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Rammell Continuously Slams, Berates Gordon & Bien During Contentious Gubernatorial Debate

in News/politics
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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Cowboy State Daily

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell continued his aggressive campaign style during a Wyoming PBS debate Thursday night, imploring his opponent Brent Bien to drop out of the race under the accusation the veteran is not eligible.

“I ask you tonight, patriot to patriot, to honorably bow out of this race and keep this out of the courts,” Rammell said. “I ask you, for the people of Wyoming, for this race, to honorably bow and let (Gov.) Mark Gordon and Rex Rammell go to the polls.”

Rammell accused Bien of failing to meet the Wyoming law requiring five years of residency prior to running for governor because Bien was serving in the military. During his closing statement, he asked Bien to step out of the race. Rammell followed this request with a promotion for his own campaign, calling himself “a strong man.”

Bien said he would not drop out and that he checked with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and attorneys before running to make sure he was eligible to compete, a right he said he also verified in the Wyoming Constitution. 

Bien said he never gave up his residency while in the military. Wyoming law allows residents serving in the military to continue being residents and take advantage of rights such as voting in elections.

“Just because I decide to serve our country, our nation, I do not lose my residency there,” he said. “I chose to serve this nation, something you (Rammell) did not do.”

Criticism After Criticism

This criticism was just one of many Rammell leveled over the course of the evening during the event held at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. 

Rammell also spoke negatively about Gordon being born in New York and Bien failing to spend his entire life in Wyoming, despite the fact Rammell himself has not done so. Rammell was born in Idaho and lived there as recently as 2012, running in at least four elections including one race for governor.

“That is my greatest strength that I’ve never left the West,” Rammell said. “I didn’t grow up in New York and I didn’t join the military.” 

Bien, who said he is running for constitutional freedoms and to stop federal overreach, said he has never given up his Wyoming residency and only left the state to serve in the military.

“As far as my military service, I’m very proud of that for the nearly 30 years I did that,” he said. 



Target: Gordon

Gordon was the target of most Rammell attacks throughout the evening, a strategy he also employed at a debate last week in Casper.

The candidates were asked their thoughts about U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. Bien and Rammell, who said he was Cheney’s veterinarian in the past, criticized the congresswoman.

“I knew Liz Cheney before Liz Cheney was known in Wyoming and I knew that she was going to be trouble,” Rammell said. “Liz Cheney is not a patriot to Wyoming.”

Gordon, citing the legislative precedent of not commenting on other races, would not comment on Cheney. He said he was requested by former President Donald Trump to attend a rally he held in Casper in May with Cheney’s opponent Harriet Hageman, but politely declined this request.

“I said, ‘I’m glad to meet you at the airport President Trump but I am not going to take sides in this particular race,’” Gordon said.

This prompted another volley of words from Rammell.

“When we have someone like Liz Cheney who has disgraced the state of Wyoming, I as governor will take a position against her and anybody else like her,” Rammell said. “I will get involved in local races all across the state of Wyoming. I want a conservative legislature, that’s the way to do it.”

Wyoming GOP

While both Rammell and Bien spoke in favor of the Wyoming Republican Party’s leadership and platform, Gordon took a slightly different stance. Although he refrained from saying anything negative against the State GOP and said he supports traditional Republican ideals, he also spoke fondly about former President Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” approach to the Republican Party.

“Subtraction and division is a dead dog loser,” Gordon said.

Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne has spoken against this “big tent” approach multiple times and said he is only interested in representing the “true conservative” voices of Wyoming.

The recent resignation of Tom Lubnau from his position as state committeeman with Campbell County Republican Party, was also brought up as an example of the party’s divisiveness.

“I think that Mark (Gordon), he’s dissented from several of the Republican Party principles,” Rammell said. “And I do believe that has caused people like Mr. Lubnau to be distracted.”

Rammell said if people like Lubnau don’t like the Republican Party they should leave the party and find one that better fits their ideals.

Covid & Crossover

Rammell and Bien, who promoted hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin on stage, both criticized the governor for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Rammell spoke more pointedly.

“I would never never shut down anybody’s business or take away liberties,” Rammell said.

Rammell also criticized Gordon for not taking enough action on a crossover voting bill that was considered in the Legislature last year that would have enacted an earlier deadline to change their party affiliation before primary elections. Gordon said he advocated for this bill.

“Not important enough to advocate for it when (former) President Trump called you,” Rammell said to Gordon. “He wanted you to advocate against crossover voting and support runoffs and you did neither.”

Gordon pushed back on this accusation and said he advocated for the bill in the Senate and the House.

“Thank you Rex,” Gordon finished.

Gordon brought up the various boards he has set up to address problems multiple times throughout the evening and said he would take this same approach for solving a few different issues in Wyoming in the future.

“All these listening groups, I don’t see anything coming out of them,” Rammell said.

Feds

Gordon also touted the collaborative efforts he has taken with other Republican governors to oppose various federal measures.

“I am the only person on this stage who has a proven track record for standing up for your rights,” Gordon said.

Rammell brought his campaign promise to confiscate all federal lands in Wyoming and said he would obtain a court order to escort all federal employees from their offices on his first day in office.

“I’d like to meet the federal judge who is going to issue the warrant to usher these officials out of a federal building,” Bien said.

Rammell also said he would try to remove Wyoming’s medical facilities from depending on federal funding if elected and would support the elimination of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Although Gordon and Bien expressed support for local communities having the choice to raise taxes to support their local hospitals, Rammell did not.

“The best way to solve problems is to create an environment for companies to be successful,” he said.

None of the candidates supported Medicaid expansion, expressing little confidence about how long the state will receive federal support with this.

Fed Policies

All of the candidates spoke in opposition of President Joe Biden’s energy policies. 

“We need to stand up to the federal energy policy. Wyoming is the Saudi Arabia of America,” Bien said. “We’ve got to posture better.”

The candidates also spoke against gun free zones in schools and Critical Race Theory.

Bien said if elected, he would engage in several different audits to see how the state could better spend its money. Although he said Wyoming should be No.1 in the nation in every category, he did not extend this same priority to fighting climate change.

“Climate change is a lot of unproven to it,” he said. “I do believe in market driven green energy but not this heavily subsidized that we’re doing right now.”

Rammell accused Gordon of overblowing climate change by calling it the “single most important issue on Earth” during an earlier press conference.

“I think that is going way beyond what is actually happening in Wyoming,” Rammell said. “That was a bad position to take.” 

Gordon declined to respond to this, saying Rammell is “entitled to his opinion.”

Rammell said he would like to see property taxes eliminated for Wyoming residents 65-years and older while Bien agreed and mentioned possibly lowering this to 60-years of age.

He also said property taxes should reflect a home’s acquisition price for all residents.

Gordon was more vague on this topic but said a new taxpayer classification needs to be created and committed to addressing the problem if reelected.

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Former House Speaker Tom Lubnau Resigns From GOP Leadership

in News/politics
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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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So You Think It Has Been Cold Lately In Wyoming? How Does -66 Sound To You?

in Column/Bill Sniffin
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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Up until the recent cold snap, tough-minded Wyomingites had been quietly snickering when national news reports showed below-freezing temps in Texas, blizzards in New York and folks shivering in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Although we truly sympathized with folks enduring something called a Polar Vortex, we also knew what cold weather is really like.

This got me thinking about what were the coldest temperatures in Wyoming’s recorded history?  A lot of folks sent me anecdotal stories, which I will mix in here with a few facts.

Personally, I recall the winter of 1978-79. Again, here in Lander, I think the entire month of January was below zero. Amazingly dangerous and bitter conditions.

What is the official coldest temperature ever? Historian Phil Roberts from the University of Wyoming: “I think the record is still -66 recorded Feb. 9, 1933, at Moran. I heard the temperature was actually colder, but the thermometers didn’t have the capacity to register a lower reading!”

The late Clay James, who operated Jackson Lake Lodge at Moran for decades, recalls -54 one cold winter day in the mid-1970s. 

“Thankfully we woke up as the power went off. We called all our employees to turn on the faucets and start the fireplaces. The power was off for several days. Never have I been so cold,” he recalled.   

Former Cheyenne, Torrington and Sundance publisher Mike Lindsey recalled the blizzard of 1949, which history generally considers  the worst ever in the state.

“Up in Sundance, cattle froze standing up. Wind blew drifts into buildings through keyholes in doors. Machinery would not start. Kids who stuck their tongues to the door handle did not get thawed until their junior year!” 

Not sure about that last fact, which was reminiscent of the famous scene from the movie “A Christmas Story.”

The late Jim Smail of Lander once told me about snowmobiling with a group that included Charlton Heston at Togwotee Lodge in 1964 where the mercury dipped to -64. No, they did not go sledding that day.

Former Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau of Gillette recalls playing Laramie in football when the wind chill was -65. 

Dewey Vanderhoff of Cody recalls: “It was New Year’s weekend of 1979 when Jackson Hole went -60. Friends from Meeteetse had gone to ski there but came back with horror stories of busted pipes, bone-cold motels, blackouts, everything closed, no skiing opportunity at all. Nothing fun except sharing beds for warmth and drinking a lot. Consolation prize I suppose. Was there a spike in babies born in September-October?”

Jody Coleman, formerly of Riverton says about that same ski trip: “I was in Jackson that New Years of 1979. The power was off and we woke up at the Antler motel with the walls inside covered with frost. We went outside and started our pickup every hour. The next day we spent the day jump-starting other people’s cars. My mom bought me a ski suit. But urged me to move home to California.”

Worland can get pretty cold. Former resident Debbie Hammons recalled: “That super-duper cold winter of 1978-79 was when the weather was sub-zero. I moved home to Wyoming in September 1978. Best New Year’s Eve ever was Jan. 1, 1979. All the young singles in town packed into the Three Bears Bar downtown and kept their cars running into the New Year. We knew if we shut off our vehicles, we might not be able to start them again until March!”

When current Cheyenne resident Pat Schmidt was publisher of The Lovell Chronicle, folks there arranged a hay bale mission to rescue the poor wild horses in the Pryor Mountains. 

“The BLM and others organized a hay drop from a helicopter to bands of horses stuck on mountain ridges. I recall taking a picture with one hand as I was dropping a bale with the other. The effort only compounded the problems, we learned later, as the horses’ digestive systems were not used to the rich protein in the hay. Their systems compacted, causing a quicker death. Only around 75 survived.”

Jim Hicks says “I know a bunch from Buffalo were riding snow machines in Yellowstone in the early 1970s and it was so cold it froze their whiskey into a solid block.”

Greybull native Mke Schutte has a story to tell: “My Karen and I were Married on Dec. 22, 1962 in Emblem, took a three-day honeymoon to Red Lodge and headed back to Laramie and moved in to student housing. On Jan. 12, 1963 the temperature dropped to minus 50 degrees. I will never forget going outside that morning. So quiet, thought it was the end of the world. Nothing moving that we could see or hear. It was a little scary. Finally heard a vehicle that was driving around and trying to jump start some vehicles.  

“Student Housing was built with cinderblocks, with a lot of leakage around doors, windows, and other places. Couldn’t get much heat in our small unit. Needless to say, we stayed in bed most of the day with extra blankets.  Sadly, one school teacher who walked to work, frostbit her lungs and died!  Never experienced cold like that since.  Brrr!”

Then there is this old joke about the weather:

         “My feet are cold.”

         “Well, all you have to do is go to bed and have a brick at your feet.”

         “I tried that.”

         “Did you get the brick hot?”

         “Get it hot? It took all night just to get it warm.”

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Senator Says Budget Amendment Kills University of Wyoming; Sponsor Disagrees

in News/Legislature
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Senate amendment to the state budget bill aimed at eliminating funds for gender studies at the University of Wyoming appears to remove all funding for university academic programs, according to a state senator and several former legislators.

However, Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, the amendment’s sponsor, said her amendment adopted Friday affects only the university’s gender studies program.

“It’s only regarding gender studies and our staff assured me of that before I ran it,” she told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday. “It was targeted at one particular program.”

Steinmetz’ amendment, approved on a vote of 16-14, specifies the university will not “expend any general funds, federal funds or other funds under its control for any gender studies courses, academic programs, co-curricular programs or extracurricular programs.”

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said during debate on the floor that the amendment is poorly written and would appear to eliminate funding all university programs.

It’s all about the commas, he said. Each item listed in the amendment stands alone and is targeted for a loss of funding — including “academic programs.”

“We just closed down the university,” Case said during debate..  “We’re just wiping out the university in saying they can’t spend any [money] on academic programs, co-curricular programs … or extracurricular programs.”

But Steinmetz said the Legislative Service Office drafted and thoroughly reviewed the amendment and said it would apply only to gender studies.

“All of our budget amendments are reviewed by our legal team and they assured me it was only regarding the gender studies program,” she said.

Several former legislators agreed with Case’s assessment.

“I understand what she is trying to do, but the effect would basically eliminate all funding to the university,” former Park County legislator Tom Jones told Cowboy State Daily.

Former House Speaker Tom Lubnau was more direct.

“Illiteracy just shut down UW. Irony at its finest,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday.

Another former House speaker said he wondered about the genesis of the amendment.

“Hard to believe that is an LSO mistake which leads one to wonder if it was intentionally drafted that way?” former Speaker Kermit Brown wrote on Facebook.

But Steinmetz said objections over the amendment’s wording are not well grounded.

“Everyone likes to create black helicopters when they disagree with something,” she said.

During the floor presentation of her amendment, Steinmetz said she was disturbed to learn the gender studies program at the university teaches students to “translate feminist and social justice theories into service and activism.”

“We’re training activists here is what we’re doing,” she said. “I don’t believe it’s an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, said while the amendment could be construed to stop funding to all university programs, she believes most people do know its intent is to eliminate the gender studies department she teaches in and used to head.

“To say that I am annoyed at a third reading budget amendment to eliminate our 40-year program with cutting edge classes and phenomenal students is an understatement,” she told Cowboy State Daily.

Former UW Vice President and legislator Chris Boswell told Cowboy State Daily that his problem with the amendment doesn’t stem from its wording, but its intent.

Boswell noted that gender studies courses are taught at Casper College, Laramie County Community College and Sheridan College. 

“Would those who voted for the amendment also like to eliminate course offerings at our state’s community colleges?” he asked. “The UW offerings have been in place for decades.  This just adds to the ugliness which seems present within the legislative session.”

Others had an issue with the process of making law by adding amendments and footnotes to the budget.

Gail Symons, a legislative activist who runs the website Civics 307, said the idea of legislating through the budget process is a bad idea.

“There are a number of reasons that it is inappropriate to legislate through footnotes in a budget bill,” Symons said.

“Stand-alone bills have to go through committees and provide opportunities for public comment.  The specter of unintended consequences can be averted during deliberations,” she said.

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“It’s Fighting Season”; Little-Known Candidate Denton Knapp Says He’s Still in Congressional Race

in News/Liz Cheney
16956

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Denton Knapp might be the most misunderstood person running for Congress. 

Since throwing his hat into the race for the U.S. House seat held by Liz Cheney just under a year ago, Knapp has been accused of being a California carpetbagger, Trump demagogue, Frontier Republican, and betrayer to the Wyoming Republican Party because he didn’t give up on his campaign when former President Donald Trump endorsed fellow candidate Harriet Hageman.

He’s none of those things, he told Cowboy State Daily, and he’s eager for Wyoming voters to learn that. 

In the days following the Republican National Committee’s decision last week to endorse Hageman with the support of the Wyoming GOP, Knapp has gotten a lot of calls from reporters from both state and national media.

“They all want to know if I’m still out there and still running,” he said. 

They seem genuinely bewildered, he said, that a largely unknown guy who most recently lived in California would remain in a race that seems to be spotlighting only two contenders – Cheney and Hageman.

But Knapp doesn’t buy that narrative and believes that the Wyoming voters deserve a choice when it comes to selecting the state’s lone U.S. representative.

He further believes he has a fighting chance for victory once the residents of Wyoming get to meet him. 

“It’s fighting season,” he said, referencing the spring season in Afghanistan when military activity would resume after the long, cold winter, a reminder of his 30 years in active military service in the U.S. Army with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this case, the fight is getting out to meet the voters of Wyoming and showing residents there are more than two candidates in the race.



Uphill Battle

Despite the odds being stacked against him, Knapp is unflappably optimistic when he talks about the race and his plan to step up for the people in Wyoming when he gets to Washington, D.C.

A recent straw poll at the central committee of the Wyoming Republican Party showed one person voting for Knapp compared to 59 for Hageman, six for Cheney and two for state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.

But Knapp puts no stock in straw polls, endorsements or fundraising, though admittedly more money means more ad dollars, he said. 

“Money matters for marketing,” he said, “but it doesn’t matter for votes.”

To date, Knapp has raised a total of $10,925, $5,400 from which came from donors in California with the other $3,600 coming from Wyoming residents. Since the beginning of 2021, Cheney has raised almost $7.2 million and Hageman has earned about $745,000.

But Knapp describes the funds he’s raised as hard-earned money sent to him by voters in the state, which means more to him than the millions of dollars coming in for Cheney and Hageman from out-of-state.

Who is Denton Knapp?

Sitting at the dining room table in his home Gillette on Friday, Knapp talked about his childhood and growing up in Campbell County. Beside him at the table were his mother Waruny, a Japanese immigrant, and younger brother, Chris Knapp, a businessman and Republican state legislator from Gillette. Across the table was Knapp’s wife of 35 years, Heather, who he calls his rock.

Though some have questioned Knapp’s motivations for jumping into the race with no prior political experience, his family was not surprised. 

In fact, Chris – who was a three-term county commissioner before being appointed to the Legislature – credits his brother’s service in the military for inspiring him to enter politics in his early 20s.

“Dent (as his friends and family call him) chose the military,” Chris said, “so I went into politics.”

Chris found his brother’s decision noble, he said, as he extolled his character and years of active military service as a colonel in the Army, beginning with an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Knapp had been nominated for the school by Wyoming’s congressional delegation at the time — U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney and U.S. Sens. Al Simpson and Malcolm Wallop. He had applied to and been accepted by all three military academies, and initially dreamed of becoming a pilot in the Air Force, but his color blindness kept him out. Instead, he went into the Army.

During his military career, Knapp served in several roles, including as a director of the Tierney Center for Veteran Services, developing protocols for special operations forces and, after finally retiring, serving as a brigadier general in the California State Guard, where he lived with is wife for three years before returning to Wyoming.

Since moving back to Gillette more than a year ago, Knapp launched his own company, Valor Made, LLC, in which he hires veterans for a variety of odd jobs in the oil field and elsewhere.  

Fourth-Generation Wyoming Guy

Even though Knapp has spent the past 30 years living outside of the state, he considers the Cowboy State his home, identifying himself as a fourth-generation Wyoming guy whose great-grandfather Denton Floyd homesteaded along the Powder River. 

As for claims of him being a California carpetbagger, Knapp’s wife Heather, who is also a Gillette native, called it an entirely unfair accusation.

Yes, they were away from Wyoming because her husband was in active military service and stationed all over the country and world, Heather said. They’d lived in California for the past three years because that’s where their youngest son, 33-year-old Scott, and his wife and two young children settled. 

This is a sensitive topic for her given the death of the couple’s oldest boy Brandon, who at age 20, died of suicide. 

“It makes me mad that people hold that against him because we wanted to be close to our son,” she said

Heather is still getting used to being in the political spotlight and the way it opens a person up to criticism from people she sees in person and on social media. Having been in military circles for the past 30 years, the Knapps are used to keeping their political opinions to themselves.

Knapp said he believes his time in the military, where he honed his leadership and negotiation skills, makes him uniquely qualified to serve as U.S. representative.

Knapp doesn’t say much about his time in the military other than to offer a general summary, so Chris filled in the holes because he said his brother is too humble to provide details.

Chris pointed to a photo on the wall in the living room of two tanks bearing down on Baghdad. His brother had been part of that surge, Chris said, and had actively served on the front lines. Chris gets emotional when he talks about his older brother’s service and the box of medals he amassed over the course of his three-decade career. 

“He’s my hero and always has been,” Chris said.

Following His Own Orders

Knapp’s foray into the political world has not been without controversy.

Before former President Donald Trump endorsed Hageman, Knapp, Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith and state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, had all said they would bow out of the race in deference to the person who won the endorsement.

After Trump backed Hageman, Smith and Gray dropped out of the race.

Knapp did not.

“I changed my mind,” he said simply. “I have the right to change my mind when the environment and people started to change the rules. I reevaluated what I was doing and made the right choice for Wyoming. Voters should have candidates to choose from and it shouldn’t be dictated by a faction of the party.” 

Knapp’s continued opposition to Cheney stems from the fact she does not represent Wyoming, he said. He feels she sold out her Wyoming  constituents for her own self-interests and a personal vendetta against Trump. 

“She was elected to represent the people of Wyoming,” he said. “Not her own interests.”

He also does not like the way he sees the country heading under Joe Biden’s watch and what he describes as encroachments on America’s freedoms. He points as examples to the restrictions on movements that were put in place with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as threats to the 2nd Amendment and American values.

For these reasons, he felt it was imperative to step up now – not wait to make his ranks through local and state office.

“The time is now,” he said. “I don’t have the luxury of waiting. Too much is at stake.”

His Own Man

One thing that Knapp said has remained consistent throughout his life are his views as a staunch, conservative Republican.

“I’ve been a Republican my entire life,” he said, noting he’s voted Republican in every election, including when he cast absentee ballots while stationed overseas.

For this reason, he takes offense to being labeled a member of the “Frontier Republicans,” a group of Republicans pursuing as “a statewide effort to encourage participation while promoting integrity, respect and civility.” 

The group emerged two years ago in the wake of vicious infighting and verbal assaults among Republican Party members in Campbell County. The group has since been labeled “liberal Democrats” or RINOs by more conservative members of the Republican Party.

Knapp has been tied to the group because of his friendship with former legislator Tom Lubnau, a Frontier Republican advocate.

It’s not that Knapp has anything against the Frontier group, he said, but rather he doesn’t want to be aligned with any factions and wants to stand on his own as an independent candidate running on his own platform.

As to what his platform stands for, posts on his campaign’s social media page  are pro-second amendment, anti-“woke culture” and critical race theory and advocate standing for Wyoming’s strong beliefs and traditional values. 

He also is a strong defender of the Constitution.

As far as issues important to the people of Wyoming, he’s particularly focused on oil and gas production, energy independence, opposed to tax increases and wants to tackle the issue of  country-of-origin labels for meat and other products among others. 

Fighting Season”

The week Knapp was interviewed by Cowboy State Daily, he held court with about 40 guys at the local Expresso Lube in Gillette for their weekly coffee club. Like him, Knapp said the guys were concerned about the fact that the race is already a foregone conclusion pitting Hageman against Cheney.

The guys at the coffee group found that concerning because every qualified citizen has the right to run for office, and they worry, Knapp said, about all the outside money flooding into both the Cheney and Hageman campaigns.

“They respect me as a veteran,” he said, “and the fact that I’m a candidate who doesn’t have a bunch of money behind them from outside sources.”

He’s found that once people meet him and hear what he’s about, he tends to earn their vote. And that follows the advice given him by former U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi: get out there and knock on doors.

Now, Knapp is planning to hit the campaign trail, beginning with the Crimson Ball in Rock Springs last weekend, followed by Republican Party functions in Sheridan, Cheyenne and Natrona County.

“My strategy is to continue across my home state and meet as many people as I can to tell them who I am and why I’m running,” he said. 

Regardless of what happens along the way, he’s in it for the long haul. 

“I’m not a quitter,” he said.

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Despite Failed Lawsuit, Plaintiffs Hope Legislature Will Change Nomination Process for Vacant Seats

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A federal lawsuit filed over the way nominees are picked to fill vacant statewide offices may convince the Legislature to take action to change the existing process, according to a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“My hope is that once the public is made aware of the nomination process … and they see who were nominated as a result of the procedure followed by the Wyoming GOP central committee, the Legislature will amend the statute to require that all such nominations be based on the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ …” Sheridan attorney Rex Arney told Cowboy State Daily.

“After all, Jillian Balow was elected on that basis and it should not be any different when selecting a person to replace her,” he said.

Arney’s comments came after a federal judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order that would have prevented Gov. Mark Gordon from appointing a new superintendent of public instruction.

“I respect the judge’s decision, even if I disagree with it,” Arney said.

Judge Scott Skavdahl on Thursday rejected a request to block Gordon from selecting a new superintendent from a list of three nominees given to him by the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee.

Shortly after the judge’s decision, Gordon named Brian Schroeder the new superintendent to finish out the unexpired term of Balow, who resigned earlier this month to take a similar job in Virginia.

The request for a temporary restraining order was filed at the same time as a lawsuit filed by Arney and 15 others seeking to overturn the way the Republican Party selected the nominees whose names were submitted to Gordon.

Under state law, Gordon was required to select a person to fill out Balow’s term — which expires in January 2023 — from a list of three nominees provided by the Wyoming Republican Party.

The party’s central committee selected three nominees Saturday, but the selection was challenged by the lawsuit filed Tuesday claiming the process was unconstitutional. The group, which included several other former legislators, claimed that because every county got three votes in the selection process, counties with small populations had a disproportionately large influence over the outcome.

Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily requests for comment about Skavdahl’s decision.

But Joey Correnti IV, chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party, said if the former legislators involved in the lawsuit were truly worried about the process, they could have changed the law while they were in office.

He pointed specifically to Tom Lubnau, a former Wyoming House Speaker.

“This is clearly a legislative issue,” he said. “If there was a legitimate concern about how our replacement process is conducted, you’d think the former speaker .. would have had those concerns and addressed them when he had an opportunity.”

Correnti said he was not surprised by the judge’s ruling.

Correnti described the legal action as an assault by a minority group of Republicans against the mainstream of the party in Wyoming.

“My take is it’s another attempt by a splinter group of progressives, called the Frontier Republicans, to bankrupt the legitimate Republican Party,” he said.

Frontier Republicans, according to the group’s website, is a “grassroots organization dedicated to promoting civility, engagement, and conservative values in Wyoming politics.” The group is registered with the secretary of state’s office as a political action committee.

Gaily Symons, treasurer for Frontier Republicans, noted that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Republicans, Democrats and independents.

“This lawsuit has nothing to do with the Frontier Republicans,” said Symons, who is also a plaintiff in the action. “Basically, Frontier Republicans has become the boogie man for the state Republican structure.” 

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Wyoming GOP Sued By Former Speaker of House & Others Over Process to Replace Balow

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A federal court is being asked to stop Gov. Mark Gordon’s work to appoint a new superintendent of public instruction because of allegations the process used to pick three nominees for the job was unconstitutional.

Sixteen Wyoming residents, including several former legislators, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, alleging the selection process to pick nominees for the superintendent’s office failed to properly weight votes based on county population, reducing the influence of counties with larger populations. The lawsuit filed against the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee and party Chair Frank Eathroen said such a disparity is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions.

“The vote by the Wyoming Republican Party, which was supervised and controlled by (Wyoming GOP Chair Frank) Eathorne, was not conducted pursuant to one man one vote principals required by the Wyoming and United States Constitutions,” the lawsuit said.

Republican Jillian Balow resigned from the superintendent of public instruction’s office on Jan. 16 to take a similar job in Virginia. Under Wyoming law, Gordon must appoint someone to finish out her term — which ends in January 2023 — from a list of three nominees forwarded to him by the central committee of the Wyoming Republican Party.

The central committee, during a meeting in Douglas in Saturday, selected former legislator Marti Halverson and educators Brian Schroeder and Thomas Kelly as the three nominees from a field of 12 applicants.

Gordon interviewed the three Tuesday. By law he is supposed to appoint a successor Balow on Thursday, although the lawsuit asks that the process be halted on the grounds that the GOP’s selection process was unconstitutional.

The central committee is made up of three party members from each county, which the lawsuit said gives smaller counties as much weight in voting as large counties, violating the concept of one vote for each person.

“The citizens and voters of any county that is more populous than Wyoming’s smallest county by population, Niobrara County, will be denied their constitutional rights of equal protection under all state and federal laws and the bedrock principle of Wyoming and the United States that all citizens are entitled to the application of one man one vote,” it said.

Because the selection process for the nominees was unconstitutional, Gordon should be halted in his work to appoint a successor to Balow, according to the lawsuit and a request for a temporary restraining order also filed on Tuesday.

The lawsuit asks the court to rule the process used to name the nominees is unconstitutional and to order the state Republican Party not to nominate any candidates for vacancies in statewide or federal office.

The central committee selected the three nominees for the job during a meeting in Douglas on Saturday. Members were asked by one of the people named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, former legislator and Gillette attorney Tom Lubnau, to change the nomination process to weight votes according to each county’s population.

However, the request was denied and Eathorne responded that the process used by the party Saturday is the same one that has been used to fill vacancies in statewide office for decades.

Pat Crank, a former Wyoming attorney general who filed the lawsuit for the group, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that while the system may have been used in the past, it is now time to make the process comply with the Wyoming and U.S. Constitutions.

“The selection of an important office like superintendent should be done in as fair and as reasonable a method as possible and in absolute compliance with the constitution,” he said. “This process was not and so that’s why my clients wanted to bring a challenge to this process.”

Crank noted that such processes change over time and pointed as an example to the practice of advising a person of his or her right to remain silent after being arrested.

In addition to Lubnau, a former Wyoming House speaker, other plaintiffs to the lawsuit include former legislators Rex Arney and Charles Pekley, former Casper Star-Tribune Publisher Robin Hurless, former University of Wyoming official Chris Boswell, former Star-Tribune Editor Dan Neal and Cheyenne attorney Jack Speight.

Another one of the plaintiffs is Dave Northrup, a former legislator and one of the 12 people who unsuccessfully applied to the GOP to become one of the three nominees for the job.

The group includes both Republicans and Democrats and come from larger counties such as Laramie, Natrona, Campbell and Sheridan, Crank said.

“One of the critical factors in bringing a lawsuit is that you have people that have standing to make appropriate claims,” he said. “I certainly wanted to have a cross-spectrum of both political parties and people from the counties that suffered harm, the more populous counties.”

Arney, a Sheridan attorney, said he joined the lawsuit because he believes the process to replace Balow and other state officers who leave before the end of their term should be handled through a special election.


“I just feel it’s important that when replacing an elected officer, the process should be equivalent to somebody going into a primary or special election where we essentially have one man, one vote,” Arney told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “There should be proportional voting in a case like this.”

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Rep. Hans Hunt Steps Down From Legislature To Join Lummis’ Staff in DC

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

State Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, on Thursday announced he is resigning from the Wyoming Legislature to join U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ staff in Washington, DC.

Hunt, who has served for six terms in the House representing Weston, Niobrara, and Goshen counties, will serve as Lummis’ agriculture and trade policy advisor.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the voters of House District 2 for the past 10 years,” Hunt said. “Thank you for putting your trust in me to represent you in Cheyenne for six terms. I cannot thank my family and friends enough for all the support they’ve given since day one.”

Hunt was greeted by a bipartisan display of good wishes on Facebook from many members of the Legislature including State Sens. R.J. Kost, R-Powell and Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, and Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Shelley Duncan, R-Lingle, and Jared Olson, R-Cheyenne.

Many former legislators thanked Hunt for his service as well, including former Sen. Tony Ross, and former Reps. Mary Throne, Lori Garrison, Tom Lubnau, and Tom Jones.

Looking back at his 11 years in the House, Hunt told Cowboy State Daily he was proud of serving as Chair of the House Ag Committee and the Select Water Committee.

In terms of legislative accomplishments, he said House Bill 187 was his favorite. The legislation clarifies residency requirements for most elected county officials.

“I’ve passed other legislation over the years of course, but I personally feel that one had the most impact and did the most good in working to solve a problem,” he said.

Hunt’s addition to Lummis’ staff gives it even more legislative firepower, with three former members of the Legislature working alongside the senator.

Hunt will join former Sen. Leland Christensen and former Rep. Tyler Lindholm — although both of them work here in Wyoming.

Lummis herself was a member of the Legislature. At age 24, she became the youngest woman to be elected to the body. She served in both the House and the Senate before joining Gov. Jim Geringer’s office as general counsel.

Note: There’s only one member still serving in the Legislature who was a freshman with Lummis. That’s State Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, who has the most seniority of the entire body.

Both he and Lummis were elected when Jimmy Carter was the president, Ed Herschler was Wyoming’s governor, Warren Morton was the incoming Speaker of the House, and Neal Stafford was the incoming President of the Senate.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl in their first year of office. The Atari 2600 was considered state-of-the-art and Löwenbräu was enjoying its peak of success.

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Wyoming Lawmakers Mourn Death Of Longtime Legislative Doorman

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Legislative leaders and lawmakers are expressing sorrow over the death of a longtime doorman for the state Legislature, who died of coronavirus complications late last week even though he had been vaccinated against the illness.

George Geyer, 81 of Cheyenne, died on Friday, according to his obituary.

Many officials mourned the news of his death this week.

“George was a wonderful man. He always greeted you with a wonderful smile and his good sense of humor,” Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “We always visited early in the morning. He cared about people. His ‘Roll Call’ yell will forever ring in the halls of the Capitol. I will really miss him.”

Geyer attended and played football for Springdale (Pennsylvania) High School and Grove City College in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1964. Geyer was a beloved history teacher and football coach at Burrell (Pennsylvania) High School until his retirement in 1995.

Upon retirement he settled in Livingston, Mont., where he continued to coach football. He also spent time in Cheyenne, where he worked in the Legislature.

“George was always a friendly face,” former Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily. “Very helpful and always on task.  I have fond memories of George.”

Former Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette said Geyer was “the kind of guy who made everyone happier just by being in the room.”

“His kind words and smile, even on the most stressful legislative days, made the hard work much easier,” Lubnau said.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle respected Geyer. Former Sweetwater Rep. Stan Blake (D-Green River) said he was fortunate to be able to call Geyer his friend.

“Loved his humor, kind words and just talking with him. Talked about fishing, hunting and the things we thought were funny at the Capitol. Had many a good laugh,” Blake wrote on Facebook.

Geyer’s friendships in the State Capitol extended beyond lawmakers. He was well-known to lobbyists and association directors as well. Many called him a trusted friend.

Longtime lobbyist Jonathan Downing said Geyer’s attitude and demeanor were much appreciated over the last two legislative sessions where declining revenues coupled with the pandemic made for a more challenging atmosphere.

 “Whether that be when masks were required, space was limited, and people were trying to figure out how to contact their legislators with a new system.  He helped keep it friendly as is the expectation when people visit the Wyoming House,” Downing said.

“On a personal level, like the coach that he was, he could read people well and would encourage you to smile or take a second and catch your breath after climbing the stairs from the basement to the second floor of the Capitol. He will be missed,” he said.

Executive Director of the Wyoming Rural Electric Association Shawn Taylor said he was “stunned, shocked, and saddened” with the news as he and his family spent time with him only weeks beforehand at Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD).

“George was like a grandpa figure I know not only to my kids but all those kids he worked with in the CFD Youth Program,” Taylor said. “He will be sorely missed by his CFD family.  George had the audacious task of dealing and working with teenagers for CFD and then working with legislators and lobbyists during his time as a doorman at the state capital.”

“I was just emailing with some of the board members of the Capitol Club . . . and we all agreed that George was the kindest man no matter who he was dealing with, and that he was the right man to have at the door of the House chambers when the Capitol first opened up after renovations (when things weren’t ideal particularly for us lobbyists) and when it opened up earlier this year after the COVID closure,” he said.

Paul Ulrich, Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Jonah Energy and noted Wyoming outdoorsman, echoed others when talking about Geyer’s kindness.

“He had a quiet gift of making everyone in the legislative process feel welcome and valued.  The Legislature has lost someone special,” Ulrich said.

In addition to his work with the Legislature, Geyer was active in Cheyenne Frontier Days, volunteering for the Ticket Committee and Parade Committee. He also organized the rodeo’s youth program.

Geyer was an active and avid outdoorsman who loved hiking, fishing, camping, hunting and traveling with Carol, his wife of 57 years.

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Lubnau, Gee: Biden Administration’s Plan To Seize Your Family’s Wealth

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By Tom Lubnau and Alison Gee, guest columnists

Most folks understand death taxes. When someone dies, the Federal Government takes a percentage of that person’s wealth in tax. The tax doesn’t apply to most people, because the federal government starts taxing wealth from someone’s estate for every dollar over $11.7 million dollars.

Now, the Biden Administration, and their friends in Congress, have concocted a plan, using the complexities of the tax code to seize your family’s wealth in just a couple of generations. Since the plan relies on complicated words and accounting concepts, overworked and underpaid reporters can’t explain the tax in a 30 second blurb on TV or social media. But, it is important we all understand these concepts, or our life savings will never be passed to our children.

For you to understand how the tax works, we have to take some time to understand some important accounting terms, and then we can understand how this nefarious tax works.

When you buy a piece of property, the amount you paid for the property is called its “basis.” If you bought property for $100,000, the amount you paid for the property is called its basis. In this example, the basis in the property is $100,000.

If you sold the property for $500,000, the difference between the basis ($100,000) and the sale price ($500,000) is called a gain ($500,000 – $100,000 = $400,000 gain). If you held the property for more than a year between when you bought it and when you sold it, the gain is called capital gain. While you are alive, if you sell your property, you get taxed on that gain. That tax is called the capital gains tax.

When you die, the current tax code does not tax the property moving from you to your children until the net value exceeds the exemption – currently $11.7M. This means your kids get to inherit your property, which you, by the way, already paid taxes on to acquire, with a basis “stepped up” to the value of the property on the date of death. This step up in basis would allow your kids to sell the property the day after you died without paying any tax on the sale. So, in our property example, if the value of the property on the date of death is $500,000, the basis of the property would be automatically “stepped up” to the fair market value. So, there would be no difference between the value of the property ($500,000) and the basis (stepped up from $100,000 to $500,000) and there would be no tax due ($500,000 – $500,000 = $0). Since there is no gain, not taxes are due.

The Biden Administration wants to take away the stepped-up basis, and make your children pay taxes on your property that you already paid tax to acquire. Senators Chris Van Hollen, the prime sponsor of the bill to take away your wealth called the Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion (STEP) Act, says that the “stepped-up basis” is a loophole, and that taxes in 2021, alone, will be increased by $41.9 billion dollars if this passes.

There are a lot of exceptions and loopholes in the proposed tax, including a deduction for the first $1 million dollars of gain, and $500,000 for a residence. Everything over that is taxed.

But, as a kind gesture, the Federal Government will allow you to buy your property back from them with payments for fifteen years taxed at the current prevailing IRS rate. During the time the payments are made, the Federal Government puts a mortgage debt notice on your property called a lien.

So, if your parents have worked their whole life and acquired property in excess of $1 million dollars, the Federal Government will tax the appreciation of the property. Even if the property is not making any money, the value of the property will be taxed. And if you cannot pay the tax, the Federal Government will foreclose on the property and take it away from you.

Who is at risk? Every family farm, ranch, small business or big business is at risk. Stocks in companies, ownership interests and even interest in guns or precious metals are subject to this nefarious tax. The people who earned the money and acquired the wealth will not have to pay the tax. They already paid the taxes on the money used to acquire the property. Their kids and grandkids will have to pay the tax.

But, people will not be able to pass wealth to their children without cutting the federal government in on up to 50% of the pie.

This is all further complicated by the fact that a whole generation of people may not have been keeping all of the records that would be required to show what money has been contributed to improve their non-business property over their entire lifetime – as you pay money to improve property, your basis increases by the amount you contribute for the improvements. You will be taxed for not having records that you used to not have to keep prior to this tax law change.

The goal of the tax appears to be the end of family wealth. The American dream of leaving your children better off than you were is going to be taxed out of existence by the Biden Administration and this horrible tax.

Oh, and as an added insult, the tax bill as drafted makes the tax retroactive to January 1, 2021, so there is nothing you can do now to plan for the tax.

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Doug Gerard: Bouchard, Gray, Smith – Who Should Be The Conservative Candidate For Wyoming’s House Seat?

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By Doug Gerard, guest columnist

Liz Cheney needs to go.

In 2016 I feared she’d be a lousy fit for Wyoming, and I was right. Liz went against what most of Wyoming thought when she voted to impeach President Trump. While I’m glad Liz had the backbone to do what she felt was right, she was wrong, and it should cost her job.

At least six candidates are running or are considering throwing their hats in the ring: Marrisa Selvig, Everett Knapp, Ed Buchanan, Sen. Anthony Bouchard, Rep. Chuck Gray, and Darin Smith.

It will take six things to beat Rep. Cheney this next go-round:

  1. Not being Liz
  2. Living and being from Wyoming
  3. Name recognition
  4. Supporting the Republican Party platform
  5. Money
  6. Even more money

This rules out Marrisa Selvig and Everett Knapp by my calculations.

Marissa is a relative unknown. While there is time to get name recognition, I doubt Ms. Selvig will earn the name recognition and raise the $1.25 million needed to run an effective campaign against Rep. Cheney.

General Knapp, while originally from Wyoming, hasn’t lived here in 38 years. Wyoming has changed. I don’t see Wyoming getting rid of perceived carpet-bagger Liz Cheney in favor of someone who only last week moved back to Wyoming from California.

Ed Buchanan, our current Secretary of State, was a solid conservative Speaker of the House when he was in the legislature. Unfortunately, Secretary Buchanan hasn’t been as proactive as many Republicans would have liked to have seen, especially regarding elections.

That narrows the field down to a meaningful choice of three viable conservative candidates, Sen Anthony Bouchard, Rep. Chuck Gray, and Darin Smith.

I will support any of the three candidates in the general election as they will be the best choice again any Libertarian, independent, or Democrat that may toss their hat in the ring.

With that said, who is the best conservative candidate?

The three pillars of conservatism in Wyoming are Fiscal Responsibility, Pro-Life, and Gun-Rights. I like to think of myself as a fiscal conservative, a pro-life conservative, and a gun-rights conservative, in that order.

Bouchard and I share many of the same core beliefs. A significant difference for me is his huge focus on gun rights, almost to the exclusion of everything else conservative. I know Anthony supports the three pillars of conservativism, just not in the same order and emphasis I do. Additionally, Wyoming needs federal legislators in leadership positions to be the most effective for Wyoming. I am concerned Anthony’s focus on gun rights makes him unlikely to be a consensus builder needed to earn leadership positions in the US House.

In contrast, Chuck Gray shares my values in roughly the same order. While I am just a tiny voice in Wyoming conservatism, Chuck always has the time to have substantive discussions about conservative policies. He has always been willing to spend time and answer policy questions. Chuck has always been the epitome of Ronald Reagan’s “Happy Warrior.”

Much like Chuck Gray, Darin Smith holds the primary conservative virtues in roughly the same priority. His 2016 campaign against Liz Cheney was small, grassroots, and the most significant threat to Cheney in the 2016 election. Had Darin gotten an earlier start, he might have made the race competitive for Cheney. Darin wears his heart on his sleeve and tells you what he thinks and why. Much like Chuck Gray, he is one of Reagan’s Happy Warriors.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the difference between Anthony, Chuck, and Darin is to share my first experience with each candidate.

Anthony Bouchard – In 2008, Obamacare was the day’s issue, and I started lobbying the Wyoming Legislature to get the Wyoming Health Care Freedom Act added to our constitution. It was a hard slog and built on the work of the Goldwater Institute out of Arizona. I was lucky enough to testify in front of the Senate Labor-Health and Social Services Committee in 2009, starting the process of getting the Health Care Freedom Amendment added to the Wyoming constitution.

It wasn’t until 2011 when the Wyoming Senate considered SJ-2 (Nutting) and SJ-3 (Scott) both taking different approaches to get the Health Care Freedom Act done. With Bouchard’s supporting Senator Nutting’s SJ-2, the Wyomingified version of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) suggested Health Care Freedom Amendment.

I was fully aware of ALEC’s language. While the ALEC version was laser-focused in its intent, SJ-2 didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it to the voters in Wyoming. It was too long, too complex, and unwieldy to make it to the voters.

I discussed with Anthony the work that went into SJ-3, why SJ-2 would fail, and why SJ-2 might cause the whole enterprise to fail, primarily because of its length and extreme complexity. SJ-2 was nearly six pages in length, roughly a third the size of the entire Wyoming Constitution. Anthony refused to listen to my concerns dismissing the objections out of hand.

As I predicted, SJ-2 nearly stopped Health Care Freedom Amendment from happening. In committee, the Senate Labor-Health and Social Service Committee did what it could to kill the bill entirely by combining SJ-2 and SJ-3 and moving the combined mess to the Committee of the Whole. If not for the last-minute work by Senator Drew Perkins and Rep. Tom Lubnau to wholly rewrite the Health Care Freedom Amendment, it would have failed. Comparing the text of the enrolled resolution SJ-2 to the proposed SJ-2 and SJ-3 text illustrates my original critique of the proposed SJ-2 as spot on.

Don’t get me wrong, Sen. Nutting and Sen. Bouchard were instrumental in getting the Healthcare Freedom Amendment on the ballot. In no small part, the volume of attention Anthony Bouchard brought to the issue’s importance was influential and helped get the issue on the ballot (and in the constitution). But Anthony’s insistence he knew best almost killed the bill, and that’s concerning. Knowing you’re right doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to other people and include some of their ideas to grow a consensus to get the job done.

Chuck Gray – In contrast, my first experience with Gray was different. True to his word and pro-life principles, Chuck brought his first pro-life bill in 2017 bill HB-182. I happened to be in Cheyenne for testimony on HB-182. It was the first significant pro-life legislation even to be heard by that committee in years. While I didn’t testify for the bill as others spoke as I would have, I watched it work through the committee. The bill got gutted as the committee removed the ultrasound requirement from the bill.

After the committee adjourned, I got to visit with Chuck for about fifteen minutes, lamenting what a tragedy it was for the bill to be gutted. Chuck, with his eternal optimism, disagreed with me, saying, “Yes, that wasn’t the best outcome, but a pro-life bill is going to the floor of the House for the first time in years, and that is a victory.”

He was right too. HB-182 became law and the building block for the evermore affirmative pro-life measure that reflects the beliefs of the vast majority of Wyomingites.

Darin Smith – I first met Darin in 2016 at the Wyoming GOP State Convention, where he announced he was running for US House. I had a long talk with Darin. Darin will engagingly talk with you for hours. Sometimes it’s hard to get him to stop as his enthusiasm and passion for the campaign are evident. I choose to support Darin as the other candidates (Tim Stubson, Leland Christensen) lacked a conservative record or didn’t have the resources to mount an effective state-wide campaign.

After our initial meeting, Darin got organized after a brief delay, but he gave it his all once he did. On a much more limited budget than Cheney, he was able to garner significant grassroots support. Toward the end of the campaign, he had over 100 volunteers make phone calls to voters on his behalf for three days straight. I’d never seen that before or since for any state-wide campaign for US House, US Senate, or Governor. I can’t help but wonder what’s possible with a properly organized and funded campaign.

Darin is an interesting character. A businessman trained as a lawyer, he’s worn many different hats working as an attorney, real estate developer, and a fundraiser for large Christian values-0based organizations. He is a charismatic fellow whose optimism is infectious. That helped in 2016 brought the unknown candidate to running neck and neck with well-known establishment politicians. If the 2016 race were a head-to-head, Cheney/Smith, Darin would have won.

Darin’s commitment to the conservative cause is superlative. While he was chair of the Laramie County GOP, he led another first-of-its-kind activist effort to get people to support legislation that fell in line with the Wyoming Republican Platform and resolution. He coordinated with the Wyoming State GOP to get people to testify on bills vital to the Republican Party. He was so effective the Frontier Republicans targeted him for removal, and in a close election, he lost to the wife of tax and spend liberal Republican Representative Olsen.

Now the tricky question, who should you support?

Anthony, Chuck, and Darin are good men trying to do what is best for Wyoming. In recognition of this, no matter who wins of these three, I will support whoever wins the primary.

Unfortunately, to do that, we need a single conservative candidate to beat Liz Cheney. I think Liz is very beatable, and she will still garner roughly 35% of the vote.

Which of the three conservatives candidates can do better than that?

From a policy perspective, I rank Gray and Smith as the best choice over Bouchard. Smith and Gray represent what I believe more accurately than does Bouchard.

On the fundraising front, I expect Smith to outdo Bouchard with Gray at a significant disadvantage to both.

This campaign will be a long, drawn-out campaign and a tough row for all the candidates to hoe. That said, you will be able to tell who wants it by who shows up at all the forums, debates, and Republican Party functions across the state. The first significant debate is this June 12th in Casper.

Working well with others is going to be necessary to Wyoming’s US Representative. It is essential to consider this in selecting a candidate to support. I think Gray and Smith are tied as the best choice in this regard.

Starting with Bouchard, put simply, I don’t think he can build coalitions to get him over the 35% threshold it will take to win the election. He is extraordinarily passionate and was the first to announce his candidacy—a great move on his part.

However, in five years of service in the Senate, he has never been a committee chairman. Wyoming needs a Representative that can lead other legislators to help Wyoming the most in the US House. If Anthony can’t build the support to be a chair in Wyoming, where we all know each other, how will he fare in the US House where he knows no one?

Next is Chuck Gray. I have long been a supporter of Chuck Gray and consider him a friend, but I’ve never worked on any campaign for him. Conservative ideals-wise, Chuck is a natural fit for me.

Chuck has been a conservative leader in the House that has shown an ability to work with others to accomplish traditional goals. This shouldn’t be underestimated. In recent years the House has been led by Speakers Steve Harshman and Eric Barlow, both of whom are barely distinguishable from the average Democrat. The number of legislators that are supporting Chuck is also a good sign.

Unfortunately for Chuck, he is at a considerable disadvantage in fundraising when compared to Bouchard and Smith. While his name is well known in conservative circles and Natrona County, I worry about him being able to mount an effective campaign to reach the needed 35%, especially with two other conservatives in the race. That said, if the race were simply Gray/Cheney, Gray would win.

That leaves us with Smith. While he doesn’t have legislative experience, he does have significant leadership experience. He has shown an ability to mount an effective grassroots campaign state-wide and will outdo Bouchard in fundraising. Darin has the potential to challenge Cheney’s fundraising numbers with folks like Foster Friess in his corner. He also has a record of working for conservative Republican values.

Since I worked for his 2016 candidacy, Darin Smith and I have become friends, although we occasionally disagree on the right way forward. The 2018 governor’s race is the best example where I supported Harriet Hageman, and he endorsed Friess.

For me, in order, my ranking of the conservative candidates is (1) Darin Smith; (2) Chuck Gray; (3) Anthony Bouchard.

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Liz Cheney Wins Resounding Affirmative Vote To Stay In Leadership

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

For all the talk about the certainty of Liz Cheney being ousted from her leadership position in the House, it wasn’t even close.

In a commanding 145 – 61 vote margin, Wyoming’s sole representative retained her position as the third highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

The vote, only one week after Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz told a Wyoming crowd that Cheney’s defeat was imminent, put to rest any thought that Cheney’s influence would be less significant.

If anything, Cheney’s standing in Congress will likely be more powerful now.

That’s because the congresswoman withstood challengers by not blinking an eye or backtracking at all.

She not only told the Republican conference that she would not apologize for her vote to impeach President Trump but that she “absolutely did not” regret that vote.

Moments after the meeting concluded, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the vote proved the resiliency of the Republican Party.

“This is just an example that the Republican Party is a very big tent, everyone is invited in, and when you look at the last election, we continue to grow and in two years, we’ll be the majority,” he said.

As for Cheney, she made it clear that the vote sent a powerful message not only for her but for the party.

“We had a terrific vote tonight and we laid out what we’re going to do going forward as well as making clear that we’re not going to be divided,” she said. “We’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership,” Cheney said.

“It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and we need to go forward in a way that helps us beat back the very negative and dangerous Democrat policies,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gaetz’s predictions that the Republicans had the votes to oust her or that McCarthy would avoid a vote fell flat.

In fact, Cheney was so confident that she would retain her leadership position, she asked for a vote during the meeting.

That, pundits said, showed remarkable confidence.

“She was blunt… She wanted the up-or-down vote. She got it and won big,” New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin said.

As for her standing in Wyoming, it’s likely that Gaetz got it wrong here as well when he told a crowd last week that: “Liz Cheney is less popular among Republicans in her own state than Muammar Gaddafi was among the Libyans.”

Cheney has been censured by a number of county Republican parties but tonight’s overwhelming show of support could take the steam out of these efforts.

She’s already received high-profile support in Wyoming from former Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, former Republican Party chair Matt Micheli, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, and the Wyoming Mining Association.

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Tom Lubnau: Alright, Wyoming, Let’s Cut The Franchise Quarterback For Throwing One Interception

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By Tom Lubnau, columnnist
Tom Lubnau, a Republican, is the former Speaker of the House in the Wyoming Legislature

Joe Biden has made it clear — he wants to destroy Wyoming businesses.   He is doing everything he can to stop the use of coal.  

Being the guy in charge of 75% of the minerals in our state, Biden has done everything in his power to shut down exploration for oil and gas.   Attacks on the agriculture industry will be next.

The effect of his actions is to deprive Wyoming of mineral royalties from those federal lands, which translates into reduced funding for the education of our children – reduced funding that amounts to tens of millions of dollars, not to mention the good jobs Wyoming’s people will lose. 

If Joe Biden has his way, Wyoming will be an empty park full of unemployed government dependents.  

Wyoming, being the least populated state, only has one United States Representative — out of four hundred thirty-five members.  

Once in a generation, we elect someone to represent us who has the experience, connections and fund-raising ability to rise to the level of leadership in the House.  

Currently, our representative, Liz Cheney, is the number 3 person in the Republican caucus.   She carries more influence and power than just being one of four hundred thirty-five. 

And for four years, she has made tens of thousands of decisions that have helped Wyoming.  She is our franchise quarterback.

I do not agree with her decision to support impeachment, and I don’t like how she handled it.   She made a mistake, and she deserves to hear from us.  

But, I urge my friends and neighbors to be slow to toss her to the sidelines.   Out of  tens of thousands of decisions, we don’t like one.   So, we want to throw her out?  What do we get in return?

Before we make the decision to toss her, we should evaluate the choices for her replacement.  

Fancy-pants hard line conservatives, who spout political rallying cries will not rise in leadership.   Those pettifoggers will serve as ineffective blabbermouths who spew out magical words of political incantation, but get nothing done.  

In a time of crisis in Wyoming, where the President wants to destroy our state and many of the people in it, we have to carefully evaluate who has the skills necessary to protect our interests.  

Is it the smooth talker who tells us what we want to hear, or the person who has to courage to stand on her convictions, we need?  Who can best represent our interests?  

In full disclosure, I did not support Liz Cheney when she first ran.   I worked hard for my friend Tim Stubson.  

In the four years she has been in D.C., she has risen to a position of influence to help stave off the attacks from our own government and earned my trust.  

Before we put our all-star on the sidelines, we should weigh the alternatives. (The football thing is a metaphor.  I am not encouraging any pro football teams to cut anyone for throwing one interception.) 

Do any of the blabbermouths, opportunists or other farraginous candidates who have announced for Rep. Cheney’s seat have the chutzpah to get the job done in a time of crisis for this state?  

Or, are we dumping or our franchise quarterback for one misstep teach Liz a lesson, while flushing our opportunity to have an effective voice in D.C. down the drain?

One also has to wonder why a fancy-pants legislator from Florida came to Wyoming to interfere in our election.  What are the real motives in wanting to remove a Wyoming representative from leadership? 

I suspect it has nothing to do with Wyoming or her people.   His three hours in Cheyenne hardly gave him a chance to really know anyone here. 

Before we hurt ourselves in the name of one bad decision, let’s evaluate whether anyone else can help our state the way she has in the Congress in this time of crisis.  

We’ll have to search long and hard before we find someone with the political influence to defend us from the attacks of the east-coast liberal big-city commander in chief, who has no idea about the west and the people who live there. 

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Bill Sniffin: Thankful For Readers, Donors, Writers, And That COVID Is Almost Over!

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Just think, 2020 is almost over.  Now that is something to be thankful for.

This has been a year to remember. And to forget!

This year has been a long, strange journey. But better news is on the way. New vaccines are coming and in 90 days, most of this pandemic could hopefully be a memory soon. We will permanently put it in our rear-view mirror.  Now that is something for which to be thankful!

It is easy to be thankful for all the good work that has been done by health care workers and EMTs here in Wyoming and around the world. A lot of you have gotten sick and some have died. We are so thankful for your service at this time.

We need to be thankful to all those folks working in essential jobs from stocking shelves in supermarkets to keeping our plumbing unclogged. And everybody else, too.

Back in July, one of every 67 people in Wyoming who tested positive died. Today that number is one in every 125.  Now that is something to be thankful for.

We are thankful that the 2020 elections are apparently behind us. Talk about a long, strange journey.

Besides COVID-19 the other big story was the election. I am so thankful to have it behind us although the results were not pleasing to many Wyomingites.

As the state that saw one of the nation’s highest percentages of its votes go to President Donald Trump (70 percent), we are chagrined that the final tally does not appear to be going his way.  But how does someone get 73 million votes in this country and still lose? Amazing.

I want to thank all you subscribers for your loyalty.  At latest count, there were 10,056 of you and new ones are joining us at a rate of 1,000 per month.  We also have some readers who have not yet subscribed (it’s free) and we welcome them to our site, too.

Many folks do not know that we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so if you donate to Cowboy State Daily, not only are you helping us cover the news but you get a tax deduction for your donation. So, here is a big shout out to our donors who have helped sustain us in our 23-month life here in Wyoming.

I want to personally thank our Executive Editor Jimmy Orr, Editor Jim Angell, and reporter Ellen Fike for their dedication this year. They have done a wonderful job.  No other news team can match ours for Wyoming know-how and years of service to Wyoming.

A huge shout-out goes to Wyoming’s best weather forecaster Don Day.  We, literally, could not publish a daily newsletter without him. Occasional reporters Wendy Corr, Jen Kocher, Tim Monroe, Tim Mandese, Ike Fredregill, Laura Hancock, Cody Beers and many others also receive my appreciation for their work.

Our weekly columnists and occasional columnists have been terrific. They really give Cowboy State Daily that daily dose of insight that our readers just love.

I tip my hat to Dave Simpson, Jim Hicks, Jonathan Lange, Ray Hunkins, Doug Gerard, Rusty Rogers, Foster Friess, Frank Eathorne, Rod Miller, Matt Micheli, Tom Lubnau, Cody Tucker, Tom Jones, Ray Peterson, Darin Smith, Amy Surdam, Karl Brauneis, John Davis, John Waggener, and many, many more.

Thanks for Annaliese Wiederspahn for launching this site with financial help from Foster Friess.  And to our board Tucker Fagan, Haley Davis, and Kristin Walker.

But on personal note, this has been one of the most exciting years of my life, serving as publisher of the Cowboy State Daily. 

Who would have thought that after 56 years in the news business, that I would be able to help a news organization at this age and cover the biggest story of my life?  How cool is that!

But I have to admit that shortly after taking over the reins of this wonderful operation, I was greeted with the twin negative dynamos of the COVID-19 epidemic and the Wyoming economy going into free-fall.

It’s stunning to me that after taking those two hits last spring, Cowboy State Daily is not only still standing – but thanks to the help of all the people mentioned above – we are growing and thriving!  And thanks to our advertisers and to the entities that have given Cowboy State Daily grants in 2020.

And finally, I am thankful for my wonderful wife Nancy of 54 years and our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all our friends. Happy Thanksgiving! 

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Doug Gerard: WY Board Of Medicine Has Done Blatant COVID Overreach

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By Doug Gerard, guest columnist

I’m deeply disturbed about a proclamation made in March By the Wyoming Board of Medicine.

I’m dismayed Governor Gordon, or his Attorney General for that matter, haven’t acted to correct the Wyoming Board of Medicine’s blatant overreach. After all, Governor Gordon swore in his oath of office to support, defend, and “obey” the Constitutions of the United States and Wyoming.

To put things in perspective, let’s start with the Wyoming Constitution and what it says about you and your health care:

ARTICLE 2 Sec. 38. Right of health care access.
(a) Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions. The parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person shall have the right to make health care decisions for that person.
(b) Any person may pay, and a health care provider may accept, direct payment for health care without imposition of penalties or fines for doing so.
(c) The legislature may determine reasonable and necessary restrictions on the rights granted under this section to protect the health and general welfare of the people or to accomplish the other purposes set forth in the Wyoming Constitution.
(d) The state of Wyoming shall act to preserve these rights from undue governmental infringement.

Pretty straight forward, right?

It says that you have the right to make the health care decisions you want and that the legislature may place limits on barbaric practices that try to find cover under the aegis of healthcare (e.g., abortion). Most importantly, the state is charged with ensuring that our right to the healthcare we want is protected.

This part of the Wyoming Constitution is quite dear to me. Way back in 2008, I started work to make Wyoming’s Healthcare Freedom Amendment a reality. After many twists and turns, the amendment finally made it through the legislature in the 2011 General Session. In 2012 voters had their say, and it passed overwhelmingly, with 77% of Wyoming voters for the measure.

The day after the election, I got an email from then-Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, reading, “Congratulations, you’re the grandfather of a constitutional amendment.” It is the best email I ever received, three years of work paid off.

Now fast forward to March 2020, the age of COVID and the hydroxychloroquine controversy.

From my layman’s perspective, the science of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine effectiveness is muddled. While some studies and anecdotal evidence say the malaria drugs help, others say the drugs are ineffective. The scientific consensus is that, in general, the medications don’t provide any benefit for the treatment of COVID-19. With that said there remain a number of outspoken physicians that say the drugs help, and they proscribe them for their patients.

In March of 2020, the Wyoming Board of Medicine decided it knows what’s best for you and your healthcare. The Board issued a proclamation saying it will aggressively pursue and discipline any healthcare professional operating outside the ever-changing “standard of care.” The declaration explicitly threatens those that would or have prescribed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in response to COVID-19.

This is unconstitutional. ARTICLE 2 Sec. 38 of the Wyoming Constitution is clear. You and your doctor get to decide the healthcare you want and receive, subject to the limitations set by the legislature. If you and your physician agree a medication, procedure, or other treatment would be of benefit to you, you have the right to that treatment.

Where is Governor Gordon? Where is the Attorney General? They are two of the top officials in the state. The Wyoming Constitution requires them to protect our right to health care we decide we need. Why have they let this stand?

I recognize that the Board of Medicine plays a vital role in ensuring Wyoming doctors have the proper training to earn and keep a license. The Board of Medicine is also there when things go wrong. The Board is responsible for adjudicating complaints against physicians, potentially ending their career and life’s work with revocation of their license to practice.

That said, the Board of Medicine doesn’t have the right to tell my dually licensed physician and me what healthcare I can and cannot have. This is especially true when the patient and doctor agree on treatment that is non-standard. The only institution that may place restrictions on my healthcare is the Wyoming State Legislature. It’s right there in the Wyoming Constitution.

Jump to July 2020; I get COVID. It’s personal now!

In eight days, I lost thirty pounds, was in zombie mode sleeping 20 hours days. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink enough fluids. Eventually, I ended up in the emergency room. In the ER, I received IV fluids and a prescription for a course of high dose steroids.

I was convinced that I was on a downward spiral and was concerned I might have an extended severe bout with COVID. I am confident the steroids stopped the disease progression in its tracks and put me on the road to recovery.

Just two days before my ER visit, a study was released indicating high dose steroids effectively treat COVID. Before that, steroids for COVID treatment were thought to be ineffective and potentially harmful.

It got me thinking: What if that study never happened? What if something delayed the research? How would this have affected me? Would I have gotten the steroids prescribed? Would I have recovered?

Given the Board of Medicine stance on COVID treatment, I can’t help but ask if that study hadn’t come out, would my physician have risked his license to prescribe steroids for me?

According to a physician I trust, the steroids were the medically logical action to take, even without the study to back it up. Even so, given the threat against physicians’ livelihood from the Board of Medicine, would a physician take the risk and act outside the ever-changing “standard of care” on COVID treatment?

From my view and experience, the March decree of the Board of Medicine is patently unconstitutional and, without doubt, hindering Wyoming residents’ healthcare.

The State of Wyoming, led by Governor Gordon with his Attorney General’s aid, need to step up and reverse the Board of Medicine’s unconstitutional action,

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Book Review: “Never Leaving Laramie, Travels in a Restless World” by John W. Haines

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By Tom Lubnau II

John Haines does a great job of taking you with him to the oxygen deprived bicycle trip through Tibet, dodging hippos while being one of a handful of people to kayak the entire length of the Niger River, and serving as an election supervisor in Bosnia after the former Yugoslavia fractured from war.

Descriptive, insightful and sometime bittersweet,  Haines does more than paint a word picture of his adventures, he shares the emotional and philosophical musings of a traveler from Laramie who had lived his life to the fullest, and continues to do so.

“Never Leaving Laramie” is an inspirational tale of a Laramie boy’s Wyoming roots leading him to a life of adventure.

John, a fourth generation Wyomingite, grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, graduated from the University of Wyoming and began a life of adventures.   He attributes his spirit of adventure to being raised on the high plains of the Cowboy State.  

In Never Leaving Laramie, he details a few of his lifelong adventures.   His prose flows easily, describing his many trips.  One feels him shiver from the cold and his lungs ache from the altitude when he, and a friend from Laramie, bicycle to North Mt. Everest base camp. 

One feels the terror and helplessness when their kayak expedition encounters an enraged hippopotamus.  One feels the guilt and regret of a war-torn Serbian people, but their hope of a new future when Haines serves as an election supervisor for their first democratic elections.

But the book is more than a travel log.   Haines introduces us to his traveling companions – folks he met in Laramie — who share his yearning for adventure.  

John introduces us the Japanese film crew he met at the Everest Base Camp.    We feel the relief of the Japanese when they find out Haines and his traveling partner, Rick Smith, made it to base camp on bicycles.  

The Japanese were there to set a high-altitude record for motorcycles, and were concerned the American duo had beat them to the punch.   Haines introduces us to tribal leaders in Mali, who were willing to share their food with kayakers traveling downriver. 

We understand their confusion at why someone would want to leave their rivers at home, and come travel a river in West Africa.   His descriptions are more than caricatures.   We meet the folks, see through their eyes and feel their lust for life.   

We feel Haines’ pain and confusion, when he steps off a train in the Czech Republic , and wakes up a quadriplegic in a hospital.   Haines talks about his struggles adapting to his new reality.  

And then, Haines describes his post-accident work giving the poor a hand-up through his work through Mercy Corps.    All the while, we come to understand that Haines’ life well-lived was a natural consequence of his youth and ties to Laramie, Wyoming.  

Haines’ work is an inspiring, sometimes bittersweet tale of a life of adventure, and the consequences, good and bad, of his choices.  

I found myself wondering what-if I had Haines’ courage, what if I could cut off my golden handcuffs and truly experience life, what if I had the spirit of adventure to take those risks myself.  Haines details a lust for living every minute – a lust that ties back to a life in Laramie.

Never Leaving Laramie can be found at OSU Press http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/never-leaving-laramie , Amazon.com and at other major booksellers, or ordered from your local bookstore.

Tom Lubnau II is a recovering politician and former Speaker of the House who practices law in Gillette, Wyoming.

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Tom Lubnau: Wyoming’s Savings Are Nearly Gone; Get Prepared For Serious Changes

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By Tom Lubnau, guest columnist

I fought fire for the Campbell County Fire Department for 21 years.   While there, we developed a saying: “When perception meets reality, reality always wins.”  

Wyoming finds itself at those crossroads. 

For a generation, we have been the most conservative socialist state in the nation.  We have lived off of the tax dollars paid by other people.  We have developed Cadillac tastes while paying for a bicycle. 

According to the Wyoming Division of Economic analysis, on average, a family of 3 pays $3,180 in taxes while receiving $27,050 in government services. 

The rest of the government expenditures were paid by utility consumers from other states using Wyoming minerals. 

The market has shifted away from Wyoming minerals to other energy sources.  Whether those choices are wise or not does not matter.   Fewer folks are buying our minerals.  

As a result, we in Wyoming have a choice:  pay for the services we receive, or cut those services.   The potential amount of those cuts is staggering:  $1.5 billion dollars per biennium – or about $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the state. 

The governor has started to make cuts required by our Wyoming Constitution, because our income is far below our budget. 

Given our voters’ distaste for new taxes, be prepared for new cuts.  At this stage, dollars cut equal people cut.  

We should be prepared for unemployed contractors due to no new construction, cuts to education meaning educator layoffs, cuts to city and county budgets meaning cuts to law enforcement and emergency services, and cuts to maintenance budgets meaning less snow removal and more potholes.   

It also means less help for our elderly and our children. For six years, we have been balancing our budget with savings.   Our savings is nearly gone.  

We need to be prepared to change our Cadillac tastes to bicycle tastes, to tax ourselves some more or look to a combination of both.  

The reality is we are spending way beyond what we are now collecting in taxes.  No amount of magical thinking changes that reality.  

We need to be prepared to face the consequences of our choices.   Wherever our Legislature chooses to guide us, our lives will be vastly different.  

The Governor’s recent cuts are a minor scratch on the surface.  Be prepared for some serious changes.  The corollary to “when perception meets reality, reality always wins” is that when perception meets reality, it usually hurts.

Tom Lubnau II is a recovering politician and former Speaker of the House who practices law in Gillette, Wyoming.

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Von Flatern Gets Enzi Endorsement in Hotly-Contested Primary Race

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Incumbent State Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, brought out the big guns on Monday with an endorsement from U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi.

The senior senator from Wyoming endorsed Van Flatern in a video posted on the state senator’s Facebook page.

This is notable because higher-level elected officials in Wyoming (past and present) rarely get involved in primaries at the state level. Exceptions this year would be former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson endorsing Ember Oakley in her bid for House District 55 and Gov. Mark Gordon’s condemnation of State Sen. Anthony Bouchard’s mailers which he said smears opponent Erin Johnson.

Sitting down on a porch, Enzi thanked Von Flatern for championing roadwork construction across the state.

“Diane and I travel Wyoming roads every weekend. And we’re always thankful for the passing lanes that Michael Von Flatern got in place to make travel across Wyoming better and to encourage more tourists,” Enzi said.

Former House Speaker Tom Lubnau has also been vocal about Von Flatern’s legislative work for road construction across Wyoming.

“There used to be bumper stickers that said, ‘Live dangerously, drive Highway 59.’ Now we have a four-lane highway from Gillette to the Bishop Road largely because of Michael’s efforts in the Wyoming Senate,” Lubnau said in a Facebook video.

The former speaker went on to list a number of Wyoming road projects that he attributed to Von Flatern’s efforts.

Von Flatern is in a heated primary against neighbor Troy McKeown. McKeown has claimed that Von Flatern is not conservative enough.

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Just how wintry is it? Some of Wyoming’s coldest stories

in Column/Bill Sniffin
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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

An old joke about the weather:

         “My feet are cold.”

         “Well, all you have to do is go to bed and have a brick at you feet.”

         “I tried that.”

         “Did you get the brick hot?”

         “Get it hot? It took all night just to get it warm.”

As I write this, it is 1 degree out and fog has enshrouded our town. It is pretty darned nippy out there. But it has not been nearly as bad as it could be or has been here in Wyoming.

Since getting dumped on over the Thanksgiving holiday, much of Wyoming has shivered and we all took a little consolation over having a white Christmas.

This got me thinking about what were the coldest temperatures in Wyoming’s recorded history?  Many folks sent me anecdotal stories, which I will mix here with a few facts.

Personally, I recall the winter of 1978-79. Again, here in Lander, the entire month of January was below zero, according to local radio legend Joe Kenney. Amazingly dangerous and bitter conditions.

What is the official coldest temperature ever? Historian Phil Roberts of Laramie says: “I think the record is still -66 recorded Feb. 9, 1933, at Moran. I heard the temperature was actually colder, but the thermometers didn’t have the capacity to register a lower reading!”

The late Clay James, who operated Jackson Lake Lodge at Moran for decades, recalls -54 one cold winter day in the mid-1970s. “Thankfully we woke up as the power went off.  We called all of our employees to turn on the faucets and start the fireplaces.  The power was off for several days.  Never have I been so cold,” he recalled.   

Former Cheyenne, Torrington and Sundance publisher Mike Lindsey recalled the blizzard of 1949, which history generally considers the worst ever in the state.   

“Up in Sundance, cattle froze standing up. Wind blew drifts into buildings through keyholes in doors. Machinery would not start. Kids who stuck their tongues to the door handle did not get thawed until their junior year!” Not sure about that last fact, which was reminiscent of the famous scene from the movie A Christmas Story.

Jim Smail of Lander recalled snowmobiling with a group that included Charlton Heston at Togwotee Lodge in 1964 where the mercury dipped to -64.  No, they did not go snowmachining that day.

Former Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau of Gillette recalls playing Laramie in football when the wind chill was -65. 

Dewey Vanderhoff of Cody recalls: “It was New Year’s weekend of 1979 when Jackson Hole went -60. Friends from Meeteetse had gone to ski there but came back with horror stories of busted pipes, bone-cold motels, blackouts, everything closed, no skiing opportunity at all. Nothing fun except sharing beds for warmth and drinking a lot. Consolation prize I suppose. Was there a spike in babies born in September-October?”

Jody Coleman of Riverton says about that same ski trip: “I was in Jackson that New Years of 1979. The power was off and we woke up at the Antler motel with the walls inside covered with frost. We went outside and started our pickup every hour. The next day we spent the day jump-starting other people’s cars. My mom bought me a ski suit. But urged me to move home to California.”

The late Ken Martinsen of Lander was also in Jackson on that cold holiday. He recalled people going to convenience stores and buying charcoal grill packs, which they would put under the engines of their pickups and SUVs and set them afire to thaw out the engines.

 Worland can get pretty cold. Former resident Debbie Hammons recalled: “That super-duper cold winter of 1978-79 was when the weather was sub-zero.  I moved home to Wyoming in September 1978.  Best New Year’s Eve ever was Jan. 1, 1979.  All the young singles in town packed into the Three Bears Bar downtown and kept their cars running into the New Year. We knew if we shut off our vehicles, we might not be able to start them again until March!”

When Pat Schmidt was publisher of The Lovell Chronicle, folks there arranged a hay bale mission to rescue the poor wild horses in the Pryor Mountains. “The BLM and others organized a hay drop from a helicopter to bands of horses stuck on mountain ridges. I recall taking a picture with one hand as I was dropping a bale with the other. The effort only compounded the problems, we learned later, as the horses’ digestive systems were not used to the protein in the hay. Their systems compacted, causing death. Only 75 survived.”

These are some of my favorite “how cold is it” stories. What about yours?

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Sound off: Converse County leads state’s boom

in Economic development/Column/Business/Bill Sniffin
Sound off Wyoming's local economies
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Other counties report good news, too

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Of Wyoming’s 23 counties, why is Converse County leading the way economically?

The county boasts an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, the fourth-lowest rate in the state behind Teton, Crook and Weston counties. It is in the midst of an energy boom bringing new workers to the area. Who better than the local newspaper publisher to explain what it happening in Douglas, Glenrock and Converse County?  

Douglas Budget Publisher Matt Adelman says:

“Converse County is at the apex of a massive oil and gas exploration boom that appears to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

“While we have huge amounts of exploration and development activity underway already, indications are the next few years will see an even bigger explosion of development as more wells are drilled – as many as 17,000 by some estimates based on those permitted. Those wells in the permit pipeline and the 5,000 wells being proposed are the subject of an environmental impact statement that is nearing its conclusion – and many more come into their own.”

Adelman says that all this oil and gas activity eclipses other energy-related activity.

“The Cedar Springs (phase 1) wind farm is beginning work this year, and phases II and III are already well into becoming realities concurrently and consecutively with phase I.

“Rocky Mountain Power’s multi-billion dollar Gateway West transmission line project is underway, with its starting point outside of Glenrock, and those and other wind farms will tie into that and other lines.”

Adelman notes that even though the coal industry has been hit with declines in demand and production, the industry — along with the railroads — is still responsible for most of the long-term energy employment in the area.

He sees development of other energy sources causing the Converse County economy to soar in a short time span.

“Of course, such a surge in growth – with employment spikes, drastically falling unemployment and the accompanying shortage of housing – is not without its struggles, but it is certainly a welcomed relief from the 2016-2018 crash in oil and gas prices and near-standstill in new exploration here,” Adelman concludes.

Converse County Bank President Tom Saunders echoes:

“Those of us that have lived through energy economic cycles remember how quickly the spigot can turn off when commodity prices fall out of bed and the workers spools their rags overnight and head back to Houston.

“When dealing with fossil fuel economies, 12-month budgets are considered long-range planning. Oil and gas economies are good until they’re not. The best cross on an Angus cow is a Lufkin pump.

“Our growth seems manageable at the present time, but the seams on our jeans are starting to get stretched tight. Any help in adding lanes to State Highway 59 would be welcomed. Those of us in energy counties understand the importance of mineral taxes paid in to the State’s coffers, as well as the strains our cities and towns undergo to meet the needs and costs of their development and production… we hope all our citizens of our wonderful State understand as well.”

The situation is different in Fremont County, where the unemployment rate in June was 4.7 percent, the highest in the state.

But in Fremont County’s seat of Lander, business owner Joe Quiroz said he sees opportunities ahead:

“I think we’re holding and have potential for growth. Last week in Jackson, three people asked me quietly and seriously about life in Lander. In fact, they’re all prosperous people who earn and spend, and are tired of the glitz and glam of a ski town.

“And the traffic. But they also need fast connectivity and transportation by a reliable air carrier. 

“I’m encouraged by the arrival in Lander of an interventional cardiologist and a vascular surgeon. These are people who will draw patients from around the state. Our future is not going to be based on employment of a large skilled workforce, but of small operators working in a knowledge based economy. 

“Lander has physical advantages that many places in Wyoming do not have. The sense of community is paramount. My wife Andrea runs a global enterprise from Lander, a place that will be our base camp as long as we are able to live here. We may have an apartment in London or Paris, but Lander is home.” 

Albany County is keeping steady with the University of Wyoming as a stabilizing anchor:

“The Laramie area economy is holding on, which is about all it ever does,” says John Waggener, an archivist for the American Heritage Center. “The tax base here is low due to the fact the largest employer, UW, is a public entity.”

UW historian Phil Roberts says:

“Hard to read the Laramie economy without reference to UW and, so far, I detect a ‘wait-and-see’ feeling about the interim and forthcoming new leadership. The mystery on departure of Laurie Nichols still spawns rumors. We’ll see in the next few weeks what the new semester holds.” 

Up on the eastern slope of the Big Horns, things are green and growing, according to retired community leader and former state Rep. Doug Osborn:

“I feel like the Sheridan-Buffalo area is doing well. The towns are clean and well kept, people seem generally happy and there seems to be building going on throughout.”

Retired Buffalo Bulletin Publisher Jim Hicks largely agrees, although he acknowledges the difficulty posed by the deterioration of coal-bed methane in the region:

“I believe Buffalo is holding its own economic issues.  The area has seen a sharp decline in Coalbed Methane activities and a lot of those jobs and supporting industries have gone away. Buffalo expects to see some negative spin-off from the decline of coal production, but that should be minor.  Tourism is up this year and cattle prices remain at a level to keep at least a small smile on the faces of ranchers.”

Pat Henderson, executive director for Whitney Benefits in Sheridan, describes his town:

“Our Sheridan area is doing very, very well.  Tax receipts are up.  Housing prices continue to increase. Lots of people moving here.  California, Texas and Colorado. We have diversified a lot with our economy. 

“One big dark cloud is Cloud Peak mine operating up north of here in Montana. Most of the employees live in Sheridan County. Very good wages but great uncertainty with them staying open. Going through bankruptcy currently and looking for a bidder.  If this mine closes, it will be a considerable loss.  Need to pray for them and their families.”

Gillette attorney Tom Lubnau II, a former Speaker of the Wyoming House, remarked on oil’s temporary ability to mask the struggles of the Powder River Basin’s coal economy:

“I live in Gillette.   The economy is average to below average.   Oil is covering for the slump in coal, for awhile.”

Up in Park County, things are plugging along:

Powell real estate agent Dave Reetz says, “Our area is holding its own in my opinion.”

Powell Tribune Publisher Toby Bonner added:

“I would say our economy here in Powell has been holding its own… but unfortunately we’re beginning to see a downturn due to closings of key retail stores like Shopko and others. Amazon and other e-commerce have really hit our Main Street hard. Closings of these retail stores locally have really put a damper on retail advertising in the Powell Tribune as well. We have more doctors, dentists, legal and insurance offices now than retail.”

Snuggled up against the Idaho border, Lincoln County’s Star Valley is benefitting from spill over of the robust tourism economy in Teton County plus agriculture and agribusiness operations.

“The Star Valley area is doing well economically, says Sarah Hale, editor of the Star Valley Independent in Afton.

Up in Newcastle, Newcastle News Letter Journal Editor Alexis Barker says:

“Economically I think we are holding fairly steady, we have had low unemployment rates, a recent increase in our valuation and increases in our taxable sales. I wouldn’t say that these increases necessarily make us above average but are definitely making Newcastle not have to struggle as much as we have in the past. We are also looking at an increase in new businesses in the area with a new grocery store being built, a new travel center (truck stop) and a new private practice (doctor’s office) opening locally.” 

John Davis, a retired Worland attorney and author, says:

“We are below average. Worland has not recovered from the oil slowdown of a few years back, when all activity in the oil field slowed.  Especially ruinous was the closing of the Worland Schlumberger office.”

Cheyenne attorney Jack Speight says:

“Economy is very good here in Cheyenne thanks the government, Walmart distribution plant, and the other warehouse giants on the east and west side of town. You can’t forget F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which is huge boost to the economy and to the volunteer base for Frontier Days.”

Tom Satterfield, a retired member of the Wyoming Board of Equalization in Cheyenne, says:

“Cheyenne is doing above average thanks to the college, the air force base, good medical hospital and being the center of Wyoming government all contribute. The new renovation of the Herschler/Capitol complex was a big factor for the last four of five years.  Good little theater and a great symphony orchestra as well as a very active arts group and a fine Civic Center add to the enjoyment of every one. Also a very active economic organization LEADS are all factors making Cheyenne an enjoyable place to live.

But the former director of one of the state’s most visible business advocates is glum:

“I think the state is in serious trouble given future spending obligations and current revenue streams. Tourism is fine; coal–a transitional mainstay– is getting hammered,” says Bill Schilling. 

Former Sweetwater County Commissioner Paula Wonnacott says:

“I think our economy is OK. But, there are uncertainties and I think everyone is worried. There are numerous homes for sale.”

Miners face uncertainty of changing coal markets

in Energy/News
1662

Miners left without jobs with the closure of two of Campbell County’s biggest coal mines are facing a changing reality in the nature of the coal industry, Gillette residents agree.

Residents said although the coal industry has traditionally been a stable source of income and employment, the dropping demand for coal has changed that.

“The coal jobs have historically been the stable jobs,” said Alison Gee, a Gillette attorney. “Now we’re shifting to an environment where we have to look to oil and gas to try and provide some of the stability for our families. And as you know, the oil and gas markets just aren’t that way. They’re very volatile because of the world economy.”

About 600 miners lost their jobs several weeks ago when Blackjewel closed the Belle Ayre and Eagle Butte mines. Efforts are being made to secure funding to return the mines to operation.

If those efforts fail, many of those who lost their jobs will probably leave the community, predicted Ken Anthony, a retired miner.

“You’ve got two to three kids at home and you’ve got a big old house payment and car payment and all of a sudden that stops,” he said. “It’s pretty scary. When they lose their jobs, it really makes a big effect on the whole county. If they can get the money and re-open (the mines), it will be fine. If they can’t, more than likely, most of (the miners) will leave.”

Gee noted that while some companies are offering jobs to Blackjewel’s former miners, most do not have the resources to offer the same level of salaries or benefits.

Tom Lubnau, a former speaker for Wyoming’s House of Representatives, said the mine closures show the state needs to work to offset the diminishing demand for coal.

“We have to, in some way, take control of our own destiny,” he said. “If we can boost the market in a certain way, develop the technologies that we need to use to market our resources, then we should do that.”

In the meantime, Gillette’s residents are doing what they can to ease the burden on the unemployed miners, said Trey McConnell, manager at the Railyard Restaurant.

“The people here, in bad times they bond together, they help one another out,” he said. “It’s one of these areas where you can kind of rely on your brothers and sisters. It’s just a very tight-knit community.”

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