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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.