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Wyoming GOP Selects Three Candidates For Interim Secretary Of State

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

The Wyoming Republican Party’s process used to select an interim secretary of state Saturday was in many ways a test of allegiance to GOP secretary of state nominee state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper. The three finalists chosen by the party each emphasized their support for Gray.

“The biggest thing in this interim position is to make sure the election is done and the smoothest transition for Chuck Gray,” said candidate Karl Allred, one of the chosen three finalists. “There could be a lot of land mines thrown. … The biggest thing is to ensure a clean transition until Chuck Gray is in office.”

Allred, Marti Halverson and Bryan Miller were selected as finalists for the interim secretary of state position during Saturday’s Republican Central Committee meeting in Pavillion. Gov. Mark Gordon will have five days to select an interim secretary of state from the three finalists.

Halverson had the most votes with 55. Miller was second with 52 and Allred third with 43 votes.

“I am thrilled that my central committee has given me their vote of confidence today,” Halverson told Cowboy State Daily.

Of the 72 voting members, 19 participated virtually. 

Miller, Sheridan County GOP chairman, said he has “a ton of experience to do something like this.” 

The Sheridan resident has been involved with the county party since 2015 and ran against Gray when they both unsuccessfully pursued the GOP nod for Wyoming’s U.S. House seat. Miller also ran for U.S. Senate in 2014. 

Miller lost both his state House and party precinct races this year. A recent change made to state party bylaws will still allow him to run for another term as chairman next spring.

“Someone needs to go down to Cheyenne to ensure the integrity of the general election is upheld,” he said. 

Allred, a Uinta County Republican Party committeeman, is the longest continuously serving GOP Central Committee member. If chosen by Gordon, he said the office will pass over “flawlessly” to the permanent secretary of state, who takes office in January.

“This is not a job, this is an interim placeholder,” Allred said.

In an interview after being chosen as a finalist, Allred gave more importance to the position, saying the appointed candidate will be in charge of overseeing the Secretary of State’s office.

Miller agreed with the placeholder synopsis.

“No matter how you slice it, of course it is. It’s three months.” he said



Elections Oversight

Marti Halverson and Allred placed specific focus on facilitating a smooth transition to the next secretary of state, largely expected to be Gray, who does not have an opponent in the general election.

Halverson, a former state legislator and president of Right To Life of Wyoming, said she will “do whatever Chuck needs me to do.”

Mark Armstrong, an Albany County Republican Party committeeman, finished third in the Republican primary for secretary of state with more than 14,000 votes. On Saturday, he received three.

During his speech, Armstrong said he would “take some of the heat” for issues Gray wants to get done, such as banning voting drop boxes. The commitment to ban theboxes was a major campaign promise of Gray’s. Allred also said all ballot drop boxes need to be eliminated, but did not say whether he would try to enact this before Gray gets to office. 

Allread also mentioned a need to further strengthen the state’s voter ID laws. Gray helped pass a voter ID law in 2021. Halverson mentioned how an ID is not required to acquire an absentee ballot. 

Mary Lankford, who finished in fifth with 13 votes, was Sublette County clerk for 32 years and the only candidate who has worked directly in elections. One of the chief duties of the secretary of state is to oversee the state’s elections. 

Lankford also mentioned the Secretary of State’s office performed a clean audit report of the primary election.

“Wyoming’s elections have integrity. (I would be) just continuing the good work they’re doing by overseeing the process,”she said.

Lankford said she is “obligated” to vote for Gray in the general election and would wait to speak to him about a transition plan, but not until after the general election. Miller said he would not wait until after the general election to speak with Gray despite him being an active candidate for the job. Allred acknowledged this possible conflict, but was vague when asked whether it would stop him from communicating with Gray.

“I talk to everybody,” he said.



‘A Horrible Precedent’

Armstrong described attempts by certain members of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee to weaken the secretary of state’s duties and create a nonpartisan voting commission as “abhorrent.” Miller said these efforts “set a horrible precedent.”

Halverson spearheaded a recent campaign through her own Election Integrity and Security Committee to audit elections from several precincts in Laramie and Fremont counties. The committee prepared a long report that was shared with former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, citing a number of shortcomings it believes exist in Wyoming’s elections. 

Halverson also said electronic poll books have caused significant problems and is something she wants to address.

“Everything I do in the next three months would be with one goal: facilitating a smooth transition for the next secretary of state,” she said.

Halverson was chosen as a finalist for interim superintendent of public instruction in January, but not selected by Governor Gordon.

Miller and Armstrong also took time to talk about what they believe are problems with the integrity of elections in their respective counties. Miller claimed a number of election code infractions have happened in Sheridan, drawing concern from him and others.

“They were allowing certain things to happen that started small,” he said. “The broken window was there. If you don’t fix the window, the more people will take advantage.”



“Disappointed”

“Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, who is chair of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee, said he was disappointed with the selections the party made on Saturday.

“I want the party to select people I think are more mainstream,” Zwonitzer told Cowboy State Daily Saturday night. “I want the party to nominate people who have experience in the office they’re seeking instead of party insiders.”

Board Duties

The secretary of state has a number of other duties aside from overseeing Wyoming elections, such as serving on critical state-level boards and managing business registrations in the state.

As a member of the Wyoming Attorney General’s office, candidate Patrick Miller already works directly with the State Lands and Investments, State Building Commission and State Board of Land Commissioners. The secretary of state is a member of all three boards.

“I would just encourage you to really be thoughtful about the candidate that is selected,” he said, stressing a commitment to careful decision making and spending as little money as possible.

He finished in sixth with a total of eight votes.

Allred said he would make sure taxpayer dollars spent by SLIB are closely monitored. Bryan Miller said most projects should be funded by the counties and municipalities and said he does not believe SLIB will have any more significant meetings the rest of the year.

Halverson said she would decide whether she would vote for state-funded roads projects based on whether the government has the authority to facilitate the proposed work.

Armstrong said he would support returning federally-granted funds as a member of this board. He used the topic as a tangent to talk about his claim that he was unjustly fired from his job as a geologist and how his divorce was impacted by the federal government. 

Bob Ferguson, treasurer for the Wyoming Republican Party, said he would use his power on this board to preserve mineral and natural resources. Ferguson finished in fourth with 24 votes.

He mentioned his experience working on Wall Street and for the National Rifle Association when discussing the three boards the secretary of state sits on.

“Fortunately, my financial experience lets me be in a good position to be able to step onto those boards and effectively,” Ferguson said via telephone.

Bryan Miller and candidate John Holtz, who received one vote, both have military backgrounds. 

Holtz is a Laramie attorney who served as a Converse County judge from 1981-93 and a deputy county attorney for Converse County from 1979-81. He spoke about how his experience working in the Air Force and ballistic missiles give him solid preparation for the secretary of state job.

“You have to be on your toes,” he said.

Procedure

Many committee members like Ferguson were not able to attend the meeting in person because of a road closure in the Wind River Canyon. Because of the delay and other technical difficulties, the party did not start discussing agenda items until 90 minutes after the scheduled start, and certain members from Park County and Hot Springs counties participated virtually.

Candidates Pete Illoway and Janet Marscner were not present at the meeting and no information about them was shared Saturday. They received a combined four votes.

There were 10 total candidates who ran for interim secretary of state. Jennifer James rescinded her application Friday night shortly after the slate of candidates was announced. Four candidates were able to cast a vote in the selection process as sitting committee members. No mention was made of excusing these candidates from their voting powers.

Allred also was allowed to explain the rules of the race he was simultaneously participating in. 

A motion was rejected early on to eliminate Patrick Miller from candidate consideration because he did not provide his address or phone number in his original application packet. He did provide the information and his driver license in-person Saturday.

Miller, a 25-year old Cheyenne resident, has a job that is sensitive in nature and said he was nervous about his personal information becoming public.

“Don’t disqualify him, show him the amount of consideration he showed us,” said Carbon County Committeeman Joey Correnti.

Big Horn County GOP Chairman Gary Welch argued against allowing Miller to participate, saying his personal information would inevitably become public due to the public nature of the Secretary of State position.

All the candidates were removed from the room while their opponents spoke. They were allowed to stay in the room after they were done speaking for the day.

Under the voting rules, candidates were eliminated who did not receive a majority of votes, a runoff format. Since only three candidates received a majority of the vote after the first round, no further votes were taken.

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Does Wyoming’s Interim Secretary Of State Position Even Matter?

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

The interim secretary of state that will be chosen soon will oversee the upcoming general election in November, but former Secretary of State Max Maxfield said whoever it is will serve as little more than a “placeholder.”

“Hopefully, they will honor the fact that 23 county clerks really do the heavy lifting and will let the deputy secretary of state do her job,” Maxfield told Cowboy State Daily on Friday afternoon.

This weekend, the Wyoming Republican Party will consider 11 applicants for the interim secretary of state job. The person appointed to the position will oversee the election and the Secretary of State’s office through the end of the year. At that point, the elected secretary of state will take over.

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the Republican nomination for secretary of state, is largely expected to be Wyoming’s next secretary of state as he faces no general election opponent.

Although Gray said he will work with the clerks, he also has stressed he has the power to make many changes his detractors have argued cannot be performed by the secretary of state.

Appointment Time

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan stepped down Sept. 15, facilitating the need for the state GOP to help Gov. Mark Gordon appoint an interim for the position.

The appointee will have an opportunity to try and enact policy changes for the election, such as banning ballot drop boxes around the state. Ballot drop boxes fell under scrutiny in Wyoming for the first time during the 2020 election, permitted by Buchanan because of COVID-19 concerns.

Banning drop boxes is a commitment Gray has made throughout his campaign. He is ineligible for the interim role as he is still serving an active elected term through the end of the year. 

Mark Armstrong, a former geologist, has applied for the interim role and said he would ban ballot drop boxes for the Nov. 8 general election if appointed. Although Armstrong said he is aligned with Gray and supports him, enacting the ban before Gray takes office would steal a major campaign promise away from the Republican nominee.

Can The Nominee Really?

Maxfield said Armstrong and Gray are incorrect in their belief they have the ability to ban the drop boxes or enact major changes. He said an attempt to ban counties from using them could be met with resistance from the state’s county clerks, who Maxfield believes have the power to make their own decisions on the matter.

“I don’t believe the secretary of state can rule on drop boxes,” Maxfield said.

Maxfield questioned the ability of the interim officeholder to make even minor changes to election procedures.

“When you’re talking about elections, there are no small changes,” he said, adding that the state’s laws were specifically written in a way that grants local autonomy. “Any change affects the whole state.”

Former Secretary of State Ed Murray said the interim selection would need the cooperation of the state Legislature and Gordon to have a chance at banning the drop boxes before the general election. 

“There would have to be some cohesive work going on among all the branches for something to happen like that,” Murray said.

Farther down the road, Murray said Gray would have a better chance at enacting the ban.

“If the future secretary of state will have at his disposal, the time to really build,” he said. “Therefore, they will have an advantage and better chance to enact that or any other major policy change and direction.”

Supporters of ballot boxes have said they increase voter participation and are secure devices.

Gray made a number of other promises during the campaign that would require a change of state law and action brought by the Legislature to occur, such as making ballot harvesting a felony.

Buchanan was of the belief that the secretary of state is charged with enforcing the state’s current laws. He said it’s the job of the state’s 23 county clerks to run elections, a view Maxfield agrees with, saying the secretary of state simply enforces the laws determined by the Legislature.

Murray has a different outlook, saying the secretary of state has the power to unilaterally make some real changes. He mentioned the work his office did modernizing its business filing system online, decreasing the time it took to register from seven to 10 days to 30 minutes, a project he said cost the state no money and took less than six months.

“During my term, I was able to do things that had been prevented and had been attempted,” Murray said. “It takes leadership and can-do rather than can’t-do. You can accomplish so much.”

Leadership

Two prominent members of the Secretary of State’s office indicated shortly after Gray won the primary that they are quitting.

Murray, who served from 2015-2018, promoted current Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler and State Election Director Kai Schon into their current roles. Schon previously indicated he would quit, but posted on LinkedIn on Wednesday he will stay with the office through the general election and then, “I’ll be more aggressive in my search” for a new job.

“The team I put in place is the best thing the interim will have in place at their disposal,” Murray said.

Gray was supported by many prominent members of the Republican Party during his campaign. Many of the candidates who applied for the interim role said they would facilitate a smooth transition for him.

During the primary campaign, Gray and Armstrong both said Wyoming’s elections need to be made more secure. Murray said he has no doubts about the security of Wyoming’s elections and would not comment on what he thought of the primary campaign.

The last appointment process in Wyoming happened in January when the Wyoming GOP selected finalists for interim superintendent of public instruction. Each county GOP party was given the same amount of votes during this selection process, drawing a lawsuit from more than a dozen people, accusing the party of violating the “one man, one vote” law. The lawsuit was quickly thrown out in court.

Murray said the next secretary of state should understand the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions’ one person, one vote provisions.

“This person should be able to articulate how in Wyoming, we enjoy secure, honest elections,” he said. “In my term, we took all the steps necessary to ensure one person, one vote, only for those who are eligible to vote.”

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Here Are The 11 Candidates For The Interim Wyoming Secretary Of State Position

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Eleven people have applied to be interim Secretary of State of Wyoming. Some of the candidates have extensive experience working in elections, while others have been deeply involved in state GOP politics for a number of years. Four are candidates who lost in the August primary election.

The Wyoming Republican Party will choose three finalists for the job at its meeting in Pavillion on Saturday. Gov. Mark Gordon will then have five days to select a final candidate.

The candidate selection process will begin at 1 p.m. at the Wind River Recreation Center.

Cowboy State Daily obtained a list of the candidates Friday afternoon. They are:

Marti Halverson

Halverson is a former state legislator who has been involved in party politics for many years. She is president of Right To Life of Wyoming and chairs the Lincoln County Republican Party. She’s also a former national committeewoman for the Wyoming Republican Party.

Halverson spearheaded a recent campaign through her Election Integrity & Security Committee to audit elections from several precincts in Laramie and Fremont counties. She was chosen as a finalist for Superintendent of Public Instruction in January, but not selected by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Halverson said uniformity is solely lacking in Wyoming’s elections.

“One of my goals in this short time is to try to inject some uniformity in the conduct of our statewide elections,” Halverson wrote in her application. “At the very least, I am determined to eliminate the application and operation inconsistencies among the 23 counties.”

She also said if chosen, she’ll inspect the Secretary of State’s office’ relationship with the federal government.

Mary Lankford

Lankford is a former Sublette County clerk who served in that role for 32 years. Since retiring from that job, she has been a consultant for the County Clerks Association of Wyoming. She also was on the Request For Proposal Committee with clerks and the Secretary of State Election staff for the selection of new election equipment, which was bought for the 2020 election year.

These roles gave her experience working on the Voter ID bil and legislation pertaining to runoff elections, crossover voting, ballot order and transportation issues.

In her application packet, Lankford stressed the relationship she holds with the state’s county clerks and other county officials.

“I am able to provide a seamless transition with the elections staff for this short-term appointment and help facilitate a general election that the voters of Wyoming expect and deserve,” Lankford said. “My current consulting activities have only enhanced our successful working relationship.”

Karl Allred

Allred is a state committeeman for the Uinta County Republican Party. He ran unsuccessfully for State House 19 in this year’s primary elections. He’s now a foreman at a local gas plant, but worked for an electronic bingo company as a director of product development.

Allred described himself as “familiar” with the duties of the Secretary of State job.

“I am fully confident I can carry out the job until Jan. when the elected Secretary of State will take office,” Allred wrote in his application. “I have no plans to try to run for this office and am only interested in maintaining the office and make a smooth transition for the elected Secretary.”

Allred’s position as committeeman has been challenged in a lawsuit, accusing him and other Uinta County GOP leaders of being unlawfully elected during the party’s 2021 leadership election.

Bob Ferguson

Ferguson is treasurer for the State GOP and a committeeman for the Park County Republican Party. He is an investment advisor in his private profession and a former fundraiser for the National Rifle Association.

Ferguson said if elected interim Secretary of State, he will visit each of the state’s 23 county clerks to discuss “outstanding issues” from the 2020 elections. He mentioned how two leading members of the Secretary of State’s Office announced their resignations after State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, won the Republican nomination for the job.

“This raises some concerns about the current staff’s ability to administer the November election without incident,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he will alleviate those concerns because of his managerial experience and time spent working on Wall Street.

Mark Armstrong

Armstrong, a former geologist, ran for Secretary of State during the recent Republican primary and finished third.

During his campaign, Armstrong, an Albany County committeeman, said he planned to file a lawsuit against the state and key officials in the Secretary of State’s Office, alleging violations of his First and 14th Amendment rights, as well as various state laws. He also also made complaints about Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales for refusing to allow him and about 25 other applicants to inspect envelopes containing returned absentee ballots in 2020.

“I believe I can do a good amount of work to figure out what happened in Albany County,” Armstrong said. “I’m the right person to put in.”

Armstrong told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday he has been trying to work through the political process without having to sue the state and finds this position to be his best opening to receive the answers he’s been looking for.

John Holtz

Holtz is a Laramie attorney who served as a Converse County judge from 1981-93 and a deputy county attorney for Converse County from 1979-81. He also has served as district court commissioner in Converse and Albany counties and a number of president and chairman positions within different judicial organizations.

He also is a former chairman and vice chairman of the Albany County Republican Party.

“My appointment will bring a unique perspective to the office of Secretary of State with international experience and expertise,” he says in his application. “I will employ the highest degree of ethical behavior pursuant to the law and the Constitution of the State of Wyoming.”

In 2012, Holtz filed an ethical complaint regarding former President Barack Obama’s nomination for president from the Democratic Party. 

Pete Illoway

Illoway, a Cheyenne resident, is a former state legislator and chairman of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. He ran for secretary of state in 2014, finishing third with 16,596 votes. 

He is now a lobbyist and consultant. Illoway is a former co-chair of the Wyoming Business Council and a current board chair of the Wyoming Community Development Authority.

“It is absolutely imperative that the integrity of the elections process be upheld, and I would do that if appointed,” Illoway says in his application.

Illoway spent most of his application packet informing the State GOP about what the Secretary of State does. He expressed confidence in the employees of the Secretary of State’s office and said it “absolutely imperative that the integrity of elections be upheld,” and would ensure this if chosen for the job.

Jennifer James

James runs a nonprofit healthcare training organization and holds a doctorate degree as well as a master’s from Harvard University. She unsuccessfully ran for State House District 60 in this year’s primary.

A Green River resident, James also was an assistant director with the Wyoming State Board of Nursing from 2016-2020.

James included very little information about what she would do if chosen for interim secretary of state.

“My goal as a strong Republican and highly qualified candidate is to help assure our incoming SOS has a smooth transition into this important role,” James says in her application. 

James is married to State Rep. Tom James, R-Green River.

Janet Marschner

Marschner is a Cheyenne resident who unsuccessfully ran for Senate District 31 this year. She was a certified public accountant for more than 30 years and is now a general contractor and small business owner.

She is a member of the Wyoming Federation of Republican Women and a board member for Wyoming Health Fairs and Wyoming Stockgrowers Land Trust.

Marschner said her objective is to serve the people of Wyoming and provide what is needed by Gray.

“My intent is to work and communicate with the incoming Secretary of State throughout this time,” Marscner says in her application. “The appointed person has the obligation to provide a smooth transition of the office.”

Bryan Miller

Miller is Chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party and holds two master’s degrees. He ran unsuccessfully for House District 51 in this year’s primary and was an early candidate in this year’s U.S. Congressional race.

Miller has significant military experience and has done work supporting the White House Interagency Policy Committee. He is the owner and chief executive of a company that mitigates radar interference associated with the mass deployment of wind turbines across the nation.

Miller said he understands the importance of the secretary of state having worked with a number of the Wyoming Legislature’s committees. 

“I have the experience and skills to analyze and identify any deviations beyond the standard set forth by regulations, statutes and, yes, the Wyoming and United States constitutions,” Miller says in his application.

If chosen for the role, he said he will ensure the continuation of secretary of state operations and “assure the people of Wyoming that the results of our general election are legitimate.”

Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller is an assistant attorney general with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office. In his duties, he advises the three boards and commissions the secretary of state sits on.

“I meet the Constitutional qualifications as I have reached the age of 25 and am registered to vote as a Republican,” Patrick Miller says in his application. 

He earned his juris doctor from the University of Michigan and his bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University.

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Wyoming Leaders Sympathetic To Red State Transfer Of Migrants To Blue States

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By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily
Coy@CowboyStateDaily.com  

Wyoming Republican leaders are understanding of recent actions taken by Texas, Florida and Arizona to send migrants to “progressive” Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and Martha’s Vineyard. 

Texas, Arizona and Florida governors have complained that President Joe Biden’s immigration policies have allowed millions of people to illegally pour across the southern U.S. border, severely negatively impacting their states. Earlier this year, the governors began and have continued to transport some of the migrants north to cities led by Democrats.  

Wyoming Republicans Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis told Cowboy State Daily that the Biden Administration’s “open border” is a doorway into the country for drugs and criminals. The governor’s office said the Biden border policy failure makes Wyoming and “all states border states.” 

The Wyoming leaders said they could see why the Texas, Arizona and Florida governors were taking these actions.

Barrasso went to the Texas-Mexico border in July to see the situation for himself. He said Texas, Florida and Arizona are giving Biden and his supporters a taste of their own medicine. 

“Joe Biden and the radical Democrats have rolled out the red carpet for criminals, drug dealers and gangs with their open border policies,” Barrasso said in a statement to Cowboy State Daily. “Now, the coastal elite are seeing firsthand the consequences of these dangerous policies in their communities – and they clearly don’t like it.”  

Political Stunts 

Biden Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a recent White House briefing that the Republican governors used the migrants the governors transported as “political pawns … in a cruel, premeditated political stunt.”  

“These are the kinds of tactics we see from smugglers in places like Mexico and Guatemala. And for what? A photo op? Because these governors care (more) about creating political theater than creating actual solutions to help folks who are fleeing communism, to help children, to help families,” she said. 

Drug Smuggling Impacts Wyoming 

Gordon visited the U.S. southern border in Texas in October and his spokesman told Cowboy State Daily this week that Gordon saw firsthand the negative impacts of border crossings. He said the impacts continue to affect Wyoming today. 

“The most direct impact of the failed border policy here in Wyoming is in illegal narcotic smuggling, particularly fentanyl,” said Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s communications director.  

He said there is general agreement from law enforcement that large quantities of fentanyl are being smuggled across the Mexican border. 

“I-80 is a trafficking corridor, and fentanyl impacts are being felt in Wyoming communities,” Pearlman said in an email to Cowboy State Daily. “States such as Arizona and Texas are rightfully frustrated for being forced to commit significant state resources to address a problem that is a direct result of the federal government neglecting its constitutional duty. Governor Gordon recognizes the burdens governors of these states face.” 

Border Busing From Red to Blue 

This spring, Texas, under the direction of Republican Gov. Greg Abbot, began busing some migrants to Washington, D.C. Abbot also has sent other buses of migrants to Chicago and New York City. Doug Ducey, Arizona’s Republican governor, authorized transporting migrants from his state to Washington, D.C. Recently, the office of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis chartered two airplanes and sent migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, an affluent Massachusetts island.  

The Hill Newspaper reports that about 13,000 migrants have been transported in these ways with Washington, D.C., getting the most at 10,000 and Martha’s Vineyard the least with about 50. 

Lummis said U.S. Customs and Border Protection has apprehended more than 2 million migrants this year with thousands more arriving every day at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“Those that live in more progressive states have expressed outrage at the transportation of migrants to places like Washington D.C. and Martha’s Vineyard, however the Biden administration has been moving migrants around the country for months, often in the dead of night, and yet we have seen no liberal ire in those cases,” Lummis said in a statement to Cowboy State Daily. 

She said because of the Biden Administration’s “catch-and-release strategy” we don’t know how many of these “illegal aliens are currently living in our state.” Lummis also complained about “record-breaking amounts of illegal drugs, including fentanyl … being transported into our country daily.” 

“Wyoming law enforcement seized thousands of doses of fentanyl in 2022 alone,” Lummis said. 

New Migration Challenge 

Jean-Pierre said migration from Mexico and northern Central America has declined for three consecutive months, but migration from Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba has increased. 

“Falling authoritarian regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba are causing a new migration challenge across the Western Hemisphere,” she said. 

Jean-Pierre said not all the people coming into the U.S. through its southern border stay in the country. 

“Not everyone who arrives at the border gets to stay. There is a process in place that we have been moving forward with,” Jean-Pierre said. “DHS (Department of Homeland Security) continues to expel migrants as required by court order under CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Title 42. And so — and those who cannot be expelled under Title 42 are screened and processed to have their claims for relief heard by an immigration judge in removal proceedings.” 

In April, Wyoming joined a lawsuit filed by more than 20 states challenging the Biden administration’s revocation of Title 42 border control measures. 

“These Trump-era border policies helped reduce the flow of illegal immigration at the United States-Mexico border,” an April 14 Gordon news release said. 

“The coalition of 24 states received a preliminary injunction at the District Court level in May,” Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “The federal defendants have appealed it to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The state filed its response on Aug. 31 and the litigation is still pending. “ 

He said it’s been more than a year since Gordon joined 25 other governors in writing Biden a letter requesting a meeting to discuss this issue. That meeting has still not happened. 

Looking For Solutions 

Jean-Pierre said Biden has solutions to the immigration problem.  

“He put forth an immigration — a comprehensive immigration bill, a piece of legislation. And — and what we would like to see is Republicans decide to come to the table and help us deal with a really systemic problem that we have seen for decades when it comes to our immigration system — which, by the way, was actually mismanaged and decimated by the last administration,” she said. “But what Republicans want to do … is they’re moving forward with political stunt(s).” 

Lummis also called for solutions to the nation’s immigration problem. 

“It is time to seriously address the crisis at our border with real, actionable solutions,” she said. 

Morning Consult reported Wednesday that voters are split “regarding whether the expulsion of migrants to blue states is appropriate, moral or effective.” 

In a Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted Sept. 16-18, among a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters, 42% said the migrant expulsion by Republican governors was appropriate. About 41% said it was not and 17% didn’t know.

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Hageman: Leading Wyoming Attorneys Send Her ‘Threatening’ Letter

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@cowboystatedaily.com

A group of attorneys has penned a letter to U.S. House Republican candidate Harriet Hageman expressing deep concern about her views that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Nearly all the 41 attorneys who signed the letter are from Wyoming.

A press release from the candidate’s campaign claims the lawyers “barely disguised their threat to file a bar complaint against Hageman if she does not stop exercising her First Amendment right to free speech.”

Her campaign also described the letter – delivered to Hageman’s home, law office and campaign post office box – as “threatening.”

“Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat against me simply because I hold a different political opinion – one that is shared by a majority of Wyoming voters,” Hageman says in the Thursday morning press release. “And this is exactly what (U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney’s allies and the left do to Trump supporters and conservatives at every turn – attempt to threaten, intimidate and cancel anyone who doesn’t see the world the way they do.”

Lawyers who signed onto the Sept. 12 letter include former Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank, former Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Mike Golden, former Wyoming Assistant Attorney General Scott Garland, Casper attorney Pat Holscher and Cheyenne attorney Ben Rowland. Several attorneys from Colorado and an attorney from Arizona also signed the letter.

“We feel compelled to express our deep concern and disappointment that in recent weeks you have chosen to lend your credibility as a Wyoming lawyer to the myth that the 2020 presidential election was stolen,” the letter says. 

Crank told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday morning that he was asked to sign the letter by Jackson attorney Bill Schwartz, and that he “was honored to sign on.”

He said he has full confidence in Wyoming’s elections and the state’s 23 county clerks.

Crank said he didn’t see the letter as threatening; rather, more of a reminder that attorneys take an oath, just like law enforcement officers, to uphold the law.

“My thought was that maybe Ms. Hageman would come to her senses and uphold the rule of law after reading the letter and stop perpetuating nonsensical and damaging lies to advance her own political gain,” he said.

Hageman, a Trump-endorsed land and water attorney who last month soundly beat Cheney in the Wyoming Republican primary election, has said the 2020 election was “rigged” and a “travesty.” Trump was the predominant focus of the race as Cheney has been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics since he began his attempts to overturn the election results.

“Absolutely the election was rigged. It was rigged to make sure that President (Donald) Trump could not get reelected,” Hageman said during an August debate in Casper. “What happened in 2020 is a travesty. It should never happen again. We need to make sure our elections are free and fair.”

The letter directly addresses this comment.

“Surely you know that these statements were both false and incendiary,” the letter says. “Not only did they serve to undermine public confidence in the outcome of our last presidential election, but they were also contrary to at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the oath you and the rest of us swore upon our admission to the Wyoming bar.”

The letter writers go on to explain why they don’t believe the election was rigged and how many courts and other federal oversight agencies have come to the same conclusion. The letter references Cheney being uncomfortable with campaigning in Wyoming during the primary because of her views.

The letter also mentions the Republican primary for the Secretary of State race, where State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, lost to Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, a candidate who espouses similar claims questioning the results of the election.

“This should be highly disturbing to every Wyoming lawyer,” the letter says. “We want you to know that we believe your comments about a rigged election were not supportive of the Rule of Law, have contributed to destabilizing our democratic institutions, and were inconsistent with our collective duties as members of the Wyoming bar.”

The letter reminds Hageman of the legal commitments she made to become a member of the Wyoming bar and asks her to make no further statements denying the lawfulness of the 2020 election. It also asks her to challenge or at least distance herself from those who make these claims.

Hageman said she suspects the letter is part of a larger, national movement spurned by “leftists” and “political insiders” to target Republican lawyers who have “concerns” about the 2020 election. She thinks the letter may have used a template provided by the65project, an organization that has targeted lawyers who have brought lawsuits trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election “or who otherwise violate their professional responsibilities to undermine our democracy,” according to its website. It has filed ethics complaints against 15 conservative state attorneys general and various other prominent lawyers.

Crank denied any coordination with the65project organization.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, lawyers supporting Trump filed 65 lawsuits across the swing states to overturn the election results. Nearly all were rejected in court.

Hageman did not change her rhetoric on the subject in her Thursday press release, saying there are ongoing concerns about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s influence in elections and Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting laws.

“As a constitutional attorney, I have spent my career fighting for the rights of others, and now a group of my fellow lawyers is trying to squelch my own First Amendment rights because they disagree with me,” Hageman said. “And let’s be clear – this is not just an attack on me, it’s also aimed at conservative Wyomingites and anyone who supports President Trump.”

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Barrasso, Lummis Back Bill That Thwarts Biden’s $80 Billion IRS Expansion

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis have signed on to an effort to rein in the IRS from using Inflation Reduction Act money to audit middle-class Americans.

In a Thursday email to Cowboy State Daily, Lummis said Senate Bill 4817 would ensure that “everyday, hardworking American citizens are protected from gross IRS overreach.”

The bill aims to prevent the IRS from using an “unprecedented” nearly $80 billion “infusion of new funds” on audits of taxpayers making less than $400,000 a year, according to the bill text.  

The Democrat-backed Inflation Reduction Act that passed Congress on Aug. 12 contains ambitious revenue goals and billions in funding to beef up IRS staffing and technology.   

Barrasso has called the move an attack on working Americans.   

“President Biden and the Democrats want to empower the IRS to squeeze as much money as they can out of hardworking Americans,” said Barrasso in a Sept. 14 email to Cowboy State Daily. “In addition to facing record-high inflation, (multiplying IRS audits) would make it even harder for families, farmers and small businesses to get by.”  

Barrasso said S. 4817 would stop the IRS from using “supersized funds” on middle-class audits.   

“The people of Wyoming and across the country want nothing to do with the Democrats’ plan to run the middle class dry,” he said.  

Lummis also called the bill “commonsense legislation.”

“The hardworking people of Wyoming should not be subjected to frivolous audits to help pay for the Democrats’ reckless tax and spending spree,” she said. “The IRS should never have received this massive increase in funding.”

‘Not The Best Policy In The World’  

One of Wyoming’s most prominent Democrats called the bill an exercise in favoritism.

“I’d like that provision because it would protect me,” said former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal with a laugh, in a Thursday interview with Cowboy State Daily. “But on the other hand, I don’t know that we ought to start favoring one set of taxpayers over another.”  

Freudenthal said the bill comes across as “symbolic, as opposed to substantive.”   

“I guess they’re saying only people who make more than $400,000 would ever cut corners on their taxes – and I doubt that that’s empirically true,” said Freudenthal.   

The former governor expressed concern that legislation like this could “create a favored class.”   

“That’s probably not the best policy in the world,” he said.   

Republican Co-Sponsors

Only Republicans co-sponsored the bill.  

Barrasso and Lummis were accompanied by the following co-sponsors: 

Republican Co-Sponsors
Only Republicans co-sponsored the bill.
Barrasso and Lummis were accompanied by the following co-sponsors:
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas
Sen. John Thune, South Dakota
Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina
Sen. Patrick Toomey, Pennsylvania
Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina
Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma
Sen. Steve Daines, Montana
Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio
Sen. Todd Young, Indiana
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia
Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee
Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma

Two GOP Candidates Confirm In Running For Interim Secretary Of State

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Two candidates have confirmed they’ve thrown their names in the ring to be considered for the interim Secretary of State position. 

One of them, Mark Armstrong, already ran for the office during the recent Republican primary. During his campaign, he also threatened to sue the Secretary of State’s Office.

“As far as I can tell, I think I’m extremely well qualified for it,” Armstrong told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday afternoon. 

Also running for Secretary of State is Bob Ferguson, Wyoming GOP treasurer and Park County Republican Party vice chair.

Armstrong, an Albany County Republican Party committeeman, finished a distant third in the Republican primary behind winner State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, and second place finisher Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, but still got 14,304 votes.

During his campaign, Armstrong said he planned to file a lawsuit against the state and key officials in the Secretary of State’s Office, alleging violations of his First and 14th Amendment rights, as well as various state laws. He said the department unlawfully changed public access to absentee ballot status reports, leaving it up to individual counties how often to publish those reports.

Armstrong argued this hurt his ability to identify and connect with absentee voters as a lesser-known candidate in the race. He said that if appointed, he would immediately change the policy.

Armstrong also made complaints about Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales for refusing to allow him and about 25 other applicants to inspect envelopes containing returned absentee ballots in 2020. He said he’s also faced resistance to receiving a scan of about 47 invalid votes cast in that county’s district attorney race this year.

“I believe I can do a good amount of work to figure out what happened in Albany County,” Armstrong said. “I’m the right person to put in.

Armstrong said he has been trying to work through the political process without having to sue the state and finds this position to be his best opening to receive the answers he’s been looking for.

“If we wait until January we might never get an answer on those hard questions,” he said.

Fans Of Gray

Aside from these matters, Armstrong ran on a platform similar to Gray’s with only small nuances of difference. Armstrong called Gray an “insider” during the campaign but now is fully behind him.

“I believe somebody has to do some of the bidding Chuck would be doing,” Armstrong said. “We have extremely similar views.”

Armstrong and Gray have both questioned the security of Wyoming elections and said changes need to be made to make them more secure. He said if appointed, he would “get the bulk of the work started” for Gray and immediately ban ballot drop boxes upon taking office. This was a hallmark promise Gray made during his campaign.

Gray has no official opponent in the general election and is largely expected to be the next secretary of state. He is ineligible to be named interim secretary of state as state laws preclude elected officials from being appointed to a different position until the terms they were elected for expire.

Appointing Armstrong would provide an opportunity for drop boxes to be banned for this November’s general election. If another candidate is chosen who opts to leave the decision up to Gray, the ban wouldn’t take effect until the August 2024 primary.

‘Somebody in Charge’

“I think it’s important to have somebody in office in charge of things during the interim period,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson declined to offer any other comment about his candidacy or what action he would take on drop boxes until this weekend at the Wyoming Republican Party’s selection meeting.

Ferguson has shared a number of posts on his Twitter account from Dinesh D’Souza, who claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged in his “2000 Mules” movie. Gray’s showing of the movie during his campaign was criticized by former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and Nethercott. 

The Wyoming Republican Party will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday in Pavillion and select three finalists for the interim secretary of state appointment. Gov. Mark Gordon will then have five days to select one.

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Shadowy PACs Draw Concern in Campbell County

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By Leo Wolfson, Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

A pair of shadowy political groups may have made a significant difference in Campbell County’s primary election last month.

“Wyoming deserves to know who it is,” said former Campbell County Commissioner and state House candidate Micky Shober. “This is something that needs to be publicized.”

In recent weeks, many questions have arisen about the Coal Country Conservatives and True West political action committees. The groups sent thousands of political flyers to Campbell County homes advocating for and against particular candidates.

This type of political activity isn’t illegal, but transparency issues have been raised regarding both groups.  

Both filed federally, despite devoting nearly all their attention and resources to Wyoming local-level races. Coal Country Conservatives took an unusual step of advocating for candidates all the way down to the Republican Party precinct level. 

Each campaign was engaged with a certain level of sophistication. Their marketing was slick, using glossy-print paper and targeted audiences. Campaign strategies like these are costly, especially when used for sending out mailers throughout a roughly 47,000-resident county.

Shober said Coal Country tailored its individual flyers to specific precincts. He said he suspects a group of local people are behind the PAC.

“Somebody is fairly intelligent behind this,” Shober said. “My guess, it’s somebody who has spent quite a bit of time working around and experience in campaigns. There has to be some people around it who have done it for a while.

Two Campbell County residents are listed as running Coal Country, but neither have responded toCowboy State Daily’s repeated requests for comment. A number of Campbell County lawmakers Cowboy State Daily spoke with reported no prior knowledge of Coal Country’s registered president, Laura Cox, or its treasurer, Colleen McCabe.

Campbell County Commissioner Colleen Faber said she isn’t involved with either organization. But Faber did say she is familiar with Cox, who she said has attended various Campbell County Commission meetings with her husband for about a year. Faber said Cox moved to Wyoming from another state in recent years.

The True West PAC is less transparent with its filing information, registered to a post office box in Cheyenne, but associated with two Virginia women. The women work for Sage Advisory Group, a Virginia-based business. According to the LinkedIn account belonging to Springfield, Virginia, resident Staci Goede, who is listed as treasurer of True West PAC, she specializes in offering treasurer and chief financial officer services for federal and non-federal political campaigns, committees and organizations. 

The Second Amendment lobbyist group Gun Owners of America also is based out of Springfield.

Mark Jones, a local lobbyist for Gun Owners of America, said neither he nor his organization are involved with any outside PACs. 

State Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, said True West targeted him in his state Senate campaign against incumbent Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower.

“They were campaigning against me for Driskill,” Fortner said.

Coal Country and True West endorsed conflicting candidates in the primary Senate race, with Coal Country pushing for Roger Connett and True West supporting Driskill.

Jones said Gun Owners of America solely opposed Fortner in the race and had no preference of whether Driskill or Connett got elected.

True West was formed July 28 and does not need to submit any campaign finance information until the end of the month.

A federal complaint was filed against Coal Country by Campbell County Clerk Susan Saunders earlier this month.

Wyoming election laws are vague on whether federally registered PACs need to declare their spending in state-level races.

Karen Wheeler, acting Secretary of State, told Cowboy State Daily last week her office has a different interpretation of one particular state law Saunders cited, providing possible indication that Coal Country did not need to register with the state. She also said there is another law that potentially conflicts with this law and her office is consulting with Attorney General Bridget Hill on the matter.

The Western Conservatives PAC was also very active in Campbell County and statewide elections. Unlike Coal Country and True West, this PAC did register with the State of Wyoming and has been relatively forthcoming about its organization and campaign spending, tied to a Colorado lobbyist. 

Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, said he believes Western Conservatives and True West were aligned in “the promotion of moderate and liberal candidates as conservative.”

Pointing Fingers

Fortner said he suspects Bear, Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, and Jones are connected to both PACs. He said the involvement comes from a desire to see Jennings become Speaker of the House and as retribution for Fortner’s vote against Senate File 102, the Second Amendment Protection Act. Driskill voted to support the bill.

Bear and Jennings are aligned with the House Freedom Caucus and GOA, which have both opposed Republicans legislators who voted against this bill. 

“It all boils down to that right there,” Fortner said. “I’m suspecting all trails are leading to that.”

Fortner said he was threatened by the trio that they would prevent him from receiving campaign funding support for his actions. In a July interview, Bear said his main goal of the primary election was helping true conservative candidates win and that he opposed Fortner’s decision to leave the House for a run against Driskill. 

Jennings told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday he has no involvement with either PAC. 

Bear said he also is not involved with any PACs but mostly agrees with Coal Country’s conservative voter guide. He said he only knew Cox as an acquaintance. 

“I think the conservative voter guide sent out matched with what the conservative nature of Campbell County was,” Bear said. 

Bear mentioned one discrepancy between their views and his, as he supported the incumbent sheriff in Campbell County while Coal Country endorsed a challenger.

On Tuesday, Bear wouldn’t directly comment as to who he will vote for in the race for Speaker of the House, but said he would support “the more conservative candidate.” 

Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, is considered by many as a leading candidate to be the next Speaker as he is the majority floor leader of the House. He has a less-conservative voting record than Jennings, who challenged Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, two years ago for Speaker duties.

Fortner also suspects Connett was recruited to water down the vote in his race against Driskill. Connett finished second in the race, beating Fortner by 369 votes but losing to Driskill by 442 votes.

Fortner said he will continue to stay involved in the Legislature as a Wyoming resident.

“They haven’t got rid of me,” he said. “I’m going to go down and lobby for or against bills. Now, I have more latitude to say what I want.”

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Barrasso Scores Victory With Amendment That Prevents China From Receiving Preferential Status

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, opposed ratifying climate legislation that would have given China an extra decade to produce polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) while holding the United States to much stricter standards.

“This places the United States at a competitive disadvantage to China for 10 additional years,” Barrasso said in a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor.

Barrasso spoke against having the U.S. join the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The amendment would treat China as a developing country, which gives it additional time to continue producing HFCs.

“There is no excuse for any senator to give China a handout at the expense of the American taxpayer and American hardworking families,” he said.

The Senate ratified the international climate treaty, the first in three decades, with a rare bipartisan majority. The U.S. is now joins 136 other nations to join Kigali.

HFCs are man-made industrial chemicals used in refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers and insulation. They are considered a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Barrasso wrote an amendment conditioning Senate approval of Kigali on the removal of China from being defined as a developing country. Barrasso’s amendment defines China as a “developed” country. 

“So, senators have some decisions to make,” Barrasso said. “Are you going to vote to allow China to play by a different set of rules? Are you going to vote to put America at a competitive disadvantage? Are you going to vote to continue to give American tax dollars to China?”

Barrasso’s amendment passed by an overwhelming margin, but he still voted against the bill.

According to Politico, Barrasso’s amendment requires the U.S. State Department to file an amendment with the United Nations reclassifying China as a developed nation but does not require successful passage of that amendment.

Prior to Barrasso’s push, the Kigali Amendment would have required developed nations like the United States to reduce production and consumption of HFCs to about 15% of 2012 levels by 2036. Nationslike China, Brazil and all of Africa would have had until 2024 to enact an HFC freeze.

Under the passed legislation, some of the world’s hottest countries like Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still have the most lenient restrictions, given until 2028 to reduce HFC levels.

If the Kigali pact achieves its goals, scientists estimate it would prevent up to about 1 degree Fahrenheit of warming by the end of this century.

Developed or Developing?

Under the “developing” designation, Barrasso said China would be eligible to receive money from a United Nations multilateral fund set aside for developing nations. America is the largest contributor to thefund.

“Nearly $1 billion American tax dollars have already gone into this United Nations slush fund,” he said. “Has China contributed? No, more than $1.4 billion from the fund has already gone to China that we have contributed to because we are (a) developed nation and China legally by this treaty is still developing.”

Barrasso said he also finds it hypocritical that the U.S. borrows money from China yet would provide it money as a developing nation.

“This makes zero sense,” Barrasso said. “Even to the high school kids it makes zero sense. With Kigali, it will mean more and more American tax dollars going to communist China.”

China is considered to have the second largest economy in the world.

Barrasso said it’s unnecessary for the U.S. to make another U.N. treaty commitment when it already signed bipartisan HFC legislation, the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, two years ago.

“Our own laws can be amended, repealed or replaced. Depending on the impacts and costs, the U.S. can make changes quickly,” Barrasso said. “It is much harder, if not impossible to change international treaties. In fact, there is no withdrawal clause in the Kigali amendment.”

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Cheney, Dems, Get Win On Election Reform; Only 8 Republicans Voted For Bill

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
leo@cowboystatedaily.com

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s Presidential Election Reform Act passed the U.S. House on Wednesday on mostly partisan lines, a move she said will help guard against future efforts to “steal” elections.

“Today, the House took an important bipartisan step to protect all future presidential elections,” Cheney said in a press release after the vote. “This bill will preserve the rule of law and defend election integrity.”

Cheney’s bill would overhaul the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, a law written with ambiguous provisions many have accused President Donald Trump of trying to manipulate on Jan. 6, 2021.

The legislation would:

Reaffirm the vice president’s role in certifying presidential election results.

Narrow the spectrum of objections that can be used by members of Congress against the electoral slates of individual states.

Allow presidential candidates to sue governors or other election officials who fail to transmit lawful election results to Congress.

Clarify federal law that the rules governing an election can’t change after the election has happened.

“It will ensure that self-interested politicians cannot steal from the people the guarantee that our government derives its power from the consent of the governed,” Cheney said.

Cheney is a vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. She is one of only two Republicans on the nine-member panel.

On Wednesday, the committee announced it will have its next hearing Sept. 28. Sen. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said this will likely be the committee’s final hearing.

Parties Remain Polarized

Democrats and the committee’s nine members have said Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election by throwing out certain electoral votes led to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Cheney and Zoe Lofgren, D-California, who is co-sponsoring the legislation, have said the Electoral Count Act needs to be updated to respond to modern political pressures.

Only eight other Republicans besides Cheney voted for the legislation that passed on a 229-203 vote.

The partisan nature of this vote is likely an ominous sign for how the bill may fare in the Senate. 

The Senate already id moving forward with its own bipartisan version of the legislation that differs in some significant ways from Cheney’s bill.

Cheney’s bill would raise the threshold for Congress to consider an objection to a state’s electoral votes, requiring at least one-third of the House and Senate to sign on to such a challenge. Currently, only one member of each chamber is required. 

The Senate Version

The Senate proposal has a lower proposed threshold, requiring 20% of the House and Senate to agree. It also would not narrow the spectrum for which objections can be raised.

Objections have been raised in recent elections, but none have ever been sustained with a majority vote.

The Senate version also contains a Presidential Transition Improvements Act, which promotes the orderly transfer of power by providing clear guidelines for when eligible candidates for president or vice president may receive federal resources to support their transition into office.

It also requires disputes about electors and electoral votes be resolved before they reach Congress.

Ten Republicans have already said they will support the Senate version of the bill. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, both R-Wyoming, are not part of this group.

The last Cheney-sponsored law to be signed into law was the Greatest Generation Commemorative Coin Act, which passed through the House on July 27 and enacted into law Aug. 3.

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Hageman Rips Feds, Congress During Constitution Day Speech

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By Leo Wolfson, Political Reporter
leo@cowboystatedaily.com

The frontrunners from last month’s Wyoming Republican primary made speeches Monday night, providing starkly different perspectives on what they claim as threats to the U.S. Constitution.

“The fact, the Constitution has been under serious assault from the left and from those who not only seek to rewrite history but are incapable of understanding why the United States is the greatest country in the history of the world,” Hageman said during a speech she made at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., during its Constitution Day event.

The Heritage Foundation is a conservative public policy think tank.

That same night, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney made a speech at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual Walter Berns Constitution Day expressing her belief that former President Donald Trump is the nation’s greatest threat to the Constitution. 

Hageman, a Trump endorsee, beat Cheney by nearly 40 percentage points in the election.

Cheney is one of only two Republicans on the nine-member Jan. 6 Committee.

Hageman said the federal government sees human suffering as a virtue. She drew a contrast between the allegations of foreign colluding brought against President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and people facing charges because of their alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack who have still not faced trial and remain in custody.

“And our political elite celebrate their suffering,” she said.

She also described the recent raid on Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago as a “partisan witch hunt,” the same phrase she used to describe the Jan. 6 Committee hearings, which she also has called a “kangaroo court.”

Hageman said if she had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses during the Jan. 6 hearings, there would have been a different narrative in the public discourse about the event.

“They’re not interested in the truth, they’re interested in a narrative,” Hageman said. “They’re interested in presenting a certain side they believe in on Jan. 6.”



Government Overreach

Hageman said the natural rights of freedom, liberty and individual autonomy were created by God, not the government.

“Why is that important? Because they were not granted by the government, the government can’t take them away,” Hageman said.

Hageman said Americans have been confronted with an “existential threat” since Biden was elected president in 2020. 

“The Biden administration is a disaster the likes of which we haven’t seen before,” she said.

She said the administration makes no effort “to adhere to even the rudimentary rule of law,” mentioning the moratorium Biden put on federal oil and gas leases early on in his administration to address climate change. 

Hageman also was outraged by the move Biden made in August to forgive up to $10,000 in student loan debt for all federal borrowers. She incorrectly stated this will cost the federal government about $1 trillion. The real actual is estimated at $366 billion.

She cited the government’s response to COVID-19 as an example of “tyrannical” overreach and a move toward Socialism. Hageman said vaccine mandates imposed on federal employees and contractors and health care workers is unconstitutional. Hageman’s law firm was one of the first in the United States to file a vaccine mandate lawsuit.

Many COVID-related restrictions began under and were ordered by Trump, she said.

Hageman said the 10th Amendment, reserving rights delegated in the Constitution to states, needs to be revitalized for better understanding. She said states need to regain their power vested in the Constitution, and if there is ever a close call of federal overreach brought up in the judicial branch, the courts should always err on the side of the states.

She mentioned Wyoming’s small population and the impact of local government on people’s lives. 

“There are huge decisions being made right here in Washington, D.C., … that have huge impacts on the citizens of Wyoming, but we have no say in what those decisions are because of how they’re being carried out.”

Hageman also accused the Biden administration of working “tirelessly” to suppress freedom of speech and working with “Silicon Valley oligarchs” on this effort. Trump has been banned from Twitter since January 2021. 

Trump founded Truth Social, a social media application intended to directly compete with Twitter, in late 2021. 

Hageman told the audience that the nation needs to be taken back from these interests, a sentiment she has offered many times along the campaign trail, a theme also mentioned in her “Fed Up” speech.

“The Biden Administration knows if they can prevent us from communicating, they can prevent us from fighting back,” she said.

The only credit she gave to the Biden administration was for making people more aware of government overreach.

Solutions

Hageman cast a wider net for what she believes led to the “demise of the Republic,” saying Congress has abdicated its normal responsibilities to unelected government workers and other interests. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the federal workforce is composed of an estimated 2.1 million civilian workers.

“At $32 trillion in debt, we’re running out of runway,” Hageman said.

She said people need to hold their Congress members more accountable for their votes.

“Congress is the branch that is responsible for legislating, and it must reclaim that responsibility,” Hageman said. “It must retake the reins of governing in this country.”

Hageman said government overreach in America stems from New Deal programs initiated in the 1930s to combat the Great Depression. 

“It was contrary to the Constitution at that time and remains even more so today,” she said.

She said over the last 30 years, the administrative state has become more emboldened to act unilaterally. Hageman said this has resulted in an increase of forest fires throughout the West because of the U.S. Forest Service’s fire management practices.

She also complained how the Environmental Protection Agency labeled irrigation ditches as navigable waters, preventing farmers from maintaining their own infrastructure on their property. 

Hageman also mentioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s alleged policy of using gender ideology to withhold lunch money and corporate environmental, social and governance scoring. 

“An unelected bureaucrat in the USDA will never have to answer to you,” she said.

Hageman said Democrats want to rewrite history and what the founding fathers believed in. She said this should no longer be tolerated and accused Democrats of “despising” what America stands for, the Constitution and its history. 

Those who have created works like the “1619 Project” have argued their goal is to present facts from a narrative less heard or known about, even if it means refuting popular icons of American pride. 

Hageman apologized for taking a negative tone in her speech and stressed that she is an optimistic person because of what the Constitution promises – the concepts of freedom, liberty and individualism.

“It’s why I’ve done what I’ve done. It’s why I do what I do, it’s why I fight the battles I fight,” she said. “This country is worth fighting for because this country is worth protecting.”

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Cheney Says GOP Treats Trump Like A ‘King,’ Supporters Put Him ‘Above The Law’

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By Leo Wolfson, Political Reporter
leo@cowboystatedaily.com

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney provided some insight into the motivation behind her push against former President Donald Trump in a speech Monday night. 

Harkening back to her time working in the U.S. State Department and her interactions there with victims of autocratic governments, Cheney told the online audience at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual Walter Berns Constitution Day in Washington, D.C. about the lasting impact these meetings had on her life. 

“We all know that we are incredibly blessed,” Cheney said. “But this freedom that we have been blessed with, this freedom that is defended and guaranteed by our Constitution, only survives if we recognize threats to this freedom when they arise.”

Cheney recalled her 1992 meeting with Boris Nemtsov, a young Russian who pushed for his country to be a free democracy in the years following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Nemstov was assassinated in 2015 by what Cheney described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “thugs.”

Nemtsov was killed “because he posed such a threat to Putin, because of his defense of and his dedication to freedom,” Cheney said.

 During her roughly 18-minute speech, Cheney said the GOP is playing politics and treating Trump like a “king” in its continued support of him as many members of the party defend and excuse his behavior. She said those people are rejecting party values in favor of an individual.

“The elected leaders of the Republican Party downplay the violence of Jan. 6, and they demand that all others do the same,” Cheney said. “This has become a litmus test. It’s as if the hundreds of serious injuries to Capitol police officers who defended our Capitol that day were inconsequential.”

The American Enterprise Institute is a center-right public policy think tank that describes itself as dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential and building a freer and safer world. Its board includes Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was at the Monday event with his wife Lynne Cheney. 



Response

Many Republicans agree that the Capital attack was a horrible event, but far fewer believe it was Trump who should be held responsible for the attack. Most participants in the riot were Trump supporters. 

Cheney said former Vice President Mike Pence was “essentially the president” most of Jan. 6, 2021,  because of Trump’s lack of action that day in speaking out or acting to quell the riot. She accused Trump of ignoring White House intelligence provided to him in the days before the attack that said an attempt to occupy the U.S. Capitol might happen. Testimony provided during the Jan. 6 Committee hearings outlined how Trump suggested in a casual manner extra law enforcement be deployed to address the threat.

Cheney also criticized much of the party’s support for Trump’s claims the 2020 election was rigged, despite about 60 federal courts ruling against the former president’s challenges. She defended the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago investigation against Trump, expressing outrage that many Republicans are joining the former president in speaking out against the agency and Department of Justice. Evidence has shown Trump lied about keeping documents at his Florida home, many of which were classified and of a national security interest.

“They are attempting to excuse this behavior,” Cheney said. “They’re attempting to say that it was normal, that it was a storage issue.”

Trump-endorsed candidates overwhelmingly won their Republican primaries nationwide, including Cheney’s opponent in Wyoming,Harriet Hageman.

“Does defending Donald Trump now mean excusing obstruction of justice?” Cheney asked. “How many of our elected officials today are willing to do that? Bit by bit, excuse by excuse we’re putting Donald Trump above the law.”

Cheney remarked on her time working in Kenya in the mid-1990s as an election observer and seeing soldiers chasing men and women away who were attempting to vote. About an hour later, people returned, willing to risk their lives for an opportunity to vote.

She also brought up her experience with three foreign nationals who told her they were inspired by the vision for America laid out by former President Ronald Reagan. One of these meetings was with a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and went on to become the minister of defense for Finland.

“He told me that he would secretly listen to Ronald Reagan speeches at night on Finnish television,” Cheney said. “And I’ve known a man who spent years in the Soviet Gulag who, again, said it was the miracle of America and of our freedom that convinced him what was possible, convinced him what he needed to strive for.”

Conservative Core

Cheney stressed her commitment to conservative values such as limited government, low taxes and a strong national defense. 

“I believe that the family has got to be the central building block of our society,” she said. “And I share the concerns that many of us, many of you, have – justifiable concerns about radical liberalism and about ‘wokeness.’”

She mentioned a comment that a Cody mother of 11 made to her in July.

“She said to me, ‘I think you fight so hard for this country because you have a mother’s love for her,’” Cheney said. “It was such a moving and a humbling idea. And it’s one that every single one of us, whether we’re parents or not, understands. We love our country.” 

But she reiterated that standing up for conservative values does not mean giving Trump a free pass to behave irresponsibly. Cheney voted with Trump on most issues prior to the 2020 election and hasn’t expressed regret for doing so.

Cheney implored the audience to put the Constitution over short-term politics and be patriots and leaders in their defense of democracy.

“The means do not justify the ends,” she said. “This is how democracies fail.”

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Barrasso, Lummis Push For Permitting Reform To Significantly Speed-Up Infrastructure Projects

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By Kevin Killough, Energy Reporter
kevin@cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming’s congressional delegation is throwing its weight behind a permitting reform bill that, if passed, will streamline environmental permitting reviews of infrastructure projects. 

While Democrats still haven’t announced their version of a permitting reform bill, Republicans have moved forward with their own, dubbed the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency Act (START). 

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, both R-Wyoming, joined Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, in introducing the legislation which, if passed, would expedite permitting for everything from road and bridge projects to transmission lines for wind farms. 

Killing Development

In the leadup to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, struck a deal with Senate Democratic leaders.

In exchange for Manchin’s support for the IRA, he would get support for legislation that would streamline environmental reviews of infrastructure projects. 

While aimed at ensuring good stewardship of the environment, the environmental review process is long and costly, and can smoother projects in red tape.

One example of the impact the lengthy permitting process can have is Rare Element Resources. The company in 2012 initiated its permitting for a rare earth mining operation, call the Bear Lodge Project. The plan included Bull Hill Mine 12 miles north of Sundance and a processing plant near Upton to refine the ore.

The process usually takes about 10 years. By 2015, the company had secured a draft environmental impact statement from the U.S. Forest Service, one of the key steps in the long, complex process.

Randy Scott, president and CEO of Rare Element Resources, said it was a major accomplishment to get that document in hand. 

Even with that complete, the company faced potentially several more years to complete the final permits. Before that could happen, the process was brought to a halt. 

“We ran out of money and couldn’t complete the permitting process at that point,” Scott said. “So, we put the permitting activities in suspension for the period of time.”

The company continues to pursue the environmental work associated with permitting the effort. It’s now working on an associated demonstration project. 

The demonstration plant, while not at commercial scale as the company had hoped, can still prove its way of processing ore to investors, Scott said.

Processing plants are needed to extract rare earth minerals from raw mined material. Writing in Seeking Alpha, Tim Worstall, a wholesaler of rare earth metals and a global expert in the metal scandium, said these plants require capital expenditures of up to $1 billion. Securing investments in a project that expensive that also can take 10 years or more to get going isn’t easy. 

Uphill Battle

The START Act contains a number of provisions that, if passed, will streamline permitting. It includes rules passed under former President Donald Trump that were intended to reform the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. 

The bill also would grant states a more authority in permitting development projects, including those on federal lands. 

Other sections reduce the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act by shortening timelines from 90 days to 60.

“Important infrastructure, highway and energy projects across the country are being strangled by the red tape coming out of the Biden administration,” said Barrasso in a statement on the introduction of the bill. 

The bottom line is “making the permitting process easier, not harder,” Barrasso said. “Our legislation makes key reforms that will help energy and infrastructure projects get done better, faster, cheaper and smarter.”

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State GOP Censures Cale Case For ‘Unconscionable’ Effort To Challenge Chuck Gray

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

RIVERTON–The Wyoming Republican Party publicly reprimanded a State Senate leader Saturday while meeting in Riverton.

The party’s central committee voted – with one “nay” vote and one person abstaining – to censure Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, and to deny him funding and support. The move stemmed from Case’s unsuccessful attempt to recruit an Independent candidate to challenge Rep. Chuck Gray, of Casper, who is the Republican nominee for Secretary of State, in the Nov. 8 general election.

“Censuring someone is a very serious thing, but (Case’s effort) is a very serious and egregious offense,” said Dave Holland, Vice-Chairman of the party. “We’ve already said we’re not going to support (Case) because of (his) voting record; censuring is a step further, and I think it’s called for.”


State Republican Party vice-chairman Dave Holland

After Gray won the primary election to become the GOP nominee for Secretary of State, Case spearheaded an effort to recruit a “conservative” to run against Gray as an Independent.

Case’s top pick, former legislator Nathan Winters, declined to challenge Gray and asked the public to rally around Republican candidates.

Gray defeated State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, his main challenger for the Republican nomination.

Gray was at the Saturday meeting, but declined to comment to Cowboy State Daily.

‘Insular Viewpoint’

Case, a Wyoming legislator for 30 years,  was not at the meeting because he was at an inter-governmental energy conference in San Antonio.

He disputed the censure in a written statement to Cowboy State Daily, saying he has the “basic Republican values of liberty, individual responsibility, limited government, and respect for capitalism, markets and private property,” but that he disagrees with how the state party conducts itself.

“I am sorry that the Republican Central Committee has regressed to the suppression of ideas, intolerance and a lack of civility, and the punishing of mainstream Republicans who do not embrace the more extreme elements of their thinking,” said Case. He said leadership of the party in power “demonstrate(s) excess” similar to the Republican party in the 1950s McCarthy era.  

Case said Wyoming GOP leadership did not adhere to state laws about not favoring one Republican candidate over another in the primary election. The state Republican central committee allows the same number of votes per county at its meetings, regardless of county population, which Case said “favors an insular viewpoint and fearful thinking.”

Second Rodeo

The party had already committed not to give money to Case because his voting record doesn’t align enough with the party platform, said Holland at the meeting.

“We have a pattern of behavior,” said Vince Vanata, Park County Republican party state committee man. “And this pattern has been accelerating… (Are) we going to stand back and do nothing?”

Case opposes bills that would criminalize abortion, and he voted in favor of Medicaid expansion.

The state party is pro-life and opposes Medicaid expansion.

This is Case’s second censuring this year. The Fremont County Republican party formally rebuked him in May for supporting Medicaid expansion; and for writing a letter to the editor of Cowboy State Daily in which Case called the state party uncivil and exclusive.

The opinion piece was titled “Big Tent Republicans, We Need You.”

The censure also stemmed from Case’s speaking on behalf of a convicted felon, at her sentencing hearing. The felon, Rebecca Milleson, had embezzled thousands of dollars from the town of Pavillion.

Case said there were extenuating circumstances of family tragedy in her life.

Committee Condemned

The state party also voted Saturday to condemn the actions of the Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, but to excuse committee member Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, from the condemnation.

The committee last month began drafting a bill stripping the Secretary of State of oversight of Wyoming elections, and offered to create an election commission to perform these duties instead.

Scott spoke against the effort, saying voters would “rightfully feel insulted if we tried to take a major portion of the responsibilities away before the guy’s even had a chance.”

Gray in his campaign voiced doubt in the security of Wyoming’s elections, and his pledge to make them more secure.

Cheryl Aguiar, Hot Springs state committeewoman, asked the party to take out of the condemnation statement language suggesting that Gray’s own primary election was “fair and secure.”  

“The first parts of (the resolution) are saying we do believe the election was fair and secure,” said Aguiar. “So it’s kind of hypocritical – or contradictory, but it could be construed as hypocritical – to have those parts in there.”

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Campbell County Clerk Files FEC Complaint On Gillette PAC Coal Country Conservatives

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

A federal complaint has been filed against a Gillette Political Action Committee by the Campbell County clerk. The actions of this PAC have drawn frustration and outrage from local politicians and election officials in Campbell County.

The complaint was filed with the Federal Elections Commission and Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan by outgoing Campbell County Clerk Susan Saunders last week, accusing the Coal Country Conservatives PAC of shielding its own campaign finance expenditures.

“It is my professional judgment the organization of these entities and their subsequent activities can, at best, be described as a scheme to thwart transparency in a way that is deceptive to the public and may be illegal,” Saunders wrote in her complaint. “I believe these activities had a material impact on numerous races in Campbell Country’s 2022 primary election.”

Saunders requested a “swift and robust investigation” from the state and federal entities to look into the matter. 

The FEC already sent Coal Country a warning letter on Aug. 2 for failing to file its campaign expenditures from May 18-June 30, a deadline that was in early July. 

These expenditures were submitted early Thursday morning. The PAC claims it spent $102 through the end of June, all on administrative costs. All but $500 of the committee’s $1,800 raised came from an anonymous donor. 

No other reports have been filed yet for the PAC, which Saunders said she also found suspicious. 

Coal Country registered as a Wyoming business with the Secretary of State’s office, but did not register with the elections branch of the office as a political campaign to report state level expenditures.

“This question is relevant as the electioneering materials CCCPac (Coal Country) distributed lists only one federal candidate and numerous statewide, legislative, local and precinct candidates,” Saunders wrote.

Coal Country took the step of filing as a federal PAC, despite the large majority of its electioneering efforts being for state races, an unusual and legally ambiguous move. The FEC does not monitor state and local races. It is state election officials who are responsible for monitoring non-federal races.

Wyoming law requires any organization that spends more than $500 in state races to register with the Secretary of State’s office. The federally-registered Western Conservatives PAC did that this year, spending $355,133 in Wyoming elections this year.

Karen Wheeler, acting Secretary of State, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday afternoon her office has a different interpretation of one particular state law Saunders cited, providing possible indication that Coal Country did not need to register with the state. She also said there is another law that potentially conflicts with this law and her office is consulting with Attorney General Bridget Hill on the matter.

“That’s the million dollar question,” she said.

Both entities list Colleen McCabe as treasurer. Laura Cox is listed as the president of the PAC and the registered agent for the Wyoming corporation. Neither responded to requests for comment on Saunders’ complaint.

McCabe was arrested on Aug. 1 for driving under the influence of alcohol and fleeing or attempting to elude officers.

Saunders said it is not clear whether the federal version of Coal Country or the Wyoming corporation was participating in the state’s elections.

If it was solely acting as the federal version, it may be using the lack of federal surveillance as a way to cloak its state-level expenditures. If the Wyoming business version of Coal Country was taking part in state elections, it failed to register as a political committee and report its campaign spending, which was due in mid-August.

Coordination?

Wyoming and federal law forbids PACs from directly coordinating with candidates or to each other through third party intermediaries. Saunders also wants investigators to find out if Coal Country coordinated directly with candidates.

State Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, said he suspects the organization was coordinating with numerous candidates. The organization endorsed candidates all the way down to the Republican Party precinct committee member level.

This summer, Campbell Deputy County Clerk Kendra Anderson attended a showing of election conspiracy movie “2000 Mules” hosted by State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, during his Secretary of State campaign. During the event, Anderson said Cox was on stage, handing out cards from the PAC’s “Campbell County Conservative Voter Guide.” If this account is true, these actions are legally dubious at best.

These cards were also mailed out to Campbell County residences during the campaign. The PAC advocated for a slate of highly conservative candidates, including Gray and Anderson’s opponent Cindy Lovelace, who ended up winning the primary election.

Anderson said Cox promoted at the event how they picked their favorite candidates based on a questionnaire sent out to candidates, a document she never received. Despite endorsing Lovelace, Anderson said Cox told her they only sent the questionnaire to candidates who make policy decisions. 

Rusty Bell, a Campbell County commissioner who ran for State House, said he received a questionnaire from Cox, an individual he said he had never heard of before. He passed by her house shortly after and saw a sign already up for his opponent, Abby Angelos.

“I saw this person was already supporting my opponent so what’s the point?” Bell said as his reason for not filling out the questionaire. He also said the questionnaire was riddled with many “leading questions.”

Angelos and many of the other candidates Coal Country endorsed won their respective races. 

“I’m glad the clerk made the complaint,” Bell said. “There’s questions to be asked.

“This stuff will continue to get worse if we allow it to. We can’t have confidence in our elections if they’re not really fair elections.”

Bell suspects an individual other than Cox is running Coal Country. State Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, said on the Wake Up Wyoming with Vic Wright Show on Friday, he suspects a Wyoming legislator is behind the campaign. Coal Country endorsed one of Fortner’s opponents, Roger Connett.

Their only public donor so far is Barbara Luthy, a prominent member of the local “John Patriot” and Campbell County Grassroot Conservatives organizations. Susan Sisti, another member of both these organizations, makes reference to handing out “conservative voter guides” in a July 4 Facebook post. Sisti’s husband was endorsed by Coal Country in his bid for Gillette City Council.

Influence

Anderson said there were countless people seen with the voter guide cards when they came to vote in the primary. She said she finds it ironic that Coal Country has promoted candidates standing up for election integrity as she finds it unethical to tell people who they should vote for.

“They scream election integrity but they tell people how to vote, how is that election integrity? she asked. 

Bell found it unethical that Cox signed up to be an election judge while allegedly running the PAC.

“Not knowing the law is not a good excuse either, it doesn’t look good,” he said.

One voter guide mailed out by Coal Country was misconstrued by some as sent out by the Campbell County Republican Party. This prompted a formal notice from the county party that it did not produce these mailers. State law prevents political parties from endorsing individual candidates during the primary election. The party later put out their own mailers listing every Republican candidate running in the primary.

Write-in candidate Patricia Junek was endorsed by Coal Country in her campaign against Barlow and lost. Junek is now registered as an Independent to run against Barlow in the general election.

Barlow said he found it telling that Junek received more than 800 votes as a write-in candidate, as proof of Coal Country’s influence on the primary elections.

“It’s a trojan horse waltzing through the black hole of dark money,” he said.

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State GOP Votes Not To Recognize Independents; Independent Candidate Says That’s OK

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily 
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com 

RIVERTON – The Wyoming Republican Party will not recognize or support Independent candidates in the general election, whether they identify as Republicans or not.  

Meeting in Riverton on Saturday, the party’s central committee approved a motion against endorsing or funding Independent general-election candidates, regardless of the candidates’ ideology.   

Several conservative candidates in Wyoming are running in the upcoming general election against Republican nominees, due to policy differences in the party.  

“They (the Independents) still want to retain their membership in the Republican party,” said Karl Allred, Uinta County GOP state committeeman, during the meeting. “But I just have this feeling that if you’re going to run as an Independent, that means you’re Independent of the party – get the hell out of the party.”   

Four tables away sat Jeff Martin, a Republican running as an Independent candidate for Wyoming House District 54, in Lander.  

Martin, who is challenging Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, for the House seat, told Cowboy State Daily that he approved of the resolution.   

Martin said although he won’t receive party support this election season, he believes himself to be more of a Republican, ideologically, than Larsen his opponent.   

“This is a situation where we have a Republican House member voting 30% for his party and 70% for Democratic or liberal views,” he said. “These Republicans that are coming in and taking over the party – they’re not true Republicans.”   

Larsen told Cowboy State Daily in an email that he has been far more involved with Republican issues than Martin has.   

“Mr. Martin has the right to run for political office representing whichever party he chooses,” said Larsen, “but (he) has failed to attend or participate in any previous Republican sponsored event in the 10 years I have been in the Legislature, where we discuss party issues at hand.”  

Larsen said Martin has not contacted him to voice concerns as a constituent.   

“He could have run against me as a Republican in the primary (election) but chose not to,” said Larsen. “Now while running as an Independent, his suggestion I am not a real Republican just doesn’t hold much credibility from my perspective.”   

Larsen said that during his membership on the House Appropriations Committee, the Legislature has prepared and passed budgets “that have resulted in a reduction of the size of government, and (a) budget smaller than we had in 2010, with inflation included in the calculation, while protecting services to vulnerable populations.”   

Larsen called the achievement “deeply embedded” in Republican values.    

‘People I Like Very Well’  

Martin told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday that he was not at the party meeting in the hopes of receiving funding or seeing funding denied to Larsen.   

He said he was at the meeting, rather, “to get to know better people that I like very well, and to get a feel for how the system works.”   

He thinks of himself as a newcomer with a need to learn and observe.   

“I’m excited to possibly push out one of these people that say they’re Republican when they’re not,” Martin added.   

Martin said his top legislative priority is property tax reform, since an influx of well-funded people moving to the state in recent years coupled with a nationwide housing market value increase have driven Wyoming property taxes up. 

Larsen said property tax reform is a priority for the whole Legislature right now, but it should be done with care, as property taxes covered the $150 million deficit in school funding that had at first to be supplemented with funding from the state’s savings account.   

Wyoming is constitutionally obligated to fund its schools to equal standards regardless of region, which often drives school costs up.   

Medicaid Expansion  

Martin is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and against Medicaid expansion, he said.   

Larsen is also pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. He voted to enact the trigger ban, now paused in court, which would have outlawed most abortions in Wyoming following the U.S. Supreme Court overturn of Roe vs. Wade. He has an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association.   

But the two men differ on Medicaid expansion.   

Martin, in between events at the State GOP meeting, said he would comment on his reasoning against Medicaid expansion at a later time.   

Larsen in an email said he at first voted against Medicaid Expansion. But he changed his mind as the legal landscape changed. U.S. Supreme Court actions declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional and ruled that states could not mandate it. This generated a hole in states like Wyoming, which haven’t expanded Medicaid. In that gap, he said, are people who can’t afford health insurance, can’t qualify for assistance through the insurance exchange and are not eligible for Medicaid.

“Women make up the majority of this group,” said Larsen. “They are left to go without health care or go to the emergency room and leave the hospital to absorb the cost – which then is passed onto the rest of (the hospital) patients with higher costs.”   

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Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan Delivers Resignation Letter To Governor

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan submitted his resignation letter on Thursday to Gov. Mark Gordon, bringing an official end to his more than four-year term.  

Although he originally said he would run for a second term, Buchanan accepted a district court judgeship in Goshen County this summer, a job he begins Monday. 

Buchanan told Cowboy State Daily he found the Republican primary race to replace him “disappointing” due to the rampant misinformation spread, but he took the high road in his resignation letter. 

“I am specifically grateful to the professional staff at the Secretary of State’s office,” Buchanan wrote. “They have been tremendous in helping me fulfill my duties as Secretary of State. Together, we have implemented new systems and processes that make us the envy of the nation.” 

In 2018, the department implemented new physical and cyber security protocols and introduced new voting equipment. An audit conducted by his office during the August primary election came back clean with no issues of fraud or other irregularities.  

“I would also like to acknowledge how much I value each of Wyoming’s 23 county clerks,” Buchanan wrote.  

Buchanan has been adamant on multiple occasions that it is the state’s county clerks, not he, who run the state’s elections. 

“Together, we have been working on the 2022 elections since early in the year, and just like the 2022 primary election, the 2022 general election is ready and primed for success,” he wrote. 

Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne and other leading members of the party implored Buchanan to stay on the job through the end of the general election process. Although he said he was flattered by this request, Buchanan said it is the staff members of his office and the county clerks who will ensure the election runs smoothly and that he could not postpone his judicial duties any longer. 

On Sept. 24, the State GOP plans to meet and select three interim Secretary of State candidates for Gordon to choose from. Application packages must be submitted to the party by Wednesday. 

Buchanan also complimented his office for growing revenue by 35% during his tenure, an amount eight times the department’s budget. 

He also complimented the state’s top elected officials, Gordon, State Treasurer Curt Meier, State Auditor Kristi Racines and Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, for their work. Buchanan served with these individuals on the State Loan and Investment Board. 

“Working together, we have fulfilled our collective goal of strengthening our communities and improving citizens’ lives,” Buchanan wrote. “A sincere thank you to each one of you, for your kindness and civility over the years, even when our votes did not align on a particular issue.” 

In his final words as Secretary of State, Buchanan thanked the people of Wyoming. After being appointed to the position in early 2018, Buchanan was elected by the voters later that fall. 

“It is an honor and privilege to serve as your Secretary of State and to continue my service to you as a member of the judiciary.”

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State GOP To Select Secretary of State Candidates On Sept. 24

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The Wyoming Republican Party announced when it will convene to select interim Secretary of State Candidates

In nine days, the Wyoming Republican Party will help choose the next Secretary of State, albeit a temporary replacement. 

On Wednesday, GOP State Chairman Frank Eathorne announced the party will convene on Sept. 25 to select a pool of three possible Secretary of State candidates.  Gov. Mark Gordon is to then choose one of those picks to be the interim Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan has delivered his official resignation and said his last day is Thursday. Buchanan has accepted the role of a judgeship in Goshen County. 

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in August, is running unopposed in the general election. Because the term he was elected for is still active through the end of the year, the Wyoming Constitution deems him ineligible to be appointed to the Secretary of State role. 

The individual appointed will serve through the end of the year and oversee the upcoming general election. The winner of the general election for Secretary of State will take over in January. 

Although the GOP is hosting a State Central Committee meeting in Riverton this weekend, it cannot engage the Secretary of State selection process because 10 days of public notice is required between the publishing of an announcement and the advertised meeting.  

The party will meet at 1 p.m. next Saturday at the Wind River Recreation Center in Pavillion.  

Fremont County GOP Chairman Ginger Bennett said the “economy of scale of time” related to the relatively central location of Pavilion within the state was the reason for Fremont County getting to host two different meetings within two weeks.   

After the party hands off its selections, Gordon will have five days to choose a candidate. 

The same appointment process was engaged in January to appoint a Superintendent of Public Instruction, which sparked a lawsuit from 16 plaintiffs across the state, including former State GOP Chairman and state legislator Tom Lubnau. The plaintiffs claimed the voting process taken to select the candidates violated the Wyoming and federal Constitution rule of “one person-one vote,” by allowing each county party the same three votes.  

The lawsuit was quickly dismissed in court.  

Lubnau said he and the prior plaintiffs do not plan to file another lawsuit if the same process of tallying votes takes place.

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Defeated Goshen County GOP Legislator Backs Independent Over GOP Candidate That Beat Her

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

State Rep. Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, may have lost her Republican primary race for reelection in House District 5, but she isn’t done campaigning against her former opponent Scott Smith. 

Duncan is supporting Independent candidate Todd Peterson, who is running against Smith in the general election. 

She said she’s backing him because she believes Peterson has a better connection to the Goshen County community and adheres to a platform closer to her values. 

“He’s an old-school Republican,” Duncan said, “a true conservative.” 

Duncan said Peterson didn’t run in the primary election because he didn’t want to run against her. She said he is now running out of concern for Goshen County’s representation at the State Capitol. 

Peterson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Peterson was the president of the Pinnacle Bank in Torrington until 2021 and worked in banking for 43 years. He is a board member with Goshen Economic Development and serves on the Wyoming Lottery Commission, Eastern Wyoming College Foundation Board, St. Joseph’s Board, and is a past President of the Torrington Rotary International Club. 

Duncan said Peterson also has a strong background in agriculture, one of the most prominent industries in Goshen County. 

“I’ve known Todd for years- that’s why I’m behind Todd,” said Duncan. “I know he’ll represent Goshen County.” 

Smith moved to Wyoming 10 years ago after serving as a missionary teacher in an orphanage in Honduras. He received endorsements from Gun Owners of America and Wyoming Right To Life, and has aligned himself with some of the more conservative candidates in Wyoming like Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, who is the pastor at the church Smith attends. Smith said he doesn’t believe the State Legislature represents the conservative nature of Wyoming constituents. 

“I lost to someone who has only lived here for a short period and doesn’t have much involvement in the community,” Duncan said. 

Smith said he sees Duncan’s support for his new opponent as an example of “cancel culture.” 

“We had a majority of people turn out, voice their opinion on who they wanted to represent them, and we have a minority group who didn’t like the will of the majority and wanted to cancel out their vote,” he said in a Tuesday email. “I fully support the people and will continue to work hard to not have their voice canceled.” 

Electioneering 

Smith is one of four Republicans in Southeast Wyoming facing an Independent candidate in the general election. To run as an Independent in Wyoming for a countywide seat, a candidate must obtain signatures in an amount equal or greater than 2% of the total votes cast in the previous U.S. Congress general election in their respective county.  

Duncan was originally listed as Peterson’s treasurer in his initial campaign filing, but she said that was only because she helped him set up a campaign finance account with the Secretary of State’s office. 

“I only did that because I have four years experience in setting these up and navigating the Secretary of State’s website,” Duncan said. “It’s a pretty daunting task, but for me, it only takes about five minutes.” 

Now, Wally Wolski is his treasurer.  

Duncan believes Peterson can beat Smith with the help of Libertarians and Democrats who either voted for other candidates in the primary or didn’t vote in her race. She said she has extensive experience working with Peterson as an active member of the community who gave her insight to various bills she worked on at the Legislature. 

Smith said he didn’t expect Duncan to take this route.

“I am not bothered but am surprised by the incumbent’s choices to not fully support the Republican Party nominee,” Smith said. “If the people have spoken and made a choice, why not support that candidate?”

Traditionally, a losing candidate in the primary election will back the winner of their race in the general election as a showing of solidarity within their party. 

Duncan and other Republican members of the Legislature like Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, have become targets within GOP circles for allegedly not voting conservative enough. Case is facing a possible censure from the party this weekend for his efforts to recruit an Independent candidate to run against Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, for Secretary of State in the general election. He’s also faced criticism for voting to approve a draft bill to strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections.   

True Conservative Or New Conservative? 

What does and does not make a “conservative” and “Republican” has been a topic of fierce debate in Wyoming in recent years, with many members of the Wyoming Republican Party railing against establishment members of the party and certain veteran members of the Legislature, in preference for newer candidates lacking extensive political experience. Many efforts from the new wing of the party have conflicted with traditional Republican norms of local control and a fiscally based focus. 

“Last summer, Duncan did sign a pledge to support two bills the Wyoming Republican Party was backing, but said she did so under duress, with prominent members of the party on hand when she said she was pressured to do so. Smith has signed a pledge to adhere to the State GOP platform at least 80% of the time, which he has promoted throughout his campaign.

Duncan lost to Smith by 248 votes in the primary. There were at least 142 people who participated in the Democratic primary from Goshen County who now have the opportunity to vote in the general election. There were also 111 people who voted but did not vote in the HD 5 race, and 10 write-in votes cast for the HD 5 race.  

“It all comes down to how many people turn out,” Duncan said. 

In order to get on the ballot, Peterson had to obtain at least 122 signatures from local electors.  

Duncan said the primary campaign was the “nastiest and ugliest campaign” she had ever seen locally, with significant misinformation spread about her votes on bills. Specifically, she was accused of not being pro-life on abortion despite voting to support the trigger ban, a bill that made nearly all abortions illegal in Wyoming as soon as Roe v. Wade was overturned. She was also criticized for not initially supporting the special session called last year to handle COVID-19 restrictions.  

“I was not going to say yes to an open-ended special session for Covid…when we’re having to spend more than $30,000 a day without parameters in place,” she said. “That’s like signing a blank check.” 

Duncan later voted to support the special session when guidelines were put in place for its length and other details. 

She said this and other faulty critiques were levied against her based on procedural votes that did not pertain to the context of bills themselves. Duncan said the Wyoming Stockmen For Liberty, a political action committee opposing her, purposely parked a promotional vehicle in front her office for nine hours one particular day. 

Western Conservatives, a Colorado-based PAC backed Duncan in her campaign, despite Duncan speaking out against the group’s attacks on Smith. 

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Wyoming GOP Will Not Make Secretary Of State Picks This Weekend

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Any appointment of an interim Secretary of State in Wyoming will have to wait until at least late this month. 

With Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announcing he will step down on Thursday, the Wyoming Republican Party must choose candidates for the governor to select an appointed candidate from.

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the Republican nomination for this role in the August primary, is not eligible for appointment because he is currently serving an active term in the legislature.

Corey Steinmetz, Wyoming Republican Party national committeeman, said due to public notice requirements, the party will have to call a special meeting to select three finalists for Gov. Mark Gordon to choose a temporary Secretary of State from. 

“There’s probably no way we can have it until the end of the month,” Steinmetz said. 

Buchanan has said he will not submit his official resignation letter until his last day in office on Thursday. The GOP must wait until Buchanan submits his resignation letter before it can initiate the process of finding a replacement for him. 

The Republican Party’s Central Committee is meeting this weekend in Riverton, but due to the time period between Buchanan’s expected announcement and the convening of this meeting on Friday, cannot legally proceed with selecting candidates until giving at least 10 days of public notice. 

These meetings require some party members to drive many hours and pay for lodging, food and other miscellaneous costs.  

If Buchanan gives his resignation on Thursday, the party will have until Sept. 30 to convene a special meeting. 

Buchanan is leaving his post to take a district court judge position in Goshen County. 

Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming GOP, wrote a letter to Buchanan earlier this month, requesting he stay on the job through the general election. 

Buchanan said he will not adhere to this request.  He said county clerks do most of the work in running the state’s elections and are good at it.  Buchanan said the judgeship needs to be filled.  It has been vacant since Aug. 3. 

“It’s pretty tragic but…I definitely have respect for Secretary Buchanan and sometimes that’s just the way things work,” Steinmetz said. 

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Wyoming GOP To Vote On Censuring Cale Case And Corporations Committee 

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily

The Wyoming Republican Party will consider censuring one of the state’s most prominent legislators at its State Central Committee meeting this weekend.  

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, has become a target of the party for allegedly voting and acting contrary to Republican Party values. The party now may ask him to no longer identify himself as a Republican.  

“Our problem stems primarily from individuals who identify as Republican yet vote and act contrary to the platform of the Wyoming Republican Party,” the letter circulated within the party said. 

The letter later went on to say that Case’s actions were the “proverbial straw which breaks the camel’s back.”

Case, a veteran legislator who has both moderate and staunchly conservative views, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday he has no plans to change his party registration or alter his voting. He also said he’s not sure he would be welcomed at the State Central Committee meeting if he attended. 

“I’m really happy they thought of me,” Case joked. “No, I’m not trying to minimize their letter. They’re not happy with me. It’s an expression of displeasure.” 

The letter says the purpose of the party is to recruit new members and further the GOP platform. It threatens to not recognize Case as a Republican and withhold financial and other mechanisms of support for him in future elections. The letter also requests Case to change his party affiliation or not register with any party.   

Case was part of a recent effort to recruit an Independent candidate to run against State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, for Secretary of State in the general election. Gray won the Republican nomination for this position in August. 

Case said multiple times he was looking for a conservative candidate who would run under the Independent banner. 

This effort failed as he and others were not able to find a candidate before the third party candidate filing deadline. 

Case was also one of the members of the State Legislature’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee that recently voted to approve a draft bill to strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections.  

“Your recent attacks upon the duly elected winner of the Republican primary election for the Office of Secretary of State coupled with your guest column in the press are not consistent with the message of party unity,” the letter said. “The idea that an elected “Republican” would undermine the will of the Republican voters of this state is beyond the pale.” 

The letter accuses Case of abusing his power and position. 

“While you certainly have every individual right to support whomever you wish to in your individual capacity it is universally understood, as Republicans, we support or do not undermine the Republican winners of the primary race.”

Case said this message is hypocritical as he said the party openly opposed and supported certain Republican candidates during the primary election cycle. State elections law forbids political parties from campaigning for a particular candidate during the primary election. 

The State GOP issued negative verbiage about U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney throughout the Republican U.S. Congressional campaign and the Park County Republican Party did not link to Cheney’s website or provide information about her campaign on its website. The only campaign listed on the county party’s website is for her opponent Harrient Hageman.  

“They weren’t being unbiased in the primary,” Case said. “We have to be more inclusive.” 

This letter has been endorsed by the Park County Republican Party and was approved on Aug. 29 for consideration at the upcoming Central Committee meeting.

Chagrin 

Case said the Wyoming GOP doesn’t represent the “mainstream” views of the party.  

In the recent primary election, many incumbent, establishment Republicans were voted out of the State Legislature. At a federal level, Cheney lost to Hageman by about 38% of the vote in the primary. 

Case was censured by the Fremont County Republican Party in May, which accused him of no longer representing the people he governs. In April, Case wrote an op-ed for Cowboy State Daily, issuing a rallying cry to establishment Republicans, a minority faction of the party that has a turbulent relationship with current party leadership.  

Even though the Central Committee meeting is taking place near his home in Riverton, Case said he will be out-of-state this weekend and unable to attend. He said no one has reached out to him personally from the party to give him a chance to respond.  

The State GOP is set to consider a separate resolution this weekend against the Corporations committee for furthering the draft bill to strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections and form a nonpartisan elections commission. This resolution stems from a censure passed in Park County on Sept. 1. 

Park County GOP has been a bellwether for many state-level censures, the first county to censure Cheney last year. This censure was followed around the state and nation, for her role opposing former President Donald Trump. 

“The Park County Republican Party condemns the recent effort of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee to remove the elections duties of the Secretary of State by creating an elections commission,” the Park County Resolution read. 

If passed into law, the bill would establish a nonpartisan elections commission to oversee state elections. The Secretary of State would take part in helping nominate candidates for this panel as a member of the State Canvassing Board. Gray’s election was one of the main reasons given for establishing the commission.  

A censure holds no legal bearing and is a formal reprimand. The Wyoming Republican Party censured Cheney last year, a move that was followed by the Republican National Committee, refusing to recognize her as a Republican.

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Hageman Will Not Participate In Any General Election Debates 

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If you want a chance to see Republican congressional candidate Harriet Hageman debate again before the general election, you’ll have to watch an archived version from the primary election. 

Hageman on Monday said that she will not be participating in any future debates during the general election. 

Hageman campaign manager Carly Miller told Cowboy State Daily that Hageman has traveled over 40,000 miles in the last few months, has spoken with thousands of voters and that’s a more effective way of meeting with Wyoming citizens. 

“This is a much more effective way of communicating with Wyomingites and it’s how she will continue. We thank you for your invitation, but respectfully decline,” Miller told Wyoming PBS in rejecting the offer to participate in an upcoming debate.

That news is a disappointment to Constitution candidate Marissa Selvig. Selvig told Cowboy State Daily that the “election isn’t over” and Wyoming citizens should be able to see the candidates ‘side by side’ to see how they “interact with people who aren’t in their own party.” 

“How people respond under pressure to a wide variety of differing opinions is an important thing for people to observe,” Selvig said. 

Public Affairs Senior Producer Steve Peck said in an email to Selvig that Hageman’s decision not to appear was “unfortunate” but said the debate will go on without Hageman.

He said Wyoming PBS will host Selvig, Lynnette GreyBull, and Richard Brubaker on Thursday, October 13 at the Robert A. Peck Art Center Theater in Riverton at  8 p.m.

Hageman is the overwhelming favorite to win the November election. She toppled current Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney by more than a two-to-one margin. 

“Hageman slaughtered Cheney by an astonishing number,” wrote Cowboy State Daily columnist Bill Sniffin. “The vote was 113,025 for Hageman compared to just 49,316 for Cheney. It was a blow-out of gigantic proportions.” 

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Poll: Americans Think Biden Speech Divisive, But Right About Trump, MAGA GOP Threat 

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By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily
Coy@CowboyStateDaily.com 

In Wyoming, a GOP haven, many voters support former President Trump and his Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement.  President Joe Biden in a recent speech condemned Trump and these supporters.  A recent nation-wide poll suggests most people agree with Biden. 

However, the same poll also found that people were concerned Biden’s Philadelphia speech was throwing fuel on the fire, divisive.  

A separate nationwide poll from a consulting agency found that most Americans thought Biden’s speech was dangerous. 

Reuters/Ipsos took its poll Sept. 7.  It asked people about Biden’s Sept. 1 Philadelphia speech in which he sharply attacked Trump and all Republicans who subscribe to the MAGA agenda. Biden said this group questions the outcome of the 2020 election, which makes these folks a threat to democracy and the country. 

The Reuters/Ipsos survey found more than 6 in 10 Americans think that Trump and his MAGA supporters are a threat to the country. 

A Reuters news story by Jason Lange on the agency’s poll said it “found a majority of Americans believe Trump’s movement is undermining democracy.”  

“Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the two-day poll – including one in four Republicans – said Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ movement is threatening America’s democratic foundations,” Lange wrote.  

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online nationwide with responses from 1,003 adults with 14 more Democrats than Republicans.  

However, 59% percent of respondents said Biden’s speech will further divide the country, Lange wrote. But just about half of respondents said they didn’t watch or follow the speech at all.

The Trafalgar Group also conducted a survey regarding Biden’s speech condemning Trump and his supporters.  This nation-wide survey of 1,084 likely general election voters found most Americans believe that Biden, in giving such a speech, is himself a threat to the country. 

Almost 57% of respondents to the Trafalgar Group poll said Biden’s speech  “…represents a dangerous escalation in rhetoric and is designed to incite conflict amongst Americans.” 

About 35% of those responding to the Trafalgar poll said Biden’s speech was “acceptable campaign messaging that is to be expected in an election year.” 

 Different news outlets focused on different parts of the same Reuters Poll.    

The New York Post led with “…Biden’s attack on Trump, MAGA will further divide US.” The Rolling Stone focused on the 25% of Republican respondents who agreed that Trump and some other Republicans were a threat to the country.  

In reporting about its poll, Reuters also started with the results indicating a majority of Americans believe Biden’s fiery attack speech that said “Trump’s movement is undermining democracy.”

In the August primary election, Wyoming voters elected candidates who have questioned the outcome of the 2020 election.  Trump won a larger share of support in Wyoming in 2020 than in any other state.  This year, Wyoming gave Biden his lowest job approval rating in the country, according a Morning Consult Political Intelligence survey.

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Sec. State Ed Buchanan Wishes Chuck Gray Well, Despite ‘Disappointing’ Campaign 

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Although the Secretary of State’s role in Wyoming has not historically drawn much attention, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan has overseen a more high-profile tenure. 

“If anybody wants to measure success, you look at how much enrichment you received in your life and how much did you teach to others,” Buchanan said. “This job has enriched my life greatly. 

“What an amazing treasure it’s been.” 

The security of the state’s elections was rarely questioned until recent years. In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, supporters of former President Donald Trump rallied around Trump’s claims that the election was stolen, rigged and rife with voter fraud. 

Although Trump won Wyoming by a larger margin than any other state, his claims of fraud were extended to the state. This rhetoric heightened during this year’s Republican primary race for Secretary of State, as winning candidate State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, promoted the idea that Wyoming’s elections are not secure enough and that cases of voter fraud are left unprosecuted in the state. 

Buchanan said he found this rhetoric “disappointing” and an example of political campaigning gone too far. He said “words and phrases” were used during the campaign that “do not apply to the state of Wyoming.” 

“It was obviously disappointing because I went to great effort to teach people about it (election security) and we have a candidate who uses too much rhetoric and instills unnecessary fear in the public,” Buchanan said. “It was disheartening to see someone effectively expressing, in effect, disinformation and outright lies told about elections in Wyoming.” 

“Candidates often play fast and loose with the things they say but if you’re not being truthful, you still have a responsibility to be accurate,” Buchanan said in a Thursday morning interview with Cowboy State Daily. 

One of the Secretary of State’s main duties is overseeing the state’s elections. Buchanan said this involves offering a broader policy vision for the public, but it is the state’s 23 county clerks who run Wyoming elections. 

Buchanan’s faith in the state’s elections has never wavered. This summer, he traveled the state, hosting presentations where he explained the election processes and laws in Wyoming and brought in staff from Election Systems and Software to explain how its voting machines work. 

Election fraud was a topic in campaigns leading up to the August primary, but there were no major setbacks or claims of irregularities or fraud. The Secretary of State’s office performed an audit of randomly selected ballots on election night and no issues were reported. 

Next Up 

Gray has no opponent in the general election and is expected to be the next Secretary of State. Shortly after his election, two high-ranking officials in the Secretary of State’s office said they were either leaving or planning to leave their positions.  

Buchanan said Gray has “a lot of work to do” to gain the backing of his employees, but it’s not an impossible task.  

“Candidates for political office have to choose words carefully when campaigning,” Buchanan said. “If they are not careful, they have work to do on the back end.” 

Elections have come under greater scrutiny during Buchanan’s watch, but he has remained steadfast in his belief that they are secure. His replacement ran successfully on a mostly opposite opinion.  

“No matter who won that race, I want them to be successful,” Buchanan said. 

Since taking over the office, Buchanan said he has tried to lead with a listening-first approach. 

“Anybody elected to an office should listen,” he said. “Anybody that does that can be successful.”  

He has also made an effort to learn as much as possible. Although Buchanan has an extensive background working as an attorney and in politics, he had never directly worked in elections before being appointed to the Secretary of State job by former Gov. Matt Mead in March 2018. 

The Secretary of State has many other responsibilities besides elections. They also serve as a member of the State Loan and Investments Board, a body charged with making critical financial decisions for the state.  Another duty is approving charter schools that want to open in Wyoming. 

“I’ve learned about the state’s business division,” Buchanan said. “I’ve learned so much about elections from my staff and the 23 county clerks.” 

The Secretary of State is also responsible for all corporate formations and serves as a regulatory body for securities exchanges in the state.  

Buchanan said the biggest challenge his office faces looking forward is the need to modernize and provide more services for the public online. Buchanan also wants his staff to have greater ability to enforce limited liability corporation and campaign finance laws. 

Gray has said he wants to look at making Wyoming’s limited liability corporation and trust laws stricter to prevent foreign oligarchs from using the state as a tax haven. Buchanan said he believes this activity is extremely limited. 

“Like everything, it is always a balancing act between free enterprise and appropriate government regulation,” he said. “It’s because of the freedoms we enjoy that we try to have the least burdensome laws.” 

Transition 

Although Buchanan initially signaled he would run for reelection, he pulled back from this commitment in May to apply for a district court judgeship in Torrington. Buchanan was chosen by Gov. Mark Gordon in July for the job. 

Buchanan said he considers being a judge the quintessential capstone to his career. 

“I love to have the opportunity with being a judge to be studying law, examining the law,” he said.  

In many ways, becoming a judge is a full circle moment for Buchanan. 

Buchanan’s life has been defined by the law, politics and aviation. He served as an officer in the Air Force from 1990-1994 and later earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Wyoming in 1998. 

He served in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 2003-2013, rising to the role of House Speaker by the end of his career there. 

“Next to my family, serving in the Legislature and as Secretary of State has been a highlight of a lifetime,” Buchanan said. 

But his preference to be a judge has been clear since he applied to be a circuit court judge in Goshen County in May 2019 — barely six months after he was elected to his first full term as Secretary of State 

Buchanan has said his last day on the job will be on Sept. 15.  

Wyoming law dictates that the governor must appoint an interim Secretary of State. The State GOP chooses three finalists for Gordon to choose from. 

Only a resignation letter from Buchanan can officially start this process, which Buchanan said he’ll deliver on his last day in office. 

Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, in a recent letter complimented Buchanan for his work, and implored him to stay on the job through the November general election. 

“The best candidates have a job they must wrap up before they can move on to a new position,” Eathorne wrote. “Gov. Gordon knew this when he selected you and the courts will manage if you need to remain in your current role until general election canvassing is complete.” 

Buchanan said although this request is flattering, he reiterated that it’s the county clerks and his staff that do the bulk of the work during the election. 

“If anyone bothers to read the law, it’s the county clerks that are running elections,” he said. ““Wyoming people need to rest assured they will get an election just as great without me.” 

He also said there has been a scramble trying to fill the Eighth Judicial District Court role since former Judge Patrick Korell stepped down on Aug. 2, with a rotating cast of retired judges and other actively-serving judges from around the state filling in the gap. 

“The reason I’ve worked this long is I wanted to find a good moment for a transition,” Buchanan said. He said he found mid-September the best time for a departure, with State Loan and Investment Board hosting a meeting on Sept. 14, its last meeting until early October. “I’m trying to balance the needs of elections and the judicial branches.” 

At First, No One Signed Up To Run For Mayor In Frannie, Wyoming – Now It’s A Race

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The race for Frannie town mayor has taken some unexpected twists and turns, especially when considering no one entered it at the start.  Now two men are committed to a head-to-head showdown in what was previously Wyoming’s sleepiest mayoral race.

Since nobody signed up to run for mayor in Frannie, a town of nearly 150 in northwest Wyoming, the Big Horn County Canvassing Board had to rely on write-in candidates to find a possible candidate from the primary election. 

When all 26 votes were counted, current Mayor Vance Peregoy came out on top with eight votes. In a close second was town council member Steven Richardson with seven. Both candidates received enough votes to be considered qualified candidates for the general election. 

Frannie Town Clerk Deidre Clendenen confirmed both Peregoy and Richardson have said they will now run in the general election, creating an exciting head-to-head showdown in what was previously Wyoming’s sleepiest mayoral race. 

“I figured I might as well, somebody’s got to,” Peregoy said. “It makes you feel good to have people nominate you.” 

Someone’s Gotta Do It 

Peregoy has been mayor of Frannie for 12 years. Clendenen has also been with the town for a dozen years and said she had never seen a mayor race play out like this, although there have been a few vacant town council races. There is currently an open seat on the town’s four-member council.  

In the 2018 general election, 50 people cast ballots in the Frannie mayor’s race. Although this turnout is lower than most elementary school’s student council elections, it’s respectable considering the town’s overall population. 

Peregoy said being mayor of Frannie isn’t too strenuous but even in a town as small as his, he still must deal with governmental bureaucracy. 

“You have to wade through all the government red tape with every damn thing you do,” he said. 

Peregoy’s duties include overseeing the town’s employees and approving all town expenditures and projects. He said most residents of Frannie are either retirees or young families, dealing with the same issues afflicting many Americans- inflation, increasing costs of gas and basic services.  

During one town council meeting in 2021, Peregoy had to break the news that the town couldn’t afford to purchase its own $10,800 street sweeper. To save costs, Clendenen only works four days a week in the summer. 

Most prominent of the challenges facing “the biggest little town in Wyoming,” he said, is keeping down the cost of trash and water.  

“You try to keep expenses down for the town’s people,” he said. 

Peregoy said he held back from running for a fourth term to give someone else a chance to be mayor. He did something similar in 2018 but signed up to run on the last day of the filing period upon discovering nobody had signed up. 

When asked about differences that separate him and Richardson, Peregoy said, “I’m not going to get into that.” 

Richardson, a relatively new resident who joined the town council in 2021, did not return a request for comment. 

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Wyoming General Election To See The Most Third-Party Candidates In 100 Years

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

This year’s general election in Wyoming will have the most third-party candidates to run in the state than any time in the last 100 years. One would have to go back to the World War I era of Wyoming politics, a time when the Socialist and Progressive political parties held a legitimate coalition of voters in the state, to find a time when there were more third-party candidates.  

There are 20 minor party candidates running in Wyoming’s statewide elections this November. Richard Winger, a San Francisco-based political scientist with Ballot Access News, confirmed that it is the most minor party candidates to run in Wyoming since prior to 1920. 

The majority of this year’s third-party candidates are running as Libertarians. 

One of the most competitive is Libertarian Bethany Baldes, a Riverton resident running against Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, in House District 55. Baldes is a well-known member of the Riverton community and lost to Oakley by 52 votes in 2020. In 2018, she lost to Republican David Miller by 53 votes. 

Baldes’ husband Jared Baldes is running for governor as a Libertarian, while her father Richard Brubaker is running for U.S. Congress as a Libertarian. 

“I think it’s wonderful,” Jared Baldes said. “Nothing is more important than for the voters to have choices in their elections. In Wyoming, there’s not a lot of choices outside the primary elections.” 

Jared Baldes said the U.S. needs to move away from its current two-party dominated system. 

“You have right wing, left wing, but it’s all the same bird,” he said. 

The Libertarian Party has had a presence in Wyoming for many years. In February, the party became an official minority party in the State Legislature for the first time when State Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, announced that freshman Libertarian Rep. Marshall Burt, L-Green River, had been appointed to the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee.  

Burt will take on Republican challenger Cody Wylie. 

One Libertarian who may also compete well in the general election is Rock Springs Misty Morris, running against Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs. Stith is one of the more moderate Republican legislators in the state. 

Morris previously owned a gun shop in Rock Springs. She received $500 from a political action committee that was mostly funded by Wyoming State Treasurer Curt Meier. This PAC gave money to a slate of staunchly conservative candidates.  

There are seven Independents running in the state-level races. To get their name on the ballot, these candidates had to obtain a certain number of signatures from electors in their district. 

Independent candidate Patricia Junek already ran against State Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, in the Republican primary as a write-in candidate for State Senate 23. She lost by 2,541 votes but will now get a second shot at the incumbent legislator with her name on the ballot.  

Jared Baldes said he doesn’t have a problem with losing primary candidates making a second go at an election in the general election, but said if voters have an issue with it, they need to address it at the State Legislature. 

“You don’t get to play Monday morning quarterback,” he said. 

Although he didn’t run in the primary, Lander resident Jeff Martin is very active in State Republican Party politics, organizing and hosting the “Save Wyoming” rally held in Lander this summer. Martin is running against Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, in the general election as an Independent. 

There are two minor party candidates running for U.S. Congress with Brubaker and Constitution Party member Marisa Selvig running against Republican Harriet Hageman and Democrat Lynette Grey Bull. 

Also running for the Constitution Party in the State Legislature is Michael Williams in Rawlins, Larry Williamson in Gillette and Matt Freeman in Cheyenne. 

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Don’t Sleep On This Year’s General Election: 8 Wyoming Legislative Races To Watch

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

In a state with a large GOP majority, there are still a handful of competitive Wyoming Legislative races to keep an eye on for November’s general election. 

In a state with an overwhelmingly Republican majority, many of Wyoming’s most competitive races are decided in the primary election. But there are more than a handful of State Legislature races in this year’s general election bucking that trend. 

Democratic candidates received far fewer votes than Republicans in almost every district in the primary election. This was likely due to at least 10,000 traditional Democrats who crossed over and voted in the Republican primaries. 

There are 37 contested races in the Wyoming Legislature this year. 

House District 44 

In Cheyenne’s HD 44, Republican Tamara Trujillo will take on Democratic former legislator Sara Burlingame. Trujillo took down incumbent State Rep. John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne, who happens to be her cousin. There were only 111 votes that separated those two leading candidates, but due to a low voter turnout, this made up an 11% difference between the candidates. 

Burlingame served in the House from 2019-2021 and is still considered one of the leading members of the Wyoming Democratic Party. In 2020, she lost to Romero-Martinez by 48 votes. She is pro-choice and the executive director of Wyoming Equality, a LGBTQ advocacy group. 

Trujillo is solidily conservative with a pro-life stance and a belief that the state should provide better support for school of choice options. 

Prior to Romero-Martinez’s election, HD 44 had been a longstanding Democratic-leaning district. 

House District 33 

Rep. Andi LeBeau, D-Ethete, will take on Republican Sarah Penn in the general election. HD 33 is an area that encompasses Riverton and the Wind River Indian Reservation and has historically been a swing district.  

LeBeau was raised on the reservation and considered one of the state’s foremost leaders on tribal issues. She won her 2020 election over nearest challenger Valaira Whiteman by 96 votes.  

Penn is supported by leaders in the Wyoming Republican Party. She has a pro-Second Amendment platform and is against COVID-19 mandates. 

LeBeau also won her 2018 race by a close margin. Prior to her taking office, the district was represented by Republican Jim Allen, who LeBeau beat in 2018. 

House District 14 

North Laramie’s HD 14 could offer a very competitive race in this year’s general election. Rep. Trey Sherwood, D-Laramie, will attempt to hold on to her seat against Republican challenger Bryan Shuster. 

Sherwood, a first term legislator, won her 2020 election by 85 votes. She is director of Laramie Main Street Alliance, an organization that supports downtown businesses in the town. 

Since the 2020 election, redistricting has added a few rural precincts to her district that voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in the past. 

Shuster is a Laramie City Council member who has pledged to support term limits for U.S. Congress members.  

HD 14 is a historical swing district, with both Republicans and Democrats representing the district over the last decade. 

House District 11 

Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, may have solid standing as the House majority whip and three terms under his belt, but he represents a district that has voted for Democrats in the last decade. Olsen faces a strong Democratic challenger in Marguerite Herman for the general election. 

Herman is a lobbyist for the League of Women Voters in Wyoming and a Laramie County School District 1 board member. She has also been the federal legislative chair for the Wyoming PTA.  

Olsen won his first election in 2016 by a narrow margin, but has won every general election race since then by larger and larger numbers over his nearest competitor. He won his 2020 race over Democrat Amy Spieker by 11% of the vote. 

House District 23 

Teton County’s HD 23 will likely stay Democratic despite Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, stepping down, but that does not mean this race won’t be at least competitive.  

Republican Paul Vogelheim will face Democrat Liz Storer in the general election. Vogelheim was a major supporter of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in Teton County, where Cheney had her biggest win in the primary election. Vogelheim was a Teton County commissioner from 2008-2019. He describes himself as a “Al Simpson Republican.” 

Storer has been lobbying at the State Legislature since 1994 and runs the George B. Storer Foundation, which invests in nonprofits and programs throughout the state. The foundation supports nonprofit journalism entities WyoFile, Wyoming Public Media and High Country News, University of Wyoming scholarships, and protecting sage grouse habitat and other projects.   

Democrats have comfortably won elections in HD 23 since 2014, but the district was represented by Republican Keith Gingery prior to that year. 

House District 13 

With progressive legislator Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, set to retire after her current term, Wyoming’s Democrats can’t afford to lose any seats considering the already-slim minority they hold in the Legislature. Although HD 13 has historically swung solidly blue in the past, the national trend of increasing political polarization could erode some of this Democrat-stronghold. Also, 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. 

Democrat Ken Chestek is running to replace Connolly and boasts a respectable political resume. Chestek runs Wyoming Promise, an organization working to remove corporate influence from elections and create better election transparency under the belief that corporations are not people. He has worked with the Legislature on bills related to this topic since 2016 and also ran for the State House in 2016, losing in House District 46 to Republican Bill Haley.

Chestek will take on Republican Wayne Pinch, who ran unopposed in the primary election. Pinch is a relative political newcomer and a small business owner. He is very moderate politically, supporting abortions in some instances and the legalization of marijuana.  

House District 46 

HD 46 will likely stay Republican under Rep. Ocean Andrew, but Democratic challenger Merav Ben-David may give him a solid challenge. 

Andrew represents South Laramie, an area that has traditionally leaned Republican. One of the most conservative legislators and the youngest in the state, Andrew easily beat Republican challenger RJ Lennox, a much more moderate candidate, in the August primary election. 

Ben-David, a University of Wyoming professor, ran against U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis in the 2020 election, earning more than 72,000 votes. Ben-David is very active in both the Wyoming and Albany County Democratic Party. 

House District 16 

Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, has easily won every race he has faced since he was first elected in 2018. He may face his toughest challenge yet this year against Republican Jim McCollum, father of fallen U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum.  

Yin is the House minority caucus chairman and one of the Legislature’s leaders on the topic of cryptocurrency. He is also a member of the judiciary and revenue committees.  

McCollum does not have political experience but gained widespread recognition and support in Republican circles for speaking against President Joe Biden in regard to his sons’ passing during the military pullout in Afghanistan. His family members have also sued actor Alec Baldwin for defamation. 

HD 16, an area encompassing downtown Jackson, is solidly blue but was represented by a Republican as recently as 2014. 

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Proposed Wyoming Charter Schools Make Pitch To State, Gov Says Don’t Slam Public Schools

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Photo by Mark Heinz, Cowboy State Daily
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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Advocates for two out of the three proposed charter schools hoping to win the State of Wyoming’s approval to operate pitched their plans Tuesday morning to a panel of the state’s top elected officials. 

During the meeting, Gov. Mark Gordon warned against disparaging the quality of existing state public schools, as a means of touting the proposed charter schools.    

Prairie View Community School, which is a rural, project-based charter school hoping to operate in Chugwater presented its operating plan and was followed by the Wyoming Classical Academy of Mills, which presented a very different plan of its own, Tuesday to the State Loan and Investment Board. The board consists of Gordon, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curt Meier, Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, and Secretary of State Ed Buchanan. 

Board members did not vote on the two charter schools. Another meeting is slated for Sept. 14, at which a third charter school, Cheyenne Classical Academy, is scheduled to pitch its operating plans as well.    

All three schools submitted applications to the state board in July, following newly-enacted legislation allowing the state’s executive-branch heads to approve state recognition and funding for charter schools without local public school board oversight.    

Prairie View Community School organizers Jerah Nix and Dana Cushman said the small school they hope to open in Chugwater would be “project-based” and “place-based.” That is, students would engage closely with their community and would be expected to organize large projects multiple times a year and present those projects before the community itself. Students also would work with and learn from local employers. Older students would be eligible for internships working on farms, ranches, and other businesses, according to the women’s presentation.  

Nix told the board of elected officials that children often will rise to the expectations placed upon them by their community, and that this method of teaching gives students a real sense of purpose and accountability that can lead to success.    

Hillsdale College   

The second school group asking for state approval was the Wyoming Classical Academy, to be based in Mills, near Casper. The academy is under the curriculum and support umbrella of Hillsdale College, which is based in Michigan.   

Russ Donley, chairman of Wyoming Classical Academy board of trustees, said he started the school initiative because he was discouraged to see anti-American and pro-socialist rhetoric among the nation’s young people.    

“I was watching in 2020, the marching of these wonderful young people, but there were some things that weren’t so nice to watch,” he said, describing riots in 2020 that appeared to advocate for a socialistic governance in America.    

“I don’t believe in that. I believe in our constitutional republic, which has given us all the benefits,” said Donley.    

Donley called Hillsdale and asked if it might support a charter school in Wyoming. The college said no, at first, because Wyoming’s law was not permissive to charter school startups. So Donley contacted Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, who co-chairs the Wyoming Legislature Joint Education Committee.   

Scott, along with Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, were able to get the bill passed allowing state-board approval of charter schools.  

In his presentation touting Wyoming Classical Academy, Donley said he expects excellent literacy and graduation rates for the school’s students when and if it opens in the fall of 2023.    

He also said students with special-education needs will not be turned away.    

“We want them all,” he said. “Every kid is a gift. Some gifts unwrap at a slower pace.” 

Racines had voiced concerns earlier in the meeting that the schools may have trouble funding special education because there currently is “no vehicle” in state statute for the state to give federal funding to charter schools for that purpose, she said.     

‘Not As A Contrast To A Failing System’

In his own presentation before the board, Scott said that roughly half of Wyoming students are reading at a “basic” or “below basic” reading level in third grade, which he considers a grade in which most teachers expect students to be proficient readers.    

School funding analysts working with the Legislature, said Scott, were “very bluntly telling us we were not getting our money’s worth” in the state’s K-12 education systems.    

Scott also said throwing more money at the problem doesn’t appear to be helping.    

“The more we were funding, the worse the results were,” he said. “I wouldn’t read too much into that. I’d say probably, our problems are independent of the funding.”   

Later in the meeting the governor cautioned Donley against allowing testimony that could “leave the impression our public schools are not performing.”   

“I just want to make sure we’re talking about the benefits of having a charter school, not as a contrast to a failing system but just as an alternative,” said Gordon.  

Donley said that was his objective as well.    

“We look at our school as lifting all the boats that are on the lake,” said Donley, who had throughout his presentation said there would be benefits from schools having to compete for state funds.     

‘We Have An Unelected Person’   

Dave Throgmorton, a Rawlins man with a PhD in sociology, spoke in favor of the Chugwater school but appeared to oppose the Wyoming Classical Academy.    

Throgmortin also opposed a vote by the current executive board.    

“Please table the decisions on all of these charters until Jan. 2, when a completely elected slate of candidates can be sitting on the SLIB board,” he said. “At this point we have an unelected person who lost a primary election; we have another member taking another job in 10 days.”    

After being appointed to his seat by Gordon earlier this year, Superintendent Brian Schroder lost the Republican primary election to Megan Degenfelder, who is challenging Democratic nominee Sergio Maldonado in the upcoming general election.    

Ed Buchanan, the Secretary of State is scheduled to become a judge in the coming days, but was asked this week by the Wyoming Republican Party to remain at his post until after the general election. 

Wyoming GOP Asks Secretary Of State Not To Resign Until After November Election  | Cowboy State Daily 

‘Particular Needs’   

Although he wanted to postpone the applications, Throgmorton praised the Chugwater school as a “wonderful” effort.    

“This school has grown organically out of the needs of students and parents in Chugwater,” he said.    

But Throgmorton discouraged approval of the Wyoming Classical Academy and expressed disapproval of Hilldale College having “promoted an ideological stance” throughout its schools.   

“Prairie View is clearly organic… this school (Wyoming Classical Academy) is not arising out of any particular needs in Wyoming other than, Mr. Donley said, his concern that there were protesters that didn’t love America enough.”    

Hillsdale is a private conservative college emphasizing the foundations of Western Civilization in its teaching, according to Hillsdale charter school supporters in Wyoming.    

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President Biden Says Views Of Many Wyomingites Are Threat To Country

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By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily
Coy@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming is a state where people have views that President Joe Biden recently said threaten the very foundation of our nation.  That threat, he said, is “MAGA Republicans.” 

Many Wyoming Republicans proudly embrace former President Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) slogan.

President Biden in his “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” speech Sept. 1 at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia said “there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.” 

But Biden said not every Republican is a MAGA Republican, just the ones that embrace this “extreme” ideology.  What is a MAGA Republican?  Biden said, “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution.  They do not believe in the rule of law.  They do not recognize the will of the people.” 

“They refuse to accept the results of a free election.  And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself,” Biden said. 

Wyoming GOP U.S. Senator John Barrasso told Cowboy State Daily in an email through his press office that the president was focusing on the wrong things and that Biden was out of line with his comments. 

“Wyoming families are worried about buying groceries, filling their gas tanks, and being able to pay their bills. Joe Biden didn’t talk about any of that because he knows Democrat policies are toxic. Joe Biden and the Democrats are out of touch on the issues families care about most,” Barrasso said.  

“President Biden promised he would unite the country, not divide it. Calling half the country semi-fascists is wrong and he should apologize for it,” he said.

In Wyoming, Republicans dominate the political landscape and they do not like Biden’s job performance.

According to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, Trump received more than 70% of the vote, about 193,500 votes to Biden’s nearly 73,500 votes, in the 2020 election.  Republican percentages were similar in other statewide races that year and also in 2018.

A poll conducted in the spring showed 76% of Wyomingites disapproved of Biden’s job performance, the highest disapproval rating in the nation at the time of the survey. 

GOP U.S. House candidate Harriet Hageman beat incumbent and Trump-critic Liz Cheney in the Wyoming GOP primary election by more than 63,000 votes.  Secretary of State GOP primary election winner State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, beat his leading opponent, State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, by about 13,000 votes.  Both Hageman and Gray have voiced doubt about the soundness of the 2020 presidential election. 

Cheney preceded Biden in calling the Republican Party “sick” and a cult of personality formed around Trump. 

 “Our nation is barreling, once again towards crisis, lawlessness, and violence. No American should support election deniers for any position of genuine responsibility where their refusal to follow the rule of law will corrupt our future,” Cheney said after the Wyoming primary election.  

Former president Trump weighed in on the current president’s speech.

At a rally for GOP candidates on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Trump called Biden “extreme”, blasted him for vilifying 75 million American citizens and giving, “…the most vicious, hateful and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president.” 

Other critics of Biden’s speech, including some on the left, charged that it was inappropriate for Biden to give a campaign-style speech flanked by Marines.  CNN anchor Brianna Keilar Tweeted that the military should be left out of politics.

“Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it,” she said. 

A reporter, during Biden Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s Sept. 2 White House briefing, asked Jean-Pierre why “the president delivered what sounded very much like a politically charged speech as an official White House event, taxpayer-funded, with two Marines in uniform, in particular, flanking him and visible on camera throughout the speech.”  

Jean-Pierre said the Marines were there out of the respect the president has for service members.  She said that protecting democracy is not political. 

“I would argue, the way many Americans across the country see it is standing up for democracy is not political, denouncing political violence is not political, defending rights and freedom is not political, making clear that the challenges facing the nation is not political.  We don’t call any of that political.  We see that as leadership.  And we see that as presidential,” Jean-Pierre said. 

Biden said, “MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards… to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.” 

He said these Republicans promote tyrannical leaders, violence and consider “the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th” to be patriots. 

“They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country,” Biden said. 

He called on the nation to come together to defend democracy.

“Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans: We must be stronger, more determined, and more committed to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to destroying American democracy,” Biden said. 

Biden went on to list some of his accomplishments while in office including infrastructure spending, economic recovery from COVID, gun control, lowering prescription drug prices and climate initiatives.  He said America is destined for great things including curing cancer and creating a new clean energy economy with millions of jobs.  

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Wyoming GOP Asks Secretary Of State Not To Resign Until After November Election 

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The Wyoming Republican Party has requested Secretary of State Ed Buchanan continue in his role through the end of the general election in November

This request was made Thursday in a letter sent to Buchanan from Frank Eathorne, chairman of the state GOP. Also signing the letter was Wyoming GOP National Committeewoman Nina Webber and Wyoming GOP National Committeeman Corey Steinmetz. 

“In our view, elections are one of the most important functions performed by the Wyoming Secretary of State,” the party wrote. “Most incoming secretaries of state have almost two years to prepare for their first general election. However, if you resign in mid-September when there is an election six weeks later, it may be setting your appointed successor up to fail.” 

Buchanan told Cowboy State Daily that he appreciated the confidence the Republican Party had in him but there’s no need to worry about the general election without him present.

“I am flattered to have the Party request me to stay on through the general election,” Buchanan said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “However, it is Wyoming’s 23 county clerks and the Secretary of State staff that do the heavy lifting for elections. Upon my departure, it will be business as usual in the Secretary of State’s Office throughout the general election and through the end of the year.”

Buchanan’s staff has announced his last day will be on Sept. 15, nearly two months before the Nov. 8 general election. He has accepted a judgeship in Goshen County, a job he was appointed to by Gov. Mark Gordon. 

“That is often the case with filling any position- the best candidates have a job they must wrap up before they can move to a new position,” the party wrote. “Gov. Gordon knew this when he selected you and the courts will manage if you need to remain in your current role until general election canvassing is complete.” 

Wyoming law requires that the party of the departing or departed Secretary of State select three candidates who could fill the vacant position.  The governor is required to appoint one of these three candidates to do the job until the next election. Narrowing down the finalists must take place within 15 days of the office holder’s official resignation. As of last Friday, Buchanan, a Republican, had still not given an official resignation.  

After the Republican Party delivers Gordon its chosen finalists, the governor has five days to make a final choice. 

The party questioned its ability to find a qualified replacement who could fulfill this job. 

“Any successor appointed would not take office until four weeks before election day and does not know your team members and has never worked with any of them,” the party said. “It is difficult to imagine who would want to assume the role on such short notice.” 

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, won the Republican primary for Secretary of State and is expected to be the next person in this role.  He is facing no Democratic opponent in the general election.  

When Gray takes office in January, he will have two years to work with the Secretary of State’s office staff before his first election in August 2024. Shortly after Gray’s election win, at least two high ranking officials in the office indicated they are leaving their jobs. 

The Wyoming Constitution forbids an elected official from being appointed to a seat in the state’s executive branch before the current term they were elected for expires, disqualifying Gray from being appointed because his state representative term does not end until the beginning of 2023. 

The letter requests Buchanan to stay in office until the general election process is complete, which, if that includes all certifying and canvassing efforts, will likely last through the end of November. 

Buchanan did not immediately respond to comment.  

Wyoming GOP Vice Chair David Holland, party executive director Kathy Russell, party attorney Brian Shuck, and party secretary Donna Rice were also sent the letter. 

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Ed Buchanan’s Last Day Sept. 15; Gordon, Wyoming GOP To Pick Interim Secretary Of State

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

draft blurb:  Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s last day on the job before he leaves to become a judge is Sept. 15.  It’s up to Governor Mark Gordon and the state GOP to pick someone to finish out the Secretary of State’s term.  The Wyoming Constitution presents hurdles for consideration of GOP Secretary of State primary election winner Chuck Gray. 

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s last day in that position is set for Sept. 15 and Governor Mark Gordon will need to appoint an official to fill his seat. 

Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Sept.15 will be Buchanan’s last day. Buchanan has accepted a judgeship in Goshen County, a job he will begin on Sept. 19, Wheeler said. 

Buchanan has not delivered Gov. Mark Gordon an official resignation letter yet and Wheeler said she doesn’t know when that will happen. 

As soon as Buchanan delivers his official resignation, Gordon must immediately notify Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne to call a meeting of the State Central Committee where three candidates who could fill the Secretary of State vacancy will be chosen by the party. 

This process could take place at the State Central Committee’s next meeting Sept. 16-17 in Riverton.  

“We really need the governor to notify the vacancy, but otherwise we’re ready to go,” said David Holland, vice chair of the Wyoming Republican Party. 

After the candidates’ names are delivered to Gordon, the governor will have five days to make his selection. 

This same process played out last January when former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow stepped down to take a similar job in Virginia.   

The process the State GOP used to select the three finalists sparked a lawsuit from 16 plaintiffs across the state, including former State GOP Chairman and state legislator Tom Lubnau.  

The plaintiffs claimed the voting process taken to select the candidates violated the Wyoming and federal Constitution rule of “one person-one vote,” by allowing each county party the same three votes. U.S. District Court Judge Skavdahl quickly ruled in favor of the defendants.  

Shortly after, Gordon selected Cody resident Brian Schroeder for the Superintendent of Public Instruction job. 

Schroeder lost a close race to Megan Degenfelder in the Republican primary election last month. 

Who Could It Be? 

The Wyoming Constitution says that “No senator or representative shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the state, and no member of congress or other person holding an office … shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office.” 

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, won the Republican primary for Secretary of State in August. There have been a few different campaigns mounted to try and prevent Gray from serving in office and to restrict his powers. 

On Thursday night, the Park County Republican Party passed a resolution issuing a formal reprimand to the State Legislature’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee. The reprimand was in response to the committee approving the draft of a bill last week that would strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections. 

Vince Vanata, a state committeeman for the Park County GOP, said this resolution will be circulated and considered at the state party’s central committee September meeting. 

Since Gray faces no Democratic or Independent challenger in the general election, he is expected to be the next Secretary of State. 

Since Gray’s current House term runs through the end of the year, the Constitution indicates he would be ineligible to fill the role as interim Secretary of State.

The key phrase in that constitutional passage is “during the term for which he was elected,” meaning that even if Gray were to step down from his Legislature seat, he was still elected for a term that ends at the start of 2023.

According to the Casper Star Tribune, a 2010 memorandum drawn up by the Legislative Service Office offered the same interpretation of the law. 

The only shred of doubt that may exist in the constitutional passage is the phrase “civil office,” which could be interpreted to refer to unelected positions. The Secretary of the State is one of the five elected members of the state’s executive branch.  

Gray did not respond to a request to comment about whether he finds himself eligible or not.

Holland said he was unaware of the constitutional passage related to this issue but said he supports Gray being appointed in the interim. 

“Obviously, we’re not going to violate the law and we’ll find a way to work around it,” Holland said.  

Former state legislator Marti Halverson could be a potential candidate if Gray isn’t chosen. Halverson was one of the three finalists chosen for the Superintendent of Public Instruction role last winter.

She spearheaded a campaign this past year through the State GOP, to audit elections from several precincts in Laramie and Fremont counties.  

“The elections director is just following state law,” Halverson said. “Any problem with the security of elections lays directly at the feet of the State Legislature.” 

Halverson said she doesn’t know if she would accept the Secretary of State role. 

“I would have to give it some thought,” she said in a Friday afternoon phone interview. 

She did say she believes Gray should stay in his current role as a state legislator until the start of his presumptive term in January. 

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Wyoming Legislator Says Highway Patrol Improperly Released Info In Trooper Arrest

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, wants to know why the Wyoming Highway Patrol sent out a press release announcing that it had arrested one of its troopers before he had officially been charged with a crime.

Brown filed a complaint, which he said serves mostly as an inquiry as to why a press release was given out, notifying the public of Trooper Gabriel Testerman’s arrest, before Testerman had officially been charged.

The press release issued late afternoon Tuesday said Testerman was taken into custody by the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office for an alleged crime he had been under investigation for since May. No details about the charges were given. 

Testerman did not have his first appearance in court until Wednesday, when he officially received his charges. He is being charged with three counts of inflicting sexual intrusion on a victim.  

In Wyoming, a defendant can be arrested before they are officially charged. At an initial hearing, a judicial officer will decide which, if any, charges a defendant is charged with. 

Brown has concerns that the highway patrol may have violated Wyoming law.  When it involves certain sex crimes, the law prohibits information being made public about a person until charges are filed “Prior to the filing of an information or indictment in district court.”

Wyoming statute 6-2-319(a), which applies to charges of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual assault of a minor and soliciting, says a public employee may not release information about an alleged perpetrator before charges are filed. Certain Wyoming counties have interpreted this to mean before charges are filed in circuit court, while others have decided this means before they are filed in district court. 

Testerman has only been seen in Laramie County Circuit Court.

“What it really boils down to me, is we have the court of law, where a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and then the court of public opinion,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, they’re not the same.” 

Brown said the release was potentially defamatory and could be cause for concern as a potential lawsuit. 

The statute also says an actor’s name may be released to the public to aid or facilitate an arrest. There was no mention made in the press release regarding any issue that took place in locating or arresting Testerman. 

Brown said he suspects Highway Patrol was trying to get ahead of media coverage of the event and be transparent but said the handling of this event was “not normal.” He said he originally suspected that Testerman’s arrest had been leaked to the media, but became much more concerned when he found out this information was given out in a press release.

 A former member of the House Transportation, Highways & Military Affairs committee, Brown said he is knowledgeable about Highway Patrol personnel and practices. 

“For an agency that struggles with retention and hiring, I have concerns if it doesn’t have its own employees’ backs and is waiting for press to come,” he said.  “I don’t like any state employee having their name released unjustly.” 

Interim Highway Patrol Colonel Shannon Ratliff told Cowboy State Daily that he does not believe anything was done wrong in the release of the information. 

“I believe it’s our duty to be transparent,” he said. “We have a much better climate in Wyoming in the public’s perception for law enforcement than it enjoys nationwide. I believe this was fairly standard. We typically release information when one of our staff members is arrested.” 

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported Testerman was released from Laramie County Jail on Wednesday after posting a $100,000 cash/surety bond.

Brown filed his complaint by mail to Wyoming Highway Patrol Interim Colonel Shannon Ratliff, Lt. Col. Josh Walther, Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner and Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday afternoon

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Wyoming State Treasurer Pours $25K Into Others’ Campaigns And Causes; Most Fare Poorly 

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming’s state treasurer gave more than $25,000 of his own money in donations to candidates and causes besides his own campaign during this year’s primary election.   

While state Treasurer Curt Meier donated $5,566 to his own primary-election campaign, he gave over four times as much money, $25,300, to other political groups and candidates vying for seats in Wyoming’s Legislature and executive branch, according to Secretary of State documents.   

Candidates sponsored directly by Meier and by a Meier-funded PAC won about 32% of their races in the primary election last month.    

Meier also loaned his campaign $151,000, documents show.  

Meier did not respond Friday morning to phone calls requesting comment.     

His biggest single contribution this election season was a $10,000 donation to the political action group, Allen Jaggi PAC For Constitutional Issues. The only other donor was the group’s chairman, Allen Jaggi, who gave $50, according to the group’s campaign report for this election season.    

Jaggi’s political action committee backed numerous Republican challengers in their bids to unseat incumbents in the state House and Senate. It also backed two candidates pursuing the state’s top executive-branch positions, documents show.     

One Win, Won Loss In Executive Branch    

Through the Allen Jaggi PAC, about $500 of Meier’s money went to Republican Rep. Chuck Gray, in the latter’s campaign for Wyoming Secretary of State. Gray defeated his opponent, Sen. Tara Nethercott in the primary election to win the Republican nomination.  

But the other executive-branch candidate backed by Meier’s money, Brian Schroeder, was not as fortunate.     

The group gave Schroeder $1,000, its largest contribution to any one candidate.     

Schroeder lost the primary election to opponent Megan Degenfelder, who now is the Republican nominee for Superintendent of Public Instruction.     

Ten-Grand And a Losing Record    

The Allen Jaggi PAC gave Meier’s money to various legislative candidates.     

For example, the group gave $500 to Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, who hopped from the state House to the Senate to unseat Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell. Laursen defeated Kost in the primary election.     

The group gave another $500 to Bill Allemand, who handily unseated Republican Rep. Patrick Sweeney, of Casper. It gave $500 to Bob Ide, who defeated Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, in the primary election.   

But the committee weathered far more losses than wins, with a 28% win record in its candidate picks overall, compared to a 67% loss record, according to Secretary of State records.     

The remaining percentage represents an ongoing race.  

The group gave Libertarian candidate Misty Morris $500. Morris’s race against Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, has not yet been decided, as Libertarians and Republicans will face each other in the general election Nov. 8.    

Jaggi did not respond immediately to a voicemail requesting comment.     

The Ones Who Won Anyway    

Some established incumbents who won despite the group’s contributions toward their opponents include Republican Representatives Bob Nicholas, Albert Sommers, and Dan Zwonitzer; and Senators Wendy Schuler and Cale Case.     

The group also contributed to races not featuring incumbents, such as the House District 39 primary race between Vladimir Allred and Ryan C. Berger, in Evanston. Records show that the Jaggi PAC backed Allred, but Berger won the nomination.     

Just For You    

Meier in his personal capacity also gave directly to candidates and their campaign committees. Unlike his donations to the Allen Jaggi PAC, Meier’s direct donations sponsored more wins than losses for a 4-3 record.   

This brings Meier’s overall candidate sponsorship record to a 32% success rate.    

According to Secretary of State campaign finance records, Meier gave legislative candidate donations as follows:    

$500 to Bill Allemand, (win),
$1,000 to Rick Coppinger (loss),
$1,000 to Bob Ide’s campaign committee (win),
$1,000 to Cody candidate Nina Webber’s campaign group (loss),
$200 to Cheyenne candidate Daniel Singh’s group (win),
$100 to Rock Springs candidate Joshua Larson’s committee (win),
$500 to Sheridan candidate Bryan Miller (loss)

The donations to Allemand, Coppinger, and Ide were in addition to the donations granted to them through the Allen Jaggi PAC using Meier’s money, records show.     

Court Costs After Libel Suit   

Meier split $11,000 between two more political action groups, with $5,000 to Wyoming Is Right PAC and $6,000 to Patriot Conservatives of Wyoming, records show.     

Patriot Conservatives of Wyoming then spent $9,142,89, which is more than a third of its $25,023 in reported expenses, on court costs. The group was ordered to pay court costs in Johnson County Court following a failed lawsuit for libel against the Buffalo Bulletin newspaper, group chairman David Iverson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.     

The rest of the group’s expenditures went to printing, postage, advertising, food and beverages, according to its spending reports.    

Hosting fundraisers and sending mailers is the group’s preferred campaign strategy, said Iverson.     

“Our PAC focuses on an effective ground game,” he said. “Direct mailing of information about candidates.”     

Iverson said the group’s priority is to get conservative individuals elected to office.     

The Wyoming is Right PAC also spent its money on mailers, advertising, and banquets, records show.     

Free Speech    

Iverson said he did not see any issue with Meier’s financial involvement in his peers’ campaigns.     

“It’s freedom of speech,” said Iverson. “Individuals can contribute to whatever political cause they want to.”

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Wyoming Lobbying Groups Primary Election Scorecard

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming State and Federal Endorsement Records

Wyoming Realtors Political Action Committee: 24 wins, 6 losses .800
Wyoming Education Association: 24 wins, 6 losses .800
Gun Owners of America: 19 wins, 7 losses .730
Wyoming Mining Association: 21 wins, 9 losses .700
Wyoming Hospital Association: 17 wins, 10 losses .629
Wyoming Right to Life: 33 wins, 20 losses .622
Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming: 39 wins, 27 losses .590
Coal Country Conservatives: 4 wins, 3 losses, .571
Wyoming Hope: 15 wins, 12 losses .555
Western Conservatives: 5 wins, 5 losses .500
Wyoming Gun Owners: 10 wins, 11 losses .476

Wyoming realtors and educators lobbying groups were the most successful as far as the advancement of their picked candidates during the 2022 primary election.  Wyoming Gun Owners was less successful. 

Cowboy State Daily tracked some of the biggest lobbying groups in the state to see how their preferred federal and state legislative candidates did in the August primary election. 

Calculating these results wasn’t a perfect algorithm as there is a certain amount of gray area as to what can be considered an endorsement.

If a candidate was spoken of favorably by a particular group, it was considered a marker of support. If a particular candidate was spoken of negatively, it was considered a marker of opposition.

Certain groups formally endorsed candidates while others directly gave money to particular campaigns. Others used a grading system to offer their thoughts on candidates based on surveyed questions submitted to the candidates.

Certain groups weighed in on many more races and candidates than others, so this snapshot shouldn’t be considered as a general idea to the work these groups put into the election and results of their work. 

If a group supported both a winning and losing candidate in a particular race, it was considered a draw.

If a group supported or opposed a candidate running unopposed, it was still considered a win or a loss. That last stipulation caused inflation and deflation of numbers, which will be noted below. 

“Good Election For Conservatives”

Mark Jones, national director of hunters’ programs for Gun Owners of America, was pleased with his organization’s performance in the primary. 

“It was probably overall a good election for conservatives in Wyoming,” he said. “Overall, we’re pretty pleased with the way things went in Wyoming.” 

Many staunchly conservative candidates were elected to the state legislature this year, in many instances knocking out incumbent legislators seen as more moderate.

State Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, and Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, were two examples of this, beaten by candidates who haven’t held office before.

Rep. Steve Harshmann, R-Casper, and Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils’ Tower, both won their primary elections by slim margins. 

Jones said deciding between which candidates to support and not support can be a surprisingly complicated process. Many candidates may talk the talk, but may lack a voting record and other background substantiating their claims. He said his group incorporates an extensive vetting process to sort through the pack. The group uses a Second Amendment survey and other background checking mechanisms. 

“A lot of things going into that, we have a lot of tools in the tool box,” Jones said.  

He said certain candidates have answered their survey in a way that disguises true intentions. 

“Some of them kind of try to dodge away from their true feelings,” he said. 

GOA vs WYGO

GOA has held a contentious relationship with Wyoming Gun Owners over Second Amendment legislation issues in the state. WyGO does not formally endorse candidates but does put out media expressing favorable and negative opinions about certain candidates. 

The group highlighted more than a dozen state and federal level races this year on Facebook, explaining each candidate’s position on Second Amendment issues based on their responses to WyGO’s survey. 

“Gun owners spoke loudly in the primaries across Wyoming again this cycle,” said Aaron Dorr, policy advisor for Wyoming Gun Owners. “Anti-gun RINOs (Republican In Name Only) like (U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney, as well as state level gun rights frauds like Drew Perkins and (State Sen.) R.J. Kost (R-Powell) who have blocked and weakened gun bills for years, were all sent packing.

“Sure, some good candidates fell, but the message was sent loud and clear: if you mess with the Second Amendment in Wyoming, it’s gonna hurt.”

WyGO and GOA supported a few of the same candidates, but GOA openly opposed some of WyGO’s favored candidates like Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, and Sen. Tom James, R-Green River.  

In all, 12 of WyGO’s preferred candidates lost in the primary election. 

“I think their vetting process ought to be looked at to strengthen that,” Jones said. 

Dorr disagreed.

“Ask the dozens of RINOS who have been thrown out of office by gun owners about that,” he said in response. “Mark Jones is a fool.”

Non-Guns

The Wyoming Realtors Political Action Committee (PAC) had a successful election, with 80% of the candidates it donated money to winning their races.

The PAC endorsed a slate of Republicans around the state, ranging from moderate to conservative in their political views.

The PAC’s biggest endorsements were two separate endorsements of $5,000, given to State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, in her Secretary of State campaign, and Megan Degenfelder in her Superintendent of Public Instruction Campaign.  

The Wyoming Education Association had a similar 80% success rating, but many of the candidates this group gave money to were Democrats running unopposed in their primary election. 

Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming offered grades to candidates based on their answers in a survey. Family Policy gave a negative grade to a number of Democrats who ran unopposed, which negatively effected their overall record.

The Western Conservatives PAC spent more money than other lobbying groups in Wyoming elections this year at $258,625. From the races Cowboy State Daily was able to track that it took part in, the group had mixed results with a 5-5 record. The group advocated for more moderate Republicans, while slamming their opponents in a variety of mailers.

Another significant PAC was Wyoming Hope, which provided $157,500 to a slate of moderate to staunchly conservative Republicans, with a slight majority winning their races. Former Wyoming GOP Chair and state legislator Diemer True is the chair of this PAC. 

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Wyoming Primary Election Write-In Candidates Included Walt Longmire, Mickey Mouse

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming voters jotted down some interesting write-in candidates in this year’s primary election, some real and some imagined. Not all Wyoming counties publicly posted the write-in names cast in their counties, but judging from the counties that did, voters have varied taste in leadership.   

In Sweetwater County, one voter wrote in Walt Longmire in the race for county sheriff. Longmire was the name of the main character in the Western TV show “Longmire.” Longmire presided over the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming as sheriff. Since Longmire is not a Sweetwater County resident and a fictional character, the vote for him did not count. 

Cynthia Lane, Sweetwater County clerk, said many people requested that write-in names be listed in the county’s election results, so she and her staff abided by the request. 

“We had quite a few people asking,” she said. 

In the race for Sweetwater county coroner, write-in candidates played a significant role, as there was no Republican entered in the race. Spencer Fox received 41 write-in votes and qualified to have his name on the ballot in the general election but declined the opportunity.  

Lane said write-in candidates can hold a particularly relevant role in elections for positions where more than one candidate is selected from relatively low-population areas, such as small-town mayors and party precinct committee members. 

In the Northwest Wyoming town of Frannie, population 212, there were no candidates who ran for mayor. Write-in mayoral candidates Steven Richardson and Vance Peregoy will have the chance to advance to the general election with eight and seven votes, respectively. 

In the Republican Senate 23 race in Campbell County, write-in candidate Patricia Junek received 814 votes, losing by a 51% margin of the vote.  

There were 5,714 write-in votes cast in statewide elections in Wyoming. 

To qualify for the general election as a write-in candidate when there is a candidate officially entered into a race, a write-in candidate must have at least 25 votes and more votes than other write-in candidates. If they choose to run, they must pay the same filing fee as the other candidates already participating in the race. 

C.J. Baker, a Park County elections staffer, said the Secretary of State’s Office asked the 23 county clerks to look at the Democratic write-in results in the races for secretary of state, state treasurer and state auditor to look and see if any Democratic candidate received 25 or more votes, potentially qualifying them for a race on the statewide ballot in the general election. No Democrat was officially running in any of these races.

In Sweetwater County, a wide selection of write-in names was cast for Democratic Secretary of State. Some of these included Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Democratic governor candidate Rex Wilde and “Nether Cott.” It is unclear who Cott may be, but it is likely a reference to State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, who was already running in the Republican primary for Secretary of State. Wilde was written in for Democratic State Treasurer, as was Cheney. Candidates known as “Allen” and “Cowan” were also voted for in that race.  

In Platte County, a candidate known as “Grady” was written in as a Democratic candidate for county sheriff. 

Lane said the county also got its fair share of “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck” written in, but since those characters aren’t Sweetwater residents, votes cast for the Disney stars also don’t count. 

In the race for Democratic State Auditor, where there was also no candidate running, Cheney’s name was also listed. State Auditor Kristi Racines, who is running as a Republican for reelection, was listed 12 times. A “Kalista Racines” was also written down. 

Racines also got five write-in votes in the Democratic Auditor race in Platte County. 

Baker said he saw a few “none of the above” and “anybody else” candidates listed in Park County. “Channey” was also listed as a Democratic Secretary of State write-in candidate there. 

In Platte County, a “Jim Gray” was listed as a Democratic Secretary of State candidate. This could have been in reference to State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the Republican primary for this position.  

Linda Fabian, executive secretary of the Wyoming Historical Society, was written in as a Democratic candidate for State Treasurer. Dan Kirkbride, a former Republican state legislator, was listed as a Democratic write-in for State Auditor. 

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Hageman Starts Petition To Ban China From Buying Wyoming And U.S. Agricultural Land

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Republican U.S. Congressional candidate Harriet Hageman is circulating a petition to ban entities tied to Communist China from buying American farmland. The petition encourages signees to “Keep China OUT!”  

“Chinese corporations are buying up American farmland at an alarming rate,” Hageman’s petition headline reads. “This is a threat to Wyoming, to America, and on our way of life.”  

Although the petition mentions that Chinese corporations are buying up U.S. farmland, it is not clear which specific groups would be prevented from purchasing American agricultural land in the future if a theoretical ban went into effect. 

Representatives from Hageman’s campaign did not immediately respond to questions about what groups the ban would apply to. 

In 2021, Fufeng USA, an American-based conglomerate of a Chinese company, purchased farmland 12 miles to the east of the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, which is a top-secret drone center. Fufeng purchased the 370 acres for $2.6 million.  

Here, they are building a $700 million corn milling plant the company says will employ 220 people and up to 1,000 construction jobs.  

“Maybe it’s just a corn mill,” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, told Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chief of staff of the Air Force, in May during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “But it would also provide the potential at least for Chinese intelligence to engage in intelligence collection of various kinds.” 

Residents of Grand Forks are fighting against the project, collecting more than 4,700 signatures to bring the deal to a vote as well as suing the city. 

A recent Pew poll found that 76 percent of Americans surveyed had an unfavorable view of China, and that 90 percent believed China did not respect the personal freedoms of its people. Some have speculated that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused anti-Chinese sentiment to grow among Americans. 

According to Fox News, the Fufeng land where sugar beets and soybeans were previously grown, was owned by three local farmers. The property was not for sale when officials said Fufeng offered to buy the land, dishing out more than $26,000, an acre- well more than the average asking price for land in that area.

Dennis Sun, a fourth generation Wyoming rancher and publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, said he understood why sellers are OK with selling to foreign countries as they can pay “top dollar” but said the issue was more complex than that. 

“It is just like the Bureau of Land Management acquiring ranches in the West. At some point, we have to stop this nonsense. It’s a food security issue,” he said in a column for Cowboy State Daily.

Sun said as farmland becomes more expensive, there may be more selling. As of June, the overall national farmland values jumped around 12.4% for 2022, the biggest increase in farmland values since 2007. 

In the first half of 2022, Wyoming was the second most economical state for cropland at $1,720 an acre, up 7.5% from last year.

In June, Republican members of Congress introduced legislation to curb China’s investment in U.S. agriculture. Reps. Rick Crawford of Arkansas and Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York are spearheading the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act, which would ban China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from buying U.S. agricultural companies.  

The bill would also designate agriculture and biotechnology used in agriculture as “critical infrastructure” and place the U.S. agriculture secretary as a standing member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. 

“Adversarial nations, like China, continue to threaten our homeland, using tactics like buying American agriculture companies and stealing agriculture research to undermine our economy,” Crawford said in a “Progressive Farmer” online story. “Washington must realize that agriculture security is national security, and we have a duty to protect our food supply and those who produce it.”  

In May, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission issued a report analyzing China’s interest in U.S. agriculture, citing the communist-led country’s lack of arable land, environmental pollution, and reliance on imports. 

Mentioned in the report is Chinese acquisition of U.S. hog herds, investment in U.S. agricultural assets, access to U.S. agricultural technology, and “illicit acquisitions” of U.S. seed technology. Those seed technology “thefts” also offer China “an opportunity to discover vulnerabilities in U.S. crops.”  

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Chinese owners control at least $2 billion worth of agricultural land across the country. Americans buy more goods from China than any other country and China is a top destination for U.S. exports. 

Foreign investment in U.S. farmland has tripled in the past decade, according to the USDA, up to 10.9 million acres from 4.1 million acres in 2010. Overall, foreign investors own or lease 37.6 million acres of agricultural land in America, making up 2.9% of all privately held agricultural land in the U.S. 

Hageman recently defeated U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the primary election. She will face Democrat Lynette Grey Bull in the general election.

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Wyoming Supreme Court To Consider Uinta County GOP Lawsuit

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

A Mountain View man, who sued the Uinta County Republican Party because he said its leadership elections were improper, is requesting the Wyoming Supreme Court to reconsider his lawsuit. 

In July, District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel dismissed Jon Conrad’s lawsuit against the Uinta County GOP and its leadership, deciding the county party’s rules allow its leadership to decide who can vote for future county party leaders.  

In his decision, Bluemel said state law was purposely written in an unambiguous manner to avoid overregulating political associations. His decision asserted that political party bylaws can supersede state laws. 

Conrad argued that certain party officers should not have been allowed to vote in the county party’s 2021 leadership election because those party officials lost their respective precinct committee elections in August 2020. This election resulted in Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson winning the county chairman seat, Karl Allred becoming state committeeman, and Jana Williams being named state committeewoman.  

“While the Court has now resolved the matter in the Party’s favor, the case has uncovered a concerning trend of certain individuals seeking to divide the Republican Party,” Jackson said in a Facebook post after the original decision was made. 

State Rep. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, said the county party spent $22,000 defending itself in the trial. 

Conrad, a Uinta County Republican Party committee member, ran for the county chairman’s position in the 2021 election, but lost to Jackson.  

Ten days after Conrad won his Republican primary for a State House race, he filed an intent to appeal with the Supreme Court. No arguments have been submitted yet in this case.  

Conrad “respectfully declined” to comment to Cowboy State Daily on his reasoning for appealing the decision or the timing of this filing.

He will face Democrat Sarah Butters in the general election. 

The original lawsuit asked the court to declare the county party’s 2021 elections null and void, to order new elections to select officers and to rule that Williams, Jackson and Allred take no action in the positions “they now improperly purport to hold.” 

The plaintiffs, which also included State Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Lyman, former Rep. Ron Micheli and county central committee members Clarence Vranish, Clara Jean Vranish and Troy Nolan unsuccessfully argued that the Uinta County Republican Party is governed exclusively by the state election code. 

​​Under state law, precinct committeemen and women are elected in public primary elections, but party leadership is elected through internal party elections.  

The precinct committeeman and committeewoman, along with the county party chair represent the county at meetings of the state party central committee and committee meetings during the state convention. 

Although state and county Republican party bylaws specify elected county party officers can vote in elections along with precinct committeemen and women, state law says that voting can only be done by the county central committee, which consists, but the defendants argued is not limited to, the elected precinct committee members.   

The Uinta county party’s bylaws specifically allow elected officers who are not county committee members to vote at State Central Committee meetings. The state party also allows this. 

In this year’s race for Wyoming House District 19, Conrad won the primary by 326 votes over the second place finisher, Allred.

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No Change In Park County Election Recount: Newsome Still Beats Webber

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The results of the State House District 24 race election recount Monday turned out exactly the same between State Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, and Challenger Nina Webber. Newsome still won by 83 votes. 

“I expect the results to be exactly 83 votes,” Webber said before the recount.  

Webber had requested a recount of the 3,747 ballots cast in the Aug. 16 primary election. She said she spoke with Secretary of State Republican nominee Chuck Gray about the issue, who, she said told her, there shouldn’t be a single vote that is different. 

“We’re very pleased that the recount confirmed the initial results,” said Park County Clerk Colleen Renner. “We hope it gives the public additional confidence in our elections here in Wyoming.” 

Gray ran a campaign based on election conspiracy theories, hosting free showing of the “2000 Mules” movie, which alleges with questionable evidence the 2020 election was rigged. Webber said this movie influenced her perspective on election security.   

Although Newsome said she had no issue with the recount taking place, she also didn’t see it coming and didn’t consider their race to be “really close.” 

“I earned well over 50% of the vote,” she said. “People have the right to use the system. Hopefully, people will have more belief in the same system for voting.” 

Since Newsome won by 2.3% of the vote, Webber had to request the recount. In Wyoming, a recount is only triggered for races determined by 1% or less of the vote between the winner and their nearest challenger. 

Both Webber and Newsome were on hand for Monday’s recount. 

Webber said she requested the recount after hearing requests from her supporters to do so and when she became aware of alleged voting machine issues in Carbon County.  

These issues involved about 550 absentee ballots that were unable to be counted by a ES&S DS450 machine, due to folding marks covering up certain ovals on the ballot sheets. 

“It was simply due to where ballots were folded by the voter,” said Gwynn Bartlett, Carbon County clerk.  

All of the absentee ballots were then moved over to an older, DS200 machine, where they were all counted without issue. 

Park County used the same DS450 machine to count its absentee ballots with no issues of any kind on election night. Of the 3,717 ballots cast in the race, 1,698 were from either early or absentee voters. 

“The reason for the recount is specifically with the absentee ballots,” Webber said. 

Webber requested the recount take place on a DS200, a request that Renner rejected. Renner said she denied this request because the DS200 involves a much more time intensive and exhaustive process, as every ballot has to be hand-fed into that machine. Conversely, the DS450 can read stacks of 50-100 ballots at a time. 

The last recount to occur in Park County was in 2016 when two were requested.  

One of these was for Independent State Senate candidate Cindy Baldwin, who requested a recount of her general election race against Hank Coe. Coe won that election by more than 1,400 votes.  

An older machine, since retired for election-use, was used for this recount, which Renner said took nearly a whole day. 

Monday’s recount was much more expedient, running less than two hours.  

Park County elections staff got the DS450 running without issue. Between each ballot stack, Park County Deputy Clerk Hans Odde would use a jogger to automatically shuffle and organize the ballots, vibrating with a friendly buzz during each use. 

“Really handy when you have 2,000 absentee ballots,” Odde remarked with a chuckle.  

Since Newsome was still the winner of the race after the recount, Webber will be charged $500 for the employee time spent facilitating the recount. Total cost for the recount was $751.35.  

In elections decided by a 1%-5% margin between the winner and their closest challenger, state statute requires the candidate requesting the recount to pay for up to $500 of the recount cost if the results do not change. That cost increases to up to $3,000 in races decided by more than 5% of the vote. 

Webber waited until three hours of the final deadline to request the recount at 2 p.m. Friday. State law requires a recount be performed within 72 hours of a request being made, so Park County employees came in on Saturday to prepare.  

Webber would prefer Wyoming run hand count ballot elections and has questions about the security and accuracy of modern elections. After the recount results came back, she expressed new confidence in Wyoming’s elections. 

“It kind of shores up a couple problems,” she said. “Park County voters can feel better on that.” 

The secretary of state’s office also ran a new post-election audit in all 23 counties for the primary, selecting about 3,000 ballots at random that were adjudicated with 100% accuracy. 

The race between Newsome and Webber was contentious, with both candidates openly criticizing each other in numerous advertisements. 

Newsome spent and raised more than any State House candidate in Wyoming, bringing in $42,173 and spending $39,334. She received $13,650 from political action committees.  

Webber, who also lost in 2020 against Newsome, indicated she does not plan to step away from politics despite the loss. She is currently a national committeewoman for the Wyoming Republican Party. 

“A lot of people will tell you when you didn’t win to just give up,” Webber said. “I’m not getting the message.”  

Another recount was performed in Northeast Wyoming this year in the House race between State Rep. JD Williams, R-Lusk, and Allen Slagle. Slagle received one fewer vote in the recount, diminishing his win to a margin of 12 votes. 

The 2022 primary had the highest voter turnout on record in Wyoming for a primary election. In Lincoln County, a polling place lost power due to a car crashing into a nearby powerline. In Laramie County, a tabulator jammed and was unable to receive ballots for a short period of time. Staff were able to overcome both these obstacles. 

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State Elections Director Looking For New Job Following Chuck Gray Primary Win

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Another key staff member of the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office has expressed their intention to leave the office. On Thursday, Kai Schon, state elections director, made a post on LinkedIn, saying he was going to start looking for new job opportunities. 

“It’s time for me to start looking for other opportunities and I would appreciate your continued support in this next venture,” Schon said in his LinkedIn post.

Schon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  



Shortly after last week’s state primary election, Schon made a LinkedIn post related to the choosing of a Secretary of State. 

“I have always wondered why so few people who know what I do as the State Election Director, never ask me my thoughts on the candidates for Secretary of State,” he wrote.

“I would think Wyomingites would want to know the potential impact each candidate could have on the office staff, what that means to the services the office delivers to the public, the potential effect on the 23 county clerks tasked with carrying out the administration of elections, and the potential effects on the citizens of Wyoming,” he said.

Schon’s announcement comes one week after Monique Meese, communications and policy director for the Secretary of State’s office, said she was resigning.

Meese said State Rep. Chuck Gray’s, R-Casper, recent Secretary of State primary election win was part of the reason why she accepted a job as deputy county attorney with Laramie County.

She said she started looking for other opportunities when she found out Gray had entered the race. Meese expressed concerns that other members of the office may quit because of Gray’s election. 

Gray has no challenger yet in the general election.

“This primary election is over, and in Wyoming that typically means the outcome in the general election is a mere formality,” Schon said in his post. “Perhaps in 2024, you might remember this little rambling and seek out information that goes beyond and/or cuts through the various “campaign” narratives.” 

During his primary campaign, Gray sowed seeds of doubt about the security of Wyoming’s elections, saying election laws need to be tightened and drop box ballot boxes removed. He hosted free showings of “2000 Mules,” a movie that alleges the 2020 elections were rigged. 

Gray will now oversee the state’s elections as Secretary of State. 

Current Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s term runs through the end of the year, but Michael Pearlman, spokesman for Gov. Mark Gordon, said in a July interview with Cowboy State Daily that Buchanan may start a judgeship in Goshen County before the general election. 

Schon has been state elections director since February 2016. In this role, he is one of the five Executive Team members of the Secretary of State’s office. Prior to becoming elections director, Schon was a Help America Vote Act coordinator for the Secretary of State’s Office since 2007. In total, Schon has been with the office for more than 15 years. 

Schon often speaks before the State Legislature about Wyoming’s elections and election laws. On Thursday, he spoke before the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee regarding the feasibility of instituting open primaries, runoff and ranked choice elections in Wyoming. He did not make any mention of his possible departure.  

Gray said during one forum he would establish runoff elections in the state if elected. This type of change would actually have to take place through action from the State Legislature, not the Secretary of State. Gray has clarified many of the changes he has promised would come from his efforts lobbying legislators.

Karen Wheeler, deputy secretary of state and a member of the Executive Team, told Cowboy State Daily earlier this week she is not resigning at this time, but said she is unsure about her future after the end of the year when the next Secretary of State starts their term.  

She “liked” Schon’s post. Another member of the Executive Team, Kelly Janes, also “liked” Schon’s post. 

On Thursday, the Corporations committee passed a resolution to draft a bill that would strip the Secretary of State of their power to oversee the state’s elections. Instead, a nonpartisan elections commission would be established to perform this duty. The Secretary of State would take part in helping nominate candidates for this panel as a member of the State Canvassing Board. Gray’s election was one of the main reasons given for making this change. 

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Nathan Winters Says No To Secretary Of State Race; Urges GOP To Support Chuck Gray

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Nathan Winters says he won’t give in to the pressure.  He isn’t going to run for Secretary of State. 

A few key Wyoming legislators have expressed dissatisfaction with the results of the Republican primary election won by State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, citing Gray’s lack of candor in the Legislature and his perceived lack of trust in the security of the state’s elections.  

“I believe strongly that the Republican Party must unite around the shared principles of historic conservatism especially at this time in our nation’s history,” Winters said in Cowboy State Daily op-ed Thursday. “It is for this reason that I am calling for all Republicans to unite around our Republican nominee, Chuck Gray, and for that matter, the entire Republican ticket, following the primary.”  

Winters, executive director of Family Policy of Alliance, was recruited by State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, and others to run for Secretary of State as Independent against Gray. Although Winters and Case met last weekend and discussed the possibility of Winters running, Winters said he never expressed an interest in doing so. 

Case still initiated a short-lived campaign after this meeting to “draft” Winters for the job and start obtaining signatures in support of his candidacy, without Winters’ prior consent.  

Case said he was informed by the Secretary of State’s Office late Tuesday afternoon that he is not allowed to collect signatures before a candidate gives their approval.  

Although Winters served as a Republican in the Legislature for five years, he would have had to run as Independent to participate in the general election 

“Please know, if it ever becomes God’s will for me to step back into elective office, I will never run as anything less than a proud Republican,” Winters wrote. “I am a Republican because I have spent my life in the study of the time-tested principles of conservatism. The foundation of the Republican party is deeply rooted in those great principles, and we must rally around those truths and stand together so that we can pass on our freedoms to the next generation.” 

Winters said he found out about Case’s effort through “news sources” and that he received an “extraordinary number of phone calls” from people trying to get him to run. 

“I spoke with the authors of the petition and expressed that even if the required number of signatures were gathered, I would not run against the Party’s nominee and split a Party I love so dearly,” he wrote. 

Gray won the Republican primary last week over leading challenger State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne. He received around 75,000 votes, nearly 13,000 more votes than Nethercott received. 

Case said he hasn’t given up in recruiting a candidate to run against Gray but considers the effort a “Hail Mary” attempt at this point. To get an Independent on the ballot for the general election, a candidate must give their consent and receive 5,418 elector signatures in support of their campaign by the end of the day on Monday. 

Rebekah Fitzgerald, a Cheyenne political consultant, is also working to find a candidate to run against Gray, but said the current political environment and climate is “a difficult one” for recruiting a candidate with less than three months to go before the general election. 

She, like Case, said she isn’t looking for a traditional, centrist-style Independent to run against Gray, but rather, a conservative. 

“We’re looking for someone who can do the work of the Secretary of State’s office,” she said. 

Fitzgerald said, “actions speak louder than words” and that she has never seen a Wyoming campaign “as brazen about spreading lies” as the campaign Gray ran. 

During his campaign, Gray released literature, claiming that Nethercott was being sued for defamation and under investigation for campaign finance violations. There was no evidence found for either claim.

Nethercott criticized the source of Gray’s 2021 U.S. House campaign funding. Despite making less than $20,000 a year, Gray made a $300,000 donation to his own campaign. He said an inheritance from his late grandfather was the source of these funds, but he never declared the assets in his Federal Election Commission filing.  

His father, Jan Charles Gray, donated $500,000 directly to his son’s Secretary of State campaign.  

Although Fitzgerald said she isn’t optimistic about finding a candidate, she is motivated by the fact that more than 60,000 voters supported Nethercott, while another 28,000 either supported fellow challenger Mark Armstrong or didn’t vote in the race. 

“We’re allowing voters to continue to express their preference,” she said. “Sixty-thousand voters don’t think Gray is the best fit.” 

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Wyoming Democratic Party Could Become All But Extinct If Voter Turnout Is Bad

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

There is a lot at stake for the Democratic Party of Wyoming in the upcoming general election, not only for its candidates, but the future of the party itself.  

A poor turnout from Democratic voters in the general election could lead to the Party losing its status as a major political party in Wyoming. 

Under Wyoming elections law, major political parties are determined by any political organization whose candidates in a Governor, Secretary of State, or House of Representatives general election race receive 10% or more of the vote. A failure to reach this quota in any of those races will disqualify a party as being major.

The biggest difference between major and minor parties in Wyoming is that minor parties cannot participate in primary elections and can only elect candidates through their convention. This diminishes the ability of the party to elect its best possible candidates and keep a prominent presence at a statewide level. 

Low, But Possible Risk 

Based on the results of last week’s primary election, Democratic nominee Lynette Grey Bull would have received 3% of the vote in a theoretical head-to-head with Republican nominee Harriet Hageman. When combining all of the Democratic congressional votes against all of the Republican congressional votes, the Democrats did slightly better, taking 4% of the vote. 

Democrats believe Grey Bull will likely get more than 3-4% of the vote in the November general election, as this was a trend that also occurred in 2020. In a theoretical head-to-head based on their 2020 primary results, Grey Bull would have earned 15% of the vote against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. She ended up earning 24% of the vote in the actual general election vote that took place a few months later.  

David Martin, communications coordinator for the Wyoming Democratic Party, said he expects crossover voters to return to the party in the general election and doesn’t believe there is any real danger of it losing its major party status. 

Vote counts this month point to Democrats crossing over to vote Republican as a major factor behind the low turnout in the Democratic primary and high turnout in the Republican primary race between Cheney and challenger Harriet Hageman. Many Democrats had said they planned to register as Republicans and vote in the primary for Cheney. Cheney even sent out mailers instructing voters how they could do it.  

In Teton County, the Democrats went from having a small majority of registered primary voters in 2020 to far fewer than Republicans this year. In Albany County, Democrats went from having a near majority of primary voters to being greatly outnumbered by registered Republicans.  

Wyoming Democratic Party Chair Joe Barbuto said crossover voting “obviously was significant” in the primary, but stressed that Democratic voters can’t be apathetic when it comes to the general election. 

“We certainly need people to register back as Democrats,” he said. 

Former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and current State House candidate Merav Ben-David has expressed concern about the situation, imploring people on Twitter last week to switch back to voting for the party. 

“I don’t think we’re at that point yet (losing status) but I don’t want to get there,” she told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. 

There were 16,030 fewer voters in this year’s Democratic primary than in 2020, with 7,546 voters participating this year. In the 2020 general election, Grey Bull earned 66,576 votes. 

If Hageman retains the 113,025 people who voted for her in the primary, Grey Bull will have to get 12,558 votes, 8,055 more than she received in the primary, for the Democratic Party to continue to be a major party. 

The Democratic Party’s power in Wyoming has shrunk over the last few decades, following a national political polarization trend of blue states becoming bluer and red states becoming redder. 

Hageman is endorsed by and fully supports the policies of former President Donald Trump, who won Wyoming by a larger margin than any other state.  

Reverse Crossovers 

In other ways, the general election could be a boon for the Democratic Party, with a possible influx of Republican crossover voters, so disenchanted with Trump and leadership in the Republican Party that they vote for a Democrat, Barbuto said. 

“I think it’s possible, especially for a Republican voter who thought the 2020 election was legitimate,” said Barbuto. “Someone who is the opposite of an election denier.” 

Hageman has echoed Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was rigged. 

Cheney has been an ardent critic of Trump over the last two years, voting to impeach him and speaking out against his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. She is a vice chair of the Jan. 6 Committee and has blamed Trump for inciting the Capital riot. 

Sara Burlingame, a former Democratic state legislator currently running to get her seat back, said a reverse crossover effect such as this could happen, but also could lead to Republicans voting for a Libertarian candidate. No candidate has said they will run as a Libertarian in any of the statewide races. 

“If the Republican Party is your home, your house is on fire right now,” Burlingame said. “It’s more just disaffected voters.”  

A total of 49,316 people voted for Cheney last week. If the Democrats can get 68% of that voter base and all of Grey Bull’s 2020 supporters for a total of 100,000 votes, the race between her and Hageman could be competitive. A Wyoming Democratic U.S. House candidate hasn’t received at least 100,000 votes since 2008 when Gary Trauner received 106,758 in his losing campaign against Cynthia Lummis.  

The gubernatorial race will present a similar risk of party demotion for the Democrats. Democratic nominee Theresa Livingston received 4,989 votes in the primary. She faces Gov. Mark Gordon in a head-to-head. Based on their primary performances, Livingston would receive 4% of the vote in the general election. When pitting all the Democratic primary candidates against all the Republican candidates, the Democrats would end up with a similar 4% of the vote.  

In 2018, Democratic governor candidate Mary Throne received 27% of the vote. 

The undervote populace from the primary election could also play a factor in the general elections, but it is unclear in what way. A total of 14,372 people voted but did not cast a vote in the Secretary of State race. This race between State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, and State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, was a battle between a Trump-endorsed candidate (Gray) espousing a need for higher election security and another candidate (Nethercott) who said Wyoming’s elections are already secure. 

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Cale Case Launches “Hail Mary” Attempt To Draft Nathan Winters Against Chuck Gray In SOS Race

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

UPDATE 4:20 p.m.: Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily the Secretary of State’s office will not allow him to gather elector signatures before receiving the candidate’s approval. Nathan Winters will have to give his approval and signature before any citizen’s signatures are obtained for a potential Secretary of State campaign. 


Lander Sen. Cale Case is attempting to draft former legislator Nathan Winters to run as an Independent against Rep. Chuck Gray in the Secretary of State general election but there’s a significant issue with that — Winters doesn’t want to run.

Case made the announcement on Tuesday morning that he was trying to obtain signatures to get Winters on the ballot.

Case, a vocal opponent of Gray, acknowledged to Cowboy State Daily that it was a last ditch effort.

“It’s a Hail Mary, I confess,” Case said.  “But I’m hoping to build some momentum and get some traction. I’ve already talked to some major Republicans and they’re standing by to help. We just need some traction.”

That attempt, Winters wants no part of. He told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday morning that he 100% is not running.  

“Right now, I have so many important things going on, I can’t run for Secretary of State,” he said.

That didn’t seem to faze Case. The senator sent the “Draft Nathan Winters” petition to media outlets on Tuesday morning praising Winters and explaining why he’s backing him. 

“I served with Nathan Winters in the Wyoming Legislature,” Case said. “He is a very honorable, thoughtful, and kind person.” 

“He is very conservative and holds immense faith in our savior. No one ever will be able to tag him as a RINO (Republican in name only),” he said.

Winters, executive director of Family Policy Alliance of Wyoming, must receive 5,418 signatures of support by Aug. 29 in order to get his name on the ballot. 

Case said Winters is taking no part in organizing or authorizing the effort to get his name on the ballot. And despite Winters’ opposition, Case said he thinks there is still hope.

“I think Nathan is more than other people, willing to consider running,” Case said. “He’s a very conscientious person, understands Wyoming and is faith-driven for our future.” 

Under Wyoming law, a candidate must give permission for their name to be used on a petition prior to obtaining signatures. Winters has not given this permission. 

Case has argued to Kai Schon, Wyoming election division director, that this law restricts free speech. 

If it is determined the petition can be circulated, Case said he is hoping to achieve a “grassroots groundswell” to get enough signatures.  

Winters, a former Republican state representative for six years, also ran for State Auditor in 2018, losing to Kristi Racines. From 2019-2021, he also lobbied for Civics Education and a Convention of States- a conservative movement based on state’s rights. 

Since Jan. 2020 Winters has been with Family Policy Alliance, an American conservative Christian organization that is a lobbying arm for Focus on the Family at the level of state government politics. Focus on the Family is a fundamentalist Christian organization that promotes socially conservative views.

Winters said one of the projects he is involved in is coordinating efforts for a branch of Hillsdale College to be located in Wyoming. Hillsdale is a private conservative liberal arts school based in Michigan.

Case said Winters would have a “very good” chance of beating Gray because of Winters’ conservative background, which Case thinks could take away some of the voters who supported Gray in the primary. 

If enough signatures can be gained, Winters will be given the opportunity to face Gray in the general election. Under state law, Winters would have to agree to having his name be put on the ballot.

Gray, a Republican state representative from Casper, beat leading challenger Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, in the Republican primary by nearly 13,000 votes.

Gray ran a campaign expressing doubt about the security of Wyoming’s elections. He has vowed that he will immediately remove ballot drop boxes, make ballot harvesting a felony and enact further measures to strengthen the security of Wyoming’s elections. To further his point, Gray held free showings of “2000 Mules” during his campaign, a move that relies on questionable evidence to argue that the 2020 elections were rigged. 

There was significant mudslinging between Gray and Nethercott during their race. Gray brought up unsupported claims that Nethercott was being sued for defamation and under investigation by the Secretary of State office for campaign finance violations. 

Nethercott accused Gray of not being transparent about the source of his 2021 U.S. House campaign funding. 

Gray has held a contentious relationship with certain members of the Legislature while earning the support of the House Freedom Caucus. He has accused those opposing him in the Legislature of being “insiders,” a group he included Nethercott and the media in. 

No Democrat has entered the Secretary of State race. The only way Winters can get his name on the ballot at this juncture is to do so as an Independent. 

“Nathan will be an effective and conscientious Secretary of State for the people of Wyoming,” Case said. “We can rest assured that the office would be in good hands and that any changes would be thoughtfully undertaken.” 

In response to Gray winning the Republican nomination, at least one employee in the Secretary of State’s office has resigned.

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Wyoming Primary Election Recap: Who Raised The Most And Who Spent The Most

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Millions of dollars were spent helping politicians get elected in Wyoming this year. The candidates who spent the most money tended to have the most success, but they didn’t always win, and even when they did, it was sometimes by a small margin. 

Gov. Mark Gordon raised the most of any Wyoming candidate with $541,577. His biggest donor was his wife Jennie Gordon, who loaned him $100,000 for his campaign. Gordon received $45,000 from political action committees (PACs).  

Gordon also spent the most with $631,759 disbursed.  

Secretary of State candidate Chuck Gray was right behind Gordon, raising $527,980.  

Gray’s biggest donor was his father Jan Charles Gray, who gave $500,000 to his campaign. Jan Charles Gray also gave $50,000 to his son’s State House campaign after the younger Gray had announced he was running for Secretary of State. Jan Charles Gray was the biggest individual donor in the state this election cycle. 

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, spent $431,411 during his Secretary of State campaign. 

Megan Degenfelder, who won the Republican nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction, raised $237,118 during her campaign. She gave $70,000 to her own campaign and received $10,025 from family members. 

She will now face Democrat Sergio Maldonado in the general election, who raised $5,305. 

State Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, raised the most money of any State Legislature candidate, bringing in $58,850. It still wasn’t enough to help Perkins get reelected, as challenger Bob Ide beat him by 302 votes.  

Perkins raised $31,150 from individual donors and received $18,000 from PACs. He spent $23,339 during his campaign. 

Ide raised the second most of any State Legislature candidate with $56,220, of which $25,000 came from himself. He spent $52,842, more than any legislator in the state. 

Notable individuals contributing to Ide’s campaign included Jackson residents Dan and Carleen Brophy with a combined $3,000, State Treasurer Curt Meier with $1,000 and former U.S. House candidate Darrin Smith with $500. 

Incumbent Reps. Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, and Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, were two other legislators who spent large sums and still lost their reelection attempts. Both Republican legislators were targeted by their opponents for not being conservative enough. 

Duncan spent $35,473 during her campaign and Sweeney spent $20,701.  

Scott Smith, who beat Duncan by 248 votes, spent $11,574. 

Sweeney’s opponent Bill Allemand spent a sum similar to Sweeney’s expenditures.  

State Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, raised the most out of any State House candidate, bringing in $42,173 for her campaign. She gave $16,165 to her own campaign and received $13,650 from PACs.  

Newsome spent more than any representative as well, putting $39,334 into her campaign. She may have needed to spend every penny, only beating her opponent Nina Webber by 83 votes. Webber spent $15,043 during her campaign. 

House District 47 candidate Clyde Johnson raised the most money of any challenger, but it was 100% from himself, as he gave $39,135 to his own campaign. He spent $19,568. 

Johnson lost to fellow challenger Robert Davis by 377 votes. Davis raised $8,000 and spent $13,286. A candidate’s financial report is mostly just a spreadsheet, so they are allowed to keep debts.

The candidates were running to replace State Rep. Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment.  

House 23 candidate Liz Storer of Jackson raised the most of any Democrat in the state, raising $32,870 for her campaign. She spent $21,415 during her winning effort. Storer will take on Republican Paul Vogelheim in the general election. 

The Colorado-based Western Conservatives PAC spent $258,625 in Wyoming elections this year, more than any other PAC in Wyoming. This group, run by a Colorado lobbyist, issued campaign literature supporting Wyoming state-level candidates and criticizing their opponents, using cartoon bulldogs and other graphics to further their point.  

Another significant PAC was Wyoming Hope, which provided $157,500 to a slate of Republicans. Former Wyoming GOP Chair and state legislator Diemer True is the chair of this PAC. He also provided $11,794 of his own funds to various campaigns. 

The Brophys were the second biggest individual donors this year. They provided a combined $150,000 to a slate of staunchly conservative candidates throughout the state. The Brophys are well-known political mega donors, donating large sums in numerous elections in the past. 

In early 2021, Dan Brophy wrote a guest column for Cowboy State Daily, expressing frustration with U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for not questioning the results of the 2020 election.  

Gore-Tex heiress Susan Gore gave $14,000 to candidates this year, which is significantly less than what she gave in past elections.

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Hageman Pleased With Fauci Retirement; Calls For Investigation Over COVID Response

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming Republican U.S. House candidate Harriet Hageman is pleased that Dr. Anthony Fauci is stepping down.

“Almost everything that was wrong with the nation’s COVID-19 response can be traced back to Dr. Anthony Fauci,” Hageman said in a Monday press release, in response to Fauci’s announcement he will be stepping down in December.  

“When in American history has one unelected bureaucrat wielded so much power as to single-handedly crush the nation’s economy, steal more than a year of education from millions of children, cost people their jobs for declining to take an injection, and force honorable men and women out of the armed forces?” Hageman said.

Fauci has been running the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and advising the White House as its chief medical advisor since 2020. He became a key face of the COVID-19 pandemic and a pop culture fixture, offering advice to former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden on what kind of health restrictions he thought was best for the safety of the American public. 

Hageman is calling for Congressional hearings and investigations into Fauci’s service. 

She claims Fauci lied about funding gain-of-function research, fought against blaming China for the virus, admitted he misled the public about mask use and contradicted himself on numerous occasions. 

“And then he had to nerve to say about himself, ‘I represent science,’” Hageman said. “Such breathtaking arrogance, from a man who obviously loved the fawning media attention, epitomizes everything that is wrong with the administrative state.” 

Fauci has had a history of over-predicting the severity of pandemics. Early in the AIDS epidemic he overstated how that disease can be spread, and in 2009, predicted the swine flu could infect as many as one in three Americans, significantly more than it ended up infecting.  

But he was beloved by many members of the American public for his willingness to provide frank and direct analysis of the COVID pandemic, particularly advocating for social distancing efforts. His face became adorned on holiday ornaments, socks, donuts, T-shirts and fan art, and restaurants named drinks after him.  

Fauci kept an amicable relationship with prior presidents but quickly fell into a strained relationship with Trump over the former president’s reluctance to enact health restrictions in response to the pandemic and Fauci’s willingness to refute Trump’s false claims.  

Early in the pandemic, Fauci said COVID was not a major threat to the American public but said public health officials needed to take it seriously. He also said in early March 2020 that wearing face masks was unnecessary. Trump and other members of the Republican Party criticized Fauci for these early missteps. 

In December 2020, Fauci was promoted to Chief Medical Advisor to the White House by Biden. Fauci said Biden’s election gave him a “liberating feeling” to speak freely about science without interference from the new administration. 

Fauci said he and his family have received death threats and during one Senate hearing, accused Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., of inciting these threats by spreading misinformation. Paul has endorsed Hageman in her campaign. He is in line to become chairman of the Senate Health Committee if Republicans win the majority in the upper chamber this fall. 

“I am hopeful that in the new Congress, with a new Republican majority, there will be investigations and hearings to look into exactly how decisions were made, what information was used, and how the American people were misled,” Hageman said. “And I trust that Dr. Fauci will be front and center.” 

After beating U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney last week in the primary election, Hageman will face Democrat Lynette Grey Bull in the general election. 

Other members of the U.S. Senate and House have also pledged to investigate Fauci. 

“To sum it up: Good riddance – and see you soon,” Hageman said.

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Cheney Struck Down, But More Powerful?

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By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily
Coy@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming Republican U.S. Representative Liz Cheney could have easily won reelection, but she would have had to compromise her principles to do so, she said in a post-election interview on NBC’s Today Show this week. 

Instead of Cheney, Wyoming Republican voters chose Harriet Hageman by a huge majority in Tuesday’s Wyoming primary election.  Hageman received about 113,000 votes to Cheney’s 49,300.  The number of Democrats crossing over to register and vote Republican in the primary was large, but in the end did not make a difference in the outcome of this race.  

Hageman moves on to face Democrat Lynette Grey Bull of Ft. Washakie in the general election.  Cheney is also moving on.  

Losing the congressional election has neither dampened Cheney’s spirit nor changed her mission, she said. Cheney said she is going to complete her work for the people of Wyoming, will work on getting the GOP back to where Cheney believes it needs to be and will continue the mission of the Jan. 6 Committee.    



And after being pressed several times by Today’s Savannah Guthrie about whether Cheney is going to run for president, Cheney said, “…it is something I am thinking about and I will make a decision in the coming months.” 

Cheney told Guthrie that Cheney won previous elections and “the path to that same victory would have been very easy. But that path would have required that I accept, embrace, perpetuate the big lie.”

The “big lie,” she said, is the belief that the country’s choice of Joe Biden to be president in 2020 was not done through a legitimate election process.  It is this “lie” and former president Donald Trump, who some consider it’s greatest perpetuator, that Cheney has dedicated much of her time and resources to fighting.  And this fight continues.

Cheney was one of 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Trump. Cheney and three other of those representatives have been defeated in primary elections, according to CBS News. Two have moved a step closer to reelection to November’s general election.  Four of the 10 decided not to run for reelection. 

Cheney is co-chair of the House January 6 Committee which continues to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol by protesters. 

Cheney has also transferred in the neighborhood of $7 million from her federal campaign account her leadership Political Action Committee (PAC), named “The Great Task,” according to a Wednesday article in the Wall Street Journal. 

“In coming weeks, Liz will be launching an organization to educate the American people about the ongoing threat to our Republic, and to mobilize a unified effort to oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president,” said Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler in an email to Cowboy State Daily.  

Trump congratulated Hageman election night with a post on Truth Social.  The same post also criticized Cheney. 

“This is a wonderful result for America, and a complete rebuke of the Unselect Committee of political Hacks and Thugs. Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself, the way she acted, and her spiteful, sanctimonious words and actions towards others,” Trump wrote. “Now she can finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion where, I am sure, she will be much happier than she is right now. Thank you WYOMING!” 

Guthrie asked Cheney about Trump’s ‘oblivion’ comment.  She also asked Cheney if she was perhaps trying to channel Obi-wan Kenobi from Star Wars by becoming more powerful after Cheney’s political death.   (Kenobi warned his nemesis Darth Vader that if Vader struck him down, Kenobi would become more powerful.)    

“I don’t see it as death this morning,” Cheney said.  “I think we have a tremendous amount of work left to do.  And certainly I am absolutely going to continue this battle.  I think it’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in.  … I think it’s certainly the most important challenge that our nation has faced in recent history and maybe since the Civil War and it’s one that we must win.”

Cheney conceded the race, but it was of a different tone than some past candidate consessions. “Now the real work begins” was the headline of her post election news release. 

Cheney’s PAC, “The Great Task” is a reference to Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address.    

“The great and original champion of our party, Abraham Lincoln, was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all…,” Cheney said election night. “Lincoln and Grant and all who fought in our nation’s tragic civil war, including my own great-great-grandfathers, saved our union. Their courage saved freedom. And if we listen closely, they are speaking to us down the generations.” 

Cheney said Trump and those who deny the results of the 2020 election are a grave threat to the nation. 

She said there are candidates for governors and secretaries of states who may not certify of elections when they don’t like the results,  “And we have candidates for Congress, including here in Wyoming, who refuse to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and suggest that states decertify their results.”   

 “Our nation is barreling, once again towards crisis, lawlessness, and violence. No American should support election deniers for any position of genuine responsibility where their refusal to follow the rule of law will corrupt our future,” Cheney said election night. 

Cheney said today’s GOP is in bad shape and has become a cult of personality formed around Trump.  She said she is dedicated to getting the party back to embracing the values and principles on which it was founded. 

“I have said since January 6th that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office, and I mean it,” Cheney said.

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Cale Case: Republicans Looking For Candidate To Run As Independent Against Chuck Gray

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said there is an ongoing campaign to find an Independent candidate to run against Secretary of State Republican nominee Chuck Gray in the general election.  

“There’s a lot of interest in this,” Case said. 

To get an Independent on the ballot at this juncture, organizers would have to get signatures from 5,046 electors around the state by Aug. 31. 

This number represents 2% of the total votes cast in the 2020 general election U.S. House race in Wyoming, the baseline requirement to get an Independent candidate on the ballot for a general election in the state. 

Case, a supporter of State Sen. Tara Nethercott, second-place finisher in the race, said he would be willing to help with this effort.  

“It’s very interesting because there’s likely broad support,” he said. “That’s a manageable number.”  

Case said Gray started campaigning and putting serious money into his campaign earlier than Nethercott which helped him pull off the victory. Gray was also assisted by the statewide recognition he garnered during his 2021 U.S. House campaign.  

Gray, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, beat Nethercott by nearly 13,000 votes in the primary election on Tuesday. 

During the Secretary of State race, significant mud was thrown between Nethercott and Gray.  

Gray disbursed literature saying Nethercott was being sued for defamation and under investigation for campaign finance violations. No substantiating evidence has been found for either claim. 

“His (Gray) completely false mailers says a lot about the situation,” Case said. 

Nethercott accused Gray of failing to be transparent regarding the source of his 2021 U.S. House campaign funding.  

Gray has vowed that he will enact more stringent election laws in Wyoming. He has painted a picture of “insiders,” which includes Nethercott, who have conspired against his efforts to get conservative legislation passed. 

Gray hosted free showings of “2000 Mules” during the campaign, a movie that questions the security of ballot drop boxes. No footage from Wyoming was shown in the film. 

Wyoming voters are divided on the issue of election security. Many members of the Wyoming Republican Party, like Cody resident Vince Vanata, believe the state’s elections are not secure enough. Vanata said the allowing of ballot drop boxes and the permission that was given to election staff to count ballots three days prior to election day in 2020 was illegal. 

“I challenge the statement being made that we had the most secure elections in the state, they violated the law, they didn’t bend more than the integrity of the intent of the law, they violated the law,” Vanata said during a Park County Republican Party meeting on Aug. 4. 

“The Secretary of State needs to be held with their feet to the fire and held accountable for what they have done and what they’ve gotten away with, what they’re going to continue try and do,” he said.

Cheyenne resident Amy Fenimore said it should be illegal for candidates to spread disinformation about the security of Wyoming’s elections, in which she has full confidence. Since 2000, four cases of voter fraud have been prosecuted in the state. 

“And if all four prosecuted were found guilty – I don’t know,” she said. “If people are giving out misleading information, why are they not called out on it?” 

Who’s It Going To Be? 

Wyoming law precludes a losing primary candidate from running in the general election, so Nethercott and fellow challenger Mark Armstrong would be ineligible to run again. 

“It would have to be a conservative person,” Case said. “It would have to be a good, conservative person with conservative credentials who would temporarily run as an Independent.” 

There are no Democrats running for Secretary of State this year. 

If a candidate does come forth to run against Gray, who received 75,938 votes, they will have a tall, but not impossible task if they hope to win.  

In 2018, 53,355 people voted for Democrat James Byrd for Secretary of State. Only 8,194 Democrats voted in Tuesday’s primary, but that paltry sum is likely due to extensive crossover voting in the Republican U.S. House race between U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman. 

There was talk in political circles that former gubernatorial candidate Sam Galeotos and former state legislator Nathan Winters were considering runs. Both told Cowboy State Daily on Friday they would not be entering the race.

The last time a true Independent ran in a statewide Wyoming election was 2014, although there were members of the Libertarian and Constitutional parties represented as candidates in the 2020 U.S. House race. 

Jim Roscoe, an Independent representative for House District 22, was elected in 2018. 

The only other Independent legislator in Wyoming history was Johnson County’s William Holland who served from 1971-1978.

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Recount Results: Nothing Changed, Incumbent Loses By 13 Votes In Northeastern Wyoming

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The recount results are in and nothing has changed in the House District 22 race in Northeast Wyoming. Allen Slagle won the Republican nomination by the same 13 votes as he originally did in Tuesday night’s primary election. 

Wyoming law requires any state race returning a margin of victory of less than 1% between the winning candidate and their nearest challenger to undergo a recount. Slagle had beaten Williams by 0.4%. 

“It shows it was a good race and both candidates worked hard,” Slagle told Cowboy State Daily Friday afternoon.

Slagle beat out State Rep. JD Williams, R-Lusk by 1,718 to 1,705 votes. Prior to the recount being performed, Williams said it didn’t need to occur and trusted the initial results of the election.  He didn’t expect any numbers to change and said he is not aware of any fraudulent activity occurring in Wyoming’s elections. 

“People don’t appreciate our elections like they should,” Williams said. “It’s a process that works great. When you hear about other places, it makes you glad that you live here in Wyoming. I’m not aware of any compromised elections in Wyoming, but then again, I live under a rock as far as politics goes.” 

Slagle said he likewise, wasn’t nervous when the recount was called and didn’t expect it to change much as he has “pretty good confidence” in the state’s elections. He said he was able to pull out the win by door knocking and making as many connections as he could with constituents.

Williams, a first-term legislator who was appointed in 2021, does not consider himself a politician. The day after losing the election on Wednesday, he had some injury added to insult, as a horse fell on top of him. 

“I wasn’t feeling too good,” he said. 

Williams said it’s a lot easier to tell people what they want to hear rather than the truth. 

During an Aug. 9 forum, Williams said he wouldn’t accept an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, despite supporting his policies, as he expressed concern Trump’s support would blur his loyalty between national and state-level interests. 

“I might feel obligated to play that same game he has to play,” Williams said during the forum. “I don’t think that fits Wyoming. What if I lost the election? Then what? I might feel obligated to challenge the results.” 

Williams has said he won’t always adhere to the Wyoming Republican platform, while Slagle has made that commitment.  

“I decided to run for House District 2 because we need more Conservative voices in Cheyenne to stand for liberty and maintain the Wyoming way of life,” Slagle said on his campaign website.

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