,” Lindell told the crowd.

Most speakers focused on Hageman and support for conservativism in addressing the GOP primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

“Thanks to you, a red wave is coming,” former state legislator Marti Halverson said of Trump.

Eathorne and Halverson both referred to Wyoming’s strong support for Trump, a state where he won the 2020 election by a wider margin of victory than in any other state in the gin of victory than any other state. 

“Welcome to mega-ultra, MAGA-country,” Halverson said.

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, photo by Matt Idler.

State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, also expressed support for Trump and Hageman. 

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress,” Steinmetz said. “If that party is ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.”

Multiple speakers including Lindell expressed their belief that the election of 2020 was stolen, a theme repeated often by Trump.

“We need to terminate the machines everywhere — bye-bye machines,” Lindell. He did not offer any solutions or alternatives to the voting machines he vaguely referred to.

Rep. John Bear, photo by Matt Idler

All of the speakers expressed optimism for the future.

 “You are the solution God created for the world today,” Steinmetz said to the audience.

Speakers also included several national figures, such as U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, who was supposed to attend the event but instaed appeared by video.

Gaetz, who visited Wyoming in 2021 to speak against Cheney, once again criticized the incumbent.

“Liz Cheney- she is the swamp,” he said. “Now, (she) seeks the affirmation of the media.”

Gaetz said Wyoming voters have the right to “banish” Cheney in the election, and criticized her for not being a Wyoming native. 

Cheney has spoken of her Wyoming roots, with members of her family living in the state as far back as the 1800s. She moved to Wyoming in 2012.

“Work hard, campaign hard,” Gaetz implored the audience. “Send Harriet to Congress and send Liz home to Northern Virginia where the rest of the swamp is.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert, photo by Matt Idler

Other national political figures included U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, who touted her pro-gun beliefs and criticized Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, a gun control advocate, in her speech. She also described herself as a “professional RINO (Republican in name only) hunter” and said Trump is her “favorite president,” a “family man, a businessman.” 

“I run my mouth a lot and I give God glory,” she said.

Boebert called “fake media” the “virus,” pointing out to the audience with a broad smile, acknowledging an approving cheer

She came to a climax point in her speech leading a thunderous “we love Trump” chant from the audience.

U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Florida, started a “Let’s go Brandon” chant, an insulting reference directed at Biden. She also said she enjoys irritating Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to make her wring her “little fingers.”

About 30 minutes before Hageman took the stage, “Save America” signs were disbursed to the audience behind the lectern. 

Rep. Chip Neiman, photo by Matt Idler

Neither U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis or John Barrasso made any kind of appearance at the event.

Also speaking by video was Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, chair of the House Republican Conference. Stefanik replaced Cheney as the chair and earlier this spring, openly discussed working to oust her. Despite endorsing Hageman earlier this year, Stefanik mispronounced her name in her Saturday speech.

“I’m proud to have replaced Liz Cheney as Republican chair,” Stefanik said, bringing a cheer from the audience. “We need a Trump supporter in congress, not a Pelosi puppet”

Bringing the loudest cheers of all video speakers was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of Trump’s most loyal foot soldiers in the House. The audio quality was exceptionally poor during Jordan’s segment and the audience did not respond as loudly to his comments.

“Come fight against the crazy left and the crazy things they’re doing in this country,” he said.

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Wyoming Candidate Filing Period Over; Dems Join U.S. House And Gov’s Race

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20222

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The end of the candidate filing period in Wyoming on Friday saw a number of candidates throwing their name in the ring for state office at the last moment.

Among the last to file were two Democratic candidates for the U.S. House.

Lynette Grey Bull, a Fort Washakie resident, will run again to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. 

Grey Bull won the Democratic primary in 2020 and took on Cheney in the general election, losing by 44% of the vote. Grey Bull, a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, has been a vocal leader for indigenous peoples.

Taking on Grey Bull in the Democratic primary in August will be Steve Helling, a Casper resident who also filed on Friday. Helling is an attorney.

On the Republican side, there are now five candidates in the race. Harriet Hageman and Cheney are considered the frontrunners in the race at this time and both filed on Thursday. 

Joining those two and State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, who was the first candidate to file for the office, are Denton Knapp and Robyn Belinskey. 

Knapp was one of the first candidates to unofficially declare his intention to challenge Cheney for the Republican nomination for the office and he was criticized for not bowing out when Hageman earned former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. 

Belinskey is a Sheridan businesswoman who also declared her candidacy very early on.

In the governor’s race, two Democrats also filed this week. On Friday, Cheyenne resident Rex Wilde announced his intention to run. Wilde ran in the U.S. Congress primary in 2020, placing fifth among the Democrats with 7.9% of the vote.

Wilde will take on Worland resident Theresa Livingston in the Democratic primary. Livingston ran for the state Senate in Senate District 20 in 2020, losing to Sen. Edward Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, by more than 6,000 votes.

Brent Bien, James Quick and Rex Rammell will take on Gov. Mark Gordon in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

A new Republican candidate also entered the race for superintendent of public instruction. Rock Springs resident Robert White III is the fourth Republican to enter the race, taking on incumbent Brian Schroeder and challengers Megan Degenfelder and Thomas Kelly. 

Sergio Maldonado Sr. is the only Democrat running in the race.

There are many contested Senate and House races on the horizon as well. 

Rep. Bob Nicholas (R-Cheyenne) is running for the House in a new district, leaving five candidates in his wake seeking to fill the vacancy in his old district.

House District 25 in Park County and Senate District 26 in Big Horn County have the second-most crowded primary fields with four candidates each.

Longtime lawmakers are also being challenged in a number of different places. 

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, a member of the Senate since 2011, will have two primary opponents, as will state Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, who has been a representative since 2017.

At least three former representatives are seeking to take back their seats: Sara Burlingame in Cheyenne, David Northrup in Powell and Richard Tass in Sheridan.

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Most-Crowded Primary In Wyoming: House District 25 In Park County

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20189

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The rural, northwestern corner of Wyoming is home to the most crowded primary race in the state Legislature so far, with four Republican candidates vying for the House District 25 seat. 

Mudslinging has already started between two of the candidates, with each pointing at the other as representing much of what they each find wrong with the party itself.

“Let the battle begin,” David Northrup told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Northrup, a former legislator and Troy Bray, the author of a vulgar email sent to a sitting state senator, are both running for the state House seat to be left vacant with the Rep. Dan Laursen’s decision to run for the Senate, as are Chris Good and Rex Rich. 

Northrup served in the state Legislature for four terms in the House. In 2020, he ran for State Senate and was beaten by incumbent and current Sen. Tim French (R-Cody). 

It’s possible his loss was the result of a diluted field, as a competitive third candidate ran on a very similar platform to Northrup’s.

This time around, the differences between Northrup and his opponents may be more discernible.

“David Northrup is every bit of what I would describe as a Remocrat,” Bray said. “Northrup’s record speaks for itself. He didn’t represent Willwood (a neighborhood near Powell) and Park County.”

In Thursday’s Powell Tribune, Northrup’s wife Astrid Northrup responded took task with earlier comments by Bray, saying he “does not represent me, or the majority of Park County Republicans, in his comments or his lewd and indecent language.”

“Troy Bray is a Tea Party Republican,” David Northrup said. “He is as far as the party can go to the right.”

Bray sent a vulgar email to State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, last September, telling her if he was her he would kill himself and using profane language to refer to her. 

He later issued an apology for the language he used, but not his sentiment. 

Bray was a precinct committee member within the county GOP party when he wrote the letter, a role he still holds today. The county and state GOP declined to chastise or ask Bray to step down for his behavior and his role in the party was elevated after the event, as he was called on to write resolutions and censures. 

At the state GOP convention in Sheridan earlier this month, a few members of the county party wore “Troy Was Right” t-shirts in his support.

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday, Bray described himself as a “constitutional conservative Libertarian Republican.”

“My biggest things are individual liberties and adherence to the Constitution,” he said. 

Bray said if elected, he will try to get rid of corruption in state government and the “good old boy network.”

He said he disapproved of the way Gov. Mark Gordon handled the COVID-19 pandemic and has no confidence Gordon will perform any better in future emergencies.

“We need checks on the governor’s power,” he said.

Bray said he decided to run when he found out current Laursen, R-Powell is running for state Senate against Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell. He said Laursen encouraged him to run and last week he decided to pull the trigger.

“It’s important we get Kost out of there,” Bray said.

Bray, who said he has been closely following the activities of the Legislature for the past 10 to 15 years, criticized Northrup’s 2014 vote on a controversial bill that temporarily stripped former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of her powers. The law was overturned by the state Supreme Court. Northrup has said multiple times he regrets that vote.

Bray ran unsuccessfully for Natrona County commissioner in 2012 and 2014. 

Since the time he was running for the Senate, Northrup’s prior House District 50 was realigned. Now, Northrup lives in HD 25, which takes up a sizable portion of downtown Powell and the campus of his alma mater Northwest Community College, as well as a population base of roughly 10,000 people and significant amounts of farmland. 

A farmer himself, he views this district change as enhancing his ability to represent his district.

“I will always represent education the best as I can,” he said. “Agriculture has also been primary for me for a while. Our area has a lot of ag in it. We face a lot of rural challenges.”

Northrup made education one of his highest priorities while serving in the Legislature, serving as chairman of the House Education Committee from 2015 to 2020.

He describes community colleges as the “stepchild” of the Wyoming educational system and wants them to receive better funding. 

He said more Career Technical Education needs to be offered to K-12 students, as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math opportunities.

“We need more electricians, we need more plumbers,” he said.

He sees the current split within the Republican Party as a divide between “Reagan-era Republicans” like himself and a Tea Party contingency.

The leadership of the Park County Republican Party has denounced Northrup and Kost, criticizing their voting records as not conservative enough. Northrup said he finds it ironic, considering most of the leadership of the Park County GOP are transplants.

“The Park County Republican Party has been taken over by Tea Party interests,” Northrup said. “The leadership is almost entirely people from out-of-state.”

He said there has been a misinformation campaign instigated against him in local media, including the claim he is in Wyoming to restrict Second Amendment rights, despite the fact he shoots firearms himself.

“I don’t think crazies need to have guns, I don’t think felons need to have guns — in light of what just happened in Texas I still feel that way,” he explained.

Also running in the race is Rex Rich, a former neighbor of Northrup’s who has known the former representative for more than 50 years. 

Rich describes himself as a “pro-life, conservative Republican” Christian who believes in the Constitution, adding he always keeps a copy of the document nearby.

“I think more of us Christians need to get involved in politics to get involved in issues that may affect us,” he said. 

Rich said although he considers Northrup a “great human being and great person,” he is more conservative than his former neighbor. Still, Rich said he isn’t interested in slinging mud at either Northrup or Bray and trusts the “really savvy” electorate of his district to make the right decision come August 16.

“I’ll let them duke it out,” he said of Bray and Northrup. “I believe the high road is always the best way to go.”

Rich, a former Forest Service and National Parks Service employee, is now a semi-retired landlord and widow with free time available to dedicate to representing his community at the Legislature.

“I want to stay busy but I don’t want to stay busy just to stay busy,” he said.

He said having worked in nearly every industry in Wyoming gives him great experience to represent his district at the Legislature.

“The state Legislature has a lot to do with how you would run a business,” he said. 

Also running in the race is Chris Good. Good, a “Christian conservative Republican,” ran against Laursen in 2020 but pulled out of the race before primary election day because of his wife’s health. 

He still pulled in around one-third of the vote, a tally that gives him great confidence about how that election would have turned out if he stayed in as well as his chances for 2022.

“I believe I was fully on my way to winning,” he said. “The people in House District 25 wanted a change. Their leadership has been lacking.”

Good describes Northrup as a friend and “a good, well-rounded guy” but said the former representative is a “little more liberal” than him on certain issues. He said a vote for Northrup would be a vote for the status quo, even though Northrup is not currently in office.

“It would be nice to have a fresh eyes on things,” he said.

Good has done extensive work at his church and said he runs a business in almost every Wyoming county, giving him a solid understanding of the issues affecting the state and its mostly blue collar workforce. He said he is a “commonsense person who can initiate commonsense business decisions at the state level.”

“People in Wyoming are kind of fed up with the do-nothing attitude in Cheyenne,” he said, comparing the situation to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s recent departure from her earlier support of former President Donald Trump.

If elected, Good said he will bring his collaboration skills learned in business over to the state Legislature.

“I’m willing to sit down and listen to see if we can come down to some agreement and come together,” he said. “Politics is so polarized today.

“It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, it just means we have to listen.”

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Hageman Finally Files For Congress; Still No Cheney

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20145

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Harriet Hageman on Thursday formally filed as a candidate to challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the GOP primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

Hageman, who filed her papers with the secretary of state’s office, is taking on incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who still had not filed as a candidate for a fourth term in office as of Thursday morning.

Deadline for the filing is now less than 36 hours away, at 5 p.m. Friday.

The delay in Cheney’s official filing should not be seen as too significant, according to former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

“In U.S. House and Senate races it’s not uncommon to wait and see who files,” Freudenthal told Cowboy State Daily.

Hageman and Cheney each announced their intentions to run for reelection many months ago.

Freudenthal said he never looked at the timing of his filing as a strategic move in his political campaigns, as he usually already knew who was going to run against him.

“It’s like lawyers, they have a certain time to file things by; as long as they do it by the deadline then that’s all that matters,” he said.

In her press release announcing the filing, Hageman said she has already traveled more than 23,000 miles throughout Wyoming meeting with voters and holding public town halls. Hageman is a land and water attorney who grew up in Fort Laramie.

“I’ve been fighting for the constitutional rights of the people of Wyoming in my professional career and it’s a battle I’ll continue to fight in Congress,” Hageman said in the press release. “We only get one member of the House in Wyoming, and we have to get it right. The people deserve a congresswoman who represents the ideals and values of our great state.” 

Cheney, now in her third term, has put herself at odds with former President Donald Trump and most of the establishment forces in the Republican Party. She and Trump have traded barbs since she voted for his impeachment in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021. attack on the Capitol.

Hageman has been endorsed by Trump and will join him for a rally in Casper on Saturday.

Earlier this week, Cheney announced she has COVID-19, which likely will eliminate any opportunity for in-person campaigning during the long holiday weekend.

Hageman said if elected, she will “fight against federal government overreach and protect property rights, water rights, and 2nd Amendment rights, among other priorities.” She also claims she will keep taxes low, support Wyoming’s energy industries and will oppose “endless foreign wars.”

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Trump OK With Billboards Showing Hageman Called Him A Racist; “She Never Met Me,” He Said

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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
20117

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Former President Donald Trump was not bothered by the billboards bringing up past criticism of him by Harriet Hageman, the congressional candidate who now has endorsement, he said in a radio interview Wednesday.

Trump spoke with “Wake Up Wyoming” host Glenn Woods on Wednesday, addressing a variety of topics during a nearly 14-minute interview, from Hageman and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, to energy and his time in office.

Trump excused the Hageman comments posted on a billboard on the outskirts of Casper in advance of his appearance there at a rally on Saturday.

The comments were made before Hageman knew him, Trump said.

“When you go back to 2016, nobody knew me and at the time, she never met me and I never met her,” Trump said. “If I went by that standard, I could never endorse anybody.”

The billboards were placed there by Cheney campaign. One references a quote Hagemen gave to the New York Times in 2016, when she called Trump “the weakest” candidate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, as well as labeling him “racist and xenophobic.” 

Trump noted similar remarks were made by author and Ohio congressional candidate J.D. Vance, who Trump also endorsed. Vance recently won the Republican primary in Ohio and will face off in the general election against Democrat U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who has held the seat since 2013.

Trump said that Hageman stood out to him as the congressional candidate to support because of the uproar he heard from Wyoming citizens about her.

“I just felt that she was really good,” he said. “I had people in Wyoming…pushing much harder for her than anybody else and I have to let that play a role. Her campaign is very strong.”

Hageman announced her campaign against Cheney last fall, with Trump’s endorsement following almost immediately after.

Other candidates for Wyoming’s lone House seat include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, veteran and Gillette resident Denton Knapp and Sheridan resident Robyn Belinskey. As of Wednesday afternoon, Bouchard, Knapp and Belinskey were the only candidate to have formally filed for the office.

Trump also did not shy away from bashing his regular critic Cheney, with whom he has been locked in battle since she voted to impeach him following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The former president said Cheney was now congressional Democrats’ “biggest asset” and that she is now part of the “radical left.”

“The Republicans in the House, good people, some really tough people, people that you like and support,” Trump said, “they just can’t stand her. She’s just not been good.”

Prior to her vote to impeach Trump last year, Cheney voted with him more than 90% of the time.

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Johnson County War: The Push To Fill All Elected Seats With “Patriot” Conservatives

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20111

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

An organized campaign to elect staunchly conservative individuals at all levels of government is taking place in Johnson County.

David Iverson, a podcaster and founder of the Patriot Conservatives of Johnson County, is recruiting and supporting candidates to run for offices from the legislative level to some of the county’s lowest grassroots seats such as the local fire district board and precinct committee positions within the county GOP party.

“The power that most affects people’s lives is closest to them,” Iverson told Cowboy State Daily in a Monday phone interview.

Patriot Conservatives, also a political action committee, started in July 2021 as a lobbying effort to oppose a tax initiative being proposed to voters in Johnson County last fall. 

In 2021, Patriot Conservatives raised $8,487, according to records from the secretary of state’s office.

During the campaign on the tax initiative, which was defeated, Patriot Conservatives filed a lawsuit against the Buffalo Bulletin newspaper, seeking $36 million in damages. The group alleged it was defamed by an item published in the newspaper that questioned the accuracy of statements made by the group. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Iverson said his PAC was renamed as the Patriot Conservatives of Wyoming last month and is now supporting and recruiting political candidates statewide in areas including Laramie County.

“If we truly want to change how our government is operating, it’s going to take our involvement,” said Iverson on his Wednesday show. “Look through the list of offices and see what you can do, I promise you can find something. Whether it’s on a local county board, or it’s the city council, or it’s the county commissioners, or it’s the precinct level.”

Tass vs Crago

The most prominent race taking place in Johnson County is for House District 40, a contest between incumbent Republican Barry Crago and GOP challenger Richard Tass, a rematch of the 2020 HD 40 race between the two. 

Tass was elected by the voters in 2018, but lost as an incumbent in 2020 to Crago by a margin of nearly 19%.

Tass said he is more conservative than Crago, pointing as examples to what he called Crago’s opposition to a bill that would have prohibited transgender females from competing in women’s sports and support for increasing the state budget.

He also took exception to Crago’s opposition to an investigation into allegations Rep. Dan Zwonitzer lives outside the House district he represents in Laramie County.

WyoRINO.com, a “voting index” that judges Wyoming lawmakers on how consistent they vote with the Republican Party platform, listed Crago as its RINO (Republican In Name Only) of the month in December 2021. The website gave Crago a rating of 60 out of a possible score of 100 for his voting record at the Legislature this past spring.

“The conservative side of Johnson County is not being represented,” Tass said.

However, Crago didn’t actually vote against the transgender bill, a point misstated by Iverson on his show. The legislator voted not to override House rules so the bill could be heard despite the fact it was not considered within the body’s deadline for the introduction of bills.

Crago said there is no precedent for overriding these scheduling rules and said he would have voted for the bill if it had been considered by the House.

Self-described as “very conservative,” Crago is proud of his legislative record and the work he did on ad valorem taxes for minerals, co-sponsoring a successful bill that will allow for regulation of a company’s oil and gas production until the company pays its unpaid taxes. 

Crago also noted the state budget only increased as a result of the massive federal COVID money provided to the State.

Crago also said he did not believe having a private investigative committee look into the residency complaint against Zwonitzer was an effective way to handle the issue. He added he did not think the complaint against Zwonitzer merited removing him from office.

The first-term representative, who is also a deputy county attorney in Johnson County and a rancher, said he is not interested in engaging in negative politics during his campaign. He said if Tass is elected, he will do his best to assist and support him at the Legislature.

“I don’t think we as Republicans should be fighting with each other,” he said. “We should be helping each other. We should have different opinions — that’s what elections are for.”

John DeMatteis, a Tass supporter, is running for county commissioner in Johnson County. He is listed in the secretary of state’s office as the treasurer of the Patriot Conservatives, although he said the secretary of state’s office has not updated its filings.

Although DeMatteis said he is no longer affiliated with Patriot Conservatives, he is still listed as the PAC’s treasurer on the secretary of state’s website. 

Statewide Effort

DeMatteis said the group’s mission is not unique to Johnson County and instead reflects a statewide effort he sees on every level to expose those GOP members who are deemed not to be adhering to Republican Party principles.

“A lot of Wyomingites are voting conservative thanks to (U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney showing that a lot of these elected politicians are not real conservative,” he said.

Although Cheney has one of the most conservative voting records in the Congress, she voted for to impeach former President Donald Trump and and spoke out against his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

DeMatteis is one of three candidates running for two open spots on the board of county commissioners. He said the 22 local boards and special districts in Johnson County manage budgets with a combined $80 million in reserves.

Tass described Patriot Conservatives as “pretty fair” in its recruitment of individuals to run in elections, but said they do hold a bias for conservative candidates. 

Crago expressed concern, however, that if too many people are targeted for criticism, it might be difficult to find candidates for office.

“I’m afraid we’re going to run out really good public servants if they are afraid of being unfairly treated or over-criticized in a radio show, article or podcast,” Crago said, referring to county clerk and other elected positions. “I’m afraid we’re going to run off really good people — we don’t need to be doing that.”

But as a state legislator, Crago clarified that he finds himself a fair target for public criticism.

Assessments

The topic of rising property taxes is quickly becoming a hot button issue for the Legislature’s 2023 session, as drastic increases in property values this spring have elevated concerns from homeowners and assessors alike that changes and possible caps are needed in the state’s tax laws.

“Legislation is needed to change our laws,” said Debra Robinson, Johnson County assessor, who has been a target of Iverson’s criticism. “People need to contact their representative to get something done to stop this.”

Crago said he wants the issue discussed, but is unsure if the Wyoming Constitution needs to be amended first in order to be able to enact real change.

Johnson County GOP Chairman Robert Garrison said mistakes have been made on his own home’s assessment in the past and recently penned an open letter to county residents on the need to alter Wyoming’s property tax laws. He also urged all Johnson County residents to appeal their property assessments to the assessor. 

“Yes, this will probably overwhelm the office, but it is our only alternative to truly protect what we own,” Garrison wrote. 

As of Monday, Robinson said her department had already received a dozen appeals.

Iverson has attacked Robinson on his shows, accusing her of failing to complete required ongoing education as an assessor. 

Robinson has not taken the class “Fundamentals of Real Property Appraisal” since 2013, but she has taken other appraisal-related courses since then. 

The COVID-19 pandemic halted a class she was supposed to take in 2020, and then when she tested positive for the virus in 2021, it stopped her from being able to take a class that year. Robinson, who is not running for reelection, said she is currently signed up to take classes this summer.

“It’s something he’s (Iverson) doing to create sensationalism,” she said. “I’ve got a board of commissioners, a county attorney, the board of equalization — I would be hearing from them if I was doing something wrong. Don’t start just rambling crap off.”

Robinson said Iverson never reached out to her for questions and clarification before criticizing her on his show. 

Iverson said this was true, adding he “didn’t need to because I already got all the information I needed.”

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Tara Nethercott, Cheyenne Senator, Joins Race For Secretary Of State

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Photo by Matthew Idler.
20078

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A rising star in the Wyoming Legislature is running for secretary of state.

Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, a senator in her second term, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee that oversees all the state’s elections laws. 

She announced her candidacy on Tuesday afternoon.

“I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Wyoming as secretary of state. We should be proud of our elections. Wyoming serves as an example to the nation for election integrity, but it is more important than ever to protect Wyoming’s elections,” Nethercott said in a Tuesday press release.

“I will be steadfast and vigilant to ensure safe and secure elections to defend our shared western values and will bring my experience and dedication as your next Republican Secretary of State,” she said.

“Huge Loss To Senate”

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, chairman of the Senate Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee that Nethercott sits on, said if Nethercott wins the election, it would be a “huge loss to the Senate.”

“She’s a wonderful person and a great candidate,” he said. “She’s an exemplary candidate and as well-qualified as anyone for the job.”

One of the duties of the secretary of state is to oversee elections in Wyoming. This position has come under more scrutiny in recent years after claims of 2020 election fraud became rampant in certain conservative circles.

Three Candidates

Nethercott is the third candidate to enter the race for secretary of state. Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, filed first, followed by Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, one day later.

Gray told Cowboy State Daily he welcomed Nethercott’s entry into the race.

“The more candidates the better because it will show the real contrast between my proven record in election integrity with the Voter ID bill and their sudden interest in the office now that it’s open,” he said.

In announcing his own candidacy last week, Gray accused President Joe Biden and the “radical left” of trying to steal elections and pledging to “fight them tooth and nail” to protect elections and the Voter ID law he sponsored. 

The bill was approved during the Legislature’s 2021 general session and is now the subject of a lawsuit in state district court in Albany County questioning its constitutionality. 

Dockstader, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily after making his announcement, said he was also looking forward to working with the Elections Division within the secretary of state’s office to guarantee election integrity.

No More Buchanan

Buchanan announced last week he would not seek a second full term in the office and would instead apply to be a district court judge in Goshen County. In April, Buchanan weighed in on the counting of ballots in Park County by hand, describing that activity as illegal.

The secretary of state’s office office plans to run post-election audits on voting machines in Wyoming this year.

Nethercott and Dockstader are both in the middle of their current terms, meaning they could return to the Legislature if they lose their bids for secretary of state.

Gray, on the other hand, is choosing to run for the secretary of state’s office rather than seek re-election to a 2-year House term.

In 2021, Nethercott won the Wyoming County Commissioners Association’s Legislator of the Year Award. She is a graduate of the Council of State Governments Western Leadership Academy, Leadership Wyoming and Leadership Cheyenne, and an alumnus of the National Security Forum Air War College.

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Wyoming Law Enforcement Agencies Preparing For Massive Trump Rally

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Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
20046

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Law enforcement agencies are planning for substantial staffing increases in Casper this weekend as Saturday’s outdoor rally featuring former President Donald Trump is expected to draw up to 20,000 attendees. 

Rebekah Ladd, public information officer for the Casper Police Department, said her department has been coordinating with state and federal law enforcement agencies, the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office to provide coverage for the event.

Ladd said her department plans to have double the number of staff working that it typically would on a Saturday afternoon and evening, in addition to a number of staff ready on-call. 

All other security at the event will be provided by Event Strategies Inc., the event management company organizing the “Save America Rally,” she said.

Ladd would not comment as to how many Casper Police Department staff will be working the rally itself due to safety concerns and did not have a number for how much the additional payroll cost will be to the department. 

She said a standard number of officers will be patrolling the streets of Casper outside the event.

“We’re preparing for an influx of visitors to our town with an appropriate staffing level,” she said.

Lt. P.J. Cross said Wyoming Highway Patrol will have all seven members of its Casper division staff on duty Saturday afternoon and evening during the rally, as well as members from other jurisdictions available on call. 

On Monday night, his staff was still putting together travel mitigation and closure plans for the area surrounding the Ford Wyoming Center, the venue for Trump’s appearance.

Since the event is taking place within the City of Casper, the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office will not have any additional deputies on-staff, but it will provide two members of its Emergency Management System team to the rally and will have “numerous” EMS members on call, said Kiera Grogan, public information officer at the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office. 

Grogan said the department is planning for “the biggest of the big emergencies.”

Because entry to the event is free, Cross said it is very difficult to predict how many people will actually turn out. 

“He’s (Trump) been to more rural places than here and had more people than that so we really have no idea what to expect,” said Cross.

The rally will start at 4 p.m. but Trump is not scheduled to take the lectern until 7 p.m. 

Cross said the Highway Patrol will close eastbound travel on Events Drive from the Interstate 25 South onramp to the Ford Center around 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to alleviate potential clogging issues after Trump stops talking.

“We just want to keep it flowing,” Cross said.

Cross said there will be other traffic mitigation steps implemented and announced Tuesday morning.

It will be a busy weekend all around in Casper, with all three high local schools hosting their graduation ceremonies at the Ford Center on Thursday and Friday. Ladd advised residents to expect longer-than-typical traffic delays.

“These are very big events in Casper,” Ladd said. “A lot of people come out for the graduation ceremonies. We expect a very busy town.”

The state track meet was held in Casper last weekend, and Ladd said the summer tourist season is in full swing, a milestone she judges by how filled up the city’s RV and trailer campgrounds are. Grogan, likewise, said there are very few hotel and motel vacancies.

“It’s an interesting conundrum to have,” Ladd said.

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Park County Commissioners To Consider Hand-Count Of 2020 Ballots To Prove Voting Machine Accuracy

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19992

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

More than 18 months after the 2020 elections, election security and integrity continue to be topics of concern for certain Wyoming residents. On Tuesday, those questioning the security of voting machines scored a small victory.

Park County Commissioners said at their meeting on Tuesday they will consider allowing a group of local citizens to hand count the more than 17,000 ballots cast in the 2020 election in that county to determine the accuracy of the results presented by the machines. 

Bryan Skoric, Park County prosecuting attorney, said he will seek guidance from the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office on the matter.

“We’re trying to produce a piece of evidence that will satisfy people’s anxieties,” Boone Tidwell, a Cody resident pushing for the hand count, said at the meeting.

The proposal submitted by Tidwell and the Park County Republican Men’s Club, which later changed its name to The Sons of Freedom, was to test the accuracy of voting machines by hand counting every single ballot cast in this year’s county primary and general elections. 

Skoric rejected the proposal as illegal, but he and the commissioners left open the possibility of a count of the 2020 primary and general election ballots, as this election has already been certified. This count would take place before the upcoming August primary.

“It’s not a recount, they’re just verifying what they find for a count,” said Commissioner Chairman Dossie Overfield.

Under this proposal, Tidwell’s estimated 300-400 volunteers would receive election judge training so they could be considered official election officials. They would be instructed to not cash their mandatory payment for these services.

Skoric warned the group that some differences between the hand counted and machine counted ballots will occur.

“You’re going to get a different count than what the machine-count,” Skoric said. “Machines do what they’re told to do, in terms of if you don’t fill in the circle or if you only put a mark beside the circle, it’s not going to count that. Are 10 of your 300 (volunteers) going to count that or 299? That’s the subjectivity we’re talking about. The counts will absolutely be different and it would be in any count.”

Secretary of State Ed Buhanan addressed the idea of hand counted ballots at a county commission meeting in April, when he said he does not believe election officials or volunteers have the legal right to hand count. ballots.

Tidwell cited the Wyoming Constitution in defense of the proposal, which requires that “The legislature shall pass laws to secure the purity of elections, and guard against abuses of the elective franchise.”

But Buchanan and Skoric have argued that state statute governs the counting of ballots.

“Ballots designed to be counted by machines, each individual vote shall be determined by the voting equipment and shall not be determined subjectively by human tabulation” unless a ballot is received so soiled that it cannot be read by a voting machine, the state law said.

“The statute defines the law and the law simply cannot be ignored by local officials,” Skoric wrote in his decision letter.

State statute, crafted by the Wyoming legislature, does not override the Constitution and must be followed unless it is determined to be unconstitutional, leaving a gray area the attorney general’s office will be asked to address. Skoric also said the privacy of voting guaranteed in the Constitution would be violated with a hand count, but Tidwell stressed there would be no forms of identification included on the ballots counted.

“Based on Wyoming statute, the federal statute and that Wyoming constitutional provision, I don’t believe it can be done specifically,” Skoric said. 

Skoric said following election procedures is critical as it ensures uniformity across the state and voter confidence.

“Manual tabulation of the ballots could also elicit the natural subjectivity of persons counting the ballots, the very thing the Legislature intended to eliminate,” Skoric wrote in his letter.

Tidwell and the Men’s Club initiated mock elections at Park County schools to test out how long it would take to count the ballots, determining it would take about three hours to count 11,000 ballots. 

The topic of hand counting ballots has not been limited to Wyoming. Some  of those who claimed the presidential election of 2020 was “rigged” have been pushing for hand-counted paper ballots.

For some, eradicating voting machines harkens back to a time of perceived purer elections. In 1957, the Wyoming State Legislature permitted the use of automated voting machines in the Cowboy State for the first time, according to the State Archives.

“A hand count of those ballots is simply pure, physical evidence,” Tidwell said. “There’s a phenomenal amount of people in this county who have told me they won’t vote on the machines.”

Detractors of hand counting ballots argue the process would significantly delay the reporting of results and introdue human error and bias to the counting equation. 

All voting machines are tested before an election and post-election audits have consistently found that although it is technically possible for a voting machine to be hacked, it is also incredibly unlikely. These audits will be performed after the election this fall as part of a program being instituted by Buchanan. 

But hand counting ballots is not a totally unheard-of practice, with many rural jurisdictions in New Hampshire, Maine and Wisconsin hand counting ballots rather than using machines.

Crook County Clerk Linda Fritz has said that to increase election security in her sparsely populated county, polling places would need to be shut down to allow for increased supervision. 

This was an effort considered in Park County out of COVID-19 concerns, but then scrapped due to public outcry on the matter, with opponetns saying the move would have reduced voter turnout. 

Even though many of the people pushing to keep the polling places open vowed to volunteer to staff it, Park County Commissioner Joe Tilden said the volunteers did not turn out.

“Any group or individual concerned with election integrity should volunteer as an election judge,” Skoric wrote.

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Oil Field Company Owner James Quick Pledges Focus On Fossil Fuels If Elected Governor

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19955

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Douglas resident James Quick has been working in energy his whole life. As a result, the Republican said he plans to bring a renewed focus to traditional fossil fuel industries if elected Wyoming governor this fall.

Fourteen years ago, Quick, 56, purchased an oil field company, giving him the confidence he needed to take up the challenge of serving as an effective governor, despite never having worked in politics before.

“I know it’s not easy but it’s not rocket science,” he said. “I can learn and adapt.”

Quick is opposed to the nuclear plant proposed near Kemmerer, saying there are many details about the project that have not been shared with the public. He is opposed to the plant to be built by Natrium despite claims that it will employ coal workers from a nearby mine that is scheduled to close soon.

“I’m not on board with that at all,” he said. 

He also said there is “false education” being promoted about fossil fuels and green energy, adding he believes it is impossible to achieve carbon neutrality.

“I’m not opposed to wind and solar, but I do question whether those producers would be doing it without government subsidies,” he said.

Quick is also opposed to a pilot program being implemented to study hydrogen production in Wyoming, saying it will eat up valuable water rights and hurts farmers through the use around 1 million gallons of water a day. In 2021, Black Hills Energy was named a finalist by the Wyoming Energy Authority to receive funding for a hydrogen demonstration pilot project in Cheyenne.

“We’re selling out to the corporations and billionaires,” he said. “We need to keep Wyoming Wyoming.”

A study from energypost.eu found water costs under hydrogen production amount to less than 2% of the total hydrogen production costs, while the energy consumed for water desalination amounts to only about 1% of the total energy needed for the hydrogen production.

Quick said he would also try to support Wyoming’s farmers by serving more local beef in the state’s schools.

In many ways, Quick said, he has lived the American dream. After graduating from Douglas High School, he joined the Marines in 1984 and was honorably discharged. 

Quick started his career in energy working in uranium, which was followed by coal, pipeline work, and eventually running his own business. Although he admitted he may not always have all the answers, he said he is always willing to listen and learn.

“I’m open for suggestions from anybody,” he said. “It takes more than one person to do this.”

One of his biggest goals if elected, he said, would be to safeguard Wyoming from federal overreach. He pointed specifically to President Joe Biden’s “30×30” plan to conserve at least 30% of U.S. land and waters as an example of this problem. 

Although he does not agree with fellow gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell that Wyoming has the authority to seize back all 30 million acres of federal land within the state, he said he would support such a measure if it was possible.

“I would love to see control of the land returned to Wyoming because we could open up a lot more drilling in the state,” he said.

Quick criticized Gordon’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he would not have issued any restrictions that resulted in the temporary closures of businesses. He vowed not to take similar action if elected if a public health emergency occurred.

“We declared a state of emergency even though Wyoming had very few cases,” he said. “We gave the power away.”

Quick, who is an adamant supporter of the Second Amendment but is not pro-choice, said he loved the freedoms he enjoyed growing up in Douglas and Casper and wants to be able to offer those same liberties to his grandchildren. 

“As the governor, you work for the people, I think a lot of politicians have forgotten about that,” he said.

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Gov Candidate Says He Will Take Over Federal Lands If Elected; Former AG Says “That’s Idiotic”

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19920

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

If a Rock Springs veterinarian is successful in his bid for the governor’s office, he will have federal lands within Wyoming’s border turned over to the state, he said Wednesday.

In comments prepared — but not delivered — for a news conference to announce his one of his campaign issues, Dr. Rex Rammell said he wants to see 30 million acres of federal land owned and managed by the state.

“Will [Wyoming voters] elect a governor who will make a state’s right stand that will result in 30 million acres of public lands being taken over by the state and giving the fossil fuel industry the green light to produce?” he asked.

Rammell was to have delivered the comments during a news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday on the steps of the Capitol.

However, no one was on the Capitol steps at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Rammell said he was at the Capitol, but a reporter for Cowboy State Daily saw no sign of the candidate on the Capitol steps or inside the Capitol itself. 

Rammell said he showed up for the event early and talked to one person, but when no one else turned up, he sat on a bench for a few minutes and then left.

Rammell ran for the governor’s office in 2018 and for the state’s lone U.S. House seat in 2016.

In his prepared statements, Rammell said on day one of his administration as governor, he would order the Wyoming Highway Patrol to walk all federal land managers out of their offices.

“The BLM, The Forest Service, The Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and others… GONE!” his prepared remarks said.

However, former Attorney General Pat Crank told Cowboy State Daily that the likelihood of this happening, even if Rammell did win the election, was zero.

“That’s an idiotic claim,” Crank said. “No state, which has membership in the United States, has the power to seize federal assets, nor order federal officials to depart the state. Mr. Rammell’s claims have no basis in law or fact.” 

Rammell based his land seizure plan on the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” 

Rammell said he decided the amendment offers an avenue for the states to take their powers back and solve many of the country’s problems. He said the founding fathers never intended for one-third of the nation’s lands to be run by the federal government.

But ultimately, Crank said, “every scrap” of U.S. land belongs to the federal government. 

Crank said the 10th Amendment has been argued as a justification for many smaller land use claims in the past, with the states never winning out against the federal government. 

He said a transfer of even as little as 1,000 acres of federal land to private or state ownership usually takes about 10-12 years, so he has a hard time envisioning Rammell’s plans.

“This is comparable to creating a civil war between Wyoming and the United States,” Crank said. “Is the federal government really going to stand back, with all that tax revenue generated from fed lands, and say ‘We’re just going to let you keep all that. Yellowstone (National Park) is not a national treasurer, it’s a treasure for just Wyoming.’ It’s absurd.”

Rammell acknowledged the government probably won’t take the seizure of 30 million acres lightly and said the matter would probably end up in federal court. 

But even then, he said Wyoming would still have the upper hand by refusing to recognize the government’s jurisdiction by not showing up for court. He said inevitably, other Western states will join in on the fight.

“After all the dust settles, the Western states will have their land back,” he said.

As far as management of the new lands, Rammell said the state would simply alter all the signs on the land to reflect Wyoming ownership and use the government’s share of mineral royalties, which would be turned over to the state, to pay for management of the 30 million acres.

“We’re taking our land back, we’re taking it and there’s not a thing they could do to stop it,” he said.

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Rep. Chuck Gray Announces Run For Secretary Of State

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Photo by Matt Idler
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, became the second person to file as a candidate for the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday.

Gray, a former candidate for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, is one of the most conservative legislators in the state, being ranked by WyoVote as having the most conservative voting record in the Legislature.

“Serving the public as our next Secretary of State is the best way I can fight for election integrity and put the people of Wyoming first in our fight to reign in out of control government,” Gray said in a Wednesday press release.  “We need more genuine, limited government, constitutional conservatives who don’t say one thing during an election then govern the opposite way.  My proven record of conservative leadership shows I walk the walk.”

Gray, a representative since 2017, was the lead sponsor of a bill that would require voters to present identification when casting ballots. The bill was approved during the Legislature’s 2021 general session and is now the subject of a lawsuit questioning its constitutionality in Albany County District Court. 

Gray last year announced he would challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s House seat, but withdrew from the race when Harriet Hageman, backed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, entered the race.

Gray has won a Conservative Political Action Conference award each year he has been in office.

In his press release, Gray accused President Joe Biden and the “radical left” of trying to steal elections and said he will “fight them tooth and nail” to protect elections and his voter ID law.

Gray said he will campaign across the state for the race. 

Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, on Tuesday filed as a candidate for the secretary of state’s office.

Ed Buchanan, current secretary of state, announced on Tuesday he would not seek a second full term in the office and would instead apply to be a district court judge in Goshen County.

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Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader Announces Run For Secretary Of State

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Photo by Matthew Idler.
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The president of Wyoming’s Senate on Tuesday filed as a candidate for the secretary of state’s office, less than 12 hours after current Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced he would not seek re-election.

Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, filed as a candidate for the office late Tuesday, becoming the only person to announce as a candidate so far during the filing period, which ends May 27.

Dockstader said after he finished up his term as Senate president this year, he began studying the secretary of state’s office.

“I still have work to do in the Senate and I wondered if I could do that at a different level,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Then Ed made his announcement today. I texted my wife and said ‘Well?’ and she texted back one word — ‘File!'”

Buchanan had announced in April he would run for a second term as secretary of state but announced Tuesday that he would seek a state district judge’s seat in Goshen County instead.

Dockstader, the publisher of the Star Valley Independent newspaper and owner of radio station KRSV, both in Afton, has served in the Senate since 2009 after serving for two years in the state House of Representatives.

Dockstader said he realized he could address many of the same issues in the secretary of state’s office he could in his last two years in the Senate, including looking at ways to bolster the state’s energy industry.

“I want to keep growing the economy,” he said. “I don’t want to abandon mineral industry, that’s what takes us to the bank. I think there’s a lot of room in the secretary of state’s office to do that.”

Dockstader said he was also looking forward to working with the Elections Division within the secretary of state’s office to guarantee election integrity. He noted that the Legislature this year approved a voter identification law.

“We were hearing people wanted us to get involved in that and we got some legislation out, but there’s more coming,” he said. “We want to make people feel secure about the election process.”

If elected, Dockstader said he will make a point of traveling the state to determine the needs and wants of state residents which are addressed by boards such as the State Loan and Investment Board.

“Being out in the far west, we don’t get the representation of other areas,” he said. “I want to head out of Cheyenne, take the office and responsibility and head across the state and get people out and talk to them. You can’t do it all from Cheyenne.”

This past legislative session, Dockstader co-sponsored a bill to outlaw the collection of absentee ballots by third parties, unless given prior permission to do so by the voter. The bill was not considered in the Senate. 

He co-sponsored another bill requiring employers to grant exemptions to employees for COVID vaccination mandates. This bill died in committee.

He was also the sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide property tax exemptions for the elderly and infirm. While approved in the Senate, the measure died in the House.

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