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

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just going the distance,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is home,” he said.

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

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

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

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

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

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

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

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

The Incumbent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Former Incumbent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Incumbent’s Cousin

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is pro-life.

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

The Outsider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cheney Prepares For Prime-Time January 6 Hearing

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Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
20703

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

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

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

New Political World

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

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

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

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

Downplayed Significance

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

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

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

At least one of her supporters agree.

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

Defending Democracy

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

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

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

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

Fear

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

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

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

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

Prime-Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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Wyoming GOP Chair Frank Eathorne Says He Won’t Resign

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Wyoming GOP Chair Frank Eathorne. Photo by Matt Idler
20684

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call For Resignation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“GOP Is United”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOP Spike

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

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

Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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20642

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

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

Undiluted

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘May The Best One Win’ 

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

“May the best one win,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new filing reports will come out after July 15.

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

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

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

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

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

“Skin In The Game”

Home to the University of Wyoming, Albany County hosts a sizable demographic of younger adults. The focus of the House 46 race reflects this, with each candidate putting a large emphasis on their vision for Wyoming’s future.

“I think the biggest benefit of that is that someone in their 20s has the most skin in the game,” said Andrew, the youngest legislator in the state at 28-years old.  “How I as a legislator choose to affect the future of our economy, the future of our education system, and the future of our state in general will have very direct implications for everyone who is part of my generation.”

A Washington native, Andrew has lived in Wyoming since 2013 and runs a successful food truck business. A firm believer in local control, Andrew said the best route for Wyoming’s economy is to cut out government over-regulation and “support our small local businesses by not allowing large out-of-state corporations to create more legal barriers to entry.” 

In the 2020 House District 46 race, Andrew easily knocked off Democratic challenger Tim Chestnut by nearly 19% of the vote. In his primary that year Andrew faced even less challenge, beating his opponent by nearly 46% of the vote.

Andrew is one of the more conservative lawmakers in the legislature, earning an 80% rating from Wyorino.com. 

Due to redistricting,House District 46 changed its boundaries this spring picking up swaths of land northwest and east of downtown Laramie. This was land previously located in House District 14, the district of Rep. Trey Sherwood (D-Laramie). Sherwood narrowly won her 2020 election by 85 votes. She will pick up portions of conservative-leaning House District 47 in her reelection bid this year. 

“Made-Up Issues”

Due to redistricting, Ben-David was moved to House District 46 from House District 14. She said was happy with Sherwood and would have never considered running against her, but the proposition of being represented by Andrew changed everything for her. 

“I think Ocean Andrew, like many other Republicans in the legislature, is toeing the party line,” Ben-David said. “Wyoming people would rather hear about Wyoming-specific issues.”

Ben-David said “made-up issues” like critical race theory, transgender athletics and cryptocurrency are national topics currently distracting Wyoming politics. A professor and researcher at the University of Wyoming, Ben-David said more focus should be given to retaining young people in Wyoming, who she said have a narrow range of jobs to choose from.

“I can count on one hand how many students I’ve had that have found a job in Wyoming,” she said. “They want to stay but have to leave because there’s no jobs.”

Ben-David believes Wyoming needs to harness renewable energy in the future, which is one of her key platform topics. She said it’s time for the state to move on from oil, coal, and natural gas, and start embracing wind and solar energy. She said declining fossil fuel revenues have made the state dependent on COVID-19 relief money.

“We’re burying the state in the 1950s without looking forward,” she said. “We need to build our own economy. Right now we don’t have one.”

Ben-David said focus needs to be put on the small towns of Wyoming. She didn’t have a clear solution for what may happen to mine communities like Kemmerer if coal goes away but said town residents should look to other opportunities and alternative energy sources like helium so they can adapt for the future.

“There’s a lot of things we can do,” she said. “We need to find a new ride.”

No matter which candidate is elected in November, House District 46 will have a legislator with experience in education.

Both Ben-David and Lennox have spent most of their lives working in education, while Andrew is a member of the legislature’s Education Committee.

Andrew and Ben-David express conflicting views on the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Ben-David supports it and wants teachers to have the primary decision making to what is taught to students, while Andrew opposes it, but wants the decision of whether it’s taught or not made on a local level.

“The problem with our education system is that we live in a polarized society and we are never going to be able to cram everyone’s values into one system,” Andrew said. “Trying to do so makes the system ineffective for our students and miserable for our teachers, this is what we are seeing now. As a state, we need to fund students and not systems.”

Andrew supports private school choice programs that allow parents and teachers to directly choose what type of schooling children receive.

Middle Ground Candidate

Lennox grew up in Cheyenne and worked in the legislature as an intern while attending the university in Laramie. He worked in education in California for 23 years but returned home to Wyoming in 2018.

Now a small business owner, Lennox describes himself as a “middle ground candidate” who leans conservative on most issues and will vote to support reasonable and needed legislation. 

He agrees with Andrew when it comes to opposing big government.

“I’m all for limited government,” Lennox said. “We’re independent in Wyoming, we can get this done. We don’t need government in our lives. Let them do their thing, let them be who they are.” 

He said he also agrees with Ben-David on certain issues and wants to reach across the aisle if it means getting things done for his constituents. 

“I’m fully aware of the death nail that could mean in the campaign,” he said.

Lennox finds bipartisanship sorely missing in politics today. His top concern, he said, will be listening to the needs of his constituents and responding to their concerns. This is one criticism he has of Andrew, who he said has been “missing in action” when it comes to always responding to his constituents. 

“I’m going to guarantee you, I’m going to be talking to you,” Lennox said. “Finding out what your needs are. I’m going to be someone available to you and I’m going to be listening, or someone who is on the same page as you.”

During the 2022 session Andrew sponsored one bill and co-sponsored five. 

“I was privileged to play small parts in large efforts in my first term,” Andrew said. “My main accomplishment from this experience was gaining a solid understanding of the legislature and how it operates with which I was able to help my constituents more successfully engage in the process. Public participation is essential to good government and people want to participate, but they often just need a little help navigating it.” 

Although Lennox’s views may not represent every voter in his district, he said he wants to be as transparent as possible about where he stands on issues so the voters know exactly who may be representing them.

“I’m going to be an absolute neighbor available to you,” he said. “You may say, ‘Look RJ, this is ridiculous, this is the policy, this is the laws,’ and I’ll be forthcoming and listen to that. You may say after the vote, ‘Hey RJ, I’m not feeling that.’ But at least when the vote happens they’re not shocked. They’ll say, ‘He listened to his constituents.’”

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Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Filed By Natrona County Republican Party Against State GOP

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the Natrona County Republican Party against the state GOP. 

Laramie County Judge Peter Froelicher ruled that Natrona County had no existing grounds to complain because the party had since adopted bylaws that make the complaint moot. Froelicher chose to delay ruling on the matter until after the State GOP convention took place in early May. 

The State GOP sent out an email to its members on Friday about the ruling.

“We’ve talked about lawfare in the past,” the state party said. “It’s a tactic used by opposition to derail, defund, and demoralize a group using baseless litigation. Sorry, that won’t work in Wyoming! The good people of this state understand the petty tactics being used to criticize the party in efforts to defund and stifle the conservative voice in Wyoming politics.”

The dispute stems from the state party’s 2020 convention, where new bylaws were adopted requiring each county party to pay dues to the state party. 

Natrona County opposed the way these 2018 bylaws were amended because the state GOP took a vote from the delegates present at the convention, not the total number of delegates elected. The county party filed a lawsuit over the bylaw change shortly after. Those bylaws were then ratified at the 2022 convention held earlier this month.

“Standing requires parties to have existing and genuine, as distinguished from theoretical, rights or interests, and there must be a controversy upon which the judgment of the court may effectively operate, as distinguished from a debate or argument evoking a purely political, administrative, philosophical, or academic conclusion,” Froelicher wrote in his May 20 decision.

The bylaw change occurred in response to Natrona’s refusal to pay dues to the state party, prompting the state Republican Party this January to cut the number of Natrona County delegates allowed to participate in this year’s convention, from 33 to six. This was a sizable drop for the second most populous county in the state, leaving it with less delegates than Niobrara, the least populous county in the state.

The state party also stripped Laramie County, the most populous county in the state, of all but three of its delegates due to an unrelated matter.

Even if the state party had not removed the delegates from the two counties, that would not have been enough to stop the ratification of the 2020 bylaws.  Ninety percent of the delegates supported ratification in the 254-25 vote. 

“The 90% majority amply demonstrates that those who are discontent within the Wyoming Republican Party are merely a vocal minority,” the state party said. “Even with Laramie County delegates not seated because of a county level failure to hold delegate voting according to local bylaws, the above vote vividly reflected the will of the convention delegation. Furthermore, even if Laramie County delegates had been seated, there would have been a supermajority ratification of the bylaws.”

Froelicher said the case was moot because it did not have any practical effect on any existing controversy, citing past Wyoming Supreme Court precedent.

“By its ratification at the 2022 State Convention, the defendant has cured the alleged error of not applying the plain and unambiguous language,” Froelicher wrote.

As of late April, the Natrona County Republican Party owed the state GOP $25,217 for dues that state party Treasurer Bob Ferguson said have been accruing since July 2019.

“It was not the ruling we were hoping for,” said Kevin Taheri, chairman of the Natrona County Republican Party.

In documents filed with the state district court in Natrona County, the Natrona County GOP said it refused to pay its dues because it did not support how the state GOP was being run and because of fundraising difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Froelicher said no specific harm was caused to Natrona County GOP during the interim period between the 2020 and 2022 conventions.  He also said there are disputed facts regarding the application of the 2020 bylaws in the interim. 

“The court’s decision that the case is moot is also supported by the doctrine of standing and the cases cited by the defendant which demonstrate that courts are generally reluctant to intervene in the internal affairs of voluntary associations,” Froelicher wrote. “Judicial intervention into the internal workings of a political party should be done cautiously and only where there is a clear justiciable controversy.”

County party precinct committee members are elected by the voters in public elections, but state delegates are elected by these committee members at the county conventions. Froelicher’s ruling indirectly gives precedence to public participation at county-level meetings and conventions rather than the state convention.

Taheri said the county party’s central committee will have to decide moving forward if it would like to pay its dues. Although the central committee opposed setting up a fund for people who wanted to donate to the party, Taheri said he set up a different committee to help raise funds for the party, which to date have raised $50. 

“Hopefully going forward some progress will be made,” he said.

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Mr. Pillow: Wyoming Voting Machines Are Fraudulent And If You Don’t Agree, You’re A Traitor

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

What do pillows, a sweaty man in a suit and the 2020 election have in common? Mike Lindell.

Lindell, also known as the “My Pillow Guy,” attended former President Donald Trump’s “Save America Rally” in Casper on Saturday. The “My Pillow” CEO and founder worked the crowd at a tireless pace, working up a sweat as he stopped to take selfies and photos with hundreds of people over the course of the day.

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily, Lindell said people need to get behind him to “Help save our country, help save the American dream.”

The Minnesota businessman has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s claim the 2020 elections were rigged and stolen from him. Lindell said he has spent more than $30 million investigating 2020 election fraud and “has more information than anyone in the world.”

“It was an algorithm that went nationwide, from Hawaii to Alaska to California to New York island,” he said. 

Lindell has cast his net of election fraud allegations over all 50 states, including Wyoming. 

Lindell said anyone who says Wyoming’s election results weren’t part of the problem, despite the fact the state had the largest margin of support for Trump in the country, is a traitor to America. 

“Any politician says that — 100% traitor,” he said. “Wyoming had 20-some thousand votes stole in the president election. That’s almost 10% of your home (total cast) votes in Wyoming. Everything was taken.

“When you do it with computers you have to smooth out all 50 states,” he added.

Lindell said California, a state with one of the largest margins of victory for President Joe Biden against Trump, was also home to the most stolen votes.

He also said the recent primary election in Georgia was thrown. 

This election saw the candidate endorsed by Trump, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, defeated by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Also losing in Georgia was U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who was endorsed by Trump in her race for the secretary of state’s office against incumbent Brad Raffensperger.

“Kemp, (Attorney General) Chris Carr, Brad Raffensperger- the triple crown of crime,” Lindell said. “It was all done through the machines, we have all the evidence. We sat outside (watching) for guys, we watched it all.”

Although it was reported Raffensperger received 52% of the vote in the election, Lindell maintained he did not receive even 40%.

Lindell has also promoted an unproven conspiracy theory that voting machine companies Smartmatic and Dominion conspired with foreign powers to rig voting machines. His rhetoric resulted in a $1.3 billion lawsuit against him that is still ongoing. His countersuit was thrown out.

Lindell is backing a preliminary injunction filed In Arizona in April demanding a change be made to allow ballots to be counted by hand. He said more injunctions will be filed in Alabama, Wyoming and Texas, and said the recent election in Georgia will only help his case.

“We’re going state by state,” he said.

In April 2021, Lindell launched his own social media site called “Frank.” Here, Lindell has promoted a number of conspiracy theories and has offered ideas how election security can be ramped up in the future. 

“You’re not going to find it on Fox rotten news, they don’t talk about the election,” he said, “They don’t talk about it at Newsmax.”

He said holding elections by hand-count is the only way to guarantee a safe election. 

“You don’t have a country if they don’t go,” he said.

The Frankspeech.com homepage features links to a “Terminate the Machines Petition,” a buy-one-get-one-free ad for his Giza Dream Sheets and another ad for the Lindell Legal Fund, featuring a cross prominently in the logo.

When asked if Trump would be the only candidate Lindell would support in the 2024 presidential elections, he responded, “that’s the dumbest question you’ve asked me” and stepped away to take a photo with a fan, ending the interview.

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Trump Rally Recap: Wild Costumes, Travelers From All Over, “Fake Media” & “Let’s Go Brandon” Chants

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

People came from far and wide, sleeping on the ground and waiting in line for hours, if not days, all for the chance to hear former President Donald Trump speak in person at the Ford Wyoming Center on Saturday, his first-ever speaking appearance in the Cowboy State.

Loyalty for Trump was on fierce display Saturday, with nearly every attendee wearing a shirt, hat or cape endorsing him. The question of how much of the state agrees with the roughly 10,000 who attended the rally will be settled in the upcoming midterm primary and general elections.

In terms of what rally organizers had expected for turnout, up to 20,000, attendance at the free event fell a bit short.

Those who did show up, expressed fervent support for Trump and his band of loyalists who also spoke at the event, giving more than 20 standing ovations over the course of the afternoon.

“We love you,” one woman screamed out at Trump as he gave his address. 


Trump Rally Coverage
Photo Gallery of Trump Rally
Trump Rips Cheney, Endorses Hageman
Hageman Energizes Crowd, Vows To Fight Cheney, Dems


Slept On The Ground

Amie and Kash Richmond drove down from Powell, nearly four hours away, to see the event. Not only did the couple make the drive, but they also arrived at 7:30 a.m. Friday, a full 32.5 hours before Trump was scheduled to speak. 

The Richmonds slept on the ground for the chance to see the former president who hasn’t yet officially declared he will run in 2024. They were some of the first in line Saturday morning.

“We love Trump and we love what he did for us,” Kash Richmond said, wearing a large Trump cowboy hat. “He’s an American hero, absolutely 100%.”

Despite the fact she endorsed Trump in 2016 and 2020 and voted with him more than 90% of the time, there was no support for U.S. Rep Liz Cheney expressed in any way on Saturday. That’s because Cheney has become one of the most vocal critics of Trump following his claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him and voted for his impeachment.

It was clear Trump was the primary reason for most attendees to come. Although the rally was a fundraiser for Cheney’s U.S. Congress opponent Harriet Hageman, only a few attendees wore attire promoting Hageman or told Cowboy State Daily they were at the rally to see her. Even fewer wore shirts criticizing her opponent U.S. Rep Liz Cheney.

One of the few who did was Riverton resident Tom Eustice, wearing a T-shirt referring to Cheney as a “swamp rat” with similar imagery.

“She basically stabbed Trump in the back,” he said.

Eustice said he had questions about who actually instigated the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“It could have been all set up by the Democrats for all I know,” he said.

He added he was frustrated with Cheney for taking up the role on the U.S. Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, on which she holds a leadership position. 

Frank And Unapologetic

Many of Trump’s supporters have said their steadfast loyalty to Trump comes from the former president’s willingness to speak in a frank, unapologetic nature. In situations where many politicians may look for compromises or mince words, Trump almost always does not, outraging his critics and inspiring his fans.

“Seeing his speeches makes you all riled up,” said Isaiah Cox, a South Dakota resident who traveled to the rally. “He’s got a backbone.”

For the Richmonds, Trump is still a candidate they see more electable than any other in 2024.

“If Trump is running for 2024, he’ll blow it out of the park,” Kash Richmond said, citing the vast amount of money Trump has in his war chest. 

Similarly, San Diego resident Amy Lee said seeing Trump or someone he endorses becoming president is the only way the “Make America Great Again” movement can continue. A Vietnamese immigrant, Lee said many Americans don’t realize how good they’ve got it.

“We clearly know what communism is like,” she said. “We’re not about to lose this country to the communists.”

Lee said she sees a stark difference between the country now compared to when Trump was in office, criticizing President Joe Biden’s actions on energy, the border and foreign diplomacy. She regularly attends Trump rallies and said it is her goal to reach young people to prevent the next generation from being “brainwashed.” 

Kash Richmond went further with this sentiment, calling the American people “asleep,” “naive” and “dumb.”

“We need to go back to our local politics,” he said. “We need to teach that in schools and make that a priority in our lives. It’s a little bit the country is the way it is because we let it happen.”

Fake Media Is The Virus

Lee and her husband and about a dozen other friends traveled to Wyoming to attend the rally together. Each wore a shirt proclaiming “Fake Media is the Virus” on the front. On the back of these shirts, each person had their own letter spelling out the message “Media is the Liar.”

“They know that there’s a cure for the virus and all the vitamins, Ivermectin and all that,” she said. “They don’t want to report it and it’s proven.

“They want to dictate how you should live your life.”

Neither the Centers For Disease Control or World Health Organization have recommended Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. It was Trump who oversaw the rollout of the vaccines approved for use today.

Riverton residents Ray Abodaca and Paul Cross wore oversized red and blue bow ties to the event.

“I want to be around people that have the same values that I do,” Abodaca said. “The people who have the same values, you can just feel it. When I was standing outside, I felt like a power. I feel an equal bond with each other”

Jonathan Riches, a Florida resident known for posing as different figures to give false interviews to the media and a prolific online troll, has been to 48 Trump rallies in his lifetime. He said his first Trump rally in February 2016 was a defining moment in his life.

“He knows how to electrify the crowd, he says the right things,” Riches said.

Following Trump’s speech, Oklahoma resident Melissa Cole excitedly filmed her fellow Protzmanians walking out of the arena. 

Prozmanians are a group of people named after QAnon cult leader Michael Protzman. They believe Trump is using secret code in his speeches, tapping into Gematria, the practice of assigning a numerical value to a name, word, or phrase according to an alphanumeric cipher. A few their members wore red ties at the event to distinguish themselves.

“It’s God’s hidden language,” Cole said.

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Trump Rips Cheney, Endorses Hageman, Gets Standing Ovation At Packed Rally In Casper

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

Former President Donald Trump brought his message of conservatism to Wyoming on Saturday, addressing old grudges, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and what he believes to be the failures of President Joe Biden.

The 45th president, speaking to a crowd of about 10,000 at the Ford Wyoming Center, brought the crowd to its feet by pledging that Cheney would be told “you’re fired” by Wyoming’s voters this fall.

“I think this is the most important election that we have, right here,” he said, adding later he finds the 2022 mid-term elections to be the most important mid-terms in U.S. history.

“We’re going to take back our country,” he said.


RELATED COVERAGE:
Hageman Energizes Crowd At Trump Rally
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Trump’s appearance was a fundraiser for the congressional candidate Harriet Hageman, who he described as “one of the greatest lawyers.” Trump made a point to attack Cheney a number of times, at one point calling her a “crazy RINO,” a nickname for a ‘Republican in name only.’ 

“The Liz Cheneys of the world … they’re far worse,” he said. “Because you don’t know as much where the hell they are coming from.”

Cheney has spoken out against Trump a number of times over his insistence that he was cheated out of victory in the 2020 presidential election. She also voted for his impeachment on allegations he incited the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

A mashup photo of Cheney and former President George W. Bush generated great laughter from the audience.



Trump came back to Cheney time and time again, bringing up her role on the Jan. 6 Select Committee to Investigate the attack on the Capitol.

“What a load of crap,” he said. “Most of this country knows it.”

Trump expressed frustration that certain members of Antifa and Black Lives Matter are not in jail. He said he believed the crowd he spoke to on Jan. 6, 2021 at the Capitol before the riot to be the largest crowd he’s ever spoken before, and accused the “fake news media” of downplaying this achievement.

He also addressed a cast of other past adversaries throughout his more than 90 minute-long speech.

Trump claimed Ukraine would never be under attack if he was still president, and said the Russian aggression may turn into a third World War. 

Trump and Russian President Vladimir consistently maintained a cozy relationship throughout his term. But on Saturday, Trump expressed a different opinion, saying “he (Putin) has come down a long ways.” Trump said while president, he threatened Putin and China President Xi Jinping against crossing him.


Photo by Matt Ider, Cowboy State Daily

He also criticized President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We wouldn’t have left American citizens behind,” he said.

Trump brought up the border, vowing to finish the remainder of the wall he was building there if elected again. This issue, historically one of his biggest talking points, wasn’t given much time during the speech.

Trump gave more attention to his foreign policy governance at a number of different points, mentioning his negotiating to have the United States paid back for debts from other countries in the North American Treaty Organization.

He said accusations made of his collusion with Russia during the 2016 election were a scheme drummed up by his former presidential opponent Democrat Hillary Clinton, causing him and his team to “go through hell.” 

Cheney, he said, should have been just concerned with the allegations of Russian collusion as she is with Jan. 6.

Trump also complained about the media under-covering claims that his 2016 campaign was spied on by Clinton and former President Barack Obama. Trump said he has been persecuted more than Billy the Kid and Al Capone.

“If the tables were turned, it would be perhaps the death penalty,” he said.

Trump said he wants to know what happened during the 2020 elections and that under his leadership, Americans “lost nothing,” unlike under the administrations of Bush and President Joe Biden. He brought up a number of stolen election claims.

“If we’ve learned one thing from Trump is that our elections are seriously flawed,” he said, speaking in the first-person. 

Trump described Biden as the worst president of all time, saying the difference between him and Biden “could not be more stark.”

Trump said “Trumpism” means low regulation, low taxes, taking care of veterans and not letting other countries take advantage of U.S. on trade. He described “Make America Great Again” as the greatest movement as “by far the greatest political movement in the history of our country, not even close.”

“There is no victory we cannot have,” he said.


Photo by Matt Idler

Trump dedicated a portion of his speech to transgender issues, criticizing instances of biological males being allowed to participate in women’s sports. 

Trump also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and said Democrats are trying to ruin America.

He also had negative comments about the “fake news media,” remarking on how many media members were present at the event. Trump referred to “left-wing censorship” and said America no longer has free speech in America. He also said the media is against God and the U.S. founding fathers and is attempting to tear down the American fabric. 

He said Democrats want Cheney to win her race because they want to hurt him.

“She’s the face of the Washington swamp,” he said.

Nearly every seat was filled at the Ford Wyoming Center, which has a capacity of 9,700. 

The claim was falsely made however, as Trump walked on stage that it was the biggest crowd ever for a political event in Wyoming history. A few other events drew more people, including former President Barak Obama’s speech in Laramie in 2008 that drew around 16,000.

A little more than an hour into his speech, Trump seemed to lose focus, remarking on the quality of the TV screens on each side of the stage.

“What’s more fun than a Trump rally?” he questioned to loud applause. 

More than 75 minutes in, a member in the audience behind him started yawning. A few people trickled out before the speech was over but most stayed and cheered loudly until the end. “Wyoming is Trump Country” displayed on the video screens immediately following his speech. 


Photo by Matt Idler, Cowboy State Daily

Trump referred to Wyoming as “majestic,” “MAGA-country,” and “ultra-MAGA-country.” He also expressed his love for the Wyoming Republican Party, and said he is very proud of party chairman Frank Eathorne.

“You’ve done an outstanding job,” he said to Eathorne. “But this is politics, so if you don’t win Frank, you did a lousy job.”

But earning the most attention of all his supporters was Hageman.

“Harriet, you better never let them down,” he said.

Hageman came up with Trump at one point in the speech, and mentioned how the country had a 4% surplus in terms of national oil production when Trump left office in January 2020. Now, the country has a roughly 4% deficit. 

“Do you miss him yet?” she questioned the audience.

Trump asked if anyone wants him to run again, bringing the loudest cheer of the night from the audience and a standing ovation.

“We will make America great again,” Trump said, closing out his speech to a loud cheer.

Whatever questions about how much loyalty remains for Trump within his Republican base, the 10,000 people in attendance showed their support for the former president is steadfast.

Isaiah Cox, a South Dakota resident, drove three hours with his mother Larissa Cox to the event. The two said its Trump’s relatable nature, unafraid to offend his detractors or speak transparently that makes him so appealable. 

“Seeing his speeches makes you all riled up,” Isaiah Cox said. “He’s got a backbone.” 

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Hageman Energizes Crowd At Trump Rally With Vow To Fight Cheney, Democrats

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Photo by Matt Idler
20442

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Vowing to fight against Democrats in Congress if elected to replace U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Harriet Hageman told her cheering supporters on Saturday she is determined to defeat the three-term congresswoman.

Hageman, speaking to about 10,000 people at the Save America Rally at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper, offered a laundry list of items she intends to battle in Washington, D.C.

“We’re fed up with the Democrats who want to destroy our country and take away our rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” she said.

Hageman took the stage around 4:25 p.m., following a series of national and state political figures who all expressed their support for her in her GOP primary race for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

Her promise to defeat Cheney brought an enormous roar from the audience, with nearly every spectator standing up. 


Photo by Matt Idler

She referred to Cheney as a “Virginian,” and said constituents have told her they are fed up with the federal government, baby formula shortages, gas prices, fertilizer prices, illegal immigration, fentanyl and the overall supply chain.

She also criticized the Green New Deal and attacks by the Biden Administration on fossil fuel industries.

“In short, we’re fed up with inflation,” she said.


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Hageman ramped up from here, moving on to bread and butter conservative talking points and Cheney.

Hageman started her speech promoting her Wyoming heritage and upbringing.

“I know what it means to ride for the brand,” she said. “I have fought for Wyoming and will fight for you in Washington D.C.

Hageman, a land and water attorney, said she will protect Wyoming residents’ liberties and said on Aug. 16, “we’re taking our country back.”

Hageman entered the race for U.S. House in September and won Trump’s endorsement just hours later.

Cheney and Trump have been at odds since Cheney began criticizing Trump’s claims that the presidential election of 2020 was stolen from him.

She also voted for his impeachment an allegations he incited the invasion at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.


Photo by Matt Idler

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GOP Chair Frank Eathorne Leads Wyoming Speakers Hailing Harriet Hageman At Trump Rally

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20452

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, told the Wyoming Ford Center audience in Casper on Saturday he “would run through a barbed wire fence” for former President Donald Trump.

Eathorne was the first in a series of speakers to express fierce loyalty to Trump and strong support for congressional candidate Harriet Hageman at the “Save America Rally” at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. 

Before Trump’s scheduled arrival at 4 p.m., a series of Wyoming and national political figures took to the lectern to express their support for Hageman in her GOP primary race against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

While most speakers did not address Cheney directly, some, like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, took pointed shots at the three-term representative.

“Liz Cheney is leading the pack to block everything,” Lindell told the crowd.

Most speakers focused on Hageman and support for conservativism in addressing the GOP primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

“Thanks to you, a red wave is coming,” former state legislator Marti Halverson said of Trump.

Eathorne and Halverson both referred to Wyoming’s strong support for Trump, a state where he won the 2020 election by a wider margin of victory than in any other state in the gin of victory than any other state. 

“Welcome to mega-ultra, MAGA-country,” Halverson said.

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, photo by Matt Idler.

State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, also expressed support for Trump and Hageman. 

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress,” Steinmetz said. “If that party is ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.”

Multiple speakers including Lindell expressed their belief that the election of 2020 was stolen, a theme repeated often by Trump.

“We need to terminate the machines everywhere — bye-bye machines,” Lindell. He did not offer any solutions or alternatives to the voting machines he vaguely referred to.

Rep. John Bear, photo by Matt Idler

All of the speakers expressed optimism for the future.

 “You are the solution God created for the world today,” Steinmetz said to the audience.

Speakers also included several national figures, such as U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, who was supposed to attend the event but instaed appeared by video.

Gaetz, who visited Wyoming in 2021 to speak against Cheney, once again criticized the incumbent.

“Liz Cheney- she is the swamp,” he said. “Now, (she) seeks the affirmation of the media.”

Gaetz said Wyoming voters have the right to “banish” Cheney in the election, and criticized her for not being a Wyoming native. 

Cheney has spoken of her Wyoming roots, with members of her family living in the state as far back as the 1800s. She moved to Wyoming in 2012.

“Work hard, campaign hard,” Gaetz implored the audience. “Send Harriet to Congress and send Liz home to Northern Virginia where the rest of the swamp is.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert, photo by Matt Idler

Other national political figures included U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, who touted her pro-gun beliefs and criticized Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, a gun control advocate, in her speech. She also described herself as a “professional RINO (Republican in name only) hunter” and said Trump is her “favorite president,” a “family man, a businessman.” 

“I run my mouth a lot and I give God glory,” she said.

Boebert called “fake media” the “virus,” pointing out to the audience with a broad smile, acknowledging an approving cheer

She came to a climax point in her speech leading a thunderous “we love Trump” chant from the audience.

U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Florida, started a “Let’s go Brandon” chant, an insulting reference directed at Biden. She also said she enjoys irritating Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to make her wring her “little fingers.”

About 30 minutes before Hageman took the stage, “Save America” signs were disbursed to the audience behind the lectern. 

Rep. Chip Neiman, photo by Matt Idler

Neither U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis or John Barrasso made any kind of appearance at the event.

Also speaking by video was Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, chair of the House Republican Conference. Stefanik replaced Cheney as the chair and earlier this spring, openly discussed working to oust her. Despite endorsing Hageman earlier this year, Stefanik mispronounced her name in her Saturday speech.

“I’m proud to have replaced Liz Cheney as Republican chair,” Stefanik said, bringing a cheer from the audience. “We need a Trump supporter in congress, not a Pelosi puppet”

Bringing the loudest cheers of all video speakers was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of Trump’s most loyal foot soldiers in the House. The audio quality was exceptionally poor during Jordan’s segment and the audience did not respond as loudly to his comments.

“Come fight against the crazy left and the crazy things they’re doing in this country,” he said.

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Wyoming Candidate Filing Period Over; Dems Join U.S. House And Gov’s Race

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20222

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The end of the candidate filing period in Wyoming on Friday saw a number of candidates throwing their name in the ring for state office at the last moment.

Among the last to file were two Democratic candidates for the U.S. House.

Lynette Grey Bull, a Fort Washakie resident, will run again to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. 

Grey Bull won the Democratic primary in 2020 and took on Cheney in the general election, losing by 44% of the vote. Grey Bull, a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, has been a vocal leader for indigenous peoples.

Taking on Grey Bull in the Democratic primary in August will be Steve Helling, a Casper resident who also filed on Friday. Helling is an attorney.

On the Republican side, there are now five candidates in the race. Harriet Hageman and Cheney are considered the frontrunners in the race at this time and both filed on Thursday. 

Joining those two and State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, who was the first candidate to file for the office, are Denton Knapp and Robyn Belinskey. 

Knapp was one of the first candidates to unofficially declare his intention to challenge Cheney for the Republican nomination for the office and he was criticized for not bowing out when Hageman earned former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. 

Belinskey is a Sheridan businesswoman who also declared her candidacy very early on.

In the governor’s race, two Democrats also filed this week. On Friday, Cheyenne resident Rex Wilde announced his intention to run. Wilde ran in the U.S. Congress primary in 2020, placing fifth among the Democrats with 7.9% of the vote.

Wilde will take on Worland resident Theresa Livingston in the Democratic primary. Livingston ran for the state Senate in Senate District 20 in 2020, losing to Sen. Edward Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, by more than 6,000 votes.

Brent Bien, James Quick and Rex Rammell will take on Gov. Mark Gordon in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

A new Republican candidate also entered the race for superintendent of public instruction. Rock Springs resident Robert White III is the fourth Republican to enter the race, taking on incumbent Brian Schroeder and challengers Megan Degenfelder and Thomas Kelly. 

Sergio Maldonado Sr. is the only Democrat running in the race.

There are many contested Senate and House races on the horizon as well. 

Rep. Bob Nicholas (R-Cheyenne) is running for the House in a new district, leaving five candidates in his wake seeking to fill the vacancy in his old district.

House District 25 in Park County and Senate District 26 in Big Horn County have the second-most crowded primary fields with four candidates each.

Longtime lawmakers are also being challenged in a number of different places. 

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, a member of the Senate since 2011, will have two primary opponents, as will state Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, who has been a representative since 2017.

At least three former representatives are seeking to take back their seats: Sara Burlingame in Cheyenne, David Northrup in Powell and Richard Tass in Sheridan.

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Most-Crowded Primary In Wyoming: House District 25 In Park County

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20189

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The rural, northwestern corner of Wyoming is home to the most crowded primary race in the state Legislature so far, with four Republican candidates vying for the House District 25 seat. 

Mudslinging has already started between two of the candidates, with each pointing at the other as representing much of what they each find wrong with the party itself.

“Let the battle begin,” David Northrup told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Northrup, a former legislator and Troy Bray, the author of a vulgar email sent to a sitting state senator, are both running for the state House seat to be left vacant with the Rep. Dan Laursen’s decision to run for the Senate, as are Chris Good and Rex Rich. 

Northrup served in the state Legislature for four terms in the House. In 2020, he ran for State Senate and was beaten by incumbent and current Sen. Tim French (R-Cody). 

It’s possible his loss was the result of a diluted field, as a competitive third candidate ran on a very similar platform to Northrup’s.

This time around, the differences between Northrup and his opponents may be more discernible.

“David Northrup is every bit of what I would describe as a Remocrat,” Bray said. “Northrup’s record speaks for itself. He didn’t represent Willwood (a neighborhood near Powell) and Park County.”

In Thursday’s Powell Tribune, Northrup’s wife Astrid Northrup responded took task with earlier comments by Bray, saying he “does not represent me, or the majority of Park County Republicans, in his comments or his lewd and indecent language.”

“Troy Bray is a Tea Party Republican,” David Northrup said. “He is as far as the party can go to the right.”

Bray sent a vulgar email to State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, last September, telling her if he was her he would kill himself and using profane language to refer to her. 

He later issued an apology for the language he used, but not his sentiment. 

Bray was a precinct committee member within the county GOP party when he wrote the letter, a role he still holds today. The county and state GOP declined to chastise or ask Bray to step down for his behavior and his role in the party was elevated after the event, as he was called on to write resolutions and censures. 

At the state GOP convention in Sheridan earlier this month, a few members of the county party wore “Troy Was Right” t-shirts in his support.

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday, Bray described himself as a “constitutional conservative Libertarian Republican.”

“My biggest things are individual liberties and adherence to the Constitution,” he said. 

Bray said if elected, he will try to get rid of corruption in state government and the “good old boy network.”

He said he disapproved of the way Gov. Mark Gordon handled the COVID-19 pandemic and has no confidence Gordon will perform any better in future emergencies.

“We need checks on the governor’s power,” he said.

Bray said he decided to run when he found out current Laursen, R-Powell is running for state Senate against Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell. He said Laursen encouraged him to run and last week he decided to pull the trigger.

“It’s important we get Kost out of there,” Bray said.

Bray, who said he has been closely following the activities of the Legislature for the past 10 to 15 years, criticized Northrup’s 2014 vote on a controversial bill that temporarily stripped former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of her powers. The law was overturned by the state Supreme Court. Northrup has said multiple times he regrets that vote.

Bray ran unsuccessfully for Natrona County commissioner in 2012 and 2014. 

Since the time he was running for the Senate, Northrup’s prior House District 50 was realigned. Now, Northrup lives in HD 25, which takes up a sizable portion of downtown Powell and the campus of his alma mater Northwest Community College, as well as a population base of roughly 10,000 people and significant amounts of farmland. 

A farmer himself, he views this district change as enhancing his ability to represent his district.

“I will always represent education the best as I can,” he said. “Agriculture has also been primary for me for a while. Our area has a lot of ag in it. We face a lot of rural challenges.”

Northrup made education one of his highest priorities while serving in the Legislature, serving as chairman of the House Education Committee from 2015 to 2020.

He describes community colleges as the “stepchild” of the Wyoming educational system and wants them to receive better funding. 

He said more Career Technical Education needs to be offered to K-12 students, as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math opportunities.

“We need more electricians, we need more plumbers,” he said.

He sees the current split within the Republican Party as a divide between “Reagan-era Republicans” like himself and a Tea Party contingency.

The leadership of the Park County Republican Party has denounced Northrup and Kost, criticizing their voting records as not conservative enough. Northrup said he finds it ironic, considering most of the leadership of the Park County GOP are transplants.

“The Park County Republican Party has been taken over by Tea Party interests,” Northrup said. “The leadership is almost entirely people from out-of-state.”

He said there has been a misinformation campaign instigated against him in local media, including the claim he is in Wyoming to restrict Second Amendment rights, despite the fact he shoots firearms himself.

“I don’t think crazies need to have guns, I don’t think felons need to have guns — in light of what just happened in Texas I still feel that way,” he explained.

Also running in the race is Rex Rich, a former neighbor of Northrup’s who has known the former representative for more than 50 years. 

Rich describes himself as a “pro-life, conservative Republican” Christian who believes in the Constitution, adding he always keeps a copy of the document nearby.

“I think more of us Christians need to get involved in politics to get involved in issues that may affect us,” he said. 

Rich said although he considers Northrup a “great human being and great person,” he is more conservative than his former neighbor. Still, Rich said he isn’t interested in slinging mud at either Northrup or Bray and trusts the “really savvy” electorate of his district to make the right decision come August 16.

“I’ll let them duke it out,” he said of Bray and Northrup. “I believe the high road is always the best way to go.”

Rich, a former Forest Service and National Parks Service employee, is now a semi-retired landlord and widow with free time available to dedicate to representing his community at the Legislature.

“I want to stay busy but I don’t want to stay busy just to stay busy,” he said.

He said having worked in nearly every industry in Wyoming gives him great experience to represent his district at the Legislature.

“The state Legislature has a lot to do with how you would run a business,” he said. 

Also running in the race is Chris Good. Good, a “Christian conservative Republican,” ran against Laursen in 2020 but pulled out of the race before primary election day because of his wife’s health. 

He still pulled in around one-third of the vote, a tally that gives him great confidence about how that election would have turned out if he stayed in as well as his chances for 2022.

“I believe I was fully on my way to winning,” he said. “The people in House District 25 wanted a change. Their leadership has been lacking.”

Good describes Northrup as a friend and “a good, well-rounded guy” but said the former representative is a “little more liberal” than him on certain issues. He said a vote for Northrup would be a vote for the status quo, even though Northrup is not currently in office.

“It would be nice to have a fresh eyes on things,” he said.

Good has done extensive work at his church and said he runs a business in almost every Wyoming county, giving him a solid understanding of the issues affecting the state and its mostly blue collar workforce. He said he is a “commonsense person who can initiate commonsense business decisions at the state level.”

“People in Wyoming are kind of fed up with the do-nothing attitude in Cheyenne,” he said, comparing the situation to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s recent departure from her earlier support of former President Donald Trump.

If elected, Good said he will bring his collaboration skills learned in business over to the state Legislature.

“I’m willing to sit down and listen to see if we can come down to some agreement and come together,” he said. “Politics is so polarized today.

“It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, it just means we have to listen.”

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Hageman Finally Files For Congress; Still No Cheney

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20145

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Harriet Hageman on Thursday formally filed as a candidate to challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the GOP primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

Hageman, who filed her papers with the secretary of state’s office, is taking on incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who still had not filed as a candidate for a fourth term in office as of Thursday morning.

Deadline for the filing is now less than 36 hours away, at 5 p.m. Friday.

The delay in Cheney’s official filing should not be seen as too significant, according to former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

“In U.S. House and Senate races it’s not uncommon to wait and see who files,” Freudenthal told Cowboy State Daily.

Hageman and Cheney each announced their intentions to run for reelection many months ago.

Freudenthal said he never looked at the timing of his filing as a strategic move in his political campaigns, as he usually already knew who was going to run against him.

“It’s like lawyers, they have a certain time to file things by; as long as they do it by the deadline then that’s all that matters,” he said.

In her press release announcing the filing, Hageman said she has already traveled more than 23,000 miles throughout Wyoming meeting with voters and holding public town halls. Hageman is a land and water attorney who grew up in Fort Laramie.

“I’ve been fighting for the constitutional rights of the people of Wyoming in my professional career and it’s a battle I’ll continue to fight in Congress,” Hageman said in the press release. “We only get one member of the House in Wyoming, and we have to get it right. The people deserve a congresswoman who represents the ideals and values of our great state.” 

Cheney, now in her third term, has put herself at odds with former President Donald Trump and most of the establishment forces in the Republican Party. She and Trump have traded barbs since she voted for his impeachment in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021. attack on the Capitol.

Hageman has been endorsed by Trump and will join him for a rally in Casper on Saturday.

Earlier this week, Cheney announced she has COVID-19, which likely will eliminate any opportunity for in-person campaigning during the long holiday weekend.

Hageman said if elected, she will “fight against federal government overreach and protect property rights, water rights, and 2nd Amendment rights, among other priorities.” She also claims she will keep taxes low, support Wyoming’s energy industries and will oppose “endless foreign wars.”

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Trump OK With Billboards Showing Hageman Called Him A Racist; “She Never Met Me,” He Said

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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
20117

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Former President Donald Trump was not bothered by the billboards bringing up past criticism of him by Harriet Hageman, the congressional candidate who now has endorsement, he said in a radio interview Wednesday.

Trump spoke with “Wake Up Wyoming” host Glenn Woods on Wednesday, addressing a variety of topics during a nearly 14-minute interview, from Hageman and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, to energy and his time in office.

Trump excused the Hageman comments posted on a billboard on the outskirts of Casper in advance of his appearance there at a rally on Saturday.

The comments were made before Hageman knew him, Trump said.

“When you go back to 2016, nobody knew me and at the time, she never met me and I never met her,” Trump said. “If I went by that standard, I could never endorse anybody.”

The billboards were placed there by Cheney campaign. One references a quote Hagemen gave to the New York Times in 2016, when she called Trump “the weakest” candidate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, as well as labeling him “racist and xenophobic.” 

Trump noted similar remarks were made by author and Ohio congressional candidate J.D. Vance, who Trump also endorsed. Vance recently won the Republican primary in Ohio and will face off in the general election against Democrat U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who has held the seat since 2013.

Trump said that Hageman stood out to him as the congressional candidate to support because of the uproar he heard from Wyoming citizens about her.

“I just felt that she was really good,” he said. “I had people in Wyoming…pushing much harder for her than anybody else and I have to let that play a role. Her campaign is very strong.”

Hageman announced her campaign against Cheney last fall, with Trump’s endorsement following almost immediately after.

Other candidates for Wyoming’s lone House seat include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, veteran and Gillette resident Denton Knapp and Sheridan resident Robyn Belinskey. As of Wednesday afternoon, Bouchard, Knapp and Belinskey were the only candidate to have formally filed for the office.

Trump also did not shy away from bashing his regular critic Cheney, with whom he has been locked in battle since she voted to impeach him following the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The former president said Cheney was now congressional Democrats’ “biggest asset” and that she is now part of the “radical left.”

“The Republicans in the House, good people, some really tough people, people that you like and support,” Trump said, “they just can’t stand her. She’s just not been good.”

Prior to her vote to impeach Trump last year, Cheney voted with him more than 90% of the time.

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Johnson County War: The Push To Fill All Elected Seats With “Patriot” Conservatives

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20111

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

An organized campaign to elect staunchly conservative individuals at all levels of government is taking place in Johnson County.

David Iverson, a podcaster and founder of the Patriot Conservatives of Johnson County, is recruiting and supporting candidates to run for offices from the legislative level to some of the county’s lowest grassroots seats such as the local fire district board and precinct committee positions within the county GOP party.

“The power that most affects people’s lives is closest to them,” Iverson told Cowboy State Daily in a Monday phone interview.

Patriot Conservatives, also a political action committee, started in July 2021 as a lobbying effort to oppose a tax initiative being proposed to voters in Johnson County last fall. 

In 2021, Patriot Conservatives raised $8,487, according to records from the secretary of state’s office.

During the campaign on the tax initiative, which was defeated, Patriot Conservatives filed a lawsuit against the Buffalo Bulletin newspaper, seeking $36 million in damages. The group alleged it was defamed by an item published in the newspaper that questioned the accuracy of statements made by the group. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Iverson said his PAC was renamed as the Patriot Conservatives of Wyoming last month and is now supporting and recruiting political candidates statewide in areas including Laramie County.

“If we truly want to change how our government is operating, it’s going to take our involvement,” said Iverson on his Wednesday show. “Look through the list of offices and see what you can do, I promise you can find something. Whether it’s on a local county board, or it’s the city council, or it’s the county commissioners, or it’s the precinct level.”

Tass vs Crago

The most prominent race taking place in Johnson County is for House District 40, a contest between incumbent Republican Barry Crago and GOP challenger Richard Tass, a rematch of the 2020 HD 40 race between the two. 

Tass was elected by the voters in 2018, but lost as an incumbent in 2020 to Crago by a margin of nearly 19%.

Tass said he is more conservative than Crago, pointing as examples to what he called Crago’s opposition to a bill that would have prohibited transgender females from competing in women’s sports and support for increasing the state budget.

He also took exception to Crago’s opposition to an investigation into allegations Rep. Dan Zwonitzer lives outside the House district he represents in Laramie County.

WyoRINO.com, a “voting index” that judges Wyoming lawmakers on how consistent they vote with the Republican Party platform, listed Crago as its RINO (Republican In Name Only) of the month in December 2021. The website gave Crago a rating of 60 out of a possible score of 100 for his voting record at the Legislature this past spring.

“The conservative side of Johnson County is not being represented,” Tass said.

However, Crago didn’t actually vote against the transgender bill, a point misstated by Iverson on his show. The legislator voted not to override House rules so the bill could be heard despite the fact it was not considered within the body’s deadline for the introduction of bills.

Crago said there is no precedent for overriding these scheduling rules and said he would have voted for the bill if it had been considered by the House.

Self-described as “very conservative,” Crago is proud of his legislative record and the work he did on ad valorem taxes for minerals, co-sponsoring a successful bill that will allow for regulation of a company’s oil and gas production until the company pays its unpaid taxes. 

Crago also noted the state budget only increased as a result of the massive federal COVID money provided to the State.

Crago also said he did not believe having a private investigative committee look into the residency complaint against Zwonitzer was an effective way to handle the issue. He added he did not think the complaint against Zwonitzer merited removing him from office.

The first-term representative, who is also a deputy county attorney in Johnson County and a rancher, said he is not interested in engaging in negative politics during his campaign. He said if Tass is elected, he will do his best to assist and support him at the Legislature.

“I don’t think we as Republicans should be fighting with each other,” he said. “We should be helping each other. We should have different opinions — that’s what elections are for.”

John DeMatteis, a Tass supporter, is running for county commissioner in Johnson County. He is listed in the secretary of state’s office as the treasurer of the Patriot Conservatives, although he said the secretary of state’s office has not updated its filings.

Although DeMatteis said he is no longer affiliated with Patriot Conservatives, he is still listed as the PAC’s treasurer on the secretary of state’s website. 

Statewide Effort

DeMatteis said the group’s mission is not unique to Johnson County and instead reflects a statewide effort he sees on every level to expose those GOP members who are deemed not to be adhering to Republican Party principles.

“A lot of Wyomingites are voting conservative thanks to (U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney showing that a lot of these elected politicians are not real conservative,” he said.

Although Cheney has one of the most conservative voting records in the Congress, she voted for to impeach former President Donald Trump and and spoke out against his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

DeMatteis is one of three candidates running for two open spots on the board of county commissioners. He said the 22 local boards and special districts in Johnson County manage budgets with a combined $80 million in reserves.

Tass described Patriot Conservatives as “pretty fair” in its recruitment of individuals to run in elections, but said they do hold a bias for conservative candidates. 

Crago expressed concern, however, that if too many people are targeted for criticism, it might be difficult to find candidates for office.

“I’m afraid we’re going to run out really good public servants if they are afraid of being unfairly treated or over-criticized in a radio show, article or podcast,” Crago said, referring to county clerk and other elected positions. “I’m afraid we’re going to run off really good people — we don’t need to be doing that.”

But as a state legislator, Crago clarified that he finds himself a fair target for public criticism.

Assessments

The topic of rising property taxes is quickly becoming a hot button issue for the Legislature’s 2023 session, as drastic increases in property values this spring have elevated concerns from homeowners and assessors alike that changes and possible caps are needed in the state’s tax laws.

“Legislation is needed to change our laws,” said Debra Robinson, Johnson County assessor, who has been a target of Iverson’s criticism. “People need to contact their representative to get something done to stop this.”

Crago said he wants the issue discussed, but is unsure if the Wyoming Constitution needs to be amended first in order to be able to enact real change.

Johnson County GOP Chairman Robert Garrison said mistakes have been made on his own home’s assessment in the past and recently penned an open letter to county residents on the need to alter Wyoming’s property tax laws. He also urged all Johnson County residents to appeal their property assessments to the assessor. 

“Yes, this will probably overwhelm the office, but it is our only alternative to truly protect what we own,” Garrison wrote. 

As of Monday, Robinson said her department had already received a dozen appeals.

Iverson has attacked Robinson on his shows, accusing her of failing to complete required ongoing education as an assessor. 

Robinson has not taken the class “Fundamentals of Real Property Appraisal” since 2013, but she has taken other appraisal-related courses since then. 

The COVID-19 pandemic halted a class she was supposed to take in 2020, and then when she tested positive for the virus in 2021, it stopped her from being able to take a class that year. Robinson, who is not running for reelection, said she is currently signed up to take classes this summer.

“It’s something he’s (Iverson) doing to create sensationalism,” she said. “I’ve got a board of commissioners, a county attorney, the board of equalization — I would be hearing from them if I was doing something wrong. Don’t start just rambling crap off.”

Robinson said Iverson never reached out to her for questions and clarification before criticizing her on his show. 

Iverson said this was true, adding he “didn’t need to because I already got all the information I needed.”

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Tara Nethercott, Cheyenne Senator, Joins Race For Secretary Of State

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Photo by Matthew Idler.
20078

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A rising star in the Wyoming Legislature is running for secretary of state.

Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, a senator in her second term, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee that oversees all the state’s elections laws. 

She announced her candidacy on Tuesday afternoon.

“I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Wyoming as secretary of state. We should be proud of our elections. Wyoming serves as an example to the nation for election integrity, but it is more important than ever to protect Wyoming’s elections,” Nethercott said in a Tuesday press release.

“I will be steadfast and vigilant to ensure safe and secure elections to defend our shared western values and will bring my experience and dedication as your next Republican Secretary of State,” she said.

“Huge Loss To Senate”

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, chairman of the Senate Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee that Nethercott sits on, said if Nethercott wins the election, it would be a “huge loss to the Senate.”

“She’s a wonderful person and a great candidate,” he said. “She’s an exemplary candidate and as well-qualified as anyone for the job.”

One of the duties of the secretary of state is to oversee elections in Wyoming. This position has come under more scrutiny in recent years after claims of 2020 election fraud became rampant in certain conservative circles.

Three Candidates

Nethercott is the third candidate to enter the race for secretary of state. Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, filed first, followed by Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, one day later.

Gray told Cowboy State Daily he welcomed Nethercott’s entry into the race.

“The more candidates the better because it will show the real contrast between my proven record in election integrity with the Voter ID bill and their sudden interest in the office now that it’s open,” he said.

In announcing his own candidacy last week, Gray accused President Joe Biden and the “radical left” of trying to steal elections and pledging to “fight them tooth and nail” to protect elections and the Voter ID law he sponsored. 

The bill was approved during the Legislature’s 2021 general session and is now the subject of a lawsuit in state district court in Albany County questioning its constitutionality. 

Dockstader, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily after making his announcement, said he was also looking forward to working with the Elections Division within the secretary of state’s office to guarantee election integrity.

No More Buchanan

Buchanan announced last week he would not seek a second full term in the office and would instead apply to be a district court judge in Goshen County. In April, Buchanan weighed in on the counting of ballots in Park County by hand, describing that activity as illegal.

The secretary of state’s office office plans to run post-election audits on voting machines in Wyoming this year.

Nethercott and Dockstader are both in the middle of their current terms, meaning they could return to the Legislature if they lose their bids for secretary of state.

Gray, on the other hand, is choosing to run for the secretary of state’s office rather than seek re-election to a 2-year House term.

In 2021, Nethercott won the Wyoming County Commissioners Association’s Legislator of the Year Award. She is a graduate of the Council of State Governments Western Leadership Academy, Leadership Wyoming and Leadership Cheyenne, and an alumnus of the National Security Forum Air War College.

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Wyoming Law Enforcement Agencies Preparing For Massive Trump Rally

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Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
20046

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Law enforcement agencies are planning for substantial staffing increases in Casper this weekend as Saturday’s outdoor rally featuring former President Donald Trump is expected to draw up to 20,000 attendees. 

Rebekah Ladd, public information officer for the Casper Police Department, said her department has been coordinating with state and federal law enforcement agencies, the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office to provide coverage for the event.

Ladd said her department plans to have double the number of staff working that it typically would on a Saturday afternoon and evening, in addition to a number of staff ready on-call. 

All other security at the event will be provided by Event Strategies Inc., the event management company organizing the “Save America Rally,” she said.

Ladd would not comment as to how many Casper Police Department staff will be working the rally itself due to safety concerns and did not have a number for how much the additional payroll cost will be to the department. 

She said a standard number of officers will be patrolling the streets of Casper outside the event.

“We’re preparing for an influx of visitors to our town with an appropriate staffing level,” she said.

Lt. P.J. Cross said Wyoming Highway Patrol will have all seven members of its Casper division staff on duty Saturday afternoon and evening during the rally, as well as members from other jurisdictions available on call. 

On Monday night, his staff was still putting together travel mitigation and closure plans for the area surrounding the Ford Wyoming Center, the venue for Trump’s appearance.

Since the event is taking place within the City of Casper, the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office will not have any additional deputies on-staff, but it will provide two members of its Emergency Management System team to the rally and will have “numerous” EMS members on call, said Kiera Grogan, public information officer at the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office. 

Grogan said the department is planning for “the biggest of the big emergencies.”

Because entry to the event is free, Cross said it is very difficult to predict how many people will actually turn out. 

“He’s (Trump) been to more rural places than here and had more people than that so we really have no idea what to expect,” said Cross.

The rally will start at 4 p.m. but Trump is not scheduled to take the lectern until 7 p.m. 

Cross said the Highway Patrol will close eastbound travel on Events Drive from the Interstate 25 South onramp to the Ford Center around 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to alleviate potential clogging issues after Trump stops talking.

“We just want to keep it flowing,” Cross said.

Cross said there will be other traffic mitigation steps implemented and announced Tuesday morning.

It will be a busy weekend all around in Casper, with all three high local schools hosting their graduation ceremonies at the Ford Center on Thursday and Friday. Ladd advised residents to expect longer-than-typical traffic delays.

“These are very big events in Casper,” Ladd said. “A lot of people come out for the graduation ceremonies. We expect a very busy town.”

The state track meet was held in Casper last weekend, and Ladd said the summer tourist season is in full swing, a milestone she judges by how filled up the city’s RV and trailer campgrounds are. Grogan, likewise, said there are very few hotel and motel vacancies.

“It’s an interesting conundrum to have,” Ladd said.

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Park County Commissioners To Consider Hand-Count Of 2020 Ballots To Prove Voting Machine Accuracy

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19992

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

More than 18 months after the 2020 elections, election security and integrity continue to be topics of concern for certain Wyoming residents. On Tuesday, those questioning the security of voting machines scored a small victory.

Park County Commissioners said at their meeting on Tuesday they will consider allowing a group of local citizens to hand count the more than 17,000 ballots cast in the 2020 election in that county to determine the accuracy of the results presented by the machines. 

Bryan Skoric, Park County prosecuting attorney, said he will seek guidance from the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office on the matter.

“We’re trying to produce a piece of evidence that will satisfy people’s anxieties,” Boone Tidwell, a Cody resident pushing for the hand count, said at the meeting.

The proposal submitted by Tidwell and the Park County Republican Men’s Club, which later changed its name to The Sons of Freedom, was to test the accuracy of voting machines by hand counting every single ballot cast in this year’s county primary and general elections. 

Skoric rejected the proposal as illegal, but he and the commissioners left open the possibility of a count of the 2020 primary and general election ballots, as this election has already been certified. This count would take place before the upcoming August primary.

“It’s not a recount, they’re just verifying what they find for a count,” said Commissioner Chairman Dossie Overfield.

Under this proposal, Tidwell’s estimated 300-400 volunteers would receive election judge training so they could be considered official election officials. They would be instructed to not cash their mandatory payment for these services.

Skoric warned the group that some differences between the hand counted and machine counted ballots will occur.

“You’re going to get a different count than what the machine-count,” Skoric said. “Machines do what they’re told to do, in terms of if you don’t fill in the circle or if you only put a mark beside the circle, it’s not going to count that. Are 10 of your 300 (volunteers) going to count that or 299? That’s the subjectivity we’re talking about. The counts will absolutely be different and it would be in any count.”

Secretary of State Ed Buhanan addressed the idea of hand counted ballots at a county commission meeting in April, when he said he does not believe election officials or volunteers have the legal right to hand count. ballots.

Tidwell cited the Wyoming Constitution in defense of the proposal, which requires that “The legislature shall pass laws to secure the purity of elections, and guard against abuses of the elective franchise.”

But Buchanan and Skoric have argued that state statute governs the counting of ballots.

“Ballots designed to be counted by machines, each individual vote shall be determined by the voting equipment and shall not be determined subjectively by human tabulation” unless a ballot is received so soiled that it cannot be read by a voting machine, the state law said.

“The statute defines the law and the law simply cannot be ignored by local officials,” Skoric wrote in his decision letter.

State statute, crafted by the Wyoming legislature, does not override the Constitution and must be followed unless it is determined to be unconstitutional, leaving a gray area the attorney general’s office will be asked to address. Skoric also said the privacy of voting guaranteed in the Constitution would be violated with a hand count, but Tidwell stressed there would be no forms of identification included on the ballots counted.

“Based on Wyoming statute, the federal statute and that Wyoming constitutional provision, I don’t believe it can be done specifically,” Skoric said. 

Skoric said following election procedures is critical as it ensures uniformity across the state and voter confidence.

“Manual tabulation of the ballots could also elicit the natural subjectivity of persons counting the ballots, the very thing the Legislature intended to eliminate,” Skoric wrote in his letter.

Tidwell and the Men’s Club initiated mock elections at Park County schools to test out how long it would take to count the ballots, determining it would take about three hours to count 11,000 ballots. 

The topic of hand counting ballots has not been limited to Wyoming. Some  of those who claimed the presidential election of 2020 was “rigged” have been pushing for hand-counted paper ballots.

For some, eradicating voting machines harkens back to a time of perceived purer elections. In 1957, the Wyoming State Legislature permitted the use of automated voting machines in the Cowboy State for the first time, according to the State Archives.

“A hand count of those ballots is simply pure, physical evidence,” Tidwell said. “There’s a phenomenal amount of people in this county who have told me they won’t vote on the machines.”

Detractors of hand counting ballots argue the process would significantly delay the reporting of results and introdue human error and bias to the counting equation. 

All voting machines are tested before an election and post-election audits have consistently found that although it is technically possible for a voting machine to be hacked, it is also incredibly unlikely. These audits will be performed after the election this fall as part of a program being instituted by Buchanan. 

But hand counting ballots is not a totally unheard-of practice, with many rural jurisdictions in New Hampshire, Maine and Wisconsin hand counting ballots rather than using machines.

Crook County Clerk Linda Fritz has said that to increase election security in her sparsely populated county, polling places would need to be shut down to allow for increased supervision. 

This was an effort considered in Park County out of COVID-19 concerns, but then scrapped due to public outcry on the matter, with opponetns saying the move would have reduced voter turnout. 

Even though many of the people pushing to keep the polling places open vowed to volunteer to staff it, Park County Commissioner Joe Tilden said the volunteers did not turn out.

“Any group or individual concerned with election integrity should volunteer as an election judge,” Skoric wrote.

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Oil Field Company Owner James Quick Pledges Focus On Fossil Fuels If Elected Governor

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19955

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Douglas resident James Quick has been working in energy his whole life. As a result, the Republican said he plans to bring a renewed focus to traditional fossil fuel industries if elected Wyoming governor this fall.

Fourteen years ago, Quick, 56, purchased an oil field company, giving him the confidence he needed to take up the challenge of serving as an effective governor, despite never having worked in politics before.

“I know it’s not easy but it’s not rocket science,” he said. “I can learn and adapt.”

Quick is opposed to the nuclear plant proposed near Kemmerer, saying there are many details about the project that have not been shared with the public. He is opposed to the plant to be built by Natrium despite claims that it will employ coal workers from a nearby mine that is scheduled to close soon.

“I’m not on board with that at all,” he said. 

He also said there is “false education” being promoted about fossil fuels and green energy, adding he believes it is impossible to achieve carbon neutrality.

“I’m not opposed to wind and solar, but I do question whether those producers would be doing it without government subsidies,” he said.

Quick is also opposed to a pilot program being implemented to study hydrogen production in Wyoming, saying it will eat up valuable water rights and hurts farmers through the use around 1 million gallons of water a day. In 2021, Black Hills Energy was named a finalist by the Wyoming Energy Authority to receive funding for a hydrogen demonstration pilot project in Cheyenne.

“We’re selling out to the corporations and billionaires,” he said. “We need to keep Wyoming Wyoming.”

A study from energypost.eu found water costs under hydrogen production amount to less than 2% of the total hydrogen production costs, while the energy consumed for water desalination amounts to only about 1% of the total energy needed for the hydrogen production.

Quick said he would also try to support Wyoming’s farmers by serving more local beef in the state’s schools.

In many ways, Quick said, he has lived the American dream. After graduating from Douglas High School, he joined the Marines in 1984 and was honorably discharged. 

Quick started his career in energy working in uranium, which was followed by coal, pipeline work, and eventually running his own business. Although he admitted he may not always have all the answers, he said he is always willing to listen and learn.

“I’m open for suggestions from anybody,” he said. “It takes more than one person to do this.”

One of his biggest goals if elected, he said, would be to safeguard Wyoming from federal overreach. He pointed specifically to President Joe Biden’s “30×30” plan to conserve at least 30% of U.S. land and waters as an example of this problem. 

Although he does not agree with fellow gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell that Wyoming has the authority to seize back all 30 million acres of federal land within the state, he said he would support such a measure if it was possible.

“I would love to see control of the land returned to Wyoming because we could open up a lot more drilling in the state,” he said.

Quick criticized Gordon’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he would not have issued any restrictions that resulted in the temporary closures of businesses. He vowed not to take similar action if elected if a public health emergency occurred.

“We declared a state of emergency even though Wyoming had very few cases,” he said. “We gave the power away.”

Quick, who is an adamant supporter of the Second Amendment but is not pro-choice, said he loved the freedoms he enjoyed growing up in Douglas and Casper and wants to be able to offer those same liberties to his grandchildren. 

“As the governor, you work for the people, I think a lot of politicians have forgotten about that,” he said.

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Gov Candidate Says He Will Take Over Federal Lands If Elected; Former AG Says “That’s Idiotic”

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19920

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

If a Rock Springs veterinarian is successful in his bid for the governor’s office, he will have federal lands within Wyoming’s border turned over to the state, he said Wednesday.

In comments prepared — but not delivered — for a news conference to announce his one of his campaign issues, Dr. Rex Rammell said he wants to see 30 million acres of federal land owned and managed by the state.

“Will [Wyoming voters] elect a governor who will make a state’s right stand that will result in 30 million acres of public lands being taken over by the state and giving the fossil fuel industry the green light to produce?” he asked.

Rammell was to have delivered the comments during a news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday on the steps of the Capitol.

However, no one was on the Capitol steps at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Rammell said he was at the Capitol, but a reporter for Cowboy State Daily saw no sign of the candidate on the Capitol steps or inside the Capitol itself. 

Rammell said he showed up for the event early and talked to one person, but when no one else turned up, he sat on a bench for a few minutes and then left.

Rammell ran for the governor’s office in 2018 and for the state’s lone U.S. House seat in 2016.

In his prepared statements, Rammell said on day one of his administration as governor, he would order the Wyoming Highway Patrol to walk all federal land managers out of their offices.

“The BLM, The Forest Service, The Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and others… GONE!” his prepared remarks said.

However, former Attorney General Pat Crank told Cowboy State Daily that the likelihood of this happening, even if Rammell did win the election, was zero.

“That’s an idiotic claim,” Crank said. “No state, which has membership in the United States, has the power to seize federal assets, nor order federal officials to depart the state. Mr. Rammell’s claims have no basis in law or fact.” 

Rammell based his land seizure plan on the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” 

Rammell said he decided the amendment offers an avenue for the states to take their powers back and solve many of the country’s problems. He said the founding fathers never intended for one-third of the nation’s lands to be run by the federal government.

But ultimately, Crank said, “every scrap” of U.S. land belongs to the federal government. 

Crank said the 10th Amendment has been argued as a justification for many smaller land use claims in the past, with the states never winning out against the federal government. 

He said a transfer of even as little as 1,000 acres of federal land to private or state ownership usually takes about 10-12 years, so he has a hard time envisioning Rammell’s plans.

“This is comparable to creating a civil war between Wyoming and the United States,” Crank said. “Is the federal government really going to stand back, with all that tax revenue generated from fed lands, and say ‘We’re just going to let you keep all that. Yellowstone (National Park) is not a national treasurer, it’s a treasure for just Wyoming.’ It’s absurd.”

Rammell acknowledged the government probably won’t take the seizure of 30 million acres lightly and said the matter would probably end up in federal court. 

But even then, he said Wyoming would still have the upper hand by refusing to recognize the government’s jurisdiction by not showing up for court. He said inevitably, other Western states will join in on the fight.

“After all the dust settles, the Western states will have their land back,” he said.

As far as management of the new lands, Rammell said the state would simply alter all the signs on the land to reflect Wyoming ownership and use the government’s share of mineral royalties, which would be turned over to the state, to pay for management of the 30 million acres.

“We’re taking our land back, we’re taking it and there’s not a thing they could do to stop it,” he said.

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Rep. Chuck Gray Announces Run For Secretary Of State

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Photo by Matt Idler
19927

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, became the second person to file as a candidate for the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday.

Gray, a former candidate for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, is one of the most conservative legislators in the state, being ranked by WyoVote as having the most conservative voting record in the Legislature.

“Serving the public as our next Secretary of State is the best way I can fight for election integrity and put the people of Wyoming first in our fight to reign in out of control government,” Gray said in a Wednesday press release.  “We need more genuine, limited government, constitutional conservatives who don’t say one thing during an election then govern the opposite way.  My proven record of conservative leadership shows I walk the walk.”

Gray, a representative since 2017, was the lead sponsor of a bill that would require voters to present identification when casting ballots. The bill was approved during the Legislature’s 2021 general session and is now the subject of a lawsuit questioning its constitutionality in Albany County District Court. 

Gray last year announced he would challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s House seat, but withdrew from the race when Harriet Hageman, backed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, entered the race.

Gray has won a Conservative Political Action Conference award each year he has been in office.

In his press release, Gray accused President Joe Biden and the “radical left” of trying to steal elections and said he will “fight them tooth and nail” to protect elections and his voter ID law.

Gray said he will campaign across the state for the race. 

Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, on Tuesday filed as a candidate for the secretary of state’s office.

Ed Buchanan, current secretary of state, announced on Tuesday he would not seek a second full term in the office and would instead apply to be a district court judge in Goshen County.

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Wyoming Senate President Dan Dockstader Announces Run For Secretary Of State

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Photo by Matthew Idler.
19880

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The president of Wyoming’s Senate on Tuesday filed as a candidate for the secretary of state’s office, less than 12 hours after current Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced he would not seek re-election.

Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, filed as a candidate for the office late Tuesday, becoming the only person to announce as a candidate so far during the filing period, which ends May 27.

Dockstader said after he finished up his term as Senate president this year, he began studying the secretary of state’s office.

“I still have work to do in the Senate and I wondered if I could do that at a different level,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Then Ed made his announcement today. I texted my wife and said ‘Well?’ and she texted back one word — ‘File!'”

Buchanan had announced in April he would run for a second term as secretary of state but announced Tuesday that he would seek a state district judge’s seat in Goshen County instead.

Dockstader, the publisher of the Star Valley Independent newspaper and owner of radio station KRSV, both in Afton, has served in the Senate since 2009 after serving for two years in the state House of Representatives.

Dockstader said he realized he could address many of the same issues in the secretary of state’s office he could in his last two years in the Senate, including looking at ways to bolster the state’s energy industry.

“I want to keep growing the economy,” he said. “I don’t want to abandon mineral industry, that’s what takes us to the bank. I think there’s a lot of room in the secretary of state’s office to do that.”

Dockstader said he was also looking forward to working with the Elections Division within the secretary of state’s office to guarantee election integrity. He noted that the Legislature this year approved a voter identification law.

“We were hearing people wanted us to get involved in that and we got some legislation out, but there’s more coming,” he said. “We want to make people feel secure about the election process.”

If elected, Dockstader said he will make a point of traveling the state to determine the needs and wants of state residents which are addressed by boards such as the State Loan and Investment Board.

“Being out in the far west, we don’t get the representation of other areas,” he said. “I want to head out of Cheyenne, take the office and responsibility and head across the state and get people out and talk to them. You can’t do it all from Cheyenne.”

This past legislative session, Dockstader co-sponsored a bill to outlaw the collection of absentee ballots by third parties, unless given prior permission to do so by the voter. The bill was not considered in the Senate. 

He co-sponsored another bill requiring employers to grant exemptions to employees for COVID vaccination mandates. This bill died in committee.

He was also the sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide property tax exemptions for the elderly and infirm. While approved in the Senate, the measure died in the House.

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Laramie County GOP Head Easily Survives Attempted Ouster

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19896

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Despite a lot of talk from some detractors beforehand, Laramie County GOP Chairman Dani Olsen easily survived an attempt to push her out of her leadership position during a meeting of the county party Tuesday.

Party members voted overwhelmingly against asking Olsen to step down as chairman.

Olsen said the voice vote calling for her resignation was so “resoundingly clear” that party officials didn’t bother counting the votes.

Party members also opted not to vote on a resolution strongly urging precinct committee members Ben Hornok, Susan Graham, Fred Schlachter, Steve Johnson, Christine Johnson and others to resign from their elected positions as precinct committeemen and precinct committewomen, effective immediately, and refrain from all party involvement in the future.

Big Attendance

With 150 to 200 people in attendance, party member Freddy Flores-Salieb estimated there were more people at the Laramie County GOP Party meeting on Tuesday night than turned out to vote on the county party’s censure of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in 2021 or for any other meeting she could remember over the past two years.

“I think it went great because Laramie County ousted themselves,” Flores-Salieb said. “The leadership, including (Chairman) Dani (Olsen), don’t want to play by the rules.”

The leadership and majority of the Laramie County Republican Party made it clear at the meeting they are not standing down to their detractors, despite the county party losing nearly all of its delegate representation at the State GOP convention earlier this month over allegations the county party violated bylaws in selecting delegates for the convention.

On Tuesday night, the party voted to forgo paying around $2,000 in dues to the state party that date back to January. Olsen said around 80% of the precinct committee members instead voted to pay a sum of $0.

“The body made statements with concern of how the state party is being operated,” Olsen said.

Positive Meeting

Both Flores-Salieb and Olsen thought it was a positive meeting and believe their respective visions for the party will come to fruition in the near future when the precinct committee elections take place in August.

“It’s going good for the true conservatives,” Flores-Salieb said.

Ben Hornok, a Laramie County precinct committeeman and state convention delegate who originally presented the letter asking Olsen to step down, said he felt more negative about the meeting. He said he wasn’t surprised about the voting results but was disappointed that debate was heavily restricted, and opposition squelched.

“I think there were people who wanted to speak that were, by design, never allowed the chance,” he said. “Does this give you the impression of an open and honest debate within the democratic process?”

Olsen said she found it interesting that the same people who were being asked to step down voted against tabling the motion to do so.

“It shows they wanted the opportunity to go down as martyrs for their cause,” Olsen said.

The holdout on paying dues is a move similar to a tactic playing out in Natrona County, where that county’s GOP party is also withholding funds from the state GOP as a protest against the party’s leadership and a number of other issues. There is an ongoing lawsuit between the state GOP and Natrona County related to this dispute.

Olsen said she found it telling that despite failing to pay any of its shares, Natrona County was still seated with twice as many delegates at the convention as Laramie County, which had paid off its entire balance of dues beforehand.

“It’s very obvious the state leadership does not want Laramie County seated,” she said.

Retaliation Expected

Olsen said the decision to forgo paying dues may change in the future but she is already expecting some form of retaliation from the state leadership. 

“And I’m OK with that,” she said. “I’m happy to be a representative of my party’s wishes.”

At the state convention, a bylaw change was made, making it illegal to seek action in a court of law for an internal party matter. An investigative committee was also established for party disputes, which will be handpicked by state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne.

Olsen said she fully expects the county to have its delegates reduced again at the next state convention, which will be held in the final months leading up to the 2024 presidential election. She said taking the risk of losing delegates at this important juncture is a sacrifice worth making because “the majority of the rest of the Republicans in the state” are “tired of the way the leadership in the party is leading.”

“It’s imperative that counties take their stand,” she said. “We represent all 29,000 registered Republican voters in Laramie County. The state Central Committee tends to just be made up with people with the loudest voices.”

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Democrat Superintendent Candidate Says He Wouldn’t Politicize Top Education Job

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19861

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Sergio Maldonado Sr. is a man who has immersed himself in books, vessels of knowledge that have taught him the value of listening and learning. 

One particular book he read by anthropologist Oscar Lewis in the eighth grade, he said, changed his whole outlook on life.

His passion for the written word remains just as strong today.

“We have to come back to where society appreciates good books,” the Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction told Cowboy State Daily. “It pushes you into the place, the time, the emotion.”

If elected Wyoming’s superintendent of public instruction, Maldonado said he will try to instill that same passion in Wyoming’s students to improve overall literacy.

“All students must be literate,” said Maldonado, who is to speak at the St. Stephen’s Indian School commencement on Sunday. “If we care to, we will become a read society, a society of spoken word.”

Maldonado, a man of Hispanic and Native American heritage, said he is running for office with the hope of bringing equality to the classroom, no matter the gender, age, race, class or sexual orientation of students.

“Our education systems must promote and cultivate the acceptance of diversity,” he said. “No one can claim pure ethnicity. Each one of us is unique.”

First Democrat

Maldonado is the first Democrat to register as a candidate for the office now held by Republican Brian Schroeder.

If Maldonado wins the Democratic primary election on Aug. 16, he will face the winner of the Republican primary in the general election. Three Republicans have so far registered as candidates for the post: Schroeder, Tom Kelly and Megan Degenfelder.

The deadline to register as a candidate for office in Wyoming is May 27.

Maldonado said he plans to tour the state during his campaign and listen to the educators, superintendents and members of the community as they describe the challenges faced in classrooms today. 

“I assure you I will listen to people,” he said. “This is what this job is about.”

He also vowed to leave decisions about education in local hands.

“I will not politicize education,” he said. “These decisions are made by you and your spouse. We must have local control, local input. That’s how it must work.”

Lifelong Experience

Maldonado said his lifelong experience in education and strong familiarity with Wyoming schools make him the right candidate for the superintendent job.

Maldonado has taught at Central Wyoming College and other colleges, teaching American Indian studies and other Native American-related topics. 

In 2015, he was chosen by former Gov. Matt Mead as Wyoming’s liaison with the Northern Arapaho Tribe, of which Maldonado is a member. In this role, Maldonado met with the governor two to three times a month and attended every day of the 2016 and 2017 state legislative sessions. 

Maldonado also was appointed by former President H.W. Bush to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education in 1989, where he served a three-year term, an experience he described as humbling and transformative for his understanding of education.

In 2016, Maldonado ran against Rep. Jim Allen, R-Lander, in House District 33 (R-Lander) and lost by a small margin of votes. In 2014 and 2018, he ran unsuccessfully in Senate District 25 against Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander).

Maldonado resigned from his liaison role in 2017 when the state cut his salary in half, opting to return to academia.

Listening

He currently lives on the Wind River Reservation and is working on earning a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Wyoming. He already holds degrees from Brigham Young University and Arizona State University.

In the past, Maldonado has taught at public and charter schools and has also served in administrative roles. He said it was his experience helping hire new teachers that made him particularly adept at listening.

“When they pose a question, I listen with intent,” he said. 

Most recently, he trained employees at the Wind River Casino and he is now is a substitute teacher.

“As an educator, I have to remember I’m teaching service into life,” he said.

If elected, Maldonado said he plans to focus on early childhood development, low-income food assistance, parental accountability, preparing students for post-secondary education, vocational schooling and school performance assessments.

However, he does not want to put too much emphasis on testing scores.

“These tests are biased,” he said.

Low Test Scores

If elected, he said one of his biggest tasks will be determining why Wyoming, a state with some of the highest per student school spending in the nation, is on the lower end nationally for test scores. 

He also wants to focus on poverty and how it affects classroom performance.

To address that issue, Maldonado said he wants to encourage communication between high- and low-performing school districts to find common areas of success.

Maldonado said he believes a community shapes its schools and students.

He noted that when students from the Wind River Indian Reservation, home to some of the lowest performing schools in the state, commuted to attend schools off the reservation, many of the students experienced success.

Maldonado said he supports the rights of transgender students but does not believe critical race theory should be taught at the K-12 level. 

As far as higher education, he believes the University of Wyoming, like the rest of Wyoming’s public schools, needs to be adequately funded.

“Is there any wonder why so many of UW’s grads leave the state and go elsewhere?” he said. “What are we not doing?”

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Secretary Of State Ed Buchanan Changes Mind; Says He Will Not Run For Second Term

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19854

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

In a reversal of his earlier comments, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced Tuesday morning he will not run for re-election this fall, choosing instead to apply for a position as a state district court judge.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Wyoming as your Secretary of State” Buchanan said in a news release. “Recently, the opportunity presented itself to apply for a judicial position in my hometown of Torrington, Wyo.  While I have been so grateful for the time I have spent as the Secretary of State, it would not be appropriate for me to explore a judicial opportunity while also running for this important office.”

Buchanan had announced in mid-April he would seek his second full term in the office he was appointed to by Gov. Mark Gordon in March 2018.

But in Tuesday’s announcement, Buchanan said he will begin the application process to fill the vacancy in the judge’s position in the Eighth Judicial District in Torrington to be created with the retirement of Judge Patrick Korell.

Buchanan said he will continue to fulfill his duties as secretary of state while applying for the judge’s position.

Buchanan applied to be a judge in Goshen County in May 2019 — a little more than six months after he was elected to his first full term as secretary of state — when he sought to be appointed to an opening in circuit court. Although he was selected as one of the final three candidates for the position, Gov. Mark Gordon did not choose Buchanan, citing a need to bring stability to the secretary of state role.

Monique Meese, a communications and policy director with the Secretary of State’s office, said Korell will finish his duties Aug. 2, leaving a possible gap in judges if Buchanan is selected for the job before his term ends.

Meese said “for now,” Buchanan has committed to serving out the rest of his term, which does not expire until the end of year.

District court judges are appointed by the governor in Wyoming. Following an application period, the Wyoming Judicial Nominating Commission submits the names of three finalists for the governor to choose from.

No candidates have filed to run for the secretary of state’s office. The filing period ends on May 27.

Wyoming’s Secretary of State serves as the state’s chief elections officer, securities commissioner, corporations administrator and notaries public commissioner. Buchanan also chairs the State Canvassing Board and serves on the State Loan and Investment Board, the Board of Land Commissioners and the State Building Commission.

After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Buchanan served in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence briefer. While serving, he received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado.

After the Air Force, Buchanan studied law at UW and then grew a successful law practice in Torrington. He was elected to the State House of Representatives in 2002, where he served for 10 years as chairman of Judiciary Committee, majority floor leader and speaker of the House.

Buchanan was appointed to the office of secretary of state in March 2018, filling the vacancy created with the resignation of Ed Murray, who faced two separate allegations of prior sexual misconduct. Buchanan was selected to finish out Murray’s term, which expired at the end of 2018, and successfully ran for election to his first full term in the office in November 2018, beating Democrat James Byrd by a 68% to 26% vote.

In his press release, Buchanan touted increasing revenues and the securing of election equipment as some of his major achievements while in the secretary of state’s office. He said he was also proud to have modernized notary and security laws and of keeping his office open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buchanan’s tenure was not free of tension, as many questioned the security of Wyoming’s election equipment following the 2020 election. His department was also successfully sued by Wyoming Gun Owners over a $500 fine the State had levied against the firearms advocacy group for alleged violations of the state’s electioneering laws pertaining to failing to disclose donors. The secretary of state’s office filed an appeal in Federal court early this month.

“I am thankful to the people of Wyoming who gave me this amazing opportunity and to the incredible staff at the Secretary of State’s Office who worked diligently to reach the goals we set,” he said. “Stepping away from this role has been one of the most difficult decisions of my career.”

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Green River Couple Runs To Be Husband-Wife Legislative Team

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19796

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming may have its first husband and wife team in the Legislature next year for the first time in more than 30 years

Green River resident Jennifer James is running as a Republican for the state House this fall, while her husband Tom James is already a state senator. 

Sen. Tom James represents Senate District 13, while Jennifer James is running for House District 60, which sits inside SD13.

The idea of both serving in the Legislature is something the couple has discussed, Jennifer James told Cowboy State Daily.

“We both discussed our future political aspirations at that time and we made our life decisions together,” she said.

It would be the first example of a husband and wife serving in the Legislature since U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis and her husband Al Wiederspahn simultaneously represented Laramie County. Lummis was a Republican in the Legislature while Wiederspahn served as a Democrat.

“I appreciate the comparison and respect Senator Lummis but did not know her husband,” Jennifer James said.

State Rep. Mark Baker, R-Green River, the current representative from House District 60, is not running for re-election so Jennifer James might have a clear path through the Republican primary in August. 

Jennifer James said she has been happy with Baker’s leadership and would not run against him.

“I plan to step forward on issues important to my community members including the Second Amendment, the fight for life, education systems, smaller government, free market, continued religious freedoms and diligent healthcare policies,” she said in a Friday press release.

Sen. James is seeking re-election this fall and has announced his intention to run, but has not yet officially filed. 

Jennifer James said she has no plans to team up with her husband on bills or for their political campaigns.

“We’re two independent people and we’re kind of keeping it that way,” she said. “We have very different personalities.”


Sen. Tom James (second from right) and Jennifer James (far right) at a gala in Rock Springs in February, 2022.. (Kim Raff/The New York Times)

Jennifer James said she and her husband are staunchly conservative and adhere to the Republican Party platform. In February 2021 he won an award from the Conservative Political Action Conference for his voting record.

Jennifer James said she does differ from her husband on opportunities for the state to obtain federal support.

For instance, Jennifer James supports the addition of an Office of Grant Procurement for Wyoming, an agency she said “is extremely successful in other states and can bring us multi-millions of dollars.” She said her husband is concerned with the strings that could come attached to such a program.

The two married in October 2021 and Jennifer James, previously of Laramie County, moved to her district around that time, allowing her to meet the one-year residency requirement for candidates.

While a Laramie County resident, before her marriage, she ran for House District 10 in 2020 against incumbent Rep. John Eklund Jr. (R-Cheyenne). Although she lost that election, she did place second in the four-candidate field. 

“My former district was spread out geographically which made it difficult to reach our ranchers and farmers at their homes,” she said, a problem she believes will be alleviated in Green River, where she thinks she will be more easily able to campaign door-to-door.

Jennifer James owns a nonprofit health care training company and credits this, as well as her past experience working with the Wyoming Department of Health and the State Board of Nursing for giving her policy knowledge that will be valuable in the Legislature.

James has a doctorate in nursing systems and a master’s degree in health law and is currently earning a post-graduate certificate in public policy design and innovation from Harvard University. 

“I have had multiple successes relating to the creation of state policies and wish to bring my ideas and experience to the Wyoming Legislature,” she said in the press release. “I saw issues from the inside, but I’m not another government crony; I understand the barriers and will help us overcome.”

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Gordon Kicks Off Election Season By Filing For Second Term

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Photo by Matthew Idler.
19754

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s formal 2022 election season was launched Thursday as the secretary of state’s office opened its doors for people to register as candidates.

Gov. Mark Gordon marked the occasion by walking into the secretary of state’s office in the Capitol at 8 a.m. Thursday to file as a candidate for a second term.

Gordon, like a number of other candidates, had already announced his intention to run before filing. Although the filing process may be a formality as far as the public is concerned, it is a necessary step in order to be considered a candidate by the state and win a spot on the election ballots. Deadline for filing is 5 p.m. May 27.

Other top officials who have announced their intention to seek re-election include Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curtis Meier and Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, who was appointed earlier this year to finish the unexpired term of former Superintendent Jillian Balow. It costs $300 to run for all of these positions including the governor. 

The highest profile race of 2022 has so far been the battle for the Republican nomination for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is seeking her fourth term in the House and faces primary challenges from several other Republicans, including Harriet Hageman.

Hageman announced her intention to run against Cheney in September 2021, winning the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in the process. A handful of other candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for this race, indicating they will pay the $750 filing fee.

Although the U.S. House race is colorful, some races at the state level will be just as contentious.

State Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, on Thursday announced his intent to run for Senate District No. 19 to battle lawmakers he described as “RINOs,” or “Republicans In Name Only.”

“It is time to move to the upper chamber and get a conservative majority,” he said. “Currently both chambers in Wyoming are controlled by rinos, it is time to change that.”

The seat is currently held by Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell, who indicated in a post on Twitter in March he will seek election to a second 4-year term in the Senate.

A number of candidates have announced their intention to run for other state House and Senate seats across the state. The cost to run for these positions is $100.

All statewide candidates must file an account through the Wyoming Campaign Finance Information System in addition to filing for office.

County-level positions do not  require filing on WCFIS. This filing can be completed at the candidate’s local county courthouse. The filing fee for all of local positions is $100. There is no filing fee for candidates for school board seats.

For more information visit sos.wyo.gov/Elections/2022ElectionInformation.aspx or call 307-777-5860.

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Donald Trump, Jr. Launches Ads For Hageman Campaign

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19739

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

With Wyoming’s Republican primary election about three months away, campaigning for the state’s lone U.S. House is picking up, with Donald Trump Jr. advertising in support of Harriet Hageman.

Trump Jr., in a new ad to air on cable and broadcast television channels, is endorsing Hageman in her challenge to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney re-election bid in the ad.

“She’s the congresswoman Wyoming deserves,” Trump Jr. said in the ad, which will run for the next three weeks.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WMDbk0I_ns

The campaign is sponsored by Wyoming Values PAC, of which Trump Jr. is an honorary chair. As of its most recent filing on March 31, the political action committee had raised $957,419 in the 2022 election cycle and spent $604,759.

In a Tuesday press release, the group said it plans to spend more than $500,000 in advertising leading up to former President Donald Trump’s rally with Hageman on May 28 in Casper. 

Wyoming Values has registered itself as a “super PAC.” According to Opensecrets.org, a nonprofit campaign contribution resource, “super PACs” may raise unlimited sums of money through donations from individuals and organizations and then spend an unlimited amount in support of or opposition to political candidates. However, they cannot donate money directly to candidates and they must act independently of the candidate.

Wyoming Values is registered in Virginia. The Hageman campaign has repeatedly implied that Cheney’s positions are more closely tied to those of Virginia than Wyoming. In March, the Hageman campaign created a spoof website called “Cheney for Virginia.”

In a news release announcing the online ads featuring Trump Jr., Wyoming Values lists a Casper address as its contact point. Very little information is provided on the PAC’s website beyond describing itself as “conservative representation for Wyoming,” and providing a section for people to donate to its campaign. 

During the advertisement, Trump Jr. refers to his father’s endorsement of the Hageman campaign.

“For far too long Liz Cheney has bowed to the Democrat elites like (Rep.) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That’s why my father and I endorse Harriet Hageman for Congress,” he said.

In a copy of the 31-second video posted to YouTube, Sunday, Trump Jr. also said Hageman will defend the border and the U.S. Constitution.

Cheney has been a vocal critic of the former president and voted for his impeachment on allegations he agitated rioters to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump endorsed Hageman on the day she announced she would challenge Cheney for the GOP nomination to the House.

Cheney has launched a series of her own Internet ads as well, but with a focus largely on her own campaign rather than criticism of her challengers. 

The two candidates’ social media pages also differ in their focus, with  Cheney’s mostly covering her stances on domestic and international policy issues. Hageman has taken more of a pointed approach, creating at least seven posts since April 15 that boast of her allegiance to Trump or criticize Cheney.

Through March 31, Cheney’s campaign had raised $10.1 million, with out-of-state donors making up the majority of her individual contributions. Her contribution total with almost six months to go before the general election shatters the $3 million she raised throughout her 2020 campaign.

According to Opensecrets,The Blackstone Group, an investment management company based in New York City, was Cheney’s biggest individual contributor through March 31 with $34,800 donated.

Cheney has spent just under $3.5 million during this campaign cycle.

Katherine Christy, a Florida resident, was Hageman’s largest individual contributor at $11,600.

Hageman has raised $2.06 million and spent $986,606 on her campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

Hageman has more than twice as many individual Wyoming contributions as Cheney, $543,094 compared to Cheney’s $255,336. California is the largest source of Cheney’s individual contributions with $942,758. Florida is Hageman’s second-largest source, with donations totaling $211,983.

Great Task PAC, a Cheyenne-based political action committee formed to support Cheney’s third re-election bid, made the largest single donation to Cheney’s campaign at $296,835. In all, Great Task has donated $550,735 to Cheney in six separate donations.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated on Friday, Feb. 13, to remove references to WINRED as a campaign donor. WINRED is a vendor that processes campaign contributions for candidates.)

Former House Speaker Tom Lubnau Resigns From GOP Leadership

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19690

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A former speaker of Wyoming’s House is resigning as a member of the state Republican Party’s leadership, citing differences with the actions and ethics of the state party.

Tom Lubnau, a 10-year legislator, is resigning his position as state committeeman with Campbell County Republican Party, a position that makes him a member of the state GOP’s central committee.

“The lack of integrity, toxicity and the move toward secrecy have convinced me to resign from this position,” he wrote in his resignation letter. 

Lubnau declined to make any further comment to Cowboy State Daily.

Lubnau’s letter of resignation was submitted to Heather Herr, chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party, on Saturday afternoon, while the state GOP convention was ongoing.

Herr did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In his letter, Lubnau said he was convinced to leave the central committee by the party’s adoption of a new “alternate dispute resolution process” which he compared to a secret court or “star chamber.”

“The system provides for secret proceedings, without notice or rules, standards of conduct which may be enforced, and unappealable legal judgments rendered in secret by a panel which cannot be challenged for bias,” Lubnau wrote. “The program is an affront to our legal system and reminds me of the Star Chamber proceedings under King Charles I.”

The process approved by the more than 250 delegates to the party’s convention last weekend is designed to resolve in-party disputes. Its work will be overseen by an Investigative Committee and Dispute Resolution Committee. No members outside the party or attorneys are allowed to represent parties in these conflicts. 

Members of the Dispute Resolution Committee will be hand-picked by the state party’s chairman, currently Frank Eathorne of Douglas.

Eathorne and Brian Schuck, the party’s attorney, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment. 

Lubnau said although he has vocally criticized the state party’s leadership in the past, the “triggering” event for him was the passage of the dispute resolution process.

“The willingness of constitution-loving Republicans to subjugate themselves to the whims of the Party Chairman is frightening,” Lubnau wrote. “The willingness to give up constitutionally protected rights in the name of expediency and quashing dissent is appalling.”

The bylaw addition was considered by the Bylaws Committee and then passed by the state’s delegates on Saturday with no input from the state central committee.

This bylaw was originally proposed by the Weston County Republican Party.

Kari Drost, Weston County GOP chairman, defended the bylaw in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

“It was a grassroots effort out of Weston County with the goal to settle disputes within the party rather than with a lawsuit,” she said. “I think it’s a great policy that had wonderful support in Weston and the state GOP.”

Another bylaw approved on Saturday addressed lawsuits filed against the party, specifying that anyone who files lawsuits against the state or county parties without going first to the new Dispute Resolution Committee will have to pay the legal fees of the group being sued.

Lubnau said these new bylaws infringe on the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. 

Lubnau in January was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Eathorne and the state Republican Party central committee, challenging the way three nominees for the vacant office of superintendent of public instruction were selected.

At the time Lubnau said the process used to select nominees for submission to Gov. Mark Gordon was unconstitutional because it violated the “one man-one vote” principle of the Equal Protection Clause in both the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions.

The Natrona County Republican Party is also involved in a lawsuit against the Wyoming Republican Party over dues.

In his letter, Lubnau said the party has “drifted away from” him. After serving as a state committeeman in the late 1980s, he was elected to the state House five times and Republican House Caucus leadership three times. 

Lubnau said he had hoped that he could help the party alter its course but has now lost this faith and wants the Campbell County party represented on the state central committee by someone who doesn’t share his “trepidation and distrust.”

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Randy Okray, a Campbell County GOP precinct committeeman who has been friends with Lubnau for a number of years. “He’s one of the most intelligent and upstanding people that we have.”

Lubnau was elected by the county party’s voters in 2020 for a term as state committeeman that started in January 2021. However, he will not finish out the rest of his two-year term. 

The Campbell County GOP central committee will be responsible for filling his position within 30 days of his notice.

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Barrasso’s Outdoor Recreation Act Moves To Senate Floor

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Photo by J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images
19711

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A measure designed to promote outdoor recreation on America’s public lands co-sposored by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso has been sent to the U.S. Senate floor for consideration.

The American Outdoor Recreation Act, sponsored by Barrasso and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this month, moving it to the full Senate for review.

The bill is a bipartisan recreation package that would benefit outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and target shooting by providing funding for new trails and recreation areas.

The bill also contains language designed to make it easier for film production companies to get access to public lands by streamlining the regulatory process involved.

“Our bipartisan legislation is a monumental achievement for all who enjoy our public lands and shared natural resources,” Barrasso said. “It will increase access to the outdoors, streamline and simplify agency processes, and improve America’s recreation infrastructure.”

The federal legislation has the support of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, America Outdoors Association and Wyoming Outfitters & Guides Association.

“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act bolsters the outdoor recreation economy and opens the doors for outfitters new and old to provide ample and affordable guided opportunities to folks from all walks of life,” said Aaron Bannon of Lander, executive director of America Outdoors Association. 

The bill consists of several different funding and regulatory packages, including Barrasso’s Federal Interior Land Media Act and his Cape and Antler Preservation Enhancement Act. Sen. Cynthia Lummis is a co-sponsor of both these bills.

The act would also establish a pilot program that would make real-time visitation data readily available for members of the public seeking to visit recreation sites on federal land, a tool that could be critical for gateway communities like Jackson and Cody.

Gateway communities are a specific target of the legislation as part of the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act piece of the bill. 

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service are to collaborate with state and local entities to identify needs and economic impacts in gateway communities and provide financial and technical assistance to expand and assist tourist visitation. 

Assistance can include training programs, technical assistance, low-interest business loans, and loan guarantees.  

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Wyo GOP Hostilities Continue; Now Laramie County Members Demand Chairwoman Resign

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Laramie County GOP chairwoman Dani Olsen
19676

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Hostilities continued to simmer in the Laramie County Republican Party on Tuesday as competing factions submitted their own resolutions calling for members of the other faction’s leadership to resign.

One resolution, delivered by precinct member Ben Hornok, calls on Laramie County GOP Chairman Dani Olsen to resign. Olsen has been chairman of the party since 2019.

“It’s just been her overall behavior,” said Laramie County GOP convention delegate Freddy Flores-Salieb. “It’s just the whole power grab and choosing the exclusion of people.”

At the same time, Mike Heath, a member of the county party’s executive committee, wrote the other resolution, strongly urging precinct committee members Hornok, Susan Graham, Fred Schlachter, Steve Johnson, Christine Johnson and “others not named but who support their actions to resign from their elected positions as precinct committeemen and precinct committewomen effective immediately” and refrain from all party involvement in the future.

“There has been a longtime, successive attempt to undermine the party,” Heath said.

The resolutions were both submitted amid allegations that each faction was trying to split the party. They followed a dispute during the Wyoming Republican Party’s convention over the weekend that saw 34 of Laramie County’s possible 37 delegates turned away from participating in the convention as punishment for violations of party bylaws.

Hornok’s resolution called for Olsen to resign because she was responsible for the violations that took place at the county party’s convention on March 5. 

These violations, including failing to rank alternates and call for nominations from the floor, were addressed by the state party at its convention in Sheridan on Saturday with an overwhelming majority voting to only allow three of Laramie County’s possible 37 delegates to be seated for the convention.

“That’s a big deal,” Flores-Salieb said.

Flores-Salieb said Olsen should resign not only because of Laramie County losing its delegates, but also because she made “a big show” at the convention of turning in her credentials and then failing to return to the convention hall as a spectator, as many other county party members did.

Olsen said she has no plans to resign and feels confident the majority of the party will support her. At the convention on Saturday, Olsen took some responsibility for the mistakes made at the county convention.

“This is just a continuation of divisions already brought forward,” she said.

Olsen said the push to oust her is coming from Hornok, who was the first to report the county party’s violations to the state Republican Party’s executive committee.

Hornok later advocated for seating all of Laramie County’s delegates at the state convention. 

Hornok did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Heath, meanwhile, said Hornok and his supporters are “Democrat infiltrators” attempting to pull the party apart, an accusation he also directed at state party leadership. 

Olsen said she doesn’t agree with Heath’s theory, but does agree with Heath that her detractors are using the same tactics used by Democrats in Colorado to divide Republicans and take over political leadership in the state. The theory is detailed in a book called “The Blueprint.”

“They are taking the steps that already happened in Colorado,” Olsen said.

Olsen said although Heath was not “unwarranted” in drafting his resolution, she added it should be up to the voters to decide whether they want to reelect these committee members or elect someone new.

Olsen, Heath and Flores-Salieb all agree cracks within the party started forming long before the county convention in March. 

Flores-Salieb criticized the way Olsen has conducted herself as chair, saying she performed a “near assault” on Hornok when she took a microphone away from him.

Since joining the party in 1991, Heath said there has always been a group of people within the Laramie GOP attempting to divide the party, but said this contingency has “gained more power and become more vocal” over the last few years. He said their growing influence started becoming noticeable during the 2012 Wyoming governor’s election, when he said winner Matt Mead received a significant amount of crossover votes from Democrats.

Olsen said another resolution asking just Hornok to resign was crafted while the state convention was actively taking place, but it has since been rescinded. 

These resolutions will be discussed at the Laramie County GOP meeting next Tuesday, May 17, at 6 p.m. at The Metropolitan Downtown restaurant in Cheyenne. Olsen said she will recuse herself from serving as chair on both resolutions and will abstain from voting on them as well.

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Senator Cale Case Censured by Fremont County Republican Central Committee

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19646

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

The Fremont County Republican Central Committee on Monday evening voted to issue a statement of disapproval against Republican state Sen. Cale Case of Lander.  

Taken by standing vote, 11 Republican precinct committee people voted in favor of a censure of Case, while seven voted against it. Two cast their votes in favor of the censure by proxy.

Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, voted for the censure and cast the proxy votes. Ottman later clarified to Cowboy State Daily that her vote was cast in her capacity as a precinct committee woman, not as a state lawmaker.  

Precinct committeeman Steve Lynn of Pavillion brought the censure resolution, saying Case no longer represents the people he governs.  

“The Cowboy State Daily article Senator Case wrote,” said Lynn, a precinct committeeman for Fremont County Precinct 14-1, “it fired me up.”  

Lynn was referencing a opinion piece Case had written for Cowboy State Daily on April 24 entitled “Big Tent Republicans, We Need You.” 

In it, Case expressed weariness with “Republican Party leadership,” saying it was intentionally blocking delegates from “the more moderate Natrona and Laramie counties” from taking part in the the party’s state convention, which he called an “echo chamber.”   

In his call for Case’s censure, Lynn called the op-ed misinformation, but also said proposing the censure brought him “no joy.”  

Earlier in the meeting, Ginger Bennett, Fremont County Republican Central Committee chairwoman, said the majority of Laramie County delegates to the state’s Republican convention were not seated at the convention because the county’s party “did not hold their elections correctly.”   

“Actions have consequences,” said Bennett, adding that the body of the party “is here to hold people accountable, because we believe in the rule of law.”  

As Lynn continued his argument to censure Case, he said “censure is not a tactic. It’s not to bully, it’s not rooted in hate and disparagement. Some are smirking and rolling their eyes, but I will tell you this: you work for us. Our elected officials work for the people.” 

Lynn said that the Republican party does welcome dissenting views, but won’t “be all things to all people for political expediency.”  

Constitutional Banter 

Lynn argued that Case had departed from the U.S. Constitution, Article One, Section Eight, by advocating for Medicaid expansion, which he called a violation of “limited government.”   

Case, who appeared at the meeting on Monday, disagreed with Lynn. 


State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander

 “I have not acted to thwart the will of the governed,” Case said. “The gentleman bringing the censure is not even an elector of mine.”    

Lynn’s precinct in Pavillion is not within Case’s district, which covers Lander, the Wind River Indian Reservation, other rural areas of Fremont County and a slim portion of Riverton.  

Case and Lynn debated on the “necessary and proper” clause of the legislative section of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the “general welfare” clause promising Congressional delegates the power to make laws benefitting the nation.  

Citing a Wyoming poll by Lori Weigel, Case claimed that 58% of Wyoming Republicans favor Medicaid expansion.  

Pavillion Embezzler 

Another cause for the censure resolution, said Lynn, was Case’s testimony on behalf of convicted embezzler Rebecca Milleson at her March 10 sentencing hearing in state district court in Fremont County.

Milleson was sentenced to supervised probation, with two prison sentences to be imposed should her probation be revoked, and was ordered to pay back over $180,000 to the town of Pavillion. She was convicted of taking money from Pavillion while she was employed as the town’s clerk.  

“When a Wyoming state senator speaks on behalf of a felon convicted of theft aggregate and larceny by bailee to reduce sentencing,” read Lynn from his resolution, “he is acting contrary to the will and consent of the governed.”  

Case defended his participation in the judicial proceeding against Milleson by stating that he believed in her. 

“I think there were extenuating circumstances to that person’s plight, and if you know the woman I’m talking about, you might know about the death of her son,” Case said. 

Milleson’s son died years prior following an accidental gunshot.  

“I’m a citizen just like all of you,” Case continued. “She’s entitled to a defense. She’s entitled to ask me, either in an official position, or a personal position, to act… If you knew the whole story you would not tell me I’m subverting the will of the governed by appearing in somebody’s defense at a judicial proceeding.”  

Debate 

John Pennington, of Shoshoni, stood to advocate for Case’s censure.  

“This entire country is a wreck on account of the conga line of RINO (Republican In Name Only) Republicans that we have in our midst,” said Pennington. “They continually work to foul us up by working outside the constraints of the 18 enumerated powers of the Constitution of this country.”  

Pennington said he had nothing personal against Case, but had noticed that his conservative score on sites that rank legislators by comparing their votes against party platforms was “lower than many of your Democratic cohorts.”  

Another precinct committeeman, John Brown, stood to defend Case.  

Brown said Case used to score as an ultra-conservative until the emergence of newer ranking sites, which, he said don’t “account for noes on bad bills.”  

Brown said the sites will dock a legislator for voting “no” on a gun bill that may or may not be practically sound.  

“Maybe the bill just sucked,” said Brown.  

Another speaker, Jim Hellyer, said he too had been having issues with party leadership.  

“If you’re serious about (the censure), I want to go down with Cale,” said Hellyer.  

Aftermath 

State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily after the vote that he disagreed with the censure, because it was brought by a party delegate not in Case’s district.  

Larsen, who attended the meeting, said the move should raise concerns among other Republicans.  

“Why should (Lynn) have the ability to tell the people of (Case’s) Senate district that their person should be censured?” said Larsen. “If the people of his district don’t like his position on Medicaid, or don’t like him testifying in a court case, they’re the ones that should bring up the censure issue.”

Larsen noted that the way the censure occurred concerned him, in spite of the fact that he and Case “don’t always agree on things.”  

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Fremont County GOP Seeking to Censure Sen. Cale Case For “Insubordination” To Oath of Office

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Republican Party members in a rural voter precinct of Fremont County are seeking a public statement of disapproval for a state senator.

The GOP in the precinct covering the town of Pavillion “has lost confidence” in Sen. Cale Case-R-Lander, according to a proposed resolution leaked Monday morning to Cowboy State Daily.  

Claiming Case is in “insubordination” to his oath of office, Steve Lynn, the Republican precinct committeeman for Fremont County Precinict 14-1, is asking the county party’s central committee to issue a formal censure against Case during its meeting Monday evening.

Lynn could not be reached via social media message Monday morning.  

The Accusations 

According to a proposed resolution submitted to the Fremont County GOP, the Republicans in the precinct lost faith in Case because of his reported departure from the state party’s platform, his support for Medicaid expansion, his favorable testimony on behalf of a convicted embezzler at her sentencing and what the document calls “misinformation” spread by Case to the media. 

Case, the document said, “consistently aims to expand government overreach in the case of Medicaid Expansion,” which, it continues, is “contrary to the limited government (provision)” of the U.S. Constitution.   

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily, Case countered that “the majority of Republicans (in Wyoming) support Medicaid expansion.”  

Case did not have data on hand to back the claim, but said he would produce it before the party at its Monday evening meeting.  

Pavillion Embezzler 

Case testified favorably for convicted embezzler Rebecca Milleson at her March 10 sentencing hearing, when she was sentenced to probation for stealing thousands of dollars from the town of Pavillion.  

Milleson had been the town’s clerk before her employment was terminated because of the thefts.  

She was sentenced to five years of supervised probation, with two consecutive prison terms to be imposed should her probation be revoked. Milleson also was ordered to pay $188,758 in restitution to the town.  

“I certainly wasn’t out of line testifying at a sentencing hearing,” said Case, who gave Milleson a job at his hotel’s restaurant after she was charged with the first set of theft charges in 2021.  

“(The party) might not like it, but everybody is entitled to a defense,” Case continued. “And I had a knowledge of the case and of the person. I think there were extenuating circumstances in her case.”  

Case said he believes Milleson “will turn out to be a credit to the community.”  

‘Dissenting Views’ 

Case said the call for his censure only affirms the position he took in a recent widely distributed op-ed calling on moderate Republicans to get to the polls this election season.  

“I think (the party is) working very hard to get rid of dissenting opinions and not being inclusive,” said Case. “And I think my own censure is part of that. They don’t tolerate dissenting views.”  

Case also pointed out that as of 1 p.m. Monday, he had not been invited to the central committee’s 6 p.m. meeting to rebut the call for a censure and added he had only received the proposed resolution from a friend, who leaked it.  

Voters ‘Get To Decide’ 

In the Senate, Case represents Lander, the Wind River Indian Reservation, other rural areas of Fremont County and a slim portion of Riverton. He does not represent the precinct seeking to formally censure him.

“I think I do a good job,” said Case, adding that the voters within his district, not the Fremont County Republican Party, are who “get to decide” whether he upholds their values.  

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Wyoming GOP Convention Wrap-Up: Civility & Optimism Despite Laramie County Walkout

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

More than 250 registered Republicans from around the state gathered in Sheridan last weekend to lay out the party’s stands on key issues and send directives to Wyoming’s legislators and congressional delegations as to the actions they would like to see taken.

And while the convention was not without arguments or disputes, the atmosphere remained civil at nearly all times. 

One of the major divisions within the party is the split between what has been described as its moderate and more conservative wings. 

Sheila Leach, a precinct member from Park County, said such divisions are to be expected from a party that counts 70% of the state’s voters as members.

“We have such a wide political spectrum,” she said.

The Trump Factor

That spectrum can be demonstrated in part by the strength of support and opposition among party members to former President Donald Trump.

The divide has taken shape in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat sought by incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a frequent critic of Trump’s who voted for his impeachment, and Harriet Hageman, who won Trump’s endorsement in her House campaign.

It is worth mentioning that in the three states where primary elections have already occurred, Trump-endorsed candidates have gone 55-0 so far.

Carbon County GOP Chair Joey Correnti said he doesn’t see the Cheney-Hageman race so much as a test of allegiance to Trump but more of a measurement of the dedication to the values Trump represents. He said if Trump doesn’t run for president in 2024, a candidate who espouses his values would get his full support.

Laramie County Walkout

On Saturday, the party voted overwhelmingly to disallow all but three of Laramie County’s 37 delegates from being seated at the convention due to multiple bylaw violations made at their county convention.

Certain members from Laramie County, including party Chairman Dani Olsen, accused the party of playing politics with this decision as retribution for the county’s party speaking out against state party leadership.

Olsen pointed out that there were other county parties that also committed rule infractions at their county-level conventions, items the Credentials Committee considered but did not find raised to the level of Laramie County’s infractions. 

Ben Hornok, a Laramie delegate who originally reported the violations, said even though he asked unsuccessfully that the county’s full delegation be seated, he didn’t regret making his original report to the state party.

Laramie County precinct member and delegate Daniel Singh was one of the three party members who did represent the county for the rest of the convention. He was upbeat about the future of his county and the state party.

“Sure, there’s divisions, but I feel really good about where things are at,” he said. “We had a lot of good discussions today.”

Project Veritas

The State GOP had James O’Keefe, a political activist and undercover investigative journalist, speak twice during the convention about his organization Project Veritas.

O’Keefe has made it his goal to expose bias in the media and government corruption. At times, he has been criticized, accused of selectively choosing excerpts from his undercover interactions in a way that inaccurately displays the true nature of conversations, and for blurring ethical and legal lines to catch his suspects red-handed. 

O’Keefe did not appreciate being questioned about these allegations when speaking with Cowboy State Daily on Saturday.

“You’re bringing up something from more than 10 years ago?” he questioned.

O’Keefe went on to explain that by using undercover reporting tactics, it holds officials accountable without a shred of doubt.

In the past, he has agreed to pay settlements and has been found guilty of criminal charges stemming from his reporting, but it must be noted that these events did take place more than a decade ago.

O’Keefe has exposed legitimate wrongdoing, including his team’s recent reporting, showing a producer from CNN and an editor from the New York Times admitting to exaggerating the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a way to increase their audiences. 

Journalists & Sources

O’Keefe said he thinks a major problem in today’s age of journalism is the relationships journalists develop with their sources. The more attached to a source they become, he said, the less inclined they are to question the validity of their source’s statements or engage in reporting that might upset them.

“Reporters are torn by the access they get to sources,” he said. “They rely on the hand that feeds them.”

O’Keefe didn’t have a clear answer as to what could be done to solve this problem moving forward. 

He supported the leak of the recent Supreme Court draft decision on  Roe v. Wade and noted it was made possible by close relationships by Politico reporter Josh Gerstein with government sources.

Identifying the problem is only half the equation and if the Wyoming Republican Party desires to mend its divisions, it will have to figure out the solutions as well.

There is a clear desire to do so, as many people expressed the belief the party needs to be and is already unified. If it doesn’t, only more infighting will probably be the result.

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Laramie County Delegates Walk Out of GOP Convention After State Party Vote To Expel

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Members of Wyoming’s Republican Party voted Saturday to bar most of Laramie County’s delegation from the party’s convention, prompting a walkout by most of the county’s delegates.

Nearly all of the 37 of the county party’s delegates walked out of the Sheridan County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall single file, handing off their credentials to the GOP executive committee without a word. Three, however, did return to the convention in the afternoon to represent the county party’s leadership.

At its convention on Saturday, the Wyoming Republican Party voted to seat the minimum three of 37 possible delegates from Laramie County, the county with the most registered Republican voters in the state.

The action was recommended by the convention’s Credentials Committee and was taken as punishment for alleged violations of party rules by the Laramie County party at its own convention in March.

“I’m not surprised,” said Dani Olsen, chair of the Laramie County GOP, citing divisions in the party she believes led to the decision.


Laramie County GOP Chair Dani Olsen holding up her county’s credentials 

The vote was taken by roll call, with an overwhelming majority of the convention delegates voting to block 34 Laramie County delegates from taking part. The other three delegates, members of the county party’s leadership, were entitled to participate in the convention, but walked out with their colleagues.

Olsen said she suspects the county party’s members will vote to not pay their county’s roughly $15,000 dues to the party moving forward. Natrona County had earlier taken a similar position on dues and is now involved in a lawsuit against the state GOP.

The decision not to seat the delegates was made after more than two hours of debate on the topic. Laramie County delegates were not allowed to take part in any vote on the topic, a decision made with a 232-44 vote earlier in the meeting. 

In the end, party members voted 225-63 against allowing Laramie County’s 34 delegates to be seated, resulting in the walkout.

Carbon County GOP Chairmen Joey Correnti earlier suggested that the convention allow 32 of the 37 possible delegates to participate, but the motion failed failed on a vote of 157-119. 

“I stood up for giving them an opportunity,” Correnti said, explaining he wanted the body as the whole to have the opportunity to rule strictly on Laramie’s non-leadership delegates. “It came down to the people.”

Correnti said he needed a commitment from Laramie’s leadership to hand over their credentials to normal committee members for this to take place.

Most of the support for Laramie County came from delegates from Sweetwater, Natrona, Campbell and Sheridan counties.

Olsen said she was encouraged by the support she received from the other counties. She did not attend the rest of the meeting despite having the right to do so. Olsen said there is already chatter about which county party other delegates will target next.

“We’ve definitely got some ideas,” she said.

The actions stem from allegations the Laramie County party violated party bylaws at its county convention in March, including failing to take votes for delegates and alternates on a secret ballot.

The State GOP’s Credentials Committee voted 15-8 vote on Thursday to recommend only three of Laramie’s 37 delegates be seated at the convention’s business meeting Saturday.

There were rumblings before the convention started that a compromise would be made to allow more Laramie delegates to be seated.

Laramie County delegate Kathy Scigliano said prior to the start of the convention a compromise still wouldn’t be ideal for the county.

“Do we want big government?” she asked. “Do we want the state telling the county what to do?”

But Scigliano also said if anyone must be held accountable for the mistakes made at the county convention, it should be the county’s leadership.


Laramie State Committeeman Ben Sherman speaks to Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne after the delegate decision was made.

As the discussion progressed, Olsen appeared to become overwhelmed by emotion, breaking into tears, and was consoled by a few of her fellow party members including Laramie County GOP Vice Chairwoman Kyle Taylor.

“I just told her it’s not her fault,” Taylor said. “She did her best and fought for the county. As chair, she feels responsible for this.”

Olsen said although “the buck stops with her,” she doesn’t feel her actions merited the final result.

Opinions on the action were divided, with both supporters and opponents of allowing Laramie County’s delegation to stay speaking out.

“Do we set the precedent to capitulate,” Michael Lundgren of Lincoln County said. “Stand with those who want to stand with their fellow brethren because they don’t get their way?

“If they file a lawsuit and use a lawsuit as warfare like their leftist brethren, then so be it,” he added.

Many of Laramie County’s opponents cited a need to follow rules and said the county’s delegates were not certified because of the county’s actions.

Olsen disputed this and said all their delegates were certified, despite possible flaws in the process.

Even members within the Laramie County party expressed contrasting views on the issue.

“As a Republican who is concerned with voter integrity, Laramie (County) has had several issues with voter integrity in the past,” said Laramie County delegate Freddy Flores-Salieb. “There have been miscounts of precinct people, legislators of county areas representing areas they don’t live in. I strongly urge the body to stand for voter integrity and accountability.”

Ben Hornok, a Laramie County party member whose complaint launched the action at the convention, asked the state leadership to seat all of the county’s delegates.

“To borrow a phrase, there are good people on both sides,” he said. “The Republican Party is the only party able to make America great again. If Laramie (County) wants to be involved in the process they should be allowed. We proved that by paying our state shares last year.”

Hornok was referring to a delay the county made in paying its dues. The state GOP argues Natrona owes dues dating back to 2019.

Taylor said there will be a trickle-down effect for the decision that was made, with a likely continuation of events similar to what transpired on Saturday.

“It shows there is a clear division within the party,” she said. “It shows this will be the case moving forward.”

Correnti on the other hand was more optimistic for the future of the party based on the selflessness he saw exemplified by Laramie County’s leaders.

“That’s what we’re doing here is building teams,” he said. “Laramie showed a lot of teamwork and that’s pretty cool to see.”

(Editors note: This story was updated on May 9 to correct the name of one of the Laramie County delegate who spoke during Saturday’s GOP convention to Freddy Flores-Salieb. Due to reporter error, the person who spoke was originally misidentified as Frances Caster. Cowboy State Daily apologizes for the error.)

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Wyo Republican Convention: Resolutions Committee Wants End To EPA, BLM

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Resolutions calling for the dismantling of some of the state and federal government’s biggest agencies were approved Friday by the Resolutions Comittee of the state Republican Convention.

Among the resolutions approved Friday for review by all of the delegates to the convention during their business meeting Saturday were measures calling for an end to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and national and state offices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

A few people like delegate Kathy Orchard expressed concern that dissolving the EPA might empower certain more left-leaning states like Washington into becoming more empowered to make unilateral environmental decisions, such as blocking Wyoming coal producers from using seaport terminals in their state. 

This has been an issue playing out with the government’s oversight, drawing legal challenges from Wyoming and Montana alleging discriminatory denial of their products.

“If we have the responsibility of the EPA remaining within individual states who are wanting to haul coal, and railroads running through multiple states, what kind mess is that mess is that going create?” she questioned the committee. 

Isaac Best of Sublette County argued Wyoming would still have its own state EPA in place to handle these matters.

The Committee also voted to remove the BLM on a national level, before also agreeing later in the meeting to abolish state offices of the agency as well.

“Really, the lands should be state lands, not federal lands. What about the private property owners?” said Jana Williams of Uinta County.

There was little consideration during discussion of these issues on the logistics of eliminating major government departments.

Nina Webber, national committeewoman for the state GOP, said the resolutions are a road map for state legislators to follow, not hard and fast law.

“Resolutions are not law,” she said. “It’s the grassroots effort. We come in and represent the counties and the counties’ interests.”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, co-chair of the Resolutions Committee, said he was pleased with the committee’s efforts.

“The Wyoming Republican Party’s Resolution Committee has done great work,” he said. “The resolutions have gone through a careful scrutiny and grassroots process.”

Gray said he takes the resolutions very seriously in his work as a legislator, but delegate Kevin Aznoe of Lincoln County said he hasn’t seen many other legislators give the resolutions much consideration while they are in session.

Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland), co-chair on the Resolutions Committee, defined for committee members when their meeting began Friday how important the committee’s work is.

“The resolutions are us reacting to a left agenda,” he said. “We’re always going to be fighting that agenda. It’s the enemy’s agenda.”

Other resolutions approved included one calling for an end to the U.S. Department of Education.

The resolution had the support of Tom Kelly, one of the Republican candidates running for the superintendent of public instruction’s office.

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Wyoming GOP Committee Votes For ‘English As Official Language’ Resolution

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Photo by Leo Wolfson, Wyoming GOP convention
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Republican Party is considering adoption of the position that English should be the official language of the United States.

Members of the Resolutions Committee at the GOP Convention held in Sheridan approved a resolution for consideration by all convention delegates that would declare English the country’s official language.

If approved by convention delegates during their meeting on Saturday, the resolution will become the official position of the Wyoming GOP.

Several delegates speaking in support of the resolution said such a declaration would help motivate immigrants to learn the English language and better “assimilate” into American culture. 

Delegate Ben Decker of Campbell County said a nearly identical proposal was offered during the county’s convention by a non-native English speaking member of the party.

“He said, ‘Learning English makes it easier to assimilate into American culture,’” Decker said. 

“American Culture Under Attack”

Several committee members also said they were concerned that English is becoming a minority language considered unnecessary in America, bringing traditional American culture under attack.

“Immigration without assimilation is an invasion,” said Scott Brown, a delegate from Lovell and Big Horn County.

Decker said he supports the concept of America being a cultural melting pot, but is opposed to American culture becoming a minority in any U.S. area. Such developments lead to the country becoming a proverbial house divided, he said.

Decker blames the rise of Mexican cartels in southern California on a move away from English-speaking dominance. 

“Don’t just take your old culture and take over,” he said.

California is one of more than 30 states to have English language requirements while still offering election services in different languages. In Arizona, where there are also English language designation laws, the state offers a Spanish-language website for department of motor vehicle services.

Judeo-Christian Roots

Brown said he supports the designation of English as the country’s official language and added America needs to return to its Judeo-Christian roots. 

Judaism and Christianity, although deeply intertwined with the founding of the country and its growth, were not the only religions followed by colonists and early Americans.

Brown did say “grace” should be shown to non-English speakers who have recently moved to America and have yet to learn much English.

Decker also said it is proper immigrants should retain their native roots.

“It does not mean you should have to let go of your heritage if you come here,” Brown said. “It does mean you need to assimilate. Otherwise, there will be division.”

There are 27 countries that have designated English as the official language including Ireland (co-official) and Canada (excluding Quebec).

During the first Continental Congress, it was decided that no official language would be chosen for the country due to the diversity of languages already being spoken in the country at that time. 

Currently, all court documents and business contracts are required to be written in English in the U.S. 

“Money-Saver”

Bill Adsit, a committee member from Sheridan County, said making English the country’s official language would save money on printing and paper by eliminating the need to publish duplicates of official documents in foreign languages.

Adsit said learning English can also be a form of consumer protection for immigrants.

“There’s too many less-than-fine people to take advantage of those who don’t know what they’re getting into,” he said.

“It’s to their benefit to learn English,” he added. “When you move someplace you need to be able to assimilate to communicate.”

The fear of traditional American culture being tossed away also reared its head in in a few different discussions about education and the teaching of history. 

A few delegates expressed their support for legal immigration with Larry French, a committee member from Park County, pushing for a quicker process for immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

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Barrasso, Gordon Receive Mostly Support At GOP Convention Dinner, Some Boos

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso spoke during the congressional delegation dinner at the State GOP Convention on Friday night, largely drawing support from the audience, but also some noticeable jeers.

One of those detractors was Gillian Sears of Newcastle, who yelled out, “We’re mad at you” when Barrasso discussed the inflation he blames on President Joe Biden’s policies. Her husband Chad Sears said he feels similarly and was also disappointed with all the members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation.

“They don’t seem to be mounting any kind of response,” Chad Sears said, explaining he would like to see delegates push more bills opposing the Democrat policies and Biden.

“Build The Wall”

Barrasso said in an interview after his speech that he plans to vote against any bill for COVID funding until the Biden administration continues the building of the border wall at the southern border started by former President Donald Trump.

Chad Sears said he harbors the most discontent with Gordon, adding that he won’t vote for the governor in the fall election under any circumstance.

Gordon and Barrasso addressed a variety of different topics, nearly all based around their opposition to Biden’s policies and allegiance to former President Donald Trump. Gordon said the current administration has dropped the ball not only on the Mexico border but also the northern border with Canada.

“It’s amazing to me to watch what has happened when you see how quickly they disassembled all the great work the Trump administration did,” he said.

Eye-Roll

But Barrasso’s statements of allegiance only brought a handful of claps from the audience. By the time the senator mentioned making Biden a one-term president, Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell) rolled his eyes.

“Under Joe Biden, (U.S. Rep.) Nancy Pelosi and (U.S.) Sen. Chuck Schumer, we are less safe and we are less free,” Barrasso said.

Sears said Gordon “ceded all control to unelected bureaucrats” when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a move he said hurt businesses. One of those bureaucrats, he mentioned, was State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, who was not elected but appointed by Gordon.

Now, Sears sees the governor doing an about face and claiming to be the state’s “savior,” because of his Covid response.

“He didn’t take a stand,” Sears said.

During an interview with Cowboy State Daily earlier in the day, Gordon said it’s easy to criticize the COVID restrictions in hindsight, but said he has no regrets about his actions overall.

Hissed

The Park County Republican Party was one of the most vocal against Barrasso, with Cody resident Jona Vanata yelling out, “What are you going to do about it?” when Barrasso mentioned the crime rate in major U.S. cities.

Heidi Reed, a nurse from Albany County, said she still supports Barrasso and hissed when the senator brought up vaccine mandates during his speech.

“I support the patient’s bill of rights,” she said.

Barrasso still received a standing ovation from the audience and will have more time than Gordon to shore up support from voters as he has two more years in his term.

Gordon, who also won applause from the crowd, is running for re-election this year and will face at least one opponent in the Republican primary this August in Brent Bien, a veteran from Sheridan who attended the dinner and convention events earlier in the day. Constitution Party candidate Rex Rammell was also present at the convention.

U.S. congressional candidate Harriet Hageman was at the dinner but did not speak to the audience. Her opponent Liz Cheney announced on Thursday night she is not attending the convention due to Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne’s purported membership in the far-right, anti-government group “Oath Keepers.”

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Cheney Will Not Be Attending Wyo GOP Convention Because Eathorne Is “Oath Keeper”

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney will not be attending the Wyoming Republican Convention this weekend because of the party chairman’s alleged ties to a far-right anti-government militia.

A spokesman for Cheney issued a strongly worded statement saying the three-term congresswoman will not be attending the convention because Chairman Frank Eathorne was purported to be a member of the “Oath Keepers.”

“The chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party is a member of the Oath Keepers who was at the Capitol on January 6th and has called for secession, so no, Liz will not be attending,” Jeremy Adler told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday evening.

Adler further noted that many members of the Oath Keepers have been indicted for seditious conspiracy and three have recently pled guilty.

The question of Cheney appearing at the convention was much-discussed on Thursday. Both event organizer Bryan Miller and Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne said they had received no word on whether Cheney would attend the convention in Sheridan.

“We’re the grassroots and the grassroots isn’t very happy with her right now,” Eathorne told Cowboy State Daily earlier in the day.

Miller, chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party, did say Cheney will not attend the convention’s congressional delegation dinner on Friday night.

However, Miller said the event will be U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and Gov. Mark Gordon.

Cheney, who is seeking election to a fourth term as Wyoming’s lone member of the U.S. House, appeared at the party’s 2020 convention by video.

However, in November, the Wyoming GOP’s central committee voted to stop recognizing Cheney as a Republican because of her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

She has also been targeted for earning a position on the U.S. House committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the riot and for her frequent criticism of Trump.

Harriet Hageman, one of Cheney’s opponents in the GOP primary for the House, is sponsoring a full breakfast buffet for convention delegates and alternates. The event at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds on Saturday will feature comments by Hageman.

Another featured speaker at the convention will be James O’Keefe of Project Veritas, who will make two presentations. O’Keefe is an American political activist and undercover documentarian who founded Project Veritas. 

Project Veritas is a controversial conservative activist group that describes itself as investigating and exposing corruption, dishonesty waste and other misconduct in public and private institutions.

Critics accuse Project Veritas of using deceptive video editing techniques to attack mainstream media organizations and left-leaning groups and politicians.

Various convention committees will discuss proposed resolutions, platforms and bylaws for the 2022 convention in meetings on Friday. The actual business meeting of the state GOP will take place Saturday.

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Laramie County Denied: Credentials Committee Votes 15-8 Against Seating Laramie County Delegates

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Photo by Leo Wolfson at GOP convention
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily political reporter

Most of Laramie County’s delegates to the Wyoming Republican Party’s convention in Sheridan should not be seated at the convention, its Credentials Committee decided Thursday.

The Credentials Committee voted 15-8 to recommend to the convention’s full slate of delegates that Laramie County only be allowed to seat three delegates instead of the 36 the county originally sent to the state meeting in Sheridan. 

The committee decided to only seat the Laramie County party’s three central committee members. 

The recommendation, made as punishment for the county party’s alleged violation of party rules, will have to be approved by the rest of the state’s delegates during the convention on Saturday to take effect.

However, the same committee voted against taking similar action against Sublette County’s delegates, even though it was accused of a similar violation of party rules.

The Credentials Committee, a board typically convened as more of a procedural clearing house, has taken on a more high-profile role during this year’s convention.

The purpose of the committee is to decide whether each of the 23 Wyoming county party delegates and alternates were properly certified at their county’s convention.

A complaint submitted to the state GOP’s executive committee accused the Laramie County party of committing multiple procedural violations at its county convention, including not ranking alternate delegates, failing to call for nominations from the floor and failure to vote for delegates using a secret ballot.

The executive committee decided to have the issue addressed by the Credentials Committee.

Laramie County is the state’s largest and contains about one-third of the state’s registered Republicans. Natrona County, which also contains about one-third of the state’s Republicans, has already seen its delegate count reduced from 33 to six because of an ongoing dispute over dues.

During the Credentials Committee’s meeting, committee members were divided over the need to take action against Laramie County.

“There’s a lot of misinformation that I think is leading to this motion being made,” Laramie County GOP Chairman Dani Olsen said, denying the claim the party didn’t take motions from the floor and bringing minutes from the county’s meeting in March to back up her case.

Michael Lundgren of Lincoln County and Susan Porden of Sheridan County, however, accused Laramie County of disenfranchising voters by violating the rules.

Porden said “she couldn’t imagine being disenfranchised by those in power” and said it was Olsen’s job to explain to voters, not the Credentials Committee, how they were disenfranchised.

Mary Martin, Teton County Party GOP chairman, spoke on behalf of Laramie County.

“One of the things I’m bothered with is certain individuals think they need to police other counties,” she said. “As the Republican Party we want home rule, county rule.”

Jeb Hanson of Niobrara County warned the committee to be mindful of the precedent its actions might set.

“We really need to be careful,” Hanson said. “We could be opening the door to attack any faction of the party don’t like. This is cherry picking. We need to be on the honor system. There is a proper time to make objections. It is not later at a state executive committee meeting.”

A proposal later in the morning to reconsider the vote against Laramie County was defeated by a vote of 14-6.

The complaints against Laramie County spurred Gail Symons of Sheridan County to submit complaints of similar rule violations by Albany, Crook and Sublette counties. 

Symons said at the time she submitted the complaints that she did not believe any of the county parties acted intentionally, but said all county parties should be treated the same. 

Lundgren said the issue was one of integrity.

“Election notice and integrity are two very different things,” Lundgren said. “I agree with party of rule but when there is a violation, each violation should be taken into consideration.” 

But Olsen said the decision not to take any action against. Sublette County showed the committee was selectively enforcing its own rules.

Mary Lankford, a member of the Sublette County Republican Party’s central committee, told Cowboy State Daily she was denied an opportunity to volunteer as a delegate to the state convention because Sublette County did not accept any nominations for delegates from the floor during its convention in March.

“I fully intended to volunteer to serve as a delegate to the State Convention, as I am a duly elected Precinct woman representing Pinedale, and a member of the County Central Committee,” she said in an email. “There were other delegates present who intended to do the same.” 

Lankford cited the county rules requiring that nominations from the floor be entertained and said the Sublette County GOP declined to do so.

“At the end of the day’s agenda, a slate of delegates and alternates was read, and no nominations were allowed from the floor,” she said. “A voice vote confirmed the slate, and a quick motion to adjourn the meeting was passed.”

Olsen said she is still holding out hope that all of the county’s will be seated for the convention on Saturday by the rest of the convention’s delegates. She said all of her members will be present and will take part in the vote.

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Barrasso, Lummis Back Move To Kill Biden ‘Disinformation’ Board

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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s U.S. senators signed on to a bill Tuesday intended to kill a newly created “disinformation” board designed to cut down on the distribution of foreign misinformation in the U.S.

The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds for the Disinformation Governance Board of the Department of Homeland Security and would also prevent funds from going toward “any other similar entity established” in DHS.

The bill already has 18 senators signed on including Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, as well as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Rick Scott, R-Florida, and bill sponsor Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas.

The bill was developed in response to the announcement by the administration of President Joe Biden about the creation of a government department to combat online disinformation.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced the department will be led by Nina Jankowicz, an American researcher, author, and commentator who has specialized in the topic of disinformation and who Mayorkas has defended as “absolutely” neutral.

But Cotton expressed his doubts about how the department would be used.

“The Biden administration wants a government agency dedicated to cracking down on what its subjects can say, an idea popular with Orwellian governments everywhere,” Cotton said on Twitter Tuesday morning. “This board is unconstitutional and un-American—my bill puts a stop to it.”

Barrasso, meanwhile, said the administration has more important things to worry about.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s number one job right now should be securing our southern border,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “The last thing they should be wasting taxpayer dollars on is creating a new government-controlled, so-called truth squad that infringes on Americans’ constitutional rights.”

Many Republicans have decried the new department as “Orwellian,” comparing it to the Ministry of Truth in the novel “1984” by George Orwell.

But Mayorkas said the concerns are unfounded. 

“Those criticisms are precisely opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do,” he said on CNN on Sunday.

Mayorkas identified misinformation as a national security threat and said the Department of Homeland Security has been addressing the issue since the administration of former President Donald Trump. 

He said the new Disinformation Governance Board will have no operational authority but will determine a set of “best practices” to surveil for threats of violence from foreign states and adversaries while simultaneously safeguarding free speech, civil rights, liberties and privacy. 

The bill was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Monday.

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One Of First Questions Of GOP Convention — Can Laramie County Participate?

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The question of whether Republican delegates from the state’s biggest county will be allowed to take part in the Wyoming Republican Party’s convention later this week will be among the first issues settled by the party.

The party’s 23-member Credentials Committee, during its meeting Thursday, will be asked to determine whether to punish Laramie County for alleged rule violations by refusing to seat 34 of the county’s 37 delegates at the convention in Sheridan.

The Credentials Committee is in charge of approving every delegate sent to the state convention from around the state. 

Typically, the process is fairly straightforward, said Committee Chair Scott Clem, but it hasn’t come without its fair share of drama over the years. 

For example, during the 2020 convention that was already complicated by COVID-19 restrictions, Clem said a proposal was made not to seat Natrona County’s delegates because of that county party’s failure to pay dues. 

Although all of Natrona County’s delegates did end up getting seated that year, the county will only have six delegates seated at this year’s convention as a result of litigation filed over the dues dispute.

Laramie County Issues

This year, the Laramie County party has been accused of committing several rule violations during its own county convention in March, including failing to vote for delegates and alternates on a secret ballot and failing to take nominations for delegates from the floor. 

The state GOP executive committee has asked the Credentials Committee to determine whether all 37 of the county’s delegates will be seated or whether the state’s largest county will have only three delegates at the convention.

Meanwhile, Gail Symons of Sheridan County has filed her own complaint with the party, noting that several other county parties were guilty of similar infractions to those alleged by Laramie County, but they have not been punished with a proposed cut in their delegate numbers.

Neither Clem or committee co-chair John Bear plan to cast votes themselves on the delegate issues but will deliver the Credentials Committee’s recommendation to all of the other delegates at the convention when it officially begins on Saturday.

Bear said if Laramie County fails to follow bylaws in the future, it could create problems down the road when the state party sends delegates to the Republican National Convention in 2024. 

More Serious

He said while he does agree with Laramie County GOP Chairwoman Dani Olsen that every county party should be expected to follow their respective bylaws, he also said he views Laramie County’s infractions are more serious than the ones brought up by Symons.

The alleged rule violations raised by Symons included failure to publish notice of a county convention and failure to use secret ballots to cast votes for delegates. She said when submitting the complaint she did not believe any of the counties acted intentionally.

Bear said due to the way Laramie County performed its delegate nomination process, delegates were not nominated equally from the party as a whole.

“Ultimately, the power to make decisions belongs to people,” Bear said. “That’s what the bylaws allow for and that’s what I believe should have happened in Laramie. You can’t take that away from the people.”

Bear said the other complaints, mostly pertaining to notification complaints, are still critical issues. He said when the Campbell County GOP made a mistake with its notices, it chose to reschedule its convention, something that also occurred in Park County this year.

“You’ve got to do the right thing and follow the rules,” said Park County Republican Party Chairman Martin Kimmet.

Civil and Smoothly

Clem hopes Thursday’s committee meeting will remain civil and run smoothly. 

Any issue brought before the committee must be presented to the committee’s members through a motion that must be made by a committee member. If no motion is made no action will be taken.

Some of the committee’s members have already spoken out about Laramie County’s alleged violations.

The Laramie County allegations were brought straight to the state Party’s Executive Committee rather than to the local party. The executive committee then passed the issue off to the Credentials Committee.

“If something happened in Laramie County it should be fixed locally at that level,” Clem said. “If there are any wrongs to be weighed it should be addressed first and foremost at that county. If people don’t like the leadership, the grassroots need to elect new leadership.”

If the Credentials Committee decides to not take action on the matter, Clem said Laramie could still be censured by the Resolutions Committee, but this would only be in the form of a formal reprimand.

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Laramie County GOP Chair: Eathorne Selectively Enforcing Rules, Committing “Voter Fraud”

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A dispute over the way Laramie County’s Republican Party selected some of its delegates to the upcoming state GOP convention could result in the county’s party losing almost all of its convention representatives.

But the proposed action on the part of the state Republican Party just days before its biannual convention is being criticized by the chair of the Laramie County Republican Party as selective punishment. Dani Olsen told Cowboy State Daily the state party has never before punished a county party for such infractions.

“It is a shame that the Chairman of the State Party would use his position to spout falsehoods as a means of not seating the largest county in Wyoming and thereby disenfranchising over (20,000) Republican voices in Laramie County,” she said.

At issue is a complaint about the way Laramie County’s GOP selected delegates to the state convention. If the convention’s Credentials Committee decides to punish the county party for its actions, it could limit the county to only three delegates at the convention — the lowest of any county in the state.

A separate dispute involving Natrona County will see that county represented by only six people, meaning the state’s counties with the highest populations will have some of the lowest representation.

The state GOP convention is held every two years. During the convention, representatives of county parties from across the state meet to decide issues such as the party’s platform and express their support for various Republican candidates seeking office.

This year’s convention is to be held May 5-7 in Sheridan.

“Multiple Violations”

Laramie County Republicans have been accused of multiple violations of their own rules in selecting convention delegates.

The infraction was reported directly to the state Republican Party Executive Committee by Ben Hornok, a Laramie County precinct committee member. 

Hornok reported that the county party, at its convention March 5, took a voice vote when nominating delegates and alternates to the state convention, in his opinion violating its own bylaws requiring “some form of secret ballot.” 

He also said no additional delegate nominations were allowed to be taken from the floor after the initial 34 “pre-selected” names were accepted. Counting the three county executive committee members, who have a guaranteed spot at the convention, the party is sending 37 delegates to the convention.

Hornok, who was present at the county convention on March 5 and was one of the chosen delegates, did not bring the infraction to the attention of county leaders, but rather took it directly to state GOP leaders at their meeting March 28, an approach some have said was politically motivated.

“I don’t have a dog in the fight,” Hornok told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “I just decided to speak up and write the complaint. The complaint speaks for itself.”

After Hornok made his report, the issue was submitted to the Credentials Committee, whose members decide which delegates are to be seated at the convention.

“Following Laramie County leadership’s admission of its failures to follow Bylaws in conducting the election, the State Republican Convention’s Credentials Committee will now review the matter and make a recommendation to the convention body as to how many delegates from Laramie County will be seated,” state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne said in a Tuesday press release.

Laramie County, the county with the state’s biggest population and most registered Republican voters, could now have all but three of its 37 delegates stripped away, giving it the least representation of any county party at the state convention, less even than sparsely populated Niobrara County’s seven delegates and Natrona County’s six. 

Natrona is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the state party over bylaws that allowed the state Executive Committee to reduce its delegates as punishment for not paying party dues.

Selective Enforcement

But Dani Olsen, chair of the Laramie County GOP, said the state GOP is selectively enforcing the rules.

“It is further alarming that while the State Executive Committee is passing motions to ‘vigorously enforce Bylaws’ that it has consistently stopped its enforcement efforts with only two counties – Laramie and Natrona counties,” she said in a news release.

Later, Olsen told Cowboy State Daily the party has never before enacted punishment for infractions and said she worries about the precedent it will set.

In her initial response to the Executive Committee, Olsen said she agreed the concerns raised by Hornok were legitimate and said the county’s delegate selection process used at past conventions and this spring did not fully follow the party’s own bylaws. She added the county party will consider addressing ambiguity in its voting rules at its next convention in 2024.

But in a later statement, Olsen had stronger words for the state party, referring to Eathorne’s statement as “fake news.” 

She also said the only “potential” mistake the county party made was the way it selected its alternates. 

In the initial response to the state GOP, Olsen did say some of these alternates will be called up to become delegates, as some of the chosen delegates have already communicated they cannot attend the convention.

State Leadership

Vince Vanata, a member of the state party’s executive committee from Park County, said the state leadership has taken no stance on the issue beyond sending the complaint to the State Credentials Committee. 

“We recognized it’s not for us to make a decision,” he said.

The issue will be brought before the committee during the first day of convention on Thursday morning. This committee will then make a recommendation that will be passed on to the all convention delegates to consider and vote on Saturday.

Joey Correnti IV, a staunchly conservative and outspoken member of the party and chairman of the Carbon County GOP, said if the credentials committee refuses to recognize Laramie County’s delegates, an argument could be made that these delegates could be prevented from even voting on their fate.

“As far as I’m concerned Laramie County members tend to only act in their best interest regardless of what the rules, decorum, or conflict would normally demand of them,” he said in an email.

Human Mistake

Olsen said she hopes the state party will use “grace” in its decision and recognize Laramie County’s officials made a human mistake. 

She said it would be “a shot in the dark” to predict the fate of her county’s delegates at this point but said the party will not let its delegates be removed “without a fight.”

Olsen also said Hornok’s complaint should not be considered because it was not brought up during the county’s convention in March, so bringing up the issue now would violate Robert’s Rules of Order. 

Olsen also said if the complaint had been raised at the county convention, the matter would have had to be voted on by the same body that made the mistake. 

Hornok said he chose to circumvent county leadership “because everything happens so fast” at convention and he “did not really know how to bring up the issue.” The roster of Laramie County delegates was approved with a 63% vote.

Hornok said other party members were aware of the possible infraction and he was worried the issue would not get brought up until the state convention, leaving the Laramie County delegates little notice they might not be able to vote.

“I did not want to see Laramie County send its delegates to the state meeting and all of a sudden be side-swiped by this issue,” he said.

Olsen disputed Honok’s allegation that no nominations were taken from the floor and stressed the county party has not admitted to any errors regarding its the selection of its delegates. 

She said the state GOP has committed its own share of errors and has found at least eight other counties that committed infractions during their conventions.

“We can only hope that the other counties will be able to hold themselves to the same high standard Laramie County has been held to and they will come forward with their own admission of errors, as we have done,” she said.

Politically Motivated

Olsen said she believes the proposal to strip Laramie County of most of its delegates is politically motivated, spurred on by the county party’s refusal to back the state party on every issue.  

“This is not a good reflection of Wyoming politics,” Olsen said. “What they’re doing is a type of voter fraud. By not allowing people to vote, they’re not protecting voter integrity, by selectively choosing which counties to protect.”

Hornok said the Laramie County party is made up of “some conservatives and moderates” and is “not very unified.” He said he would rather the county and state parties be more unified, but if the state decides to strip Laramie County’s votes “so be it.”

Vanata attibuted the situation to decisions by the Laramie and Natrona county GOP’s leaders.

“We’re not bitter towards the people of these counties,” Vanata said. “What caused this is their leadership. They created this situation and it’s unfortunate because Republicans are losing their delegate representation.”

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Who Is Brent Bien And Why Is He Running For Governor In Wyoming?

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

As a retired military officer, Brent Bien knows a thing or two about leadership and he claims there’s a lack of it in the governor’s office.

The Laramie native retired to his home state of Wyoming three years ago after finishing his military career as officer-in-charge of the U.S. Marine Corps base on Guam.

A naval aviator since 1991, Bien, who retired as a colonel, served in both support and leadership positions in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now Bien wants to use those leadership skills to take charge of Wyoming’s government as its governor.

“I’ve been voting in this state since I was 18,” Bien told Cowboy State Daily while on the road to a campaign event in Buffalo. “I’m originally from here, but even when I was stationed as a Marine Corps officer for nearly three decades, I kept my residency the whole time, and just retired back in 2019.”

Bien and his wife, Susan, bought a house in Sheridan as his retirement was looming. Susan works as a nurse at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Sheridan.

Bien, a Republican, said while abroad, he maintained a connection to his home state, visiting his parents, Bill and Virginia Bien of Cody, frequently. 

“Lack of Leadership”

Since his return to Wyoming full-time, Bien said he has become “alarmed” at what he called a “lack of leadership” in Cheyenne.

“I think what I’ve seen is just a void, or just a lack of leadership down in Cheyenne, particularly out of the governor’s office, for a long time,” he said, “and in particular the last three, three and a half years.”

Bien said he has had his eye on the governor’s seat in Wyoming since he was a young man.

“My first trigger, I guess, was way back when I was in flight school in Pensacola, Florida, when (former President) Bill Clinton got elected,” he said. “I wasn’t happy about that. And I said, ‘You know, one of these days I’m gonna be the governor of Wyoming.’ And that paved the way for today.” 

For Bien, Gov. Mark Gordon’s handling of the pandemic reinforced the idea.

“When Mark Gordon shut the state down, I couldn’t believe it, that something would happen, like declaring a state of emergency after one case of COVID,” he said. “And, of course, there’s a lot of federal money tied to declaring an emergency in the state. 

“And I thought, you know, we’re 20,000 square miles bigger and 300,000 people fewer than South Dakota, and they’re open for business, and I couldn’t figure out why Wyoming was closed down,” he continued.

“No One In D.C.”

Bien said that he was also persuaded to take the leap when he realized that no one in Washington, D.C., was looking out for the best interests of people in Wyoming.

“Nobody is protecting the freedoms of the people in the state of Wyoming,” he said. “And because we already have seen the governor put our freedom on the table, I thought, you know, I’ve got to do this.”

Bien said he resigned his position as director of safety and standardization at Big Horn Airways in Sheridan in November.

He has been traveling the state since he announced as a candidate in March, meeting constituents and spreading his message of promoting freedom for Wyoming residents.

“My platform is to make Wyoming the freest state in the nation,” Bien said. “I plan on doing that by actively, aggressively, protecting personal freedoms – and that includes private property rights, and Second Amendment rights, and the unborn, and making sure parents have primacy over their decisions for their children.”

His secondary agenda, Bien said, is to provide more government accountability.

“That’s our state government,” he said. “That’s voter integrity. That’s eliminating crossover voting. It’s trying to get our budget under control. 

“I don’t think we have any idea how much it really takes to run this state, because I can’t find a full blown, top to bottom, wall to wall audit since, gosh, for nearly 30 years… what it really comes down to is figuring out how much money we actually need to run this state,” he added.

Energy & Education

Wyoming’s education system is also high on Bien’s list of priorities for changes, particularly in the area of transparency for parents.

“After receiving nearly $500 million in COVID money, we are tied to the federal government for several years now, just in some of their education requirements across the board,” he said, “and I know that folks are not happy with that.”

Bien said that state sovereignty is a major issue, as well.

“I believe that coal, gas and oil, particularly coal, because we’re such a big coal state, that it is just as much our future as it is our past,” he said. “We produce so much coal here and, and we have the technologies that make it very, very clean.”

Bien said he would like to see the state change how Wyoming’s natural resources are perceived.

“They’ve been made out to be so bad, and we’ve got to change that narrative,” he said. “Because when it’s cloudy and when the wind doesn’t blow – and that doesn’t happen that often here in Wyoming – but you know, when the turbines stop and the solar panels don’t work, we really have to keep our energy independence.”

Bien said Wyoming produces about 14 times more energy than it uses, and he would like to see more production.

“I do think the way to target all of that objectively is to really take a look at the permitting process across all the sectors of energy, and make sure it’s fair across the board,” he said. “And right now I know it’s not standardized.”

Bringing People Together

Bien said he’s had extensive experience in getting diverse groups to work together for a common goal, as recently as his command in Guam, when various governments, environmental groups and local citizens needed to come together to build the Marine Corp base. 

“It was a matter of coalescing these groups, getting them all together and trying to explain to them, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing,’” he said. “And, you know, it was about an $8.7 billion project, and of course, it’s still going on right now.”

That experience, Bien said, would be beneficial should he be elected Wyoming’s governor. 

“I will work with the federal government, as long as it benefits the state of Wyoming, and as long as it doesn’t encroach upon personal freedoms, or the sovereignty of the state,” he said. “But as soon as it does I will have push. We haven’t seen that in nearly 30 years from our office, particularly with our current governor.”

Bien acknowledged that the state has made an effort to stand up to federal policies under Gordon’s direction by filing a series of lawsuits over federal policies including rules limiting oil and gas leases on federal lands and requiring coronavirus vaccinations for federal employees, health workers and workers at large companies. This week, Wyoming joined a “friend of the court” brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal ban on “bump stocks.”

However, Bien noted that he sees Wyoming jumping on the bandwagon rather than taking the lead in standing up to what he sees a federal overreach.

“I don’t see Wyoming leading in anything, really,” he said. “I’d like to see more proaction out of our current administration — and I can assure you, we will be far more proactive if I get down there (as governor).”

Consequences

Bien said he realizes that standing up for Wyoming might mean consequences from the federal government.

“I always make sure that people know that, ‘Hey, you know, when I say no, that could potentially mean loss of federal funds,’” he said. “And Wyoming probably takes more federal funds than any other state in the nation. 

“And so far, that’s been very well received,” he continued. “People want that – people want somebody to stand up for the state. And I’m willing to do it.”

However, Bien said he understands how difficult the road to the governor’s office could be during this year’s race.

“I’m under no illusion how difficult it’s going to be,” he said, “because we have a lot of establishment folks in there. But I think the rallying cry is, ‘Let’s be number one, Wyoming needs to be number one, and we’ve got to fight to get there, to advance our state to its rightful position at the top.’”

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