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

in News/Legislature

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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

in Frank Eathorne/News

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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

in News/Legislature

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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

in Wyoming Obituary/News

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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

in Column/Tom Lubnau

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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?

in Column/Doug Gerard

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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

in News/Liz Cheney

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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

in Column/Tom Lubnau

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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!

in Column/Bill Sniffin

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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

in Column/Doug Gerard

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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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