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Editorial: Denton Knapp Is the Only Candidate Who Cares About The Public Right Now

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Cowboy State Daily Editorial

Is it that surprising that the only person who isn’t playing the victim card in Wyoming PBS’ debate debacle is a veteran?

U.S. House candidate Denton Knapp isn’t the only one to say he’s not pleased with Wyoming PBS’ decision to bar the public from attending Thursday’s debate.

But he is the only person who is trying to do something about it. 

Yes, we know that Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman say they don’t like the idea of a private debate.  But they are resigned to it. We heard from their spokespeople. There’s nothing they can do, they say.

And we heard from Anthony Bouchard too. He was a bit more creative laying the blame on Cheney, of course without any proof. But he isn’t doing anything about it either.

We know that one of the three media panelists — Bob Beck — isn’t pleased the media can’t come and was going to ask that be changed. That’s fine if you are a member of the media. But what about the public?

We don’t know what journalists Steve Peck and Stephen Dow think because they won’t go on the record.

Wyoming PBS says there is nothing they can do about it and lays blame on some mysterious “security team” out there.  

It couldn’t be the same security team that made sure President Trump’s rally was safe a month ago. This is apparently a security team that has deemed an auditorium in Sheridan College impossible to secure.

That claim is ludicrous said candidate Denton Knapp, the war hero from Gillette.

Hero isn’t a throwaway word.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals (one with Valor) after being deployed to combat three times for Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

After serving for over three decades, he retired as a Colonel in 2017.

Knapp doesn’t think it’s right that the public should be barred from a debate for public office.

Knapp doesn’t think it’s right that the public should be barred from a debate for public office being hosted by an entity that is publicly funded and has “public” in its name — Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service.

Knapp said he was going to reach out and actually try to do something about it. We know that because we spoke to him, not his “spokespeople.”

“The public needs to be allowed to read the reactions and emotions taking place,” Knapp told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s important to have open doors. We really need to be asking why this is being closed.”

Regardless of what happens, there is only one leader here who is standing up for the public right now.

That leader risked his life for the public for three decades.

And now that leader is the only one who is committed to serving the public right now.

You might want to give Denton Knapp another look. Because at least when it comes to serving the public right now, Denton Knapp is the only one who appears to care.

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

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just going the distance,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is home,” he said.

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

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

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

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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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Cheney Tops Fundraising Efforts In Third Quarter, Totaling $5.1M

in News/Liz Cheney/politics
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney continues to lead all the Republican candidates for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat for fundraising, according to federal figures, raising more than $1.7 million in the third quarter of the year.

The reports for the period running from July 1 through Sept. 30 showed Cheney, who has not yet announced whether she will seek reelection, received $1.3 million from individuals and $67,900 from political action committees. She also received about $342,400 from other “other authorized committees,” which can include the campaign committees of other politicians.

The donations in the third quarter brought Cheney’s fundraising total to $5.1 million since the beginning of the year.

For fundraising during the third quarter of the year, Cheney was followed by Harriet Hageman, who raised $301,921 in the third quarter even though she did not announce her candidacy until Sept. 9, with less than one month remaining in the reporting period.

All of Hageman’s donations came from individuals.

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, raised $65,560 during the quarter, bringing his total donations for the year to $613,428. All of Bouchard’s donations so far this year have come from individuals.

State Rep. Charles Gray, R-Casper, who ended his campaign for Congress when Hageman announced her candidacy, raised $113,195 during the quarter, all from individuals. Gray’s campaign ended with a total of $209,209 in donations and $298,318 in loans.

Denton Knapp, a retired U.S. Army colonel from Gillette, raised $10,925 in the third quarter, all from individuals, bringing his total donations to $19,600, while Riverton’s Marissa Joy Selvig raised $3,909 to bring her total donations to $7,074.

Virginia residents continued to be the biggest contributors to Cheney’s campaign, donating $307,455, followed by California residents at $217,677. 

Wyoming residents donated $100,930 to Cheney so far this year, the FEC reports said, placing Wyoming behind seven other states as donation sources for Cheney. Hageman’s FEC filings showed that more than half of her donations, about $164,000, came from Wyoming individuals.

Wyoming residents were also the top donors to Bouchard’s campaign, contributing $46,490 so far this year, the reports showed.

Of Knapp’s $10,925, $5,400 came from donors in California, while Wyoming residents donated $3,600 to his campaign.

Most of Selvig’s donations, $1,475, have come from Wyoming residents, with $1,000 coming from Colorado residents.

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Congressional Candidate Knapp Says Poor Preparation Led To Fall Of Afghanistan; Other Candidates Blame Cheney, Biden

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban is largely a failure to prepare for the orderly departure of American forces from the country, according to one of the candidates for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

Denton Knapp, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served for one year in Afghanistan, said a managed departure of American forces from the country could have prevented the situation seen now, with Taliban forces taking over the country and tens of thousands seeking to escape.

“There’s a way to leave our friends,” he said. “We are still in Japan, we are still in Germany, we are still in South Korea and South Korea is flourishing. We evacuated Vietnam very quickly. Unfortunately, we are seeing the same thing with Afghanistan.“

We usually leave security and training forces that assist to make sure things are running smoothly,” he continued. “This is crazy.”

Knapp’s comments came as videos showed panicked Afghan citizens and foreigners scrambling to flee the country in the face of the Taliban takeover. He was one of several candidates for Wyoming’s U.S House seat to offer an opinion on the developments.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, blamed the situation on former President Donald Trump’s agreement with Taliban forces setting a withdrawal date for American troops and on President Joe Biden for proceeding with the action.

Cheney and Knapp offered similar opinions that the United States should have planned to leave sufficient American forces in place to protect American security interests.

Knapp, who was part of NATO’s effort to train Afghanistan’s army and police force, said a more orderly downsizing had already begun when he served in the country in 2012-2013.Knapp, who said he has several friends now in hiding in Afghanistan, added that the Afghans had already begun assuming much responsibility for the country’s security when he was there.

“The Afghans were in charge, they were running the meetings, they were assisting with intelligence,” he said. “We were truly refining their force.”

However, even after 20 years, the Afghan people were not completely ready to take over their country’s defense, Knapp added.

“It’s a different culture,” he said. “They’re still in their infancy. Twenty years is a long time for the United States Army, but in other countries, it’s not so long.”

Marissa Selvig of Riverton, one of the other candidates running for office, said she believes the problem stems from America’s long-term involvement with Afghanistan.

“We should have been out of Afghanistan a decade ago, long before Trump was in the picture,” she said in an email to Cowboy State Daily. “Being in a perpetual state of war in the Middle East is not good for our nation, not to mention spending the precious blood of our countrymen and too much money; and now leaving the Taliban well armed is a tragedy.”

While Cheney blamed Trump and Biden, state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, blamed Cheney in part for the situation.

Gray said Trump had created a sound plan for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan that would have worked, only to have it thwarted by Biden’s election.

“The Taliban would not have double crossed President Trump, because they understood he would not allow it,” Gray wrote on his Facebook page. “But Biden is so weak. What happened in Afghanistan is another result of Cheney voting to impeach President Trump to strengthen Biden and Pelosi.”

Robyn Belinskey, a Sheridan businesswoman, agreed with Gray that the fault lies with Biden.

“Cheney’s playing the fence,” she said in an email. “This is on Biden. The world sees America as weak. I can’t be blaming Trump for their incompetence.”

In a video posted on his Facebook page late Tuesday, Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith criticized the media for its lack of coverage of Afghanistan and said it was Cheney’s foreign policy that was responsible.

“You created this mess and you took no ownership for it,” Smith said. “Shame on you for not being America first.”

“I have two words for you: you are fired,” he said.

Other candidates for Congress, including state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, could not be reached for comment.

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Retired U.S. Army Colonel To Move Back To Wyoming To Run Against Cheney

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A man raised in Wyoming who spent 30 years with the U.S. Army is returning to his hometown to run for Congress.

Everett “Denton” Knapp told Cowboy State Daily he will be arriving in Gillette on Tuesday to begin the process of becoming a Wyoming resident so he can challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in her re-election bid.

“I’ll be getting my beautiful bucking horse license back,” he said. “I am not wasting time. It’s time to come home.”

Knapp, who currently lives in Orange County, California, said one of the issues he will run on is dissatisfaction with recent votes and statements by Cheney, including her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.

“It means something when you see your state is represented by elected officials who do not follow what their constituents want,” he said. “I feel Wyoming has lost trust in our elected official and I think the nation has lost some trust in the election process and I want to get that back.”

The retired colonel stressed he has been a “longtime fan” of the Cheney family.

Knapp said as a member of Congress, he would also focus on things that are “broken” in the federal government, such as the immigration system.

“I understand what immigration means and what the process is,” said Knapp, who added his own mother was from Japan and became a naturalized citizen after much hard work. “And there has to be a process.”

Knapp was raised in Gillette and won an appointment to West Point, which began his 30-year career in the U.S. Army. He was nominated for the school by former U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney, along with Cheney’s colleagues U.S. Sens. Al Simpson and Malcom Wallop.

Knapp went on to serve around the country and the globe for 30 years, including multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired as a colonel in 2017 and moved with his wife Heather to California so the two could be with their family.

For the last several years, Knapp has served in the California State Guard and has served as the director of veteran services for Goodwill Industries of Orange County.

Knapp said he has kept abreast of Wyoming’s issues and challenges with regular visits to the state to see his parents and brother, Christopher Knapp, who is a member of the state House of Representatives.

“I’ve not lived there, but I’ve paid attention to what’s going on,” he said. “Because I am a Wyomingite, I stayed a Wyomingite. I’ve been brown and gold my whole life.”

Knapp, the seventh candidate for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, admitted he is entering the 2022 primary race a little behind some of the other candidates.

“I’m a fast learner,” he said. “I’ve got some catching up to do.”

He added he plans to attend this weekend’s meeting of the Wyoming Republican Party’s Central Committee in Cody.

Knapp said he would like to discuss the race with the other candidates challenging Cheney for the party’s nomination in 2022.

“We’ve got some months here, we have to figure out as a group of candidates what is best for the state,” he said. “If what’s best for the state is to defeat the incumbent, then we have to communicate with each other and not sabotage our efforts to take care of the Wyoming people.”

Darin Smith, a Cheyenne attorney and businessman, announced last week he will run for the office. 

Other candidates include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper.

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