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Wyoming Democratic Legislator Upset With Allred Secretary of State Appointment

in News/Legislature/politics
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Karl Allred was sworn in as interim Secretary of State of Wyoming on Monday, but Gov. Mark Gordon’s choice of Allred for the role doesn’t sit well with state Rep. Mike Yin.

The Democrat from Jackson had some strong words about the appointment after the announcement was made last week.

“None of the choices given to the governor by the WY Republican Party were reasonable options when there were former county clerks that applied for the appointment,” Yin says in a short press release.

The Wyoming Republican Party selected Allred, Marti Halverson and Bryan Miller as finalists for the interim role. None of the finalists have directly worked in an election and all three lost their most recent races for the Wyoming Legislature. 

Yin said Allred has shown he will not remain impartial toward his race because of comments Allred made at a state GOP Central Committee meeting in mid-September. At that meeting, Allred commented on Yin’s race for a third term against Republican challenger Jim McCollum, saying, “If any of you have met him (Yin) or dealt with him in any committee meetings, the guy is a flippin’ idiot, and we need to get rid of him.”

As secretary of state, Allred will oversee the upcoming general election in Wyoming. 

No Impartiality

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday afternoon, Yin said he doesn’t want to posit what Allred “could, might or might not do,” with his new responsibility and power. He clarified further that he has confidence in the security of Wyoming’s elections and the staff in the Secretary of State’s office.

“It was irresponsible for him to be selected,” Yin said. “He weighed in on an election before selected as the interim. It was unbecoming to make a statement like that.”

Allred did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for comment for this story.

Allred had not publicly announced his candidacy for interim secretary of state by the time he made his statement about Yin, but it was well-known at that time the party would be accepting applications for the role and deciding interim candidates the next weekend. 

Former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced in early September that Sept. 15 would be his last day in office.

No Experience

Yin said he would have much rather seen Mary Lankford, a former Sublette County clerk of 32 years, chosen for the interim role. Lankford finished fifth in the GOP’s voting for candidates.

The role of the secretary of state is an important one in Wyoming as the office also is in charge of the state’s business filings and a member of the State Loan and Investments Board, Board of Land Commissioners and the State Building Commission.

The secretary of state also takes over the governor’s duties if the sitting governor leaves the state at any time and is the immediate interim replacement if the governor steps down or dies while in office.

Allred & Yin

Allred is a Uinta County GOP committeeman. He unsuccessfully ran for the Legislature and county precinct committeeman in the August primary. Allred also lost bids for the Legislature in 2020, 2018 and 2014. Although he also failed to be elected as a precinct committee member in 2020, Allred was voted in by the Uinta County GOP as a state committeeman in 2021.

That election, which also resulted in the selection of Biffy Jackson as county GOP chairman and Jana Williams as state committeewoman, sparked a lawsuit from Jon Conrad and other plaintiffs like Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, and Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Evanston. This case is being considered by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Conrad beat Allred in this year’s primary election.

“I wish Karl the best as secretary of state,” Conrad said Monday.

In 2020, Allred participated in a Stop the Steal rally on the front steps of the Wyoming Capitol building. 

During the state GOP’s selection meeting for interim Secretary of State candidates Sept. 24, Allred pledged that he will facilitate a smooth transition for the permanent secretary of state, who will take over in January. He was vague when asked by Cowboy State Daily at that meeting if he would refrain from talking to Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, largely expected to be the next person in the role, until after the general election.

“I talk to everybody,” he said.

Yin is the House minority caucus chairman and a member of both the Judiciary and Revenue committees, two of the Legislature’s preeminent committees. He also is one of the leading voices on cryptocurrency within the Legislature.

Yin faced no opponents during the 2020 election and beat his Republican opponent in the 2018 election by 19 percentage points.

“I don’t take any election lying down,” Yin said. “I look at my elections as a review process by the voters.”

Yin said he would support an almost complete removal of political parties from the state’s Title 22 election code, which would make them private entities under state law and likely strip their power to directly select appointment candidates. During the 2022 Legislative session he sponsored a bill that would have initiated open primaries in the state, allowing voters to vote for any candidate they like in the primary election no matter their party affiliation. This legislation would thereby remove a significant part of the political parties’ role in elections. 

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Colorado Attorney Submits Second Request To Investigate Hageman

in Harriet Hageman/politics
Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

A Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney has made a second request to the Wyoming State Bar that it publicly investigate Wyoming Republican and U.S. Congress candidate Harriet Hageman in response to her public questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The Wyoming State Bar is in a unique position to properly inform the people of Wyoming about the truth by forcing Ms. Hageman to appear before it,” Darby Hoggatt says in his letter to the State Bar sent Monday. The letter was addressed to Sharon Wilkinson, director of the Wyoming State Bar.

Hoggatt was born in Newcastle and earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Wyoming. He has expressed frustration that the State Bar hasn’t investigated Hageman for reiterating the claims of former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen.

Most of his three-page letter expresses frustration that the State Bar didn’t spend much time investigating his first letter, which was rejected in early July. 

Attorney Mark Gifford, who represents the organization, spent less than one business day considering the first letter, where Hoggatt requested the agency initiate a disciplinary investigation of Hageman.



‘Extreme Disappointment’

“I want to express my extreme disappointment that your organization invested so little time and critical legal and ethical analysis into whether disciplining Ms. Hageman was warranted, especially considering the threat to our democracy that Ms. Hageman posed,” Hoggatt says in Monday’s letter.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hoggatt said he had not received a response to his second letter.

Wilkinson told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday afternoon it is the policy of the State Bar to not comment on complaints.

If Gifford were to determine that the complaint should be considered, he would then present the case to the Board of Professional Responsibility. The board then determines if a case will be forwarded to the Wyoming Supreme Court, handled within its own body or by the bar’s Review and Oversight Committee. 

Wilkinson said cases where only private reprimand or discipline is recommended do not go to the Supreme Court. A disbarment, suspension or public censure are the only actions taken against an attorney that becomes public and can only be issued by the Supreme Court.

Legality vs. Popularity

Hoggatt said he believes the Wyoming State Bar didn’t want to investigate Hageman because she is popular in the state. Hageman beat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney by 38 percentage points in the August primary.

“I do not believe that your organization’s standard of review, nor your mandate, is based upon popularity,” Hoggatt writes. “I expected a more legally based critical analysis with the reputation of our Bar in mind.”

Gifford said in his response to Hoggatt’s first letter that there were significant differences between Hageman’s comments and the actions of Rudy Giulani and other Trump-supporting attorneys because they offered their statements before a tribunal, not in a public forum. He did, however, agree with Hoggatt’s assertion that Hageman’s claims were false.

Gifford said the only possible rule that could be applicable to Hageman’s actions is Rule 8.4(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. 

Hoggatt, who is licensed to practice law in Wyoming, believes the rule extends to an attorney’s actions outside the courtroom as attorneys are held to a higher standard as it relates to free speech and the First Amendment. He provided the example that it is an attorney’s obligation to inform the state bar if he or she pleads guilty or is found guilty to a crime such as driving under the influence of alcohol. He also mentioned how in Giuliani’s case, a New York court ruled that out-of-court conduct is under the jurisdiction of state bar organizations.  

‘Critical Window’ Missed

Hoggatt initiated his first letter in response to Hageman’s comments at a late June debate in Sheridan. At this event, Hageman complained about the Jan. 6 Committee, endorsed a film that relies on questionable evidence to claim drop ballot boxes were stuffed and said questions needed to be asked about election integrity on a national level. She remained vague about whether she believed there was election fraud in Wyoming in 2020. 

Hoggatt said the Bar missed a “critical window” by choosing not to investigate Hageman at this juncture, as many people cast early and absentee ballots before she made more direct comments on this topic at a forum in early August. 

At that event, Hageman clarified and upped the ante on her views about the 2020 election, saying it was “rigged” and a “travesty.”

Hoggatt said the State Bar “enabled” Hageman “to continue to misinform the Wyoming electorate.”

“The State Bar now has an opportunity to redeem its reputation and restore integrity and honor to its membership,” Hoggatt writes.



Power In Numbers

Hoggatt referenced two recent letters sent to Hageman by a group of 41 and 51 attorneys respectively, asking that she cease her rhetoric stating that the 2020 election was fraudulent. 

“They have done the work that Mr. Gifford was not willing to do prior to the Republican primary,” Hoggatt writes. 

Hageman issued a scathing response to the lawyer’s first letter, which she described as “threatening.”

“Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat against me simply because I hold a different political opinion – one that is shared by a majority of Wyoming voters,” Hageman said in a September press release. “And this is exactly what Liz Cheney’s allies and the left do to Trump supporters and conservatives at every turn – attempt to threaten, intimidate, and cancel anyone who doesn’t see the world the way they do.”

Hageman supported Cheney during her 2016 campaign and expressed a preference for Ted Cruz over former President Donald Trump in that election. It was not until she announced her campaign in September 2021 that she first spoke out publicly against Cheney. Hoggatt saw this as an example of opportunism on Hageman’s part for the purpose of gaining a position of power in government.

Hoggatt wants the State Bar to ask Hageman:

• Do you have any evidence that would be admissible in a court of law supporting your position that there was widespread voter fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election?

• Were you aware of the outcome of 60-plus lawsuits filed by then President Trump alleging that the 2020 U.S. presidential was illegitimate?

• Did you knowingly mislead the people of Wyoming when you spread the “big lie” in public forums?

• Did you spread the “big lie” for your political gain?

Hoggatt said if Wilkinson and Gifford still choose not to investigate Hageman, he asks they appoint outside legal counsel that will, or resign their jobs so the matter can be handled before the November election.

“History will judge Mr. Gifford and yourself as courageous Wyomingites, like Representative Liz Cheney; or as complicit in the disgraceful spread of propaganda,” Hoggatt writes. 

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Wyoming Attorneys Send Second Letter To Hageman Condemning Her For Election Denials

in Harriet Hageman/News/politics
Photo by Michael Smith/Getty Images
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

An ongoing feud between Wyoming Republican U.S. Congress candidate Harriet Hageman and some of the state’s most prominent attorneys continues to evolve.

Fifty-one attorneys have signed a second letter to Hageman addressing her response to their original letter, which she described as “threatening.” 

The original letter and Friday’s response from the attorneys request Hageman stop making comments about the 2020 presidential election being “stolen” and fraudulent, claims they say are blatantly false.

“She has an obligation to tell the truth to people,” said Jack Speight, a Cheyenne attorney and former chairman of the Wyoming GOP. “When you’re an attorney, you have an obligation to support the court’s rulings. You may disagree with them, but you have to follow them.”

The follow-up letter takes a slightly more conciliatory tone than the first, requesting in conclusion that she “respect our views, the oath that we all share as lawyers, and the new oath you will seemingly take as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

But Jackson attorney Bill Schwartz said the attorneys felt compelled to double-down on their request after taking offense to Hageman releasing their letter to the public, issuing a press release about the letter and posting it on her campaign website.

“We’re asking her to think about the whole electoral issue and think about it as a lawyer and not think about it as a politician,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said the first letter, signed by himself and 40 other attorneys, was never meant to be public. 

No Change Of Stance

One of Hageman’s campaign managers, Tim Murtaugh, had a curt response to the newest letter.

“Harriet heard them the first time,” Murtaugh said. “They don’t like her opinion and want her silenced. Same response applies.”

In her original response, Hageman accused the attorneys of trying to curb her First Amendment rights.

Story Behind The Words

Schwartz said he received several emails from people disparaging him for the first letter, telling him those who signed it should be disbarred and/or sent to California.

“These kinds of responses, and worse, are what happens when political leaders peddle misinformation and innuendo in support of their electoral ambitions,” the letter reads.

He said the group of attorneys that have signed the letter are part of a loosely organized contingency known as “Wyoming Lawyers For The Rule Of Law.” He said many revisions are made among the group and not any single person is organizing the effort.

“We have no leadership, no mission,” he said. “When someone can’t sleep at night, this is what it generates.”

The group first came together in response to Republican U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ first vote to reject the Pennsylvania slate of electors from the 2020 election.

“We sent a letter saying the rule of law matters,” Schwartz said.

‘Support, Obey And Defend’ The System

The newest letter reiterates many of the points made in the first. It asks Hageman to accept the rulings made by more than 60 courts that the 2020 election was sound, whether she likes it or not. The letter mentions how nearly all attorneys have encountered court decisions they don’t agree with during the course of their careers.

“In all of the cases, as lawyers, we were required by our oath to accept the outcome and to ‘support, obey and defend’ the legal system that was created by the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Wyoming – even when we thought, as we often did, that the final result was wrong,” the letter reads.

The second letter asserts that attorneys are not free to publicly attack the courts, judges or the legal process as a result of being on the losing side of a case. This is partially true, but many attorneys on the losing side of cases have spoken against those decisions.

In her response to the first letter, Hageman described the authors as “elitist” and “leftists.”

“While we acknowledge that we are privileged to be Wyoming lawyers, we are no more ‘elitist’ than you are, and we certainly do not identify as ‘leftists,’” the second letter says in response.

Speight said Hageman was able to earn former President Donald Trump’s endorsement by accepting “the big lie,” the claim that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate. 

Hageman had been relatively vague about her thoughts on the 2020 election until a June debate, where she said questions need to be asked about election integrity on a national level. At a political forum in August, she upped the ante, saying the election was “rigged” and a “travesty.” 

Schwartz said this was where, for many, she crossed the line.

Schwartz and Speight both said they believed Hageman slightly walked back her claims about the 2020 election based on her response to their first letter. In that response, Hageman only mentioned having “concerns about the 2020 election” and that she “holds a different opinion of the 2020 election than” the letter writers do.

Who’s Behind It?

There were 10 more names on Friday’s new letter including Speight, but also a few noteworthy subtractions. Wyoming State Bar President Chris Hawks and Anna Reeves Olsen, president-elect of the state bar, both were signers of the first letter but not the second.

Schwartz said they held back from joining the second letter because they are now officers of the Wyoming State Bar Association and their participation could suggest the State Bar was endorsing the letter.

Darby Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney, sent a letter to the Wyoming State Bar in July requesting it investigate Hageman for her comments. Hoggatt recently expressed frustration that the bar quickly rejected his request. 

On Monday, Hoggatt sent a new request asking the organization publicly investigate Hageman or resign its top leadership.

Speight and Schwartz both said they have no interest in having the State Bar take action against Hageman. 

Numerous prominent members of the Wyoming legal community, such as William Hiser, former president of the bar, and Devon O’Connell, past president of the Wyoming Bar Association, both signed the second letter. 

Schwartz said there are many people within the legal community who agree with the sentiment of the letter but were uncomfortable signing it.

“They’re people who have relationships with Harriet or John Sundahl,” Schwartz said about Hageman and her husband, who’s also an attorney.

Schwartz said he’s unsure if Hageman’s reputation among Wyoming attorneys has been damaged beyond repair, but he and Speight both believe she could still redeem herself.

“Let’s see what she does as a public official,” Speight said. “We’ll see if this was an exception to the rule or an exception that proves the rule.”

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Majority Whip Of Wyoming House Targeted By Anti-Semitic Fliers

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A Christian, Republican legislator who celebrates his Jewish heritage found antisemitic literature on his lawn Sunday, along with another 30 fliers on lawns of his supporters.   

“This morning my family woke up to this antisemitic flier on our door step, attempting to spread hate and fear, among lies of course,” wrote Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, in a Sunday Facebook post.   

Olsen, who serves as the Majority Whip in the Wyoming State House, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that he ordered a genealogy test about six years ago and discovered Ashkenazi Jewish heritage in his bloodline. He had always suspected that Jewish heritage was buried in his lineage.   

Ashkenazi Jews are of Eastern European or German descent, according to dictionary.com.   

Olsen, who routinely posts on Facebook about celebrating Jewish customs and displays a mezuzah on the right side of his family doorpost, doesn’t think the flier landed in his yard by coincidence.   

“In our house we take pride in our ancestral roots and heritage,” he said. 

The family also is planning a trip to Europe to explore Olsen’s Jewish roots and to tour the Auschwitz concentration camp of the 20th century Jewish Holocaust.   

The Theories  

The folded antisemitic flier posits many theories, claiming that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a Jewish conspiracy and that American “mass immigration” policies are led by Jewish politicians.   

“EVERY ASPECT OF 911 WAS JEWISH,” reads the flier in all-caps. Another page says that the Anti-Defamation League, a non-governmental Jewish international organization, was established “to protect a Jewish child murdering pedophile Leo Frank.”   

Frank was convicted in 1913 of raping and murdering his 13-year-old employee Mary Phagan in Georgia, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s published origins story. When Frank’s death sentence was commuted in 1915, a group of men kidnapped him from prison and lynched him.    

Frank’s trial and conviction still are replete with doubt and controversy; the Anti-Defamation League said his trial was “defined by antisemitism.”   

‘Oh, How Nice’  

Whoever tossed the angry-worded antisemitic flier onto Olsen’s lawn does not want the literature to be perceived as a threat.   

“These fliers were distributed randomly without malicious intent,” the flier reads.   

“Oh, how nice of them to put a disclaimer,” said Olsen with sarcasm. “They absolutely are not random.”  

Olsen said he has looked at yards displaying his campaign signs and his opponent’s signs and has found the literature in yards with his campaign signs but not his opponent’s. He has collected about 30 fliers so far.   

“I apologize to those of you hosting my sign that have to deal with this,” Olsen told his supporters on Facebook. “Please stay safe. If you need to take down my sign, we understand that your safety is important.”  

Olsen said his wife Dani, who usually brings their children to campaign with him, decided to stay home that day.  

The Blight  

Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, announced in February during the Wyoming legislative session that he is Jewish. He told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that he hasn’t experienced antisemitic backlash like Olsen endured this weekend.    

Schwartz said antisemitism is an age-old blight throughout the world but, to him, this event marks its noticeable arrival in Wyoming.   

“I’m appalled, I’m disappointed,” said Schwartz, who has lived in Wyoming for 45 years. “This kind of crap has been going on forever. But I’m just sad to see it in Wyoming.”   

Schwartz texted Olsen on Sunday expressing his concern and sadness, both men told Cowboy State Daily.   

Schwartz theorized that he hasn’t experienced overt antisemitism because “Teton County is different. I’m sure there are people like that (antisemitic) here, but it’s not the nature of the discourse here.”   

He said he hopes it’s not the start of a trend. 

“It didn’t used to be the nature of discourse in Wyoming – but obviously that’s changing,” he said. 

Schwartz called upon the Wyoming Republican Party leadership to condemn the act and antisemitism publicly.  

“I think it is incumbent upon the Wyoming Republican party and party leadership to disavow this,” he said.  

The Getaway  

One of Olsen’s constituents who found antisemitic literature near his campaign sign in their yard checked their home security camera for evidence.   

That person, whom Olsen chose not to identify, saw what looked like a white, four-door sedan slowing near the home at about 16 minutes after midnight shortly after Saturday night turned to Sunday morning.   

Olsen, who was a late riser Sunday morning, discovered his own flier at about 11 a.m.   

In January, a much larger paper blitzkrieg was reported with residents in Denver, San Francisco and Miami discovering literature blaming Jews for “the COVID agenda.” Like Olsen’s fliers, these also were placed in plastic bags and weighed down with small objects, such as pebbles.  

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Wyoming State Bar Declines To Investigate, Disbar Hageman

in Harriet Hageman/News/politics
(Photo by Michael Smith/Getty Images)
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Although Harriet Hageman had been endorsed and recruited by former President Donald Trump and his staff to run for U.S. Congress in summer 2021, she remained vague for many months about her thoughts of what happened during the Jan. 6 , 2021, U.S. Capitol riot and the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

During a debate in late June, her stance on this issue became more defined. 

That night, she said questions needed to be asked about election integrity on a national level, but she was more vague about whether she believes there was election fraud in Wyoming in 2020. 

She endorsed “2000 Mules,” a film that relies on questionable evidence to claim drop ballot boxes were stuffed and mentioned how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that changes in absentee voting procedures violated that state’s Constitution. 

Hageman also complained about the Jan. 6 Committee that her opponent at the time, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, is the sitting vice chair on, describing it as “unfair.”

Cheney compared Hageman’s comments to rhetoric used by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and other attorneys representing the former president, who have faced disciplinary hearings in their respective state bars.

Request For An Investigation

These comments were enough to convince attorney Darby Hoggatt he needed to file a complaint with the Wyoming State Bar, requesting the body initiate a disciplinary investigation of her.

“As a licensed attorney in the State of Wyoming, I believe it is incumbent upon your agency to investigate Ms. Hageman who appears to advocate and support the Coup that former President Trump attempted on Jan. 6, 2021,” wrote Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney in his July 2 letter to the bar. “If a Wyoming attorney supports the overthrow of our democracy, how can she maintain her license to practice law?”

Mark Gifford, counsel for the bar, took less than a single business day to respond to and reject Hoggatt’s complaint. 

Gifford said there was a significant difference between Hageman’s comments and the actions of Giulani and other attorneys because they offered their statements before a tribunal, not in a public forum. He did, however, express concurrence with Hoggatt’s assertion that Hageman’s claims were false.

“The conduct you point to with Hageman could just as easily be cast as the exercise of her right of free speech in voicing an opinion that is held by a large number of people, some of them, regrettably, lawyers,” Gifford wrote to Hoggatt on July 5.

“As a licensed attorney in the State of Wyoming, I believe it is incumbent upon your agency to investigate Ms. Hageman who appears to advocate and support the Coup that former President Trump attempted on Jan. 6, 2021. If a Wyoming attorney supports the overthrow of our democracy, how can she maintain her license to practice law?”

Darby Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney in a letter to the Wyoming State bar.

Response To Response

Hoggatt told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that he disagrees with this perspective and finds it a “cop-out” on the part of the state bar for not handling the matter. 

“I don’t think they wanted to get in the middle of that,” Hoggatt said. “They spent no time looking into this. They did not want to look into this at all.

“They didn’t do a damn thing. It was dismissed summarily.” 

He said Wyoming, a state that voted for Trump with a larger margin than any other in 2020, should not look past doing what he believes is right just because it might not be popular. Hoggatt views Hageman, a land and water attorney, as a representative of the state and its lawyers.

“I believe the Cheney v. Haggeman (sic) debate focus you to do something, because now Hageman has been called out nationally, and it is your agency that is charged with dealing with her,” he wrote in his letter.

What The Bar Can Do

It is unknown if any other complaints have been filed with the state bar as the organization does not disclose this type of information publicly unless it is brought before the Wyoming Supreme Court. The state bar can take a variety of steps against an attorney, ranging from private reprimand to public disbarment at the state’s Supreme Court level.

Gifford said the only possible rule that could be applicable to Hageman’s actions is Rule 8.4(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. 

Hoggatt, who is licensed to practice law in Wyoming, believes the rule extends to an attorney’s actions outside the courtroom and that attorneys are held to a higher standard as it relates to free speech and the First Amendment. He provided the example that it is an attorney’s obligation to inform the state bar if he or she is charged with a crime such as driving under the influence of alcohol.

“Conduct in and outside of court is under oversight of the state bar,” he said.

Raising The Stakes

In early August, Hageman clarified and upped the ante on her views about the 2020 election, saying it was “rigged” and a “travesty.” The statements were made after Hoggatt sent his letter.

“At this point, the state bar knows what’s going on. They don’t need to receive another letter,” Hoggatt said.

On Friday, Hoggatt referenced a letter penned to Hageman by 41 attorneys and retired judges earlier this month, where they expressed a deep concern about Hageman’s views that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and requested that she stop spreading misinformation. 

In the letter, the attorneys mentioned how a lawyer is not allowed to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” 

Hoggatt was not a signer of this letter, which includes some of the most prominent attorneys in Wyoming like Wyoming State Bar President Chris Hawks and Anna Reeves Olsen, president-elect of the state bar.

The letter also cites a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case where the court ruled “(t)he interest of the States in regulating lawyers is especially great since lawyers are essential to the primary governmental function of administering justice, and have historically been ‘officers of the court.’”

‘Letter Is Meant As A Threat’

Hageman issued a blistering response to the letter, which she described as “threatening.”

“Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat against me simply because I hold a different political opinion – one that is shared by a majority of Wyoming voters,” Hageman said in a press release earlier this month. 

Hoggatt, who grew up in Newcastle and attended law school at the University of Wyoming, believes Hageman’s actions are tantamount to a rejection of the U.S. Constitution and part of an effort to overthrow the government. He said at the very least, the state bar should open an investigation on Hageman and issue a private reprimand.

“As an attorney practicing law, all laws derive from the Constitution,” Hoggatt said. “With the Constitution, if you don’t believe it, you have no right to be practicing law.”

Infighting Cuts Into Wyoming GOP Dominance In Raising Money

in News/Legislature/politics
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming’s Democratic and Republican parties are surprisingly competitive when it comes to the money at their disposal entering the homestretch of the general election season.

As of Aug. 31, the Democratic Party had $71,613 in its coffers, according to its Sept. 20 Federal Election Commission filing. In a similar filing, the Wyoming GOP reported $73,006, just $1,393 more than the Dems. 

Bob Ferguson, state GOP treasurer, said his party’s balance was only a portion of the money the party had at that time, as it also files a separate state-level finance report. At the party’s Central Committee meeting Sept. 17, officials reported having $119,000 in the bank. But since that meeting, Ferguson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday morning that the GOP has likely had more expenses than donations.

Although Republicans still have more money at their disposal, it is not by a large margin as many might expect in a state where one party holds an overwhelming majority. In the primary election, 94% of voters registered as Republicans. Most recent state-level and federal general election races in Wyoming have seen Republicans get about 70% to 75% of the vote.

Legal Expenses

The state GOP has been weighed down by a handful of lawsuits over the past few years that have proved costly for its efforts to support candidates in general elections.

At the Sept. 17 GOP meeting in Riverton, the party discussed the lawsuits and their impact on the party’s overall financial picture.

“If you want to figure out where the money for candidates went, that’s $80,000 right there because of that shortfall in revenues and our exorbitant legal expenses,” said Corey Steinmetz, a national committeeman for the state party.

The party spent $42,000 on lawsuits over the past year.

The Natrona County GOP sued the Wyoming GOP for the procedure it used to adopt bylaws in 2020 that require each county party to pay its dues or risk losing delegates at the state party’s convention. Natrona was only allowed to seat the minimum at the party’s convention in Sheridan in May. 

The case was dismissed in District Court but has been appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the court approved extending the deadline that the Natrona and state GOP can submit their arguments until Nov. 2.

A lawsuit involving the Uinta County GOP also is costing the state party money. 

In this case, a group of constituents that includes state Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Lyman, and former Rep. Ron Micheli, argued that the county party is governed exclusively by the state election code and violated it when electing officers in 2021. 

The case was dismissed by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and in District Court, but has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

State Rep. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, said the county party already spent $22,000 defending itself in the case.

Also draining the party’s coffers is a lawsuit filed in January by former Wyoming House Speaker and Campbell County Committeeman Tom Lubnau over the process the party used to select finalists for an interim superintendent of public instruction. Cody resident Brian Schroeder was ultimately selected for this position.

The party used the same voting process last weekend in its appointment of Karl Allred, delegating equal votes to each county party.

Dues Withheld

The state GOP also lost money because of the Natrona and Laramie county GOP parties withholding annual dues in response to disagreements about the state party’s policies and actions. Natrona and Laramie owe a combined $37,000.

Ferguson said at the mid-September meeting that it costs about $11,000 per month for the party to run operations and pay staff, leaving the belt tight through the end of the fiscal year in summer 2023. 

Money For And By Candidates

Coming out of the Sept. 17 meeting, the state GOP planned to give $19,000 to candidates around the state. This will likely be bolstered by $27,500 the Crook County Republican Party announced raising for official candidates statewide at last weekend’s meeting. The county party’s staff were vague about where the money came from, other than “from the people.” 

To put the $27,500 sum in perspective, the Crook County GOP has paid $3,000 to the state GOP so far this year.

Jeff Burian, a Crook County GOP committeeman, said the new money will not go to write-in candidate Roger Connett, a former chairman of the county party.

Marti Halverson, chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Party, also announced last weekend that her party will give $1,000 to the state GOP. 

Spending Gap

When it comes to actual spending on candidates, there will still be a severe gap between the state Democratic and Republican parties.

David Martin, a spokesperson for Wyoming Democrats, said the party does not plan to give any money to individual candidates this year.

“We offer a variety of services like voter data and canvassing information as well other programs to candidates at heavily subsidized rates through our coordinated campaign,” he said. 

Martin mentioned how the voter data service the party uses would cost a candidate several thousand dollars, but they get access to this service at a much lower one-time fee.

Higher-Level Offices

Democrat candidates for state and federal offices in Wyoming have been grossly outspent so far by their Republican opponents in the upcoming November election. 

U.S. Congress candidate Lynette Grey Bull has raised $11,012 for her campaign through late July, while her Republican opponent Harriet Hageman has raised $4.4 million within her immediate campaign committee alone. In the race for governor, Gov. Mark Gordon raised $541,577, while his Democratic challenger Theresa Livingston raised $1,702.

The only Democratic state Legislature candidate to spend and raise significant sums in the primary was Liz Storer of Jackson, who raised $32,870 and spent $21,415.

Democratic candidates have been giving money to the party rather than the other way around. 

Ted Hanlon, running for Senate District 5 in Cheyenne, gave $1,050 to the party over the course of August. Marguerite Herman, running in House District 11, also in Cheyenne, gave $550. Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, gave $500 on Aug. 18. Leesa Kuhlman, running for Senate District 18 in Rock Springs, gave $745. Livingston has given $200 since late July. 

The party also has been bolstered by $22,000 from the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund political action committee Aug. 25.

State-level finance information for political parties will be released 10 days after the Nov. 8 general election.

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Cheney Called Out For Missing 34 Votes Since Primary

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

There are far more questions than answers when it comes to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s long-term future and whether she will continue to align with the Republican Party after her congressional term expires.

In the meantime, despite politically-charged accusations she favors the Democratic platform, Cheney’s voting record hasn’t shifted much. But she has missed 34 votes since losing her Aug. 16 Republican primary election.

She was absent on four days in September, including Thursday. 

Cheney missed all seven votes taken Sept. 14 and six of the seven votes taken Sept. 15. 

Cheney’s only vote that day came on an amendment to the Preventing a Patronage System Act, which she was one of seven Republicans to vote against. Later the same day, she didn’t vote on the bill, which passed.

On Sept. 19, she missed three more votes.

Cheney was back with the House members Sept. 20 and voted on four bills. She also was active Sept. 21, 22 and Wednesday.

On Sept. 21, she was the only Republican of 212 members to vote for two amendments to reform the process for the counting of electoral votes under U.S. Code, which passed on otherwise partisan lines. Shortly after, she was one of nine Republicans to vote for her Presidential Electoral Reform Act, which passed.

No-Vote Draws Ire

Cheney missed one vote Sept. 22, a push to approve considering a bundle of law enforcement-focused legislation drew frustration from some, including two of the most conservative Republicans in the House. 

“The House was one vote away from defeating a Democrat anti-police bill, but Liz Cheney couldn’t be bothered to show up to vote,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, on Twitter.

Conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, also tweeted about Cheney not voting on the bill.

“@Liz_Cheney is so committed to Joe Biden and the Democrats that she just intentionally skipped an anti-police vote that Republicans could have defeated,” Greene tweeted. “She clearly supports the Democrat war on police. Go ahead and switch parties Liz before you’re out of office.”

The resolution passed by a single vote, although U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, a member of “The Squad,” voted “present” on the resolution. The Squad is the handle used to describe a small group of younger, progressive members of the House.

Cheney later voted against three of the four bills in the bundle. The only vote she supported was for the Invest To Protect Act, which 152 Republicans joined with her on. This measure passed.

She missed 16 more votes Thursday.

Other Options

When not physically present for a vote, members of Congress still have an option to vote by proxy, a holdover of the COVID-19 pandemic rules put in place in 2020.

Cheney is vice chair of the Jan. 6 Committee. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, the only other Republican on the committee, also missed every vote Thursday. House Minority Leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, also missed votes that day.

Since losing to Harriet Hageman in the primary, Cheney has voted with the majority of her party 15 times. The three votes mentioned earlier are the only ones in which she voted with a majority of Democrats.

Cheney has vowed to support candidates who oppose former President Donald Trump and the people he has endorsed with her Great Task PAC. She said last week this possibly could include campaigning for Democrats and that she would leave the Republican Party if it endorses Trump for president. 

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Governor Gordon Appoints Karl Allred Interim Secretary of State

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Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has appointed Karl Allred as interim secretary of state. Allred replaces Ed Buchanan, who resigned Sept. 15 after being appointed a District Court judge for the 8th Judicial District.

State law obliges the governor to choose within five days from three names submitted to him by the Republican Central Committee. The other two candidates were Marti Halverson and Bryan Miller. 

“I have selected Mr. Allred from the candidates forwarded to me by Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne,” Gordon said in a short and comparatively bland announcement. “We will coordinate with Mr. Allred to arrange for his swearing in as soon as possible.”

Allred Reaction

Allred told Cowboy State Daily shortly after the announcement was made that he was still a little shocked about being chosen for the appointment.

“I just got the call from the governor,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with him and having a real smooth general election coming up.”

He said he will work to ensure a smooth transition with the elected secretary of state who takes over in January. State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, is expected to win as he has no opponent in the general election.

Allred said he has already spoken to Gray, who congratulated him on the appointment. He said he interviewed with Gordon for the job Thursday and did not know when he will be sworn-in.

The incoming secretary ran unsuccessfully for state House District 19 in this year’s primary and also was defeated in legislative elections in 2014, 2018 and 2020.

Allred will serve until a new secretary of state is sworn in Jan. 2, 2023.

The governor noted that two of Wyoming’s five elected constitutional officers are now unelected appointees as a result of the existing statutory process for replacing statewide elected officials. 

Brian Schroeder was appointed by Gordon in January as superintendent of public instruction after former officeholder Jillian Balow resigned to take a similar position in Virginia. Schroeder lost in his Republican primary last month to Megan Degenfelder.

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Hageman Gives Hundreds Of Thousands To Republican Party, Other Candidates

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Republican U.S. House candidate Harriet Hageman has not been stingy with her campaign money since winning the August primary election.

The Hageman campaign confirmed Thursday that she has transferred $150,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and given more than $100,000 to other House candidates since the primary.

No official campaign information has been filed by the organizations since late July. The next round of campaign finances will come out in mid-October.

On Sept. 12, she designated a new political action committee related to her campaign, the Harriet and Kelly Victory PAC. The campaign is being run on behalf of Hageman and Alaska Senate candidate Republican Kelly Tshibaka. 

John Kemmerer, owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and his wife each have given $5,800 to Tshibaka’s campaign.

Fundraising Efforts

Hageman also sent fundraising emails for the Republican National Committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik’s campaign, the House Conservatives Trust and the former President Donald Trump-aligned PAC Save America.

Through her Hageman For Wyoming campaign, Hageman raised $4.4 million and spent $3.4 million through her campaign, with $947,798 cash in-hand as of July 27, her campaign reports. The Wyoming Values PAC, a former President Donald Trump-aligned political action committee supporting Hageman, raised $1.4 million and spent $1.2 million on her behalf. Trump gave $650,000 to Wyoming Values through his Save America PAC.

Over the next month, Hageman said she plans to campaign in Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina for Republican Congressional candidates . All of the candidates, Eli Crane, Zach Nunn and Bo Hines, have been endorsed by Trump.

On Wednesday night, Hageman hosted an event in Washington, D.C., attended by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and McCarthy.

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Wyoming Legislators To Consider Giving Themselves More Than 50% Raise

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase their salaries by 53%.

The Subcommittee on Legislator Compensation will consider draft legislation next week that would increase the per diem daily salary for state legislators by $80, bumping them from $150 to $230 per day.

There has not been a pay raise for the Legislature since 2005, when the per diem salary was raised to its current level from $125 a day.

The raise wouldn’t go into effect until January 2027.

Currently, Legislators now receive a monthly salary in the months outside of the session ranging roughly from $300-900 depending on their leadership position. 

With all legislative income included, the average lawmaker in Wyoming is compensated about $15,000 to $20,000 a year, said state Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette.

How Does Wyoming Compare?

Pay ranges vary widely throughout the nation’s state legislatures, with New Hampshire paying $100 a year to California, which pays $114,877 annually. Wyoming is one of eight states in the West (and nine overall) to pay legislators a daily rate while in session. Wyoming’s $150 rate is about the middle of the pack in this group.

But the statistic can be misleading as certain states with lower daily rates like Kansas and Nevada pay a per diem for each legislative day, including weekends, of a session. The Wyoming Legislature does not typically convene on weekends. 

Kansas also has passed pay raises in two of the last five years.

The Utah and Idaho constitutions require their legislative compensation commissions to adjust legislative salaries every two years. Colorado and Nevada statutes require legislator salaries to be adjusted at the beginning of each legislative term.

South Dakota pays its legislators at a rate, adjusted each year, of one-fifth of the state’s average household income. This year, that salary was $13,957, a rate of $348 per day over a 40-day session.

Nebraska, conversely, has not issued a raise for its lawmakers since 1988. Legislators there receive a flat monthly salary of $1,000.

Travel And Expenses

Legislators outside Cheyenne now receive a $109 per diem reimbursement on round-trip gas expenses from their hometowns to the Capitol for one trip per week while the Legislature is in session. 

They also receive a $109 daily per diem on expenses while in session. This has not increased since 2008, when it raised from $85 a day. For Cheyenne lawmakers, per diem paid during the session is taxable.

Legislators have the option to waive all or a portion of their per diem.

Since more senior legislators tend to be on more committees, they usually make more money than freshmen representatives and senators. Legislators are paid an additional salary to prepare for interim committee meetings at the rate of half-day salary for each day of the meeting.

State Rep. Mike Greear. R-Worland, said during a July committee meeting that it’s “very, very hard to compare” Wyoming to other states on per diem expenses because of the vast distances between cities in the Cowboy State and comparatively short legislative sessions.

“Our strict adherence to being a citizens’ legislature is in jeopardy with the amount of work that is expected of our individual legislators to do,” Greear said. 

In a separate piece of drafted legislation, this form of reimbursement would be bumped up to $155 a day. This would be increased yearly based on the most recent standard per diem rate established by the U.S. General Services Administration for travel within Wyoming. The change would go into effect in 2024.

Other Efforts

In 2019, the Legislature passed a bill that would have increased the per diem rate to match the federal standard that was $151 at the time. Gov. Mark Gordon vetoed the bill after an amendment was made that would have restricted per diem to a half rate for those who live within 25 miles of the Capitol. 

Connolly said the bill should be revisited without the amendment.

There also were two bills crafted during the 2020 session that would have initiated a $151 rate for per diem expenses, with the more successful of the two failing on a third reading in the Senate.

Overall, $150,000 is earmarked in the state budget each year for these legislator expenses and an additional $50,000 to paying expenses related to members of any state board, commission, council, authority or other state entity that meet throughout the year.

What The Compensation is For

Legislators typically rent a home while in session or stay at a motel or hotel. When all the numbers break down, they receive less than a minimum wage rate for the work they do while in session.

Legislators typically stay at hotels and motels while attending committee meetings throughout the year. Greear mentioned how a recent two-day stay at a mid-tier hotel in Casper cost him nearly $300 for his attendance at a Joint Minerals meeting. He said costs are even higher in other parts of the state.

Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, agreed, saying she previously felt the per diem rate was adequate, but no longer so because of inflation.

“The cosmic calculus is no longer working anymore,” she said. 

Also An Allowance

There also is a bill drafted that would increase legislator’s quarterly constituent allowance by an undetermined amount from the current $750 per quarter. 

“This allowance is intended to defray expenses incurred by each member in providing service to and on behalf of their constituents, which services are in addition to attending sessions of the legislature, attending meetings of interim committees and engaging in authorized interim work,” state law reads.

A separate piece of draft legislation allows legislators representing a district equal or greater to 2,000 square miles to receive an additional up to $750 per quarter reimbursement for mileage and lodging costs incurred in providing service to and on behalf of a member’s constituents. Legislators representing districts with multiple counties, municipalities, a community college district and multiple school districts may also be eligible for this reimbursement. 

Workload

In 2021, the Legislature averaged 155 working days, up from 103 in 2005.

“Legislators are dedicating more of their time to legislative duties throughout the year,” said Legislative Service Office Committee staffer Matt Obrecht.

The state Legislature only met every other year prior to 1972. 

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, an eight-year member of the Legislature, said she has noticed an increase in workload. She mentioned the vast amount of communications she has had to handle as a member of the Appropriation Committee in response to two canal breaches in her community.

“I feel like as citizen legislators, many times we’re reinventing the wheel because we don’t have that kind of consistent staff support that could maybe help us navigate these situations,” she said.

What About Staff?

She said consideration should also be given to increasing staff at the Legislature. 

The Legislative Services Office at the Capitol has grown from 30 staffers in 2006 to the 45 who work in the office now. Obrecht said he would like his office to ideally have 50-55 staff members.

Wyoming has 0.4 nonpartisan staffers for each legislator, compared to Nebraska and Nevada that have more than 4.5 staffers per legislator, and Colorado with 2.2. 

Greear there are certain committees that take up so much time and energy that they take away significant time from a legislator’s occupation and family life.

“These are things we have to consider,” he said, suggesting a decrease to the number of days the legislators convene each year. 

Barlow, who chairs the subcommittee, offered a similar sentiment, posing the idea of putting a cap on how many committees a legislator could sit on.

There is also a bill drafted that would make legislators eligible for the state’s prepaid group insurance plans. The state does not now offer insurance to legislators.

“I do think we’re seriously in a position where we’re lacking good quality candidates who can’t afford to step away from their full-time jobs because they can’t afford to lose their health insurance for themselves or their families,” said Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne. “Stepping away from a full job to serve in the Legislature costs a lot of us money.”

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Explainer: Senate President, Speaker Of House Hold Significant Sway in Wyoming Legislature

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Although they are positions elected through a secret vote and typically with little fanfare, the Senate president and speaker of the House hold important power and significance in the Wyoming Legislature.

The leaders of the legislative body’s two chambers are in charge of tasked with determining which members of the Legislature are put on certain committees and leaders of those respective committees’ respective chairmen.

They also play an important role in deciding which bills are brought up for discussion and voted on in their respective chambers. A president or speaker can single-handedly kill bills they don’t want to pass or view as having little chance of passing. They also decide which committees bills are is sent to, influencing their chances of passing in a more indirect, yet still-significant manner based on the members who sit on a particular board.

“Bills can be shaped depending on what committee they send it to because they know the houses and how they really feel about things,” said state Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, the longest-serving member of the Legislature. “They’ve been elected by the majority of the majority party, and they understand the system and what it wants.”

Voice Of Experience

Few likely know the Legislature better than Scott, first elected to the Legislature in 1979. He’s writing a book about his experiences.

Before Scott joined the Legislature, he attended the 1975 session as a lobbyist. That year, Republicans and Democrats had an even split in the Senate. He said legislators came to an agreement that a Democrat would be Senate president and a Republican majority floor leader.

“It was one of the most productive sessions I’ve ever seen,” Scott said, adding the experience influenced him to run for the state House four years later. “I thought it would be a lot more fun to come down and get to vote.”

Scott said although the Legislature has become more partisan over the years, most bills handled there is not. The Legislature is a machine made of many gears and parts, which must all learn to work together. Certain parts just happen to be more equal than others.

The Senate president and speaker of the House are “very influential in what happens, but everyone has a say, not just one vote,” Scott said. “It takes a coalition, but the leadership is very influential in that.”

Scott said the majority floor leaders also play significant roles, typically working as a team with either the Senate president or the House speaker. The floor leaders provide insight to the president and speaker about who should be on committees, and they control the scheduling of bills.

“They can really set the tone of the session, whether it’s more liberal or conservative,” Scott said. “They are instrumental in setting the tone.”

Republican Majority

Because of the Republican Party’s overwhelming majority in the Legislature, Scott said the Democratic Party’s power has diminished over the years, and correspondingly so has the power of that party’s minority floor leaders. The Senate president and speaker of the House negotiate with the minority floor leaders about how many seats their party members will get on each committee.

Although unlikely, the Democratic Party could be superseded by the Libertarian Party in the Legislature after the general election, as that party has seven candidates running.

But Scott also mentioned how certain floor minority floor leaders like Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, can still hold political sway because of his personality and trustworthiness, despite being one of only two Democrats in the state Wyoming Senate.

“If a discussion gets off the rails, he helps get it back on,” Scott said. “Chris has mastered the art of correcting without being offensive. Republicans lean on him.”

This campaign season, certain candidates have kept these positions in the backs of their minds.

Senate Outlook

State Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said one his main inspirations for running again was the opportunity to be Senate president. Driskill, the current majority floor leader, is likely in line to be the next president if he wins reelection in November. 

Driskill must first get through write-in candidate Roger Connett in the general election. Driskill beat Connett by 442 votes in the primary, but Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, was also in the race, receiving more than 1,000 votes.

Fortner and Rep. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, have said Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, recruited Connett to run for office as a way to pull votes away from Fortner’s campaign. Fortner said this was done with the expectation Driskill would win, and thus allow Bear to stay in good favor with a highly influential member of the Legislature. 

During a July interview, Bear said his only focus of the election season has been to get conservative candidates elected.

“One position can really control the flow of bills,” he said.

House Outlook

In the House, Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, is the majority floor leader and said he plans to run for speaker if reelected. He is largely expected to win his race as he has no opponent. Sommers has served in the Legislature since 2013 and has held a leadership ranking since 2017.

Sommers, ranked the 43rd least conservative member of the House out of 60 members by WyoVote.com, may not be conservative enough for some legislators’ liking. Scott said the speaker of the House has tended to be more moderate over the years.

There also has been discussion about Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, being a candidate for speaker, which Bear indicated he would support. 

“I would support the most conservative candidate,” he said.

Jennings, who is one of the most conservative legislators, holds no leadership ranking but has been in the House since 2015. Bear said Jennings ran for speaker in 2020.

Bear said on the Vic Wright Show on Monday he expects the House Freedom Caucus, of which he is chairman and Jennings a member, to gain seats heading into the 2023 Legislature.

Nonpartisan voting for leadership positions will take place in December.

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Write-In Candidates Seeking To Unseat Incumbents (And Chuck Gray) In Wyoming General Election

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

In addition to the 20 third-party candidates who will be on general election ballots in November, there also are a number of write-ins vying for offices around Wyoming.

Although write-in campaigns typically face an uphill battle by relying on voters to physically write a candidate’s name in for a correct race, there are a few examples where these campaigns have succeeded. In 2010, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, won her general election on a write-in campaign, receiving more than 100,000 votes. 

The Murkowski write-in campaign was expensive and used extensive electioneering efforts to help make voters aware of her candidacy.

Technically, anyone can be a write-in candidate, but only certain write-ins are viable candidates.

Senate District 1

One of the most prominent write-in campaigns in Wyoming is for Senate District 1, where write-in candidate Roger Connett is taking on state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. Driskill beat Connett in the Republican primary by 442 votes. Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, also ran in the race, receiving 1,736 votes. 

“Our legislator only got 40% of the vote,” said Moorcroft resident Jeff Burian, who is campaigning for Connett. “Sixty percent of the district wanted somebody else.”

Burian is treasurer of the Roger is Right Campaign, a political candidate committee set up on Connett’s behalf that he describes as a “grassroots” effort. He said he expects the donations his group has been receiving to give it enough strength to give Connett a solid chance at winning.

Burian said the group is planning a formal campaign with door knocking and advertising efforts. The campaign also may tap into the $27,000 recently raised by Connett, former chairman of the Crook County Republican Party, and the rest of his party for Republican candidates around the state, but Burian said Connett will not be involved in campaigning efforts.

Wyoming state law precludes a candidate who had his or her name on a primary ballot from campaigning or being printed on the general election ballot.

This race will have significant implications for Senate president. If elected in the general election, Driskill is expected by many to be a likely candidate for the role as he is the sitting Senate majority leader. He has said being Senate president is one of the main reasons he decided to run for reelection.

If he doesn’t win, it may open the door for Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, to take the role as he is the current Senate vice president.

Governor

Another write-in campaign is taking place for governor, as Republican primary candidate Brent Bien made a post Sept. 12 advertising his candidacy as a write-in, announcing himself as an “America First Candidate.”

Although Bien finished second to Gov. Mark Gordon in the Republican primary, he lost by a large margin. Bien was supported by many leading members of the Wyoming Republican Party during his campaign.

Secretary Of State

In the race for secretary of state, Rebekah Fitzgerald, a Cheyenne political consultant, said there is an informal movement to write state Sen. Tara Nethercott’s name on the ballot, but no organized effort has come forward. She said phone calls were made to former Murkowski staff about how to run a successful write-in campaign.

“There were some conversations, but we’re kind of getting to a spot where it’s like, ‘are you or aren’t you going to do it?’” she said. “Quite a few folks are interested in writing her name.”

Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, ran in the primary election, finishing second to state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper. Gray has no official challengers in the general election.

The Crossover Effect

Crossover voting could be one inspiration for some of the write-in candidates. Many Democrats were inspired to register as Republicans so they could vote in the Wyoming congressional race between U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman. These voters were more likely to vote for moderate Republicans who shared views more similar to that of their own.

Cheyenne Democrat Jen Solis received enough write-in votes in the primary for House District 41 to qualify as an official candidate for the general election, as there was no Democrat officially running in this race during the primary. Solis accepted the write-in nomination and is now running against Rep. Bill Henerson, R-Cheyenne. 

“Even though she’s a write-in candidate, don’t write that one off,” said Marcie Kindred, a Democrat running in Senate District 7. Solis also is Kindred’s campaign treasurer. 

Senate District 23

Republican Patricia Junek likely received more than 800 votes while running a formal write-in campaign during the primary election against Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, for Senate District 23. 

She now is running as an Independent against Barlow in the general election.

To get on the ballot as an Independent, Junek had to collect at least 379 signatures from registered voters.

Junek said she originally intended to run as an Independent, but misunderstood the state’s laws and incorrectly thought doing so would require her to unregister as a member of the Republican Party. 

“We’re very against crossover voting,” she said.

Junek’s confusion led her to start a write-in campaign for the primary, which she now views as a blessing in disguise as it allows the public to become familiar with her. She said she was prevented from participating in multiple political forums because they did not see her as an official candidate.

“A formal write-in campaign also helps with public recognition,” she said.

Junek, who typically goes by “Patty,” opted to go by “Patricia” in her write-in candidacy so there was no confusion about the spelling of her first name, even though she found out later this extra effort was probably unnecessary. 

Although there were about 8,000 votes where Murkowski’s name was misspelled in 2010, the courts in Alaska allowed the votes to stand. In Wyoming, it is up to the discretion of county clerks to decide what misspellings they will accept, but Junek said most are fairly lenient on the matter as long as there isn’t another candidate in the same race with a similar name.

Junek said she expects to receive many more votes in November, as people will now get to see her name on the ballot, which she expects will “alleviate confusion.” She also pointed out that there were 805 undervotes in her race (people who voted in other races) but did not cast a vote in hers.

“There were that many people who voted but didn’t vote for Eric Barlow,” she said. “Would they have voted for me if they saw my name on the ballot?”

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Democrat Marcie Kindred Trying To Unseat GOP Sen. Stephan Pappas In Cheyenne Senate Battle

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@cowboystatedaily.com

There isn’t much separation in the political stances of Democrat Marcie Kindred and Wyoming State Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, but on abortion, their positions are miles apart.

There also is contention between the opponents about their availability to work in the Wyoming Legislature, with Kindred calling out Pappas as sexist for questioning the time she could spend as a lawmaker as she is still raising children and working full time.

Kindred is challenging Pappas, who is running for a third term to represent Senate District 7 in the Wyoming Legislature.

He supported Wyoming’s trigger law that went into effect this year, banning all abortions in the state except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or when the pregnancy stemmed from a rape or incest. The law was triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“If you have a fairly healthy mother who wants an abortion for their convenience sake, to me that’s murder,” Pappas said.

Pappas said he finds abortion to be a state’s rights issue and opposes legislation crafted by U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, that would return the issue to being afederally guided mandate, unless a state has stricter laws.

Kindred is primarily pro-choice and says she sees abortion as a health care decision. She’s unhappy with the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, but said she has confidence Wyoming will make the right decision on the controversial issue.

“You can choose to be against abortion, but you do not get to choose for anyone else,” Kindred said, adding she has seen a “whole spectrum of perspectives” on the issue, from family planning to pregnancy complications.

“Abortions save lives of countless women,” she said.

She also supports providing more resources and postnatal care to women so they don’t feel financially obligated to have abortions. 

“We need to get the government out of our lives and out of the hands of people that make decisions for others on this – the lawmakers,” she said.

Double standard?

Pappas, who is retired, said he has extensive free time to devote to the Legislature and works every day for it. In the last three years, Pappas has sponsored six bills.

He questioned Kindred’s ability to devote enough time to the Legislature because she works full time and is raising children.

Kindred countered by saying a man with a similar background as hers would never be doubted the way Pappas says.

“It’s a blatantly sexist argument about my ability to legislate effectively,” she said. “I have a supportive office and team at work, an incredibly supportive husband, family and community. Men are not asked how they will ‘juggle it all.’ It’s an absurd argument.”

Kindred said simply being retired shouldn’t be seen as a job qualification and that more diversity is needed in the Legislature, which she believes is primarily filled with retired, affluent individuals. She wants more working-class people serving in this body. 

“I love the idea of a citizen’s legislature,” she said. “We need to work hard for young, hard-working families to be able to participate.”

Kindred also pointed out that Pappas missed the last day of the last legislative session to attend a parade out of the country, and he often travels internationally. She said hisabsence led to a critical delay in the redistricting process because an initial draft failed to pass by one vote. She said this affected the final outcome of that work.

He also failed to attend the special session held on COVID-19 restrictions in late 2021.

“I know what it means to show up for Cheyenne,” Kindred said. “Not being present is not being in touch with your constituents.”

Experience

Pappas is chairman of the Select Committee on School Facilities and a member of the Senate Revenue and Highways, Transportation and Military Affairs committees.

A former architect, Pappas said his experience designing school facilities is integral to his work on the School Facilities Committee. Pappas designed the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center, University of Wyoming High Altitude Performance Center and a handful of school buildings in the Cheyenne area.

“My talents suit well for serving on the School Facilities (Committee),” he said. 

Pappas also is a liaison to the State Building Commission and said that he’s “brought my know-how on many issues.”

Pappas served in the National Guard for 24 years. After retiring, he decided to run for the Legislature in 2014.

“It kind of made sense to me,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to give back to the state and country.”

In this year’s primary, he faced opponents for the first time since 2014, but still won his race by a healthy margin.

Kindred is a real estate agent and mother of four. After a relatively quiet, unopposed primary, she has stepped up her campaign efforts for the general election putting up a significant number of yard signs and a large billboard in a main Cheyenne corridor.

Kindred ran for House District 8 in 2020, losing to Rep. Bob Nicholas by 6% of the vote.

“There are things just not being done,” Kindred said of her desire to run again. “I just felt unrepresented and unheard.”

Kindred said she wants to make Wyoming a place her children will want to live after they graduate from high school. She sees the people of SD 7 possessing a “strong, considerate voice of reason” and overall moderate views. 

Spending

Pappas said he supports limited government, but also wants the government fully funded. A member of the Revenue Committee for the last two years, Pappas said he is well-versed with the state’s budget and wrote a scholarly paper about it.

Pappas said Wyoming needs to improve its road infrastructure and finds the Cowboy Statehighways “woefully behind” other states. He said new funding mechanisms will be needed for these corridors, heavily dependent on the gas tax for revenue. As electric cars become more prevalent, there will be less revenue produced through this source.

Pappas is a fervent supporter of Medicaid expansion and the state’s mental health services. Unlike many other Republican legislators, he isn’t opposed to accepting federal money, expressing disgust that the state has turned away what he said amounts to about $1 billion in federal grants.

“I don’t understand why we can’t accept federal dollars,” he said. “I’m not afraid to tell people what I believe. Why are we turning these dollars away? It doesn’t make sense.”

Kindred, who also works for Healthy Wyoming, also supports Medicaid expansion and a recent draft bill being considered in the Legislature to expand Medicaid for postpartum care. 

 “It’s a Band-Aid, I’m 100% in favor of (it),” she said. “It’s a way to expand Medicaid as a whole. Let’s get that one and expand.”

She said she sees expanding Medicaid as a way to better recognize Wyoming’s voices.

Pappas said providing better health care in Wyoming will attract more insurance providers and a larger, more-educated workforce. He said the state has done a poor job attracting businesses to the state. 

“If you don’t like new taxes, then add taxpayers,” he said.

 Pappas said the state needs to develop a better funding model and supports an “all-of-the-above” energy policy. He describes himself as “very pro fossil fuel” but also wants the state to pursue and support alternate sources of energy like wind, carbon capture and carbon-sourced building beams. 

Pappas also supports the Natrium nuclear power plant that will be built in Kemmerer and harnessing geothermal energy, mentioning how Nevada has 17 geothermal the plants while Wyoming has none. 

“We have such good geothermal assets in Wyoming,” Pappas said. “It’s very clean. Why we don’t do that I don’t know. We have abandoned wells everywhere.”

Kindred has a similar energy stance. She has experience with the issue firsthand as she has a family member who recently lost a job at the Sinclair refinery.

Kindred said she would like to continue supporting traditional fossil fuels while investing in new alternative energy opportunities. She does not see a bright future for fossil fuels in the long-term picture.

“I’m not going to do anything that damages hard-working families,” she said. “I want to focus on them. How do we prepare them for investing more in the future? We’re not doing them any favors without having honest conversations about our energy future.”

Education

Pappas, a former member of the Education Committee, describes himself as pro-education and said all schools in Wyoming need to be properly funded.

All of Kindred’s children are enrolled in Wyoming schools and said this connection gives her insight into the value of public education in the state.

Her two oldest boys went to a one-room schoolhouse from kindergarten through sixth grade.

“They got the same education in-town kids get,” she said. “That’s the promise of education in Wyoming.”

Kindred is concerned that by cutting funding for educational programs like the arts and sports, it will lead to more school dropouts.

“Education is only as good as the extracurricular activities being offered,” she said. “There should always be reasons to make sure money is spent wisely, but you’re going to have to continue to fund this.”

Pappas said too much attention is given to critical race theory, and he doesn’t believe it’s being taught in Wyoming’s schools. Although Pappas said there is “much bigger fish to fry,” he also said people should keep an eye out for this type of curriculum.

“It’s something we need to be concerned about,” he said.

Kindred said critical race theory, which she describes as a graduate school-level area of study, is being used as a flashpoint to divide Americans and is not concerned with its presence in schools. She said she supports local control and leaving it up to teachers to decide what is taught to their students.

“It’s not the job of lawmakers to mettle with schools and their curriculum,” she said. 

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Republican’s Proposal Would Give Party Authority To Determine Who Can Represent GOP

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

State GOP committeeman Joey Correnti has drafted a framework for legislation that would drastically change elections and the power of political parties in Wyoming. 

If adopted by a member or committee of the Wyoming Legislature, the resulting bill would make political parties mostly private entities under Wyoming elections law. 

Wyoming election laws provide guidelines for how political parties are to elect officers and conduct meetings. Correnti said the laws are over-regulated and infringe on the Wyoming Constitution’s guarantee of political equality in the state.

He said his draft would bridge a stronger connection between elections and party politics, allowing political parties to decide who could run as a member of their parties in general elections, thereby making crossover voting mostly moot. 

“This is why it would make crossover voting pointless and why it would combat low Democratic turnout that has been so weak in their primaries,” Correnti said. “It would muddle those robust efforts to subvert other parties’ elections.”

Party Choice

It also would give political parties power to directly appoint officials to fill vacancies in precinct committee positions. 

“The party should be able to pick their own nominees,” he said. 

In a state where the Republican Party holds a significant majority, the new rules would give the party even more power and say in the outcome of elections. Simultaneously, it also would give it and other political parties more autonomy from state oversight.

“I think the majority of the Legislature is going in the opposite direction,” said state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, chair of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. “I think we’re going the other way from what the (Republican) Party wants. They would like more power as far as choice and we would like to give the people of Wyoming, irrespective of party, more power on that choice.”

A bill was recently drafted in Zwonitzer’s committee that contradicts a few aspects of Correnti’s framework, calling for special elections to fill vacancies.

Correnti said he has talked with various legislators about his framework and some have expressed interest in his proposed bill. He declined to divulge the identity of the lawmakers in deference to the ongoing general election campaign season.

“There are some people working on it,” he said. “It’s gaining traction.”


State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne

Title 22

Wyoming’s election codes are dictated by Title 22 of state law. Correnti has proposed dramatically altering this section under his proposal, titled “Political Party Equality Version of Title 22.”

Jennifer Lowe, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, said although Title 22 isn’t perfect, it’s served the people of Wyoming well.

“We support changes that elect candidates who represent the greatest number of Wyomingites,” she said.

Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, also is a member of the Corporations committee and agrees, saying he thinks Title 22 works as now written.

“The party statutes that come into play are carefully drafted with balance, and I think it should stay that way,” he said.

In January, the state GOP passed a resolution to repeal language in Title 22 that causes “political inequality.”

Under Correnti’s plan, major and minor political party designations would be eliminated, which he said unjustly allows the state to treat political parties differently based on their size. Under his plan, parties would gain an “established” status by fielding candidates for either U.S. House, Senate, governor, secretary of state or Wyoming Legislature in two consecutive general elections cycles.

At first glance, it may seem this change would benefit the Wyoming Democratic Party in the short term, which is technically at risk of losing its major party status in the upcoming general election, after rampant crossover voting during the primary led to 94% of the turnout being Republican. In reality, the party is unlikely to lose its status based on election data from recent years showing a much higher turnout for Democrats in general elections than primaries.

The change could elevate the status of minor political parties like the Constitution and Libertarian parties to a small degree. Minor political parties are not allowed to participate in Wyoming’s primaries. Correnti said the proposed framework would eliminate partisan primary elections. Under current law, voters can’t elect third-party candidates until the general election in Wyoming.

“People are confused why they don’t get the ballot of the Constitution Party in the primary election,” Correnti said. 

He said under his framework, “the Constitution Party may lose candidates. It may turn into something else, but at least it’s the voice of the people.”

Thinning The Herd

Correnti’s framework would require political parties to determine who gets to run for their parties during general elections. This process would take place through county and state party conventions, similar to the current process used for electing delegates. 

“There’s a process to thin the herd,” Correnti said. 

Under current Wyoming law, political candidates with the most votes in the primary election advance to the general. 

Correnti argued that people would still have an opportunity to be elected to office through a grassroots process that represents the people. He said the process would build a stronger relationship between the people and political parties.

“Power and unity,” he said. “That will be what decides the (party’s) central committees. That power could change the makeup of the party at any time. Democrats could take over the Republican Party as long as they follow the process.”

Although Correnti is technically correct, the number of people who participate in county party conventions is traditionally far fewer than 10% of the number of people who vote in primary elections.

Under the framework, the chairman of a state party and their party members would certify which candidates get to run for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, all executive state and legislative offices. The chairman of a county party, and their county party members would certify which candidates for elected county offices.

The framework would remove all state law governing the way political parties elect and determine the quantity of their precinct committeemen as well as conduct their meetings and conventions.

It also would forbid people from changing their party registration less than 14 days before a primary election. Under the framework, parties could decide how competitive they would like their primary races to be. It would prohibit candidates who ran and lost in any primary election from having their name printed on a general election ballot. 

“Power and unity. That will be what decides the (party’s) central committees. That power could change the makeup of the party at any time. Democrats could take over the Republican Party as long as they follow the process.”

Joey Correnti, State GOP committeeman

Effect

The state GOP has become more conservative in recent years, openly opposing members from the moderate wing of the party and sometimes refusing to recognize them as Republicans. If passed, the legislation may cause the moderate faction to splinter off and create their own party so they can participate in primary elections.

Correnti said deciding primary candidates at the party level would allow the state to save extensive ballot printing costs associated with crowded primary elections.

The framework achieves similar goals to legislation crafted by state Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, last year that, if passed, would have instituted runoff elections in the state. 

The framework, like Neiman’s bill, moves up primary elections and allows parties to electnot only their favorite, but preferred candidates. 

Lowe said her organization does not support runoff elections, which are more expensive and lead to lower voter turnout. She said it does support changes to state law that would initiate open primaries with ranked choice voting.

“ESPC will always support policies and legislation that increases voter participation and election competitiveness that generates policy makers who represent the greatest number of people living in the state,” she said.

Public vs. Private

Correnti said political parties should be treated like more private entities like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations.

Rod Miller, a former Wyoming land policy advisor to two governors and Cowboy State Daily columnist, said he would support total privatization to Wyoming’s political parties and removing all reference to political parties in Title 22.

“The parties always characterize themselves as private organizations,” he said. “They don’t want the state monkeying around in their business.

“There should be no legal relationship between a sovereign state government and private political parties.”

This topic is one of the few that Correnti and Miller somewhat agree on.

“We both agreed we need to get the government out of the party processes,” Correnti said. “That’s one of the few things we agree upon since the beginning.”

The critical nuance between Miller and Correnti’s ideas is that Miller’s wouldn’t give political parties any more power or the ability to directly elect or nominate candidates.

“They’re trying to use state statute to influence the Republican Party,” Miller said.

Likelihood

Correnti admits his framework has a long way to go as far as determining exact languageand how his ideas would exactly fit into law. But he’s serious about the proposed legislation and said he will try to have it addressed in the upcoming legislative session. Delaying it until the 2024 budget session would result in the legislation not going into effect until the 2026 election cycle at the earliest.

Zwonitzer said he wouldn’t be likely to consider any legislation incorporating Correnti’s ideas unless it came from a sitting legislator. 

“If he could ask a legislator to redraft it (Title 22),” Zwonitzer said. “That’s a lot to ask, to ask a legislator to redraft our elections code to take political parties out.”

Based on bills recently drafted by the board, most of the current Corporations Committee is aligned with Zwonitzer’s perspectives on elections. The makeup of the committee may change significantly in the next session, however, as at least six of its 14 members are changing because of lawmakers retiring or being voted out of office. It is up to the Senate president and the speaker of the house to decide who is on a particular committee and who gets to be its chair.

Boner is not up for reelection this year and does not favor Correnti’s legislation. He said it contradicts his efforts to not only make sure elections are as secure as possible, but also that the public’s perception of this civic duty is just as secure.

“It contradicts everything I’ve been doing to make elections more secure and run with integrity,” Boner said.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the proposed changes to Wyoming’s election process would affect general elections, not primary elections. The process for vacancy appointments would be unchanged except for party precinct positions, which would be determined by parties.

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Fremont County Commission Chairman Calls Election Skeptics ‘Ding Dongs’

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
leo@cowboystatedaily.com

Fremont County Commission Chairman Travis Becker had some less-than-complimentary words for those who question the security of his county’s elections.

“We still have ding dongs that are questioning, in our own county,” Becker said during a Sept. 13 commission meeting.

State Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, spoke against the nature of Becker’s comment at the meeting.

“I always appreciate your candor, but I don’t appreciate the name calling,” Ottman said. “We need to be respectful of one another and as you expect that, the citizens of Fremont County expect that as well.”

Becker responded and defended his comment, saying “so be it.”

“I call it as I see it and I don’t mince words, representative,” he said.

Ottman issued a polite response and the commissioners moved on to another topic.

Eating His Words

Becker apologized for his comments afterward.

“I regret saying it,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Monday evening. “We all have the right to free speech under the First Amendment but that does not give us the right to be name calling.

“Whether you’re a commissioner or the president of the United States, it’s not acceptable.”

Becker said the point he was trying to make may have been “lost in the noise in making a rash statement.”

He made his comment in response to $10,000 the county is spending this year to outsource the coding of its election ballots. The cost was planned for in the county’s budget established in June but is something it hasn’t done before.

“We’ve never had to, but in order to shut people up, and it’s still not going to shut people up, we’re still having people question that, and it’s unfortunate,” Becker said during the meeting. “It should disgust the voters, it really should.”

Coding election ballots includes designing the layout of where candidate names appear and ensuring the layout aligns with voting machines.

“Because of folks having no understanding of the election process, how secure it is in Fremont County,” Becker said. “For you and your staff to have to go to these lengths, that’s the additional cost to ensure the election was free of fraud. Unfortunate that we had to go to that route.”

Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese concurred with Becker’s statement. 

“There’s a lot of mistrust of elections,” she said. “This is nothing new.”

She and Chief Deputy Clerk Margy Irvine performed this job in the past, working a series of nights and weekends to prepare the ballots. 

“We knew we could save the county money, we’ve done this for a very long time,” she said. 

Freese said handing this duty off to election machine company ES&S, which she said she “absolutely trusts,” allows her and the county to avoid potential scrutiny and legal action from those questioning the integrity of their work.

“I think that’s safer for Fremont County to not have people questioning what we’re doing,” Freese said.

Freese won her reelection bid in the August primary by a large margin.

Snack Time

Ding dongs also is the name of a popular snack cake made by Hostess and likely isn’t the most offensive name someone has ever been called. 

But Becker’s sentiment was not lighthearted, saying he suspects there are people all around the state who have come to inaccurate conclusions about election security without doing proper research.

This spring in Park County, a group of constituents requested a hand count audit of the county’s 2020 election results before consulting with the county’s election staff.

“I’m positive it’s happening in every county in this state,” Becker said.

Freese also mentioned how there is some misunderstanding about the fact elections around the state are almost entirely run on the county level.

“I want to protect the local people who are running elections here and try to keep you (commissioners) free from running lawsuits,” Freese said. “I don’t need the headache, I don’t need the scrutiny.”

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Liz Cheney Says She Will Campaign Against Republicans

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Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney continued her departure from Republican Party loyalty on Saturday, saying she will campaign against GOP nominees for governor in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both candidates – Kari Lake of Arizona and Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania – have questioned the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“That’s the kind of thing we cannot see in our party. We cannot see an accommodation like that,” Cheney said at a festival put on by the left-of-center Texas Tribune on Saturday. “And I think it’s very important that we be clear about that.”

Lake is the Republican nominee for governor in Arizona, running against Democrat Katie Hobbs in the general election.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Kari Lake is not elected,” Cheney said.

Lake shot back in an interview on Fox News on Sunday, mentioning Cheney’s primary election loss in August.

“That might be the biggest, best gift I’ve ever received,” Lake said. “I mean, the people of Wyoming can’t stand her. I’m pretty much sure that the people of Arizona don’t like Liz Cheney.”



A Larger Effort

Lake, along with the Arizona Republican nominees for secretary of state and attorney general, have called for decertification of the 2020 election.

Cheney has consistently spoken out against those who question the results of the 2020 election, saying this rhetoric and its corresponding actions is an attack on the U.S. Constitution and one of the root causes of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Former President Donald Trump has been at the forefront of 2020 election claims. Cheney also said Saturday that she will leave the Republican Party if Trump wins the party’s nominee for president in 2024.

“If he is the nominee, I won’t be a Republican,” she said.

Although Cheney did not clarify specific candidates she plans on supporting in Arizona and Pennsylvania, she said her campaign against Lake and Mastriano could include endorsing their Democratic opponents. 

Candidates from the Independent-Green Party and Libertarian Party also are running in the Arizona governor’s race, and candidates from the Green, Libertarian and Keystone Party of Pennsylvania are running for governor in that state.

“The Independent voter and the moderate Democrats and the moderate Republicans around this country want sanity,” Cheney said. “And they want responsibility. And they want to know that their elected officials are serious.”

Although Cheney said she as supported Republican Virginia Gov. Glen Youngkin because he “hasn’t bought into the toxin of Donald Trump,” she also criticized him Saturday for supporting Lake.

Important Races

President Joe Biden’s 2020 election wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania were some of the most contested results in the nation, with many Trump supporters levying claims of fraud and irregularities. The claims were almost entirely unsupported.

Arizona’s governor race will be of particular interest to watch, as Biden was the first Democrat to win that state since 1996. If Lake does not win the election, it could be a sign that voters are still unwilling to give Trump their support and a bellwether for his chances in the 2024 presidential election. Conversely, if Lake wins, it could be a positive sign for Trump’s 2024 hopes.

Pennsylvania is a traditional swing state and will be another important marker for the 2024 election. 

Mastriano has not yet responded to Cheney’s comments.

He was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and, like Lake, has been one of the driving voices behind Trump’s claims the 2020 election was illegitimate. He proposed giving the Pennsylvania Legislature the power to designate its own slate of presidential electors and pushed for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election.

“I think we have to do everything we can in ’22 to make sure those people don’t get elected,” said Cheney. “We have to make sure Mastriano doesn’t win.”

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Wyoming GOP Selects Three Candidates For Interim Secretary Of State

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

PAVILLION — The Wyoming Republican Party’s process used to select an interim secretary of state Saturday was in many ways a test of allegiance to GOP secretary of state nominee state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper. The three finalists chosen by the party each emphasized their support for Gray.

“The biggest thing in this interim position is to make sure the election is done and the smoothest transition for Chuck Gray,” said candidate Karl Allred, one of the chosen three finalists. “There could be a lot of land mines thrown. … The biggest thing is to ensure a clean transition until Chuck Gray is in office.”

Allred, Marti Halverson and Bryan Miller were selected as finalists for the interim secretary of state position during Saturday’s Republican Central Committee meeting in Pavillion. Gov. Mark Gordon will have five days to select an interim secretary of state from the three finalists.

Halverson had the most votes with 55. Miller was second with 52 and Allred third with 43 votes.

“I am thrilled that my central committee has given me their vote of confidence today,” Halverson told Cowboy State Daily.

Of the 72 voting members, 19 participated virtually. 

Miller, Sheridan County GOP chairman, said he has “a ton of experience to do something like this.” 

The Sheridan resident has been involved with the county party since 2015 and ran against Gray when they both unsuccessfully pursued the GOP nod for Wyoming’s U.S. House seat. Miller also ran for U.S. Senate in 2014. 

Miller lost both his state House and party precinct races this year. A recent change made to state party bylaws will still allow him to run for another term as chairman next spring.

“Someone needs to go down to Cheyenne to ensure the integrity of the general election is upheld,” he said. 

Allred, a Uinta County Republican Party committeeman, is the longest continuously serving GOP Central Committee member. If chosen by Gordon, he said the office will pass over “flawlessly” to the permanent secretary of state, who takes office in January.

“This is not a job, this is an interim placeholder,” Allred said.

In an interview after being chosen as a finalist, Allred gave more importance to the position, saying the appointed candidate will be in charge of overseeing the Secretary of State’s office.

Miller agreed with the placeholder synopsis.

“No matter how you slice it, of course it is. It’s three months.” he said



Elections Oversight

Marti Halverson and Allred placed specific focus on facilitating a smooth transition to the next secretary of state, largely expected to be Gray, who does not have an opponent in the general election.

Halverson, a former state legislator and president of Right To Life of Wyoming, said she will “do whatever Chuck needs me to do.”

Mark Armstrong, an Albany County Republican Party committeeman, finished third in the Republican primary for secretary of state with more than 14,000 votes. On Saturday, he received three.

During his speech, Armstrong said he would “take some of the heat” for issues Gray wants to get done, such as banning voting drop boxes. The commitment to ban theboxes was a major campaign promise of Gray’s. Allred also said all ballot drop boxes need to be eliminated, but did not say whether he would try to enact this before Gray gets to office. 

Allread also mentioned a need to further strengthen the state’s voter ID laws. Gray helped pass a voter ID law in 2021. Halverson mentioned how an ID is not required to acquire an absentee ballot. 

Mary Lankford, who finished in fifth with 13 votes, was Sublette County clerk for 32 years and the only candidate who has worked directly in elections. One of the chief duties of the secretary of state is to oversee the state’s elections. 

Lankford also mentioned the Secretary of State’s office performed a clean audit report of the primary election.

“Wyoming’s elections have integrity. (I would be) just continuing the good work they’re doing by overseeing the process,”she said.

Lankford said she is “obligated” to vote for Gray in the general election and would wait to speak to him about a transition plan, but not until after the general election. Miller said he would not wait until after the general election to speak with Gray despite him being an active candidate for the job. Allred acknowledged this possible conflict, but was vague when asked whether it would stop him from communicating with Gray.

“I talk to everybody,” he said.



‘A Horrible Precedent’

Armstrong described attempts by certain members of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee to weaken the secretary of state’s duties and create a nonpartisan voting commission as “abhorrent.” Miller said these efforts “set a horrible precedent.”

Halverson spearheaded a recent campaign through her own Election Integrity and Security Committee to audit elections from several precincts in Laramie and Fremont counties. The committee prepared a long report that was shared with former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, citing a number of shortcomings it believes exist in Wyoming’s elections. 

Halverson also said electronic poll books have caused significant problems and is something she wants to address.

“Everything I do in the next three months would be with one goal: facilitating a smooth transition for the next secretary of state,” she said.

Halverson was chosen as a finalist for interim superintendent of public instruction in January, but not selected by Governor Gordon.

Miller and Armstrong also took time to talk about what they believe are problems with the integrity of elections in their respective counties. Miller claimed a number of election code infractions have happened in Sheridan, drawing concern from him and others.

“They were allowing certain things to happen that started small,” he said. “The broken window was there. If you don’t fix the window, the more people will take advantage.”



“Disappointed”

“Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, who is chair of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee, said he was disappointed with the selections the party made on Saturday.

“I want the party to select people I think are more mainstream,” Zwonitzer told Cowboy State Daily Saturday night. “I want the party to nominate people who have experience in the office they’re seeking instead of party insiders.”

Board Duties

The secretary of state has a number of other duties aside from overseeing Wyoming elections, such as serving on critical state-level boards and managing business registrations in the state.

As a member of the Wyoming Attorney General’s office, candidate Patrick Miller already works directly with the State Lands and Investments, State Building Commission and State Board of Land Commissioners. The secretary of state is a member of all three boards.

“I would just encourage you to really be thoughtful about the candidate that is selected,” he said, stressing a commitment to careful decision making.

He finished in sixth with a total of eight votes.

Allred said he would make sure taxpayer dollars spent by SLIB are closely monitored. Bryan Miller said most projects should be funded by the counties and municipalities and said he does not believe SLIB will have any more significant meetings the rest of the year.

Halverson said she would decide whether she would vote for state-funded roads projects based on whether the government has the authority to facilitate the proposed work.

Armstrong said he would support returning federally-granted funds as a member of this board. He used the topic as a tangent to talk about his claim that he was unjustly fired from his job as a geologist and how his divorce was impacted by the federal government. 

Bob Ferguson, treasurer for the Wyoming Republican Party, said he would use his power on this board to preserve mineral and natural resources. Ferguson finished in fourth with 24 votes.

He mentioned his experience working on Wall Street and for the National Rifle Association when discussing the three boards the secretary of state sits on.

“Fortunately, my financial experience lets me be in a good position to be able to step onto those boards and effectively,” Ferguson said via telephone.

Bryan Miller and candidate John Holtz, who received one vote, both have military backgrounds. 

Holtz is a Laramie attorney who served as a Converse County judge from 1981-93 and a deputy county attorney for Converse County from 1979-81. He spoke about how his experience working in the Air Force and ballistic missiles give him solid preparation for the secretary of state job.

“You have to be on your toes,” he said.

Procedure

Many committee members like Ferguson were not able to attend the meeting in person because of a road closure in the Wind River Canyon. Because of the delay and other technical difficulties, the party did not start discussing agenda items until 90 minutes after the scheduled start, and certain members from Park County and Hot Springs counties participated virtually.

Candidates Pete Illoway and Janet Marscner were not present at the meeting and no information about them was shared Saturday. They received a combined four votes.

There were 10 total candidates who ran for interim secretary of state. Jennifer James rescinded her application Friday night shortly after the slate of candidates was announced. Four candidates were able to cast a vote in the selection process as sitting committee members. No mention was made of excusing these candidates from their voting powers.

Allred also was allowed to explain the rules of the race he was simultaneously participating in. 

A motion was rejected early on to eliminate Patrick Miller from candidate consideration because he did not provide his address or phone number in his original application packet. He did provide the information and his driver license in-person Saturday.

Miller, a 25-year old Cheyenne resident, has a job that is sensitive in nature and said he was nervous about his personal information becoming public.

“Don’t disqualify him, show him the amount of consideration he showed us,” said Carbon County Committeeman Joey Correnti.

Big Horn County GOP Chairman Gary Welch argued against allowing Miller to participate, saying his personal information would inevitably become public due to the public nature of the Secretary of State position.

All the candidates were removed from the room while their opponents spoke. They were allowed to stay in the room after they were done speaking for the day.

Under the voting rules, candidates were eliminated who did not receive a majority of votes, a runoff format. Since only three candidates received a majority of the vote after the first round, no further votes were taken.

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Cheney: If Trump is Party’s 2024 Nominee, ‘I Won’t Be A Republican’

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By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming’s lightning-rod Republican congresswoman, has upped the ante on her campaign to oppose former President Donald Trump, saying if the GOP selects Trump as its 2024 nominee for president she’ll secede from the party.

“If he is the nominee, I won’t be a Republican,” she said during a Saturday night interview on stage at a public policy festival sponsored by the left-of-center Texas Tribune.

Tribune CEO Evan Smith nodded his approval at her answer as she reiterated her mission to thwart the former president from having a second term.

“I certainly will do whatever it takes to make sure Donald Trump isn’t anywhere close to the Oval Office,” she said.

In the nearly hourlong interview with Smith, Cheney doubled-down on her conservative values and background, pointing out that before the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack that she supported most of Trump’s policies and platforms.

She remained cryptic on the possibility of running for president herself in 2024 while expressing concern that Republican majority in the U.S. House could give Trump power through conservative members like Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.

In talking about her involvement in the Jan. 6 Committee investigating the Capitol attack, of which she’s vice chair and one of two Republicans on the nine-member committee, Cheney said the effort has been exhaustive and thorough in its probe.

She also said that if Trump were to testify before the committee, there would be no deals and that “any interaction” the former president has with the committee “will be under oath and subject to penalty of perjury.”

Cheney suffered a landslide loss in last month’s Wyoming Republican primary to retain her House seat to Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman.

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Does Wyoming’s Interim Secretary Of State Position Even Matter?

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

The interim secretary of state that will be chosen soon will oversee the upcoming general election in November, but former Secretary of State Max Maxfield said whoever it is will serve as little more than a “placeholder.”

“Hopefully, they will honor the fact that 23 county clerks really do the heavy lifting and will let the deputy secretary of state do her job,” Maxfield told Cowboy State Daily on Friday afternoon.

This weekend, the Wyoming Republican Party will consider 11 applicants for the interim secretary of state job. The person appointed to the position will oversee the election and the Secretary of State’s office through the end of the year. At that point, the elected secretary of state will take over.

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the Republican nomination for secretary of state, is largely expected to be Wyoming’s next secretary of state as he faces no general election opponent.

Although Gray said he will work with the clerks, he also has stressed he has the power to make many changes his detractors have argued cannot be performed by the secretary of state.

Appointment Time

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan stepped down Sept. 15, facilitating the need for the state GOP to help Gov. Mark Gordon appoint an interim for the position.

The appointee will have an opportunity to try and enact policy changes for the election, such as banning ballot drop boxes around the state. Ballot drop boxes fell under scrutiny in Wyoming for the first time during the 2020 election, permitted by Buchanan because of COVID-19 concerns.

Banning drop boxes is a commitment Gray has made throughout his campaign. He is ineligible for the interim role as he is still serving an active elected term through the end of the year. 

Mark Armstrong, a geologist, has applied for the interim role and said he would ban ballot drop boxes for the Nov. 8 general election if appointed. Although Armstrong said he is aligned with Gray and supports him, enacting the ban before Gray takes office would steal a major campaign promise away from the Republican nominee.

Can The Nominee Really?

Maxfield said Armstrong and Gray are incorrect in their belief they have the ability to ban the drop boxes or enact major changes. He said an attempt to ban counties from using them could be met with resistance from the state’s county clerks, who Maxfield believes have the power to make their own decisions on the matter.

“I don’t believe the secretary of state can rule on drop boxes,” Maxfield said.

Maxfield questioned the ability of the interim officeholder to make even minor changes to election procedures.

“When you’re talking about elections, there are no small changes,” he said, adding that the state’s laws were specifically written in a way that grants local autonomy. “Any change affects the whole state.”

Former Secretary of State Ed Murray said the interim selection would need the cooperation of the state Legislature and Gordon to have a chance at banning the drop boxes before the general election. 

“There would have to be some cohesive work going on among all the branches for something to happen like that,” Murray said.

Farther down the road, Murray said Gray would have a better chance at enacting the ban.

“If the future secretary of state will have at his disposal, the time to really build,” he said. “Therefore, they will have an advantage and better chance to enact that or any other major policy change and direction.”

Supporters of ballot boxes have said they increase voter participation and are secure devices.

Gray made a number of other promises during the campaign that would require a change of state law and action brought by the Legislature to occur, such as making ballot harvesting a felony.

Buchanan was of the belief that the secretary of state is charged with enforcing the state’s current laws. He said it’s the job of the state’s 23 county clerks to run elections, a view Maxfield agrees with, saying the secretary of state simply enforces the laws determined by the Legislature.

Murray has a different outlook, saying the secretary of state has the power to unilaterally make some real changes. He mentioned the work his office did modernizing its business filing system online, decreasing the time it took to register from seven to 10 days to 30 minutes, a project he said cost the state no money and took less than six months.

“During my term, I was able to do things that had been prevented and had been attempted,” Murray said. “It takes leadership and can-do rather than can’t-do. You can accomplish so much.”

Leadership

Two prominent members of the Secretary of State’s office indicated shortly after Gray won the primary that they are quitting.

Murray, who served from 2015-2018, promoted current Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler and State Election Director Kai Schon into their current roles. Schon previously indicated he would quit, but posted on LinkedIn on Wednesday he will stay with the office through the general election and then, “I’ll be more aggressive in my search” for a new job.

“The team I put in place is the best thing the interim will have in place at their disposal,” Murray said.

Gray was supported by many prominent members of the Republican Party during his campaign. Many of the candidates who applied for the interim role said they would facilitate a smooth transition for him.

During the primary campaign, Gray and Armstrong both said Wyoming’s elections need to be made more secure. Murray said he has no doubts about the security of Wyoming’s elections and would not comment on what he thought of the primary campaign.

The last appointment process in Wyoming happened in January when the Wyoming GOP selected finalists for interim superintendent of public instruction. Each county GOP party was given the same amount of votes during this selection process, drawing a lawsuit from more than a dozen people, accusing the party of violating the “one man, one vote” law. The lawsuit was quickly thrown out in court.

Murray said the next secretary of state should understand the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions’ one person, one vote provisions.

“This person should be able to articulate how in Wyoming, we enjoy secure, honest elections,” he said. “In my term, we took all the steps necessary to ensure one person, one vote, only for those who are eligible to vote.”

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Here Are The 11 Candidates For The Interim Wyoming Secretary Of State Position

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Eleven people have applied to be interim Secretary of State of Wyoming. Some of the candidates have extensive experience working in elections, while others have been deeply involved in state GOP politics for a number of years. Four are candidates who lost in the August primary election.

The Wyoming Republican Party will choose three finalists for the job at its meeting in Pavillion on Saturday. Gov. Mark Gordon will then have five days to select a final candidate.

The candidate selection process will begin at 1 p.m. at the Wind River Recreation Center.

Cowboy State Daily obtained a list of the candidates Friday afternoon. They are:

Marti Halverson

Halverson is a former state legislator who has been involved in party politics for many years. She is president of Right To Life of Wyoming and chairs the Lincoln County Republican Party. She’s also a former national committeewoman for the Wyoming Republican Party.

Halverson spearheaded a recent campaign through her Election Integrity & Security Committee to audit elections from several precincts in Laramie and Fremont counties. She was chosen as a finalist for Superintendent of Public Instruction in January, but not selected by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Halverson said uniformity is solely lacking in Wyoming’s elections.

“One of my goals in this short time is to try to inject some uniformity in the conduct of our statewide elections,” Halverson wrote in her application. “At the very least, I am determined to eliminate the application and operation inconsistencies among the 23 counties.”

She also said if chosen, she’ll inspect the Secretary of State’s office’ relationship with the federal government.

Mary Lankford

Lankford is a former Sublette County clerk who served in that role for 32 years. Since retiring from that job, she has been a consultant for the County Clerks Association of Wyoming. She also was on the Request For Proposal Committee with clerks and the Secretary of State Election staff for the selection of new election equipment, which was bought for the 2020 election year.

These roles gave her experience working on the Voter ID bil and legislation pertaining to runoff elections, crossover voting, ballot order and transportation issues.

In her application packet, Lankford stressed the relationship she holds with the state’s county clerks and other county officials.

“I am able to provide a seamless transition with the elections staff for this short-term appointment and help facilitate a general election that the voters of Wyoming expect and deserve,” Lankford said. “My current consulting activities have only enhanced our successful working relationship.”

Karl Allred

Allred is a state committeeman for the Uinta County Republican Party. He ran unsuccessfully for State House 19 in this year’s primary elections. He’s now a foreman at a local gas plant, but worked for an electronic bingo company as a director of product development.

Allred described himself as “familiar” with the duties of the Secretary of State job.

“I am fully confident I can carry out the job until Jan. when the elected Secretary of State will take office,” Allred wrote in his application. “I have no plans to try to run for this office and am only interested in maintaining the office and make a smooth transition for the elected Secretary.”

Allred’s position as committeeman has been challenged in a lawsuit, accusing him and other Uinta County GOP leaders of being unlawfully elected during the party’s 2021 leadership election.

Bob Ferguson

Ferguson is treasurer for the State GOP and a committeeman for the Park County Republican Party. He is an investment advisor in his private profession and a former fundraiser for the National Rifle Association.

Ferguson said if elected interim Secretary of State, he will visit each of the state’s 23 county clerks to discuss “outstanding issues” from the 2020 elections. He mentioned how two leading members of the Secretary of State’s Office announced their resignations after State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, won the Republican nomination for the job.

“This raises some concerns about the current staff’s ability to administer the November election without incident,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he will alleviate those concerns because of his managerial experience and time spent working on Wall Street.

Mark Armstrong

Armstrong, a geologist, ran for Secretary of State during the recent Republican primary and finished third.

During his campaign, Armstrong, an Albany County committeeman, said he planned to file a lawsuit against the state and key officials in the Secretary of State’s Office, alleging violations of his First and 14th Amendment rights, as well as various state laws. He also also made complaints about Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales for refusing to allow him and about 25 other applicants to inspect envelopes containing returned absentee ballots in 2020.

“I believe I can do a good amount of work to figure out what happened in Albany County,” Armstrong said. “I’m the right person to put in.”

Armstrong told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday he has been trying to work through the political process without having to sue the state and finds this position to be his best opening to receive the answers he’s been looking for.

John Holtz

Holtz is a Laramie attorney who served as a Converse County judge from 1981-93 and a deputy county attorney for Converse County from 1979-81. He also has served as district court commissioner in Converse and Albany counties and a number of president and chairman positions within different judicial organizations.

He also is a former chairman and vice chairman of the Albany County Republican Party.

“My appointment will bring a unique perspective to the office of Secretary of State with international experience and expertise,” he says in his application. “I will employ the highest degree of ethical behavior pursuant to the law and the Constitution of the State of Wyoming.”

In 2012, Holtz filed an ethical complaint regarding former President Barack Obama’s nomination for president from the Democratic Party. 

Pete Illoway

Illoway, a Cheyenne resident, is a former state legislator and chairman of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. He ran for secretary of state in 2014, finishing third with 16,596 votes. 

He is now a lobbyist and consultant. Illoway is a former co-chair of the Wyoming Business Council and a current board chair of the Wyoming Community Development Authority.

“It is absolutely imperative that the integrity of the elections process be upheld, and I would do that if appointed,” Illoway says in his application.

Illoway spent most of his application packet informing the State GOP about what the Secretary of State does. He expressed confidence in the employees of the Secretary of State’s office and said it “absolutely imperative that the integrity of elections be upheld,” and would ensure this if chosen for the job.

Jennifer James

James runs a nonprofit healthcare training organization and holds a doctorate degree as well as a master’s from Harvard University. She unsuccessfully ran for State House District 60 in this year’s primary.

A Green River resident, James also was an assistant director with the Wyoming State Board of Nursing from 2016-2020.

James included very little information about what she would do if chosen for interim secretary of state.

“My goal as a strong Republican and highly qualified candidate is to help assure our incoming SOS has a smooth transition into this important role,” James says in her application. 

James is married to State Rep. Tom James, R-Green River.

Janet Marschner

Marschner is a Cheyenne resident who unsuccessfully ran for Senate District 31 this year. She was a certified public accountant for more than 30 years and is now a general contractor and small business owner.

She is a member of the Wyoming Federation of Republican Women and a board member for Wyoming Health Fairs and Wyoming Stockgrowers Land Trust.

Marschner said her objective is to serve the people of Wyoming and provide what is needed by Gray.

“My intent is to work and communicate with the incoming Secretary of State throughout this time,” Marscner says in her application. “The appointed person has the obligation to provide a smooth transition of the office.”

Bryan Miller

Miller is Chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party and holds two master’s degrees. He ran unsuccessfully for House District 51 in this year’s primary and was an early candidate in this year’s U.S. Congressional race.

Miller has significant military experience and has done work supporting the White House Interagency Policy Committee. He is the owner and chief executive of a company that mitigates radar interference associated with the mass deployment of wind turbines across the nation.

Miller said he understands the importance of the secretary of state having worked with a number of the Wyoming Legislature’s committees. 

“I have the experience and skills to analyze and identify any deviations beyond the standard set forth by regulations, statutes and, yes, the Wyoming and United States constitutions,” Miller says in his application.

If chosen for the role, he said he will ensure the continuation of secretary of state operations and “assure the people of Wyoming that the results of our general election are legitimate.”

Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller is an assistant attorney general with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office. In his duties, he advises the three boards and commissions the secretary of state sits on.

“I meet the Constitutional qualifications as I have reached the age of 25 and am registered to vote as a Republican,” Patrick Miller says in his application. 

He earned his juris doctor from the University of Michigan and his bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific University.

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Hageman: Leading Wyoming Attorneys Send Her ‘Threatening’ Letter

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@cowboystatedaily.com

A group of attorneys has penned a letter to U.S. House Republican candidate Harriet Hageman expressing deep concern about her views that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Nearly all the 41 attorneys who signed the letter are from Wyoming.

A press release from the candidate’s campaign claims the lawyers “barely disguised their threat to file a bar complaint against Hageman if she does not stop exercising her First Amendment right to free speech.”

Her campaign also described the letter – delivered to Hageman’s home, law office and campaign post office box – as “threatening.”

“Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat against me simply because I hold a different political opinion – one that is shared by a majority of Wyoming voters,” Hageman says in the Thursday morning press release. “And this is exactly what (U.S. Rep.) Liz Cheney’s allies and the left do to Trump supporters and conservatives at every turn – attempt to threaten, intimidate and cancel anyone who doesn’t see the world the way they do.”

Lawyers who signed onto the Sept. 12 letter include former Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank, former Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Mike Golden, former Wyoming Assistant Attorney General Scott Garland, Casper attorney Pat Holscher and Cheyenne attorney Ben Rowland. Several attorneys from Colorado and an attorney from Arizona also signed the letter.

“We feel compelled to express our deep concern and disappointment that in recent weeks you have chosen to lend your credibility as a Wyoming lawyer to the myth that the 2020 presidential election was stolen,” the letter says. 

Crank told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday morning that he was asked to sign the letter by Jackson attorney Bill Schwartz, and that he “was honored to sign on.”

He said he has full confidence in Wyoming’s elections and the state’s 23 county clerks.

Crank said he didn’t see the letter as threatening; rather, more of a reminder that attorneys take an oath, just like law enforcement officers, to uphold the law.

“My thought was that maybe Ms. Hageman would come to her senses and uphold the rule of law after reading the letter and stop perpetuating nonsensical and damaging lies to advance her own political gain,” he said.

Hageman, a Trump-endorsed land and water attorney who last month soundly beat Cheney in the Wyoming Republican primary election, has said the 2020 election was “rigged” and a “travesty.” Trump was the predominant focus of the race as Cheney has been one of Trump’s most outspoken critics since he began his attempts to overturn the election results.

“Absolutely the election was rigged. It was rigged to make sure that President (Donald) Trump could not get reelected,” Hageman said during an August debate in Casper. “What happened in 2020 is a travesty. It should never happen again. We need to make sure our elections are free and fair.”

The letter directly addresses this comment.

“Surely you know that these statements were both false and incendiary,” the letter says. “Not only did they serve to undermine public confidence in the outcome of our last presidential election, but they were also contrary to at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the oath you and the rest of us swore upon our admission to the Wyoming bar.”

The letter writers go on to explain why they don’t believe the election was rigged and how many courts and other federal oversight agencies have come to the same conclusion. The letter references Cheney being uncomfortable with campaigning in Wyoming during the primary because of her views.

The letter also mentions the Republican primary for the Secretary of State race, where State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, lost to Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, a candidate who espouses similar claims questioning the results of the election.

“This should be highly disturbing to every Wyoming lawyer,” the letter says. “We want you to know that we believe your comments about a rigged election were not supportive of the Rule of Law, have contributed to destabilizing our democratic institutions, and were inconsistent with our collective duties as members of the Wyoming bar.”

The letter reminds Hageman of the legal commitments she made to become a member of the Wyoming bar and asks her to make no further statements denying the lawfulness of the 2020 election. It also asks her to challenge or at least distance herself from those who make these claims.

Hageman said she suspects the letter is part of a larger, national movement spurned by “leftists” and “political insiders” to target Republican lawyers who have “concerns” about the 2020 election. She thinks the letter may have used a template provided by the65project, an organization that has targeted lawyers who have brought lawsuits trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election “or who otherwise violate their professional responsibilities to undermine our democracy,” according to its website. It has filed ethics complaints against 15 conservative state attorneys general and various other prominent lawyers.

Crank denied any coordination with the65project organization.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, lawyers supporting Trump filed 65 lawsuits across the swing states to overturn the election results. Nearly all were rejected in court.

Hageman did not change her rhetoric on the subject in her Thursday press release, saying there are ongoing concerns about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s influence in elections and Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting laws.

“As a constitutional attorney, I have spent my career fighting for the rights of others, and now a group of my fellow lawyers is trying to squelch my own First Amendment rights because they disagree with me,” Hageman said. “And let’s be clear – this is not just an attack on me, it’s also aimed at conservative Wyomingites and anyone who supports President Trump.”

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Barrasso, Lummis Back Bill That Thwarts Biden’s $80 Billion IRS Expansion

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis have signed on to an effort to rein in the IRS from using Inflation Reduction Act money to audit middle-class Americans.

In a Thursday email to Cowboy State Daily, Lummis said Senate Bill 4817 would ensure that “everyday, hardworking American citizens are protected from gross IRS overreach.”

The bill aims to prevent the IRS from using an “unprecedented” nearly $80 billion “infusion of new funds” on audits of taxpayers making less than $400,000 a year, according to the bill text.  

The Democrat-backed Inflation Reduction Act that passed Congress on Aug. 12 contains ambitious revenue goals and billions in funding to beef up IRS staffing and technology.   

Barrasso has called the move an attack on working Americans.   

“President Biden and the Democrats want to empower the IRS to squeeze as much money as they can out of hardworking Americans,” said Barrasso in a Sept. 14 email to Cowboy State Daily. “In addition to facing record-high inflation, (multiplying IRS audits) would make it even harder for families, farmers and small businesses to get by.”  

Barrasso said S. 4817 would stop the IRS from using “supersized funds” on middle-class audits.   

“The people of Wyoming and across the country want nothing to do with the Democrats’ plan to run the middle class dry,” he said.  

Lummis also called the bill “commonsense legislation.”

“The hardworking people of Wyoming should not be subjected to frivolous audits to help pay for the Democrats’ reckless tax and spending spree,” she said. “The IRS should never have received this massive increase in funding.”

‘Not The Best Policy In The World’  

One of Wyoming’s most prominent Democrats called the bill an exercise in favoritism.

“I’d like that provision because it would protect me,” said former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal with a laugh, in a Thursday interview with Cowboy State Daily. “But on the other hand, I don’t know that we ought to start favoring one set of taxpayers over another.”  

Freudenthal said the bill comes across as “symbolic, as opposed to substantive.”   

“I guess they’re saying only people who make more than $400,000 would ever cut corners on their taxes – and I doubt that that’s empirically true,” said Freudenthal.   

The former governor expressed concern that legislation like this could “create a favored class.”   

“That’s probably not the best policy in the world,” he said.   

Republican Co-Sponsors

Only Republicans co-sponsored the bill.  

Barrasso and Lummis were accompanied by the following co-sponsors: 

Republican Co-Sponsors
Only Republicans co-sponsored the bill.
Barrasso and Lummis were accompanied by the following co-sponsors:
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas
Sen. John Thune, South Dakota
Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina
Sen. Patrick Toomey, Pennsylvania
Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina
Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana
Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma
Sen. Steve Daines, Montana
Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio
Sen. Todd Young, Indiana
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia
Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee
Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma

Two GOP Candidates Confirm In Running For Interim Secretary Of State

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

Two candidates have confirmed they’ve thrown their names in the ring to be considered for the interim Secretary of State position. 

One of them, Mark Armstrong, already ran for the office during the recent Republican primary. During his campaign, he also threatened to sue the Secretary of State’s Office.

“As far as I can tell, I think I’m extremely well qualified for it,” Armstrong told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday afternoon. 

Also running for Secretary of State is Bob Ferguson, Wyoming GOP treasurer and Park County Republican Party vice chair.

Armstrong, an Albany County Republican Party committeeman, finished a distant third in the Republican primary behind winner State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, and second place finisher Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, but still got 14,304 votes.

During his campaign, Armstrong said he planned to file a lawsuit against the state and key officials in the Secretary of State’s Office, alleging violations of his First and 14th Amendment rights, as well as various state laws. He said the department unlawfully changed public access to absentee ballot status reports, leaving it up to individual counties how often to publish those reports.

Armstrong argued this hurt his ability to identify and connect with absentee voters as a lesser-known candidate in the race. He said that if appointed, he would immediately change the policy.

Armstrong also made complaints about Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales for refusing to allow him and about 25 other applicants to inspect envelopes containing returned absentee ballots in 2020. He said he’s also faced resistance to receiving a scan of about 47 invalid votes cast in that county’s district attorney race this year.

“I believe I can do a good amount of work to figure out what happened in Albany County,” Armstrong said. “I’m the right person to put in.

Armstrong said he has been trying to work through the political process without having to sue the state and finds this position to be his best opening to receive the answers he’s been looking for.

“If we wait until January we might never get an answer on those hard questions,” he said.

Fans Of Gray

Aside from these matters, Armstrong ran on a platform similar to Gray’s with only small nuances of difference. Armstrong called Gray an “insider” during the campaign but now is fully behind him.

“I believe somebody has to do some of the bidding Chuck would be doing,” Armstrong said. “We have extremely similar views.”

Armstrong and Gray have both questioned the security of Wyoming elections and said changes need to be made to make them more secure. He said if appointed, he would “get the bulk of the work started” for Gray and immediately ban ballot drop boxes upon taking office. This was a hallmark promise Gray made during his campaign.

Gray has no official opponent in the general election and is largely expected to be the next secretary of state. He is ineligible to be named interim secretary of state as state laws preclude elected officials from being appointed to a different position until the terms they were elected for expire.

Appointing Armstrong would provide an opportunity for drop boxes to be banned for this November’s general election. If another candidate is chosen who opts to leave the decision up to Gray, the ban wouldn’t take effect until the August 2024 primary.

‘Somebody in Charge’

“I think it’s important to have somebody in office in charge of things during the interim period,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson declined to offer any other comment about his candidacy or what action he would take on drop boxes until this weekend at the Wyoming Republican Party’s selection meeting.

Ferguson has shared a number of posts on his Twitter account from Dinesh D’Souza, who claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged in his “2000 Mules” movie. Gray’s showing of the movie during his campaign was criticized by former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and Nethercott. 

The Wyoming Republican Party will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday in Pavillion and select three finalists for the interim secretary of state appointment. Gov. Mark Gordon will then have five days to select one.

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Shadowy PACs Draw Concern in Campbell County

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By Leo Wolfson, Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

A pair of shadowy political groups may have made a significant difference in Campbell County’s primary election last month.

“Wyoming deserves to know who it is,” said former Campbell County Commissioner and state House candidate Micky Shober. “This is something that needs to be publicized.”

In recent weeks, many questions have arisen about the Coal Country Conservatives and True West political action committees. The groups sent thousands of political flyers to Campbell County homes advocating for and against particular candidates.

This type of political activity isn’t illegal, but transparency issues have been raised regarding both groups.  

Both filed federally, despite devoting nearly all their attention and resources to Wyoming local-level races. Coal Country Conservatives took an unusual step of advocating for candidates all the way down to the Republican Party precinct level. 

Each campaign was engaged with a certain level of sophistication. Their marketing was slick, using glossy-print paper and targeted audiences. Campaign strategies like these are costly, especially when used for sending out mailers throughout a roughly 47,000-resident county.

Shober said Coal Country tailored its individual flyers to specific precincts. He said he suspects a group of local people are behind the PAC.

“Somebody is fairly intelligent behind this,” Shober said. “My guess, it’s somebody who has spent quite a bit of time working around and experience in campaigns. There has to be some people around it who have done it for a while.

Two Campbell County residents are listed as running Coal Country, but neither have responded toCowboy State Daily’s repeated requests for comment. A number of Campbell County lawmakers Cowboy State Daily spoke with reported no prior knowledge of Coal Country’s registered president, Laura Cox, or its treasurer, Colleen McCabe.

Campbell County Commissioner Colleen Faber said she isn’t involved with either organization. But Faber did say she is familiar with Cox, who she said has attended various Campbell County Commission meetings with her husband for about a year. Faber said Cox moved to Wyoming from another state in recent years.

The True West PAC is less transparent with its filing information, registered to a post office box in Cheyenne, but associated with two Virginia women. The women work for Sage Advisory Group, a Virginia-based business. According to the LinkedIn account belonging to Springfield, Virginia, resident Staci Goede, who is listed as treasurer of True West PAC, she specializes in offering treasurer and chief financial officer services for federal and non-federal political campaigns, committees and organizations. 

The Second Amendment lobbyist group Gun Owners of America also is based out of Springfield.

Mark Jones, a local lobbyist for Gun Owners of America, said neither he nor his organization are involved with any outside PACs. 

State Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, said True West targeted him in his state Senate campaign against incumbent Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower.

“They were campaigning against me for Driskill,” Fortner said.

Coal Country and True West endorsed conflicting candidates in the primary Senate race, with Coal Country pushing for Roger Connett and True West supporting Driskill.

Jones said Gun Owners of America solely opposed Fortner in the race and had no preference of whether Driskill or Connett got elected.

True West was formed July 28 and does not need to submit any campaign finance information until the end of the month.

A federal complaint was filed against Coal Country by Campbell County Clerk Susan Saunders earlier this month.

Wyoming election laws are vague on whether federally registered PACs need to declare their spending in state-level races.

Karen Wheeler, acting Secretary of State, told Cowboy State Daily last week her office has a different interpretation of one particular state law Saunders cited, providing possible indication that Coal Country did not need to register with the state. She also said there is another law that potentially conflicts with this law and her office is consulting with Attorney General Bridget Hill on the matter.

The Western Conservatives PAC was also very active in Campbell County and statewide elections. Unlike Coal Country and True West, this PAC did register with the State of Wyoming and has been relatively forthcoming about its organization and campaign spending, tied to a Colorado lobbyist. 

Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, said he believes Western Conservatives and True West were aligned in “the promotion of moderate and liberal candidates as conservative.”

Pointing Fingers

Fortner said he suspects Bear, Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, and Jones are connected to both PACs. He said the involvement comes from a desire to see Jennings become Speaker of the House and as retribution for Fortner’s vote against Senate File 102, the Second Amendment Protection Act. Driskill voted to support the bill.

Bear and Jennings are aligned with the House Freedom Caucus and GOA, which have both opposed Republicans legislators who voted against this bill. 

“It all boils down to that right there,” Fortner said. “I’m suspecting all trails are leading to that.”

Fortner said he was threatened by the trio that they would prevent him from receiving campaign funding support for his actions. In a July interview, Bear said his main goal of the primary election was helping true conservative candidates win and that he opposed Fortner’s decision to leave the House for a run against Driskill. 

Jennings told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday he has no involvement with either PAC. 

Bear said he also is not involved with any PACs but mostly agrees with Coal Country’s conservative voter guide. He said he only knew Cox as an acquaintance. 

“I think the conservative voter guide sent out matched with what the conservative nature of Campbell County was,” Bear said. 

Bear mentioned one discrepancy between their views and his, as he supported the incumbent sheriff in Campbell County while Coal Country endorsed a challenger.

On Tuesday, Bear wouldn’t directly comment as to who he will vote for in the race for Speaker of the House, but said he would support “the more conservative candidate.” 

Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, is considered by many as a leading candidate to be the next Speaker as he is the majority floor leader of the House. He has a less-conservative voting record than Jennings, who challenged Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, two years ago for Speaker duties.

Fortner also suspects Connett was recruited to water down the vote in his race against Driskill. Connett finished second in the race, beating Fortner by 369 votes but losing to Driskill by 442 votes.

Fortner said he will continue to stay involved in the Legislature as a Wyoming resident.

“They haven’t got rid of me,” he said. “I’m going to go down and lobby for or against bills. Now, I have more latitude to say what I want.”

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Barrasso Scores Victory With Amendment That Prevents China From Receiving Preferential Status

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, opposed ratifying climate legislation that would have given China an extra decade to produce polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) while holding the United States to much stricter standards.

“This places the United States at a competitive disadvantage to China for 10 additional years,” Barrasso said in a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor.

Barrasso spoke against having the U.S. join the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The amendment would treat China as a developing country, which gives it additional time to continue producing HFCs.

“There is no excuse for any senator to give China a handout at the expense of the American taxpayer and American hardworking families,” he said.

The Senate ratified the international climate treaty, the first in three decades, with a rare bipartisan majority. The U.S. is now joins 136 other nations to join Kigali.

HFCs are man-made industrial chemicals used in refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers and insulation. They are considered a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Barrasso wrote an amendment conditioning Senate approval of Kigali on the removal of China from being defined as a developing country. Barrasso’s amendment defines China as a “developed” country. 

“So, senators have some decisions to make,” Barrasso said. “Are you going to vote to allow China to play by a different set of rules? Are you going to vote to put America at a competitive disadvantage? Are you going to vote to continue to give American tax dollars to China?”

Barrasso’s amendment passed by an overwhelming margin, but he still voted against the bill.

According to Politico, Barrasso’s amendment requires the U.S. State Department to file an amendment with the United Nations reclassifying China as a developed nation but does not require successful passage of that amendment.

Prior to Barrasso’s push, the Kigali Amendment would have required developed nations like the United States to reduce production and consumption of HFCs to about 15% of 2012 levels by 2036. Nationslike China, Brazil and all of Africa would have had until 2024 to enact an HFC freeze.

Under the passed legislation, some of the world’s hottest countries like Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still have the most lenient restrictions, given until 2028 to reduce HFC levels.

If the Kigali pact achieves its goals, scientists estimate it would prevent up to about 1 degree Fahrenheit of warming by the end of this century.

Developed or Developing?

Under the “developing” designation, Barrasso said China would be eligible to receive money from a United Nations multilateral fund set aside for developing nations. America is the largest contributor to thefund.

“Nearly $1 billion American tax dollars have already gone into this United Nations slush fund,” he said. “Has China contributed? No, more than $1.4 billion from the fund has already gone to China that we have contributed to because we are (a) developed nation and China legally by this treaty is still developing.”

Barrasso said he also finds it hypocritical that the U.S. borrows money from China yet would provide it money as a developing nation.

“This makes zero sense,” Barrasso said. “Even to the high school kids it makes zero sense. With Kigali, it will mean more and more American tax dollars going to communist China.”

China is considered to have the second largest economy in the world.

Barrasso said it’s unnecessary for the U.S. to make another U.N. treaty commitment when it already signed bipartisan HFC legislation, the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, two years ago.

“Our own laws can be amended, repealed or replaced. Depending on the impacts and costs, the U.S. can make changes quickly,” Barrasso said. “It is much harder, if not impossible to change international treaties. In fact, there is no withdrawal clause in the Kigali amendment.”

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Cheney, Dems, Get Win On Election Reform; Only 8 Republicans Voted For Bill

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By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
leo@cowboystatedaily.com

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s Presidential Election Reform Act passed the U.S. House on Wednesday on mostly partisan lines, a move she said will help guard against future efforts to “steal” elections.

“Today, the House took an important bipartisan step to protect all future presidential elections,” Cheney said in a press release after the vote. “This bill will preserve the rule of law and defend election integrity.”

Cheney’s bill would overhaul the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, a law written with ambiguous provisions many have accused President Donald Trump of trying to manipulate on Jan. 6, 2021.

The legislation would:

Reaffirm the vice president’s role in certifying presidential election results.

Narrow the spectrum of objections that can be used by members of Congress against the electoral slates of individual states.

Allow presidential candidates to sue governors or other election officials who fail to transmit lawful election results to Congress.

Clarify federal law that the rules governing an election can’t change after the election has happened.

“It will ensure that self-interested politicians cannot steal from the people the guarantee that our government derives its power from the consent of the governed,” Cheney said.

Cheney is a vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. She is one of only two Republicans on the nine-member panel.

On Wednesday, the committee announced it will have its next hearing Sept. 28. Sen. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, said this will likely be the committee’s final hearing.

Parties Remain Polarized

Democrats and the committee’s nine members have said Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election by throwing out certain electoral votes led to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Cheney and Zoe Lofgren, D-California, who is co-sponsoring the legislation, have said the Electoral Count Act needs to be updated to respond to modern political pressures.

Only eight other Republicans besides Cheney voted for the legislation that passed on a 229-203 vote.

The partisan nature of this vote is likely an ominous sign for how the bill may fare in the Senate. 

The Senate already id moving forward with its own bipartisan version of the legislation that differs in some significant ways from Cheney’s bill.

Cheney’s bill would raise the threshold for Congress to consider an objection to a state’s electoral votes, requiring at least one-third of the House and Senate to sign on to such a challenge. Currently, only one member of each chamber is required. 

The Senate Version

The Senate proposal has a lower proposed threshold, requiring 20% of the House and Senate to agree. It also would not narrow the spectrum for which objections can be raised.

Objections have been raised in recent elections, but none have ever been sustained with a majority vote.

The Senate version also contains a Presidential Transition Improvements Act, which promotes the orderly transfer of power by providing clear guidelines for when eligible candidates for president or vice president may receive federal resources to support their transition into office.

It also requires disputes about electors and electoral votes be resolved before they reach Congress.

Ten Republicans have already said they will support the Senate version of the bill. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, both R-Wyoming, are not part of this group.

The last Cheney-sponsored law to be signed into law was the Greatest Generation Commemorative Coin Act, which passed through the House on July 27 and enacted into law Aug. 3.

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Hageman Rips Feds, Congress During Constitution Day Speech

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By Leo Wolfson, Political Reporter
leo@cowboystatedaily.com

The frontrunners from last month’s Wyoming Republican primary made speeches Monday night, providing starkly different perspectives on what they claim as threats to the U.S. Constitution.

“The fact, the Constitution has been under serious assault from the left and from those who not only seek to rewrite history but are incapable of understanding why the United States is the greatest country in the history of the world,” Hageman said during a speech she made at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., during its Constitution Day event.

The Heritage Foundation is a conservative public policy think tank.

That same night, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney made a speech at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual Walter Berns Constitution Day expressing her belief that former President Donald Trump is the nation’s greatest threat to the Constitution. 

Hageman, a Trump endorsee, beat Cheney by nearly 40 percentage points in the election.

Cheney is one of only two Republicans on the nine-member Jan. 6 Committee.

Hageman said the federal government sees human suffering as a virtue. She drew a contrast between the allegations of foreign colluding brought against President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and people facing charges because of their alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack who have still not faced trial and remain in custody.

“And our political elite celebrate their suffering,” she said.

She also described the recent raid on Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago as a “partisan witch hunt,” the same phrase she used to describe the Jan. 6 Committee hearings, which she also has called a “kangaroo court.”

Hageman said if she had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses during the Jan. 6 hearings, there would have been a different narrative in the public discourse about the event.

“They’re not interested in the truth, they’re interested in a narrative,” Hageman said. “They’re interested in presenting a certain side they believe in on Jan. 6.”



Government Overreach

Hageman said the natural rights of freedom, liberty and individual autonomy were created by God, not the government.

“Why is that important? Because they were not granted by the government, the government can’t take them away,” Hageman said.

Hageman said Americans have been confronted with an “existential threat” since Biden was elected president in 2020. 

“The Biden administration is a disaster the likes of which we haven’t seen before,” she said.

She said the administration makes no effort “to adhere to even the rudimentary rule of law,” mentioning the moratorium Biden put on federal oil and gas leases early on in his administration to address climate change. 

Hageman also was outraged by the move Biden made in August to forgive up to $10,000 in student loan debt for all federal borrowers. She incorrectly stated this will cost the federal government about $1 trillion. The real actual is estimated at $366 billion.

She cited the government’s response to COVID-19 as an example of “tyrannical” overreach and a move toward Socialism. Hageman said vaccine mandates imposed on federal employees and contractors and health care workers is unconstitutional. Hageman’s law firm was one of the first in the United States to file a vaccine mandate lawsuit.

Many COVID-related restrictions began under and were ordered by Trump, she said.

Hageman said the 10th Amendment, reserving rights delegated in the Constitution to states, needs to be revitalized for better understanding. She said states need to regain their power vested in the Constitution, and if there is ever a close call of federal overreach brought up in the judicial branch, the courts should always err on the side of the states.

She mentioned Wyoming’s small population and the impact of local government on people’s lives. 

“There are huge decisions being made right here in Washington, D.C., … that have huge impacts on the citizens of Wyoming, but we have no say in what those decisions are because of how they’re being carried out.”

Hageman also accused the Biden administration of working “tirelessly” to suppress freedom of speech and working with “Silicon Valley oligarchs” on this effort. Trump has been banned from Twitter since January 2021. 

Trump founded Truth Social, a social media application intended to directly compete with Twitter, in late 2021. 

Hageman told the audience that the nation needs to be taken back from these interests, a sentiment she has offered many times along the campaign trail, a theme also mentioned in her “Fed Up” speech.

“The Biden Administration knows if they can prevent us from communicating, they can prevent us from fighting back,” she said.

The only credit she gave to the Biden administration was for making people more aware of government overreach.

Solutions

Hageman cast a wider net for what she believes led to the “demise of the Republic,” saying Congress has abdicated its normal responsibilities to unelected government workers and other interests. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the federal workforce is composed of an estimated 2.1 million civilian workers.

“At $32 trillion in debt, we’re running out of runway,” Hageman said.

She said people need to hold their Congress members more accountable for their votes.

“Congress is the branch that is responsible for legislating, and it must reclaim that responsibility,” Hageman said. “It must retake the reins of governing in this country.”

Hageman said government overreach in America stems from New Deal programs initiated in the 1930s to combat the Great Depression. 

“It was contrary to the Constitution at that time and remains even more so today,” she said.

She said over the last 30 years, the administrative state has become more emboldened to act unilaterally. Hageman said this has resulted in an increase of forest fires throughout the West because of the U.S. Forest Service’s fire management practices.

She also complained how the Environmental Protection Agency labeled irrigation ditches as navigable waters, preventing farmers from maintaining their own infrastructure on their property. 

Hageman also mentioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s alleged policy of using gender ideology to withhold lunch money and corporate environmental, social and governance scoring. 

“An unelected bureaucrat in the USDA will never have to answer to you,” she said.

Hageman said Democrats want to rewrite history and what the founding fathers believed in. She said this should no longer be tolerated and accused Democrats of “despising” what America stands for, the Constitution and its history. 

Those who have created works like the “1619 Project” have argued their goal is to present facts from a narrative less heard or known about, even if it means refuting popular icons of American pride. 

Hageman apologized for taking a negative tone in her speech and stressed that she is an optimistic person because of what the Constitution promises – the concepts of freedom, liberty and individualism.

“It’s why I’ve done what I’ve done. It’s why I do what I do, it’s why I fight the battles I fight,” she said. “This country is worth fighting for because this country is worth protecting.”

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Cheney Says GOP Treats Trump Like A ‘King,’ Supporters Put Him ‘Above The Law’

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By Leo Wolfson, Political Reporter
leo@cowboystatedaily.com

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney provided some insight into the motivation behind her push against former President Donald Trump in a speech Monday night. 

Harkening back to her time working in the U.S. State Department and her interactions there with victims of autocratic governments, Cheney told the online audience at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual Walter Berns Constitution Day in Washington, D.C. about the lasting impact these meetings had on her life. 

“We all know that we are incredibly blessed,” Cheney said. “But this freedom that we have been blessed with, this freedom that is defended and guaranteed by our Constitution, only survives if we recognize threats to this freedom when they arise.”

Cheney recalled her 1992 meeting with Boris Nemtsov, a young Russian who pushed for his country to be a free democracy in the years following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Nemstov was assassinated in 2015 by what Cheney described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “thugs.”

Nemtsov was killed “because he posed such a threat to Putin, because of his defense of and his dedication to freedom,” Cheney said.

 During her roughly 18-minute speech, Cheney said the GOP is playing politics and treating Trump like a “king” in its continued support of him as many members of the party defend and excuse his behavior. She said those people are rejecting party values in favor of an individual.

“The elected leaders of the Republican Party downplay the violence of Jan. 6, and they demand that all others do the same,” Cheney said. “This has become a litmus test. It’s as if the hundreds of serious injuries to Capitol police officers who defended our Capitol that day were inconsequential.”

The American Enterprise Institute is a center-right public policy think tank that describes itself as dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential and building a freer and safer world. Its board includes Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was at the Monday event with his wife Lynne Cheney. 



Response

Many Republicans agree that the Capital attack was a horrible event, but far fewer believe it was Trump who should be held responsible for the attack. Most participants in the riot were Trump supporters. 

Cheney said former Vice President Mike Pence was “essentially the president” most of Jan. 6, 2021,  because of Trump’s lack of action that day in speaking out or acting to quell the riot. She accused Trump of ignoring White House intelligence provided to him in the days before the attack that said an attempt to occupy the U.S. Capitol might happen. Testimony provided during the Jan. 6 Committee hearings outlined how Trump suggested in a casual manner extra law enforcement be deployed to address the threat.

Cheney also criticized much of the party’s support for Trump’s claims the 2020 election was rigged, despite about 60 federal courts ruling against the former president’s challenges. She defended the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago investigation against Trump, expressing outrage that many Republicans are joining the former president in speaking out against the agency and Department of Justice. Evidence has shown Trump lied about keeping documents at his Florida home, many of which were classified and of a national security interest.

“They are attempting to excuse this behavior,” Cheney said. “They’re attempting to say that it was normal, that it was a storage issue.”

Trump-endorsed candidates overwhelmingly won their Republican primaries nationwide, including Cheney’s opponent in Wyoming,Harriet Hageman.

“Does defending Donald Trump now mean excusing obstruction of justice?” Cheney asked. “How many of our elected officials today are willing to do that? Bit by bit, excuse by excuse we’re putting Donald Trump above the law.”

Cheney remarked on her time working in Kenya in the mid-1990s as an election observer and seeing soldiers chasing men and women away who were attempting to vote. About an hour later, people returned, willing to risk their lives for an opportunity to vote.

She also brought up her experience with three foreign nationals who told her they were inspired by the vision for America laid out by former President Ronald Reagan. One of these meetings was with a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and went on to become the minister of defense for Finland.

“He told me that he would secretly listen to Ronald Reagan speeches at night on Finnish television,” Cheney said. “And I’ve known a man who spent years in the Soviet Gulag who, again, said it was the miracle of America and of our freedom that convinced him what was possible, convinced him what he needed to strive for.”

Conservative Core

Cheney stressed her commitment to conservative values such as limited government, low taxes and a strong national defense. 

“I believe that the family has got to be the central building block of our society,” she said. “And I share the concerns that many of us, many of you, have – justifiable concerns about radical liberalism and about ‘wokeness.’”

She mentioned a comment that a Cody mother of 11 made to her in July.

“She said to me, ‘I think you fight so hard for this country because you have a mother’s love for her,’” Cheney said. “It was such a moving and a humbling idea. And it’s one that every single one of us, whether we’re parents or not, understands. We love our country.” 

But she reiterated that standing up for conservative values does not mean giving Trump a free pass to behave irresponsibly. Cheney voted with Trump on most issues prior to the 2020 election and hasn’t expressed regret for doing so.

Cheney implored the audience to put the Constitution over short-term politics and be patriots and leaders in their defense of democracy.

“The means do not justify the ends,” she said. “This is how democracies fail.”

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Barrasso, Lummis Push For Permitting Reform To Significantly Speed-Up Infrastructure Projects

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By Kevin Killough, Energy Reporter
kevin@cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming’s congressional delegation is throwing its weight behind a permitting reform bill that, if passed, will streamline environmental permitting reviews of infrastructure projects. 

While Democrats still haven’t announced their version of a permitting reform bill, Republicans have moved forward with their own, dubbed the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency Act (START). 

U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, both R-Wyoming, joined Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, in introducing the legislation which, if passed, would expedite permitting for everything from road and bridge projects to transmission lines for wind farms. 

Killing Development

In the leadup to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, struck a deal with Senate Democratic leaders.

In exchange for Manchin’s support for the IRA, he would get support for legislation that would streamline environmental reviews of infrastructure projects. 

While aimed at ensuring good stewardship of the environment, the environmental review process is long and costly, and can smoother projects in red tape.

One example of the impact the lengthy permitting process can have is Rare Element Resources. The company in 2012 initiated its permitting for a rare earth mining operation, call the Bear Lodge Project. The plan included Bull Hill Mine 12 miles north of Sundance and a processing plant near Upton to refine the ore.

The process usually takes about 10 years. By 2015, the company had secured a draft environmental impact statement from the U.S. Forest Service, one of the key steps in the long, complex process.

Randy Scott, president and CEO of Rare Element Resources, said it was a major accomplishment to get that document in hand. 

Even with that complete, the company faced potentially several more years to complete the final permits. Before that could happen, the process was brought to a halt. 

“We ran out of money and couldn’t complete the permitting process at that point,” Scott said. “So, we put the permitting activities in suspension for the period of time.”

The company continues to pursue the environmental work associated with permitting the effort. It’s now working on an associated demonstration project. 

The demonstration plant, while not at commercial scale as the company had hoped, can still prove its way of processing ore to investors, Scott said.

Processing plants are needed to extract rare earth minerals from raw mined material. Writing in Seeking Alpha, Tim Worstall, a wholesaler of rare earth metals and a global expert in the metal scandium, said these plants require capital expenditures of up to $1 billion. Securing investments in a project that expensive that also can take 10 years or more to get going isn’t easy. 

Uphill Battle

The START Act contains a number of provisions that, if passed, will streamline permitting. It includes rules passed under former President Donald Trump that were intended to reform the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. 

The bill also would grant states a more authority in permitting development projects, including those on federal lands. 

Other sections reduce the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act by shortening timelines from 90 days to 60.

“Important infrastructure, highway and energy projects across the country are being strangled by the red tape coming out of the Biden administration,” said Barrasso in a statement on the introduction of the bill. 

The bottom line is “making the permitting process easier, not harder,” Barrasso said. “Our legislation makes key reforms that will help energy and infrastructure projects get done better, faster, cheaper and smarter.”

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State GOP Censures Cale Case For ‘Unconscionable’ Effort To Challenge Chuck Gray

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

RIVERTON–The Wyoming Republican Party publicly reprimanded a State Senate leader Saturday while meeting in Riverton.

The party’s central committee voted – with one “nay” vote and one person abstaining – to censure Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, and to deny him funding and support. The move stemmed from Case’s unsuccessful attempt to recruit an Independent candidate to challenge Rep. Chuck Gray, of Casper, who is the Republican nominee for Secretary of State, in the Nov. 8 general election.

“Censuring someone is a very serious thing, but (Case’s effort) is a very serious and egregious offense,” said Dave Holland, Vice-Chairman of the party. “We’ve already said we’re not going to support (Case) because of (his) voting record; censuring is a step further, and I think it’s called for.”


State Republican Party vice-chairman Dave Holland

After Gray won the primary election to become the GOP nominee for Secretary of State, Case spearheaded an effort to recruit a “conservative” to run against Gray as an Independent.

Case’s top pick, former legislator Nathan Winters, declined to challenge Gray and asked the public to rally around Republican candidates.

Gray defeated State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, his main challenger for the Republican nomination.

Gray was at the Saturday meeting, but declined to comment to Cowboy State Daily.

‘Insular Viewpoint’

Case, a Wyoming legislator for 30 years,  was not at the meeting because he was at an inter-governmental energy conference in San Antonio.

He disputed the censure in a written statement to Cowboy State Daily, saying he has the “basic Republican values of liberty, individual responsibility, limited government, and respect for capitalism, markets and private property,” but that he disagrees with how the state party conducts itself.

“I am sorry that the Republican Central Committee has regressed to the suppression of ideas, intolerance and a lack of civility, and the punishing of mainstream Republicans who do not embrace the more extreme elements of their thinking,” said Case. He said leadership of the party in power “demonstrate(s) excess” similar to the Republican party in the 1950s McCarthy era.  

Case said Wyoming GOP leadership did not adhere to state laws about not favoring one Republican candidate over another in the primary election. The state Republican central committee allows the same number of votes per county at its meetings, regardless of county population, which Case said “favors an insular viewpoint and fearful thinking.”

Second Rodeo

The party had already committed not to give money to Case because his voting record doesn’t align enough with the party platform, said Holland at the meeting.

“We have a pattern of behavior,” said Vince Vanata, Park County Republican party state committee man. “And this pattern has been accelerating… (Are) we going to stand back and do nothing?”

Case opposes bills that would criminalize abortion, and he voted in favor of Medicaid expansion.

The state party is pro-life and opposes Medicaid expansion.

This is Case’s second censuring this year. The Fremont County Republican party formally rebuked him in May for supporting Medicaid expansion; and for writing a letter to the editor of Cowboy State Daily in which Case called the state party uncivil and exclusive.

The opinion piece was titled “Big Tent Republicans, We Need You.”

The censure also stemmed from Case’s speaking on behalf of a convicted felon, at her sentencing hearing. The felon, Rebecca Milleson, had embezzled thousands of dollars from the town of Pavillion.

Case said there were extenuating circumstances of family tragedy in her life.

Committee Condemned

The state party also voted Saturday to condemn the actions of the Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, but to excuse committee member Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, from the condemnation.

The committee last month began drafting a bill stripping the Secretary of State of oversight of Wyoming elections, and offered to create an election commission to perform these duties instead.

Scott spoke against the effort, saying voters would “rightfully feel insulted if we tried to take a major portion of the responsibilities away before the guy’s even had a chance.”

Gray in his campaign voiced doubt in the security of Wyoming’s elections, and his pledge to make them more secure.

Cheryl Aguiar, Hot Springs state committeewoman, asked the party to take out of the condemnation statement language suggesting that Gray’s own primary election was “fair and secure.”  

“The first parts of (the resolution) are saying we do believe the election was fair and secure,” said Aguiar. “So it’s kind of hypocritical – or contradictory, but it could be construed as hypocritical – to have those parts in there.”

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Campbell County Clerk Files FEC Complaint On Gillette PAC Coal Country Conservatives

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

A federal complaint has been filed against a Gillette Political Action Committee by the Campbell County clerk. The actions of this PAC have drawn frustration and outrage from local politicians and election officials in Campbell County.

The complaint was filed with the Federal Elections Commission and Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan by outgoing Campbell County Clerk Susan Saunders last week, accusing the Coal Country Conservatives PAC of shielding its own campaign finance expenditures.

“It is my professional judgment the organization of these entities and their subsequent activities can, at best, be described as a scheme to thwart transparency in a way that is deceptive to the public and may be illegal,” Saunders wrote in her complaint. “I believe these activities had a material impact on numerous races in Campbell Country’s 2022 primary election.”

Saunders requested a “swift and robust investigation” from the state and federal entities to look into the matter. 

The FEC already sent Coal Country a warning letter on Aug. 2 for failing to file its campaign expenditures from May 18-June 30, a deadline that was in early July. 

These expenditures were submitted early Thursday morning. The PAC claims it spent $102 through the end of June, all on administrative costs. All but $500 of the committee’s $1,800 raised came from an anonymous donor. 

No other reports have been filed yet for the PAC, which Saunders said she also found suspicious. 

Coal Country registered as a Wyoming business with the Secretary of State’s office, but did not register with the elections branch of the office as a political campaign to report state level expenditures.

“This question is relevant as the electioneering materials CCCPac (Coal Country) distributed lists only one federal candidate and numerous statewide, legislative, local and precinct candidates,” Saunders wrote.

Coal Country took the step of filing as a federal PAC, despite the large majority of its electioneering efforts being for state races, an unusual and legally ambiguous move. The FEC does not monitor state and local races. It is state election officials who are responsible for monitoring non-federal races.

Wyoming law requires any organization that spends more than $500 in state races to register with the Secretary of State’s office. The federally-registered Western Conservatives PAC did that this year, spending $355,133 in Wyoming elections this year.

Karen Wheeler, acting Secretary of State, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday afternoon her office has a different interpretation of one particular state law Saunders cited, providing possible indication that Coal Country did not need to register with the state. She also said there is another law that potentially conflicts with this law and her office is consulting with Attorney General Bridget Hill on the matter.

“That’s the million dollar question,” she said.

Both entities list Colleen McCabe as treasurer. Laura Cox is listed as the president of the PAC and the registered agent for the Wyoming corporation. Neither responded to requests for comment on Saunders’ complaint.

McCabe was arrested on Aug. 1 for driving under the influence of alcohol and fleeing or attempting to elude officers.

Saunders said it is not clear whether the federal version of Coal Country or the Wyoming corporation was participating in the state’s elections.

If it was solely acting as the federal version, it may be using the lack of federal surveillance as a way to cloak its state-level expenditures. If the Wyoming business version of Coal Country was taking part in state elections, it failed to register as a political committee and report its campaign spending, which was due in mid-August.

Coordination?

Wyoming and federal law forbids PACs from directly coordinating with candidates or to each other through third party intermediaries. Saunders also wants investigators to find out if Coal Country coordinated directly with candidates.

State Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, said he suspects the organization was coordinating with numerous candidates. The organization endorsed candidates all the way down to the Republican Party precinct committee member level.

This summer, Campbell Deputy County Clerk Kendra Anderson attended a showing of election conspiracy movie “2000 Mules” hosted by State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, during his Secretary of State campaign. During the event, Anderson said Cox was on stage, handing out cards from the PAC’s “Campbell County Conservative Voter Guide.” If this account is true, these actions are legally dubious at best.

These cards were also mailed out to Campbell County residences during the campaign. The PAC advocated for a slate of highly conservative candidates, including Gray and Anderson’s opponent Cindy Lovelace, who ended up winning the primary election.

Anderson said Cox promoted at the event how they picked their favorite candidates based on a questionnaire sent out to candidates, a document she never received. Despite endorsing Lovelace, Anderson said Cox told her they only sent the questionnaire to candidates who make policy decisions. 

Rusty Bell, a Campbell County commissioner who ran for State House, said he received a questionnaire from Cox, an individual he said he had never heard of before. He passed by her house shortly after and saw a sign already up for his opponent, Abby Angelos.

“I saw this person was already supporting my opponent so what’s the point?” Bell said as his reason for not filling out the questionaire. He also said the questionnaire was riddled with many “leading questions.”

Angelos and many of the other candidates Coal Country endorsed won their respective races. 

“I’m glad the clerk made the complaint,” Bell said. “There’s questions to be asked.

“This stuff will continue to get worse if we allow it to. We can’t have confidence in our elections if they’re not really fair elections.”

Bell suspects an individual other than Cox is running Coal Country. State Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, said on the Wake Up Wyoming with Vic Wright Show on Friday, he suspects a Wyoming legislator is behind the campaign. Coal Country endorsed one of Fortner’s opponents, Roger Connett.

Their only public donor so far is Barbara Luthy, a prominent member of the local “John Patriot” and Campbell County Grassroot Conservatives organizations. Susan Sisti, another member of both these organizations, makes reference to handing out “conservative voter guides” in a July 4 Facebook post. Sisti’s husband was endorsed by Coal Country in his bid for Gillette City Council.

Influence

Anderson said there were countless people seen with the voter guide cards when they came to vote in the primary. She said she finds it ironic that Coal Country has promoted candidates standing up for election integrity as she finds it unethical to tell people who they should vote for.

“They scream election integrity but they tell people how to vote, how is that election integrity? she asked. 

Bell found it unethical that Cox signed up to be an election judge while allegedly running the PAC.

“Not knowing the law is not a good excuse either, it doesn’t look good,” he said.

One voter guide mailed out by Coal Country was misconstrued by some as sent out by the Campbell County Republican Party. This prompted a formal notice from the county party that it did not produce these mailers. State law prevents political parties from endorsing individual candidates during the primary election. The party later put out their own mailers listing every Republican candidate running in the primary.

Write-in candidate Patricia Junek was endorsed by Coal Country in her campaign against Barlow and lost. Junek is now registered as an Independent to run against Barlow in the general election.

Barlow said he found it telling that Junek received more than 800 votes as a write-in candidate, as proof of Coal Country’s influence on the primary elections.

“It’s a trojan horse waltzing through the black hole of dark money,” he said.

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State GOP Votes Not To Recognize Independents; Independent Candidate Says That’s OK

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily 
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com 

RIVERTON – The Wyoming Republican Party will not recognize or support Independent candidates in the general election, whether they identify as Republicans or not.  

Meeting in Riverton on Saturday, the party’s central committee approved a motion against endorsing or funding Independent general-election candidates, regardless of the candidates’ ideology.   

Several conservative candidates in Wyoming are running in the upcoming general election against Republican nominees, due to policy differences in the party.  

“They (the Independents) still want to retain their membership in the Republican party,” said Karl Allred, Uinta County GOP state committeeman, during the meeting. “But I just have this feeling that if you’re going to run as an Independent, that means you’re Independent of the party – get the hell out of the party.”   

Four tables away sat Jeff Martin, a Republican running as an Independent candidate for Wyoming House District 54, in Lander.  

Martin, who is challenging Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, for the House seat, told Cowboy State Daily that he approved of the resolution.   

Martin said although he won’t receive party support this election season, he believes himself to be more of a Republican, ideologically, than Larsen his opponent.   

“This is a situation where we have a Republican House member voting 30% for his party and 70% for Democratic or liberal views,” he said. “These Republicans that are coming in and taking over the party – they’re not true Republicans.”   

Larsen told Cowboy State Daily in an email that he has been far more involved with Republican issues than Martin has.   

“Mr. Martin has the right to run for political office representing whichever party he chooses,” said Larsen, “but (he) has failed to attend or participate in any previous Republican sponsored event in the 10 years I have been in the Legislature, where we discuss party issues at hand.”  

Larsen said Martin has not contacted him to voice concerns as a constituent.   

“He could have run against me as a Republican in the primary (election) but chose not to,” said Larsen. “Now while running as an Independent, his suggestion I am not a real Republican just doesn’t hold much credibility from my perspective.”   

Larsen said that during his membership on the House Appropriations Committee, the Legislature has prepared and passed budgets “that have resulted in a reduction of the size of government, and (a) budget smaller than we had in 2010, with inflation included in the calculation, while protecting services to vulnerable populations.”   

Larsen called the achievement “deeply embedded” in Republican values.    

‘People I Like Very Well’  

Martin told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday that he was not at the party meeting in the hopes of receiving funding or seeing funding denied to Larsen.   

He said he was at the meeting, rather, “to get to know better people that I like very well, and to get a feel for how the system works.”   

He thinks of himself as a newcomer with a need to learn and observe.   

“I’m excited to possibly push out one of these people that say they’re Republican when they’re not,” Martin added.   

Martin said his top legislative priority is property tax reform, since an influx of well-funded people moving to the state in recent years coupled with a nationwide housing market value increase have driven Wyoming property taxes up. 

Larsen said property tax reform is a priority for the whole Legislature right now, but it should be done with care, as property taxes covered the $150 million deficit in school funding that had at first to be supplemented with funding from the state’s savings account.   

Wyoming is constitutionally obligated to fund its schools to equal standards regardless of region, which often drives school costs up.   

Medicaid Expansion  

Martin is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and against Medicaid expansion, he said.   

Larsen is also pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. He voted to enact the trigger ban, now paused in court, which would have outlawed most abortions in Wyoming following the U.S. Supreme Court overturn of Roe vs. Wade. He has an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association.   

But the two men differ on Medicaid expansion.   

Martin, in between events at the State GOP meeting, said he would comment on his reasoning against Medicaid expansion at a later time.   

Larsen in an email said he at first voted against Medicaid Expansion. But he changed his mind as the legal landscape changed. U.S. Supreme Court actions declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional and ruled that states could not mandate it. This generated a hole in states like Wyoming, which haven’t expanded Medicaid. In that gap, he said, are people who can’t afford health insurance, can’t qualify for assistance through the insurance exchange and are not eligible for Medicaid.

“Women make up the majority of this group,” said Larsen. “They are left to go without health care or go to the emergency room and leave the hospital to absorb the cost – which then is passed onto the rest of (the hospital) patients with higher costs.”   

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Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan Delivers Resignation Letter To Governor

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan submitted his resignation letter on Thursday to Gov. Mark Gordon, bringing an official end to his more than four-year term.  

Although he originally said he would run for a second term, Buchanan accepted a district court judgeship in Goshen County this summer, a job he begins Monday. 

Buchanan told Cowboy State Daily he found the Republican primary race to replace him “disappointing” due to the rampant misinformation spread, but he took the high road in his resignation letter. 

“I am specifically grateful to the professional staff at the Secretary of State’s office,” Buchanan wrote. “They have been tremendous in helping me fulfill my duties as Secretary of State. Together, we have implemented new systems and processes that make us the envy of the nation.” 

In 2018, the department implemented new physical and cyber security protocols and introduced new voting equipment. An audit conducted by his office during the August primary election came back clean with no issues of fraud or other irregularities.  

“I would also like to acknowledge how much I value each of Wyoming’s 23 county clerks,” Buchanan wrote.  

Buchanan has been adamant on multiple occasions that it is the state’s county clerks, not he, who run the state’s elections. 

“Together, we have been working on the 2022 elections since early in the year, and just like the 2022 primary election, the 2022 general election is ready and primed for success,” he wrote. 

Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne and other leading members of the party implored Buchanan to stay on the job through the end of the general election process. Although he said he was flattered by this request, Buchanan said it is the staff members of his office and the county clerks who will ensure the election runs smoothly and that he could not postpone his judicial duties any longer. 

On Sept. 24, the State GOP plans to meet and select three interim Secretary of State candidates for Gordon to choose from. Application packages must be submitted to the party by Wednesday. 

Buchanan also complimented his office for growing revenue by 35% during his tenure, an amount eight times the department’s budget. 

He also complimented the state’s top elected officials, Gordon, State Treasurer Curt Meier, State Auditor Kristi Racines and Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, for their work. Buchanan served with these individuals on the State Loan and Investment Board. 

“Working together, we have fulfilled our collective goal of strengthening our communities and improving citizens’ lives,” Buchanan wrote. “A sincere thank you to each one of you, for your kindness and civility over the years, even when our votes did not align on a particular issue.” 

In his final words as Secretary of State, Buchanan thanked the people of Wyoming. After being appointed to the position in early 2018, Buchanan was elected by the voters later that fall. 

“It is an honor and privilege to serve as your Secretary of State and to continue my service to you as a member of the judiciary.”

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State GOP To Select Secretary of State Candidates On Sept. 24

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The Wyoming Republican Party announced when it will convene to select interim Secretary of State Candidates

In nine days, the Wyoming Republican Party will help choose the next Secretary of State, albeit a temporary replacement. 

On Wednesday, GOP State Chairman Frank Eathorne announced the party will convene on Sept. 25 to select a pool of three possible Secretary of State candidates.  Gov. Mark Gordon is to then choose one of those picks to be the interim Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan has delivered his official resignation and said his last day is Thursday. Buchanan has accepted the role of a judgeship in Goshen County. 

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in August, is running unopposed in the general election. Because the term he was elected for is still active through the end of the year, the Wyoming Constitution deems him ineligible to be appointed to the Secretary of State role. 

The individual appointed will serve through the end of the year and oversee the upcoming general election. The winner of the general election for Secretary of State will take over in January. 

Although the GOP is hosting a State Central Committee meeting in Riverton this weekend, it cannot engage the Secretary of State selection process because 10 days of public notice is required between the publishing of an announcement and the advertised meeting.  

The party will meet at 1 p.m. next Saturday at the Wind River Recreation Center in Pavillion.  

Fremont County GOP Chairman Ginger Bennett said the “economy of scale of time” related to the relatively central location of Pavilion within the state was the reason for Fremont County getting to host two different meetings within two weeks.   

After the party hands off its selections, Gordon will have five days to choose a candidate. 

The same appointment process was engaged in January to appoint a Superintendent of Public Instruction, which sparked a lawsuit from 16 plaintiffs across the state, including former State GOP Chairman and state legislator Tom Lubnau. The plaintiffs claimed the voting process taken to select the candidates violated the Wyoming and federal Constitution rule of “one person-one vote,” by allowing each county party the same three votes.  

The lawsuit was quickly dismissed in court.  

Lubnau said he and the prior plaintiffs do not plan to file another lawsuit if the same process of tallying votes takes place.

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Defeated Goshen County GOP Legislator Backs Independent Over GOP Candidate That Beat Her

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

State Rep. Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, may have lost her Republican primary race for reelection in House District 5, but she isn’t done campaigning against her former opponent Scott Smith. 

Duncan is supporting Independent candidate Todd Peterson, who is running against Smith in the general election. 

She said she’s backing him because she believes Peterson has a better connection to the Goshen County community and adheres to a platform closer to her values. 

“He’s an old-school Republican,” Duncan said, “a true conservative.” 

Duncan said Peterson didn’t run in the primary election because he didn’t want to run against her. She said he is now running out of concern for Goshen County’s representation at the State Capitol. 

Peterson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Peterson was the president of the Pinnacle Bank in Torrington until 2021 and worked in banking for 43 years. He is a board member with Goshen Economic Development and serves on the Wyoming Lottery Commission, Eastern Wyoming College Foundation Board, St. Joseph’s Board, and is a past President of the Torrington Rotary International Club. 

Duncan said Peterson also has a strong background in agriculture, one of the most prominent industries in Goshen County. 

“I’ve known Todd for years- that’s why I’m behind Todd,” said Duncan. “I know he’ll represent Goshen County.” 

Smith moved to Wyoming 10 years ago after serving as a missionary teacher in an orphanage in Honduras. He received endorsements from Gun Owners of America and Wyoming Right To Life, and has aligned himself with some of the more conservative candidates in Wyoming like Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, who is the pastor at the church Smith attends. Smith said he doesn’t believe the State Legislature represents the conservative nature of Wyoming constituents. 

“I lost to someone who has only lived here for a short period and doesn’t have much involvement in the community,” Duncan said. 

Smith said he sees Duncan’s support for his new opponent as an example of “cancel culture.” 

“We had a majority of people turn out, voice their opinion on who they wanted to represent them, and we have a minority group who didn’t like the will of the majority and wanted to cancel out their vote,” he said in a Tuesday email. “I fully support the people and will continue to work hard to not have their voice canceled.” 

Electioneering 

Smith is one of four Republicans in Southeast Wyoming facing an Independent candidate in the general election. To run as an Independent in Wyoming for a countywide seat, a candidate must obtain signatures in an amount equal or greater than 2% of the total votes cast in the previous U.S. Congress general election in their respective county.  

Duncan was originally listed as Peterson’s treasurer in his initial campaign filing, but she said that was only because she helped him set up a campaign finance account with the Secretary of State’s office. 

“I only did that because I have four years experience in setting these up and navigating the Secretary of State’s website,” Duncan said. “It’s a pretty daunting task, but for me, it only takes about five minutes.” 

Now, Wally Wolski is his treasurer.  

Duncan believes Peterson can beat Smith with the help of Libertarians and Democrats who either voted for other candidates in the primary or didn’t vote in her race. She said she has extensive experience working with Peterson as an active member of the community who gave her insight to various bills she worked on at the Legislature. 

Smith said he didn’t expect Duncan to take this route.

“I am not bothered but am surprised by the incumbent’s choices to not fully support the Republican Party nominee,” Smith said. “If the people have spoken and made a choice, why not support that candidate?”

Traditionally, a losing candidate in the primary election will back the winner of their race in the general election as a showing of solidarity within their party. 

Duncan and other Republican members of the Legislature like Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, have become targets within GOP circles for allegedly not voting conservative enough. Case is facing a possible censure from the party this weekend for his efforts to recruit an Independent candidate to run against Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, for Secretary of State in the general election. He’s also faced criticism for voting to approve a draft bill to strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections.   

True Conservative Or New Conservative? 

What does and does not make a “conservative” and “Republican” has been a topic of fierce debate in Wyoming in recent years, with many members of the Wyoming Republican Party railing against establishment members of the party and certain veteran members of the Legislature, in preference for newer candidates lacking extensive political experience. Many efforts from the new wing of the party have conflicted with traditional Republican norms of local control and a fiscally based focus. 

“Last summer, Duncan did sign a pledge to support two bills the Wyoming Republican Party was backing, but said she did so under duress, with prominent members of the party on hand when she said she was pressured to do so. Smith has signed a pledge to adhere to the State GOP platform at least 80% of the time, which he has promoted throughout his campaign.

Duncan lost to Smith by 248 votes in the primary. There were at least 142 people who participated in the Democratic primary from Goshen County who now have the opportunity to vote in the general election. There were also 111 people who voted but did not vote in the HD 5 race, and 10 write-in votes cast for the HD 5 race.  

“It all comes down to how many people turn out,” Duncan said. 

In order to get on the ballot, Peterson had to obtain at least 122 signatures from local electors.  

Duncan said the primary campaign was the “nastiest and ugliest campaign” she had ever seen locally, with significant misinformation spread about her votes on bills. Specifically, she was accused of not being pro-life on abortion despite voting to support the trigger ban, a bill that made nearly all abortions illegal in Wyoming as soon as Roe v. Wade was overturned. She was also criticized for not initially supporting the special session called last year to handle COVID-19 restrictions.  

“I was not going to say yes to an open-ended special session for Covid…when we’re having to spend more than $30,000 a day without parameters in place,” she said. “That’s like signing a blank check.” 

Duncan later voted to support the special session when guidelines were put in place for its length and other details. 

She said this and other faulty critiques were levied against her based on procedural votes that did not pertain to the context of bills themselves. Duncan said the Wyoming Stockmen For Liberty, a political action committee opposing her, purposely parked a promotional vehicle in front her office for nine hours one particular day. 

Western Conservatives, a Colorado-based PAC backed Duncan in her campaign, despite Duncan speaking out against the group’s attacks on Smith. 

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Wyoming GOP Will Not Make Secretary Of State Picks This Weekend

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Any appointment of an interim Secretary of State in Wyoming will have to wait until at least late this month. 

With Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announcing he will step down on Thursday, the Wyoming Republican Party must choose candidates for the governor to select an appointed candidate from.

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the Republican nomination for this role in the August primary, is not eligible for appointment because he is currently serving an active term in the legislature.

Corey Steinmetz, Wyoming Republican Party national committeeman, said due to public notice requirements, the party will have to call a special meeting to select three finalists for Gov. Mark Gordon to choose a temporary Secretary of State from. 

“There’s probably no way we can have it until the end of the month,” Steinmetz said. 

Buchanan has said he will not submit his official resignation letter until his last day in office on Thursday. The GOP must wait until Buchanan submits his resignation letter before it can initiate the process of finding a replacement for him. 

The Republican Party’s Central Committee is meeting this weekend in Riverton, but due to the time period between Buchanan’s expected announcement and the convening of this meeting on Friday, cannot legally proceed with selecting candidates until giving at least 10 days of public notice. 

These meetings require some party members to drive many hours and pay for lodging, food and other miscellaneous costs.  

If Buchanan gives his resignation on Thursday, the party will have until Sept. 30 to convene a special meeting. 

Buchanan is leaving his post to take a district court judge position in Goshen County. 

Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming GOP, wrote a letter to Buchanan earlier this month, requesting he stay on the job through the general election. 

Buchanan said he will not adhere to this request.  He said county clerks do most of the work in running the state’s elections and are good at it.  Buchanan said the judgeship needs to be filled.  It has been vacant since Aug. 3. 

“It’s pretty tragic but…I definitely have respect for Secretary Buchanan and sometimes that’s just the way things work,” Steinmetz said. 

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Wyoming GOP To Vote On Censuring Cale Case And Corporations Committee 

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily

The Wyoming Republican Party will consider censuring one of the state’s most prominent legislators at its State Central Committee meeting this weekend.  

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, has become a target of the party for allegedly voting and acting contrary to Republican Party values. The party now may ask him to no longer identify himself as a Republican.  

“Our problem stems primarily from individuals who identify as Republican yet vote and act contrary to the platform of the Wyoming Republican Party,” the letter circulated within the party said. 

The letter later went on to say that Case’s actions were the “proverbial straw which breaks the camel’s back.”

Case, a veteran legislator who has both moderate and staunchly conservative views, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday he has no plans to change his party registration or alter his voting. He also said he’s not sure he would be welcomed at the State Central Committee meeting if he attended. 

“I’m really happy they thought of me,” Case joked. “No, I’m not trying to minimize their letter. They’re not happy with me. It’s an expression of displeasure.” 

The letter says the purpose of the party is to recruit new members and further the GOP platform. It threatens to not recognize Case as a Republican and withhold financial and other mechanisms of support for him in future elections. The letter also requests Case to change his party affiliation or not register with any party.   

Case was part of a recent effort to recruit an Independent candidate to run against State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, for Secretary of State in the general election. Gray won the Republican nomination for this position in August. 

Case said multiple times he was looking for a conservative candidate who would run under the Independent banner. 

This effort failed as he and others were not able to find a candidate before the third party candidate filing deadline. 

Case was also one of the members of the State Legislature’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee that recently voted to approve a draft bill to strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections.  

“Your recent attacks upon the duly elected winner of the Republican primary election for the Office of Secretary of State coupled with your guest column in the press are not consistent with the message of party unity,” the letter said. “The idea that an elected “Republican” would undermine the will of the Republican voters of this state is beyond the pale.” 

The letter accuses Case of abusing his power and position. 

“While you certainly have every individual right to support whomever you wish to in your individual capacity it is universally understood, as Republicans, we support or do not undermine the Republican winners of the primary race.”

Case said this message is hypocritical as he said the party openly opposed and supported certain Republican candidates during the primary election cycle. State elections law forbids political parties from campaigning for a particular candidate during the primary election. 

The State GOP issued negative verbiage about U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney throughout the Republican U.S. Congressional campaign and the Park County Republican Party did not link to Cheney’s website or provide information about her campaign on its website. The only campaign listed on the county party’s website is for her opponent Harrient Hageman.  

“They weren’t being unbiased in the primary,” Case said. “We have to be more inclusive.” 

This letter has been endorsed by the Park County Republican Party and was approved on Aug. 29 for consideration at the upcoming Central Committee meeting.

Chagrin 

Case said the Wyoming GOP doesn’t represent the “mainstream” views of the party.  

In the recent primary election, many incumbent, establishment Republicans were voted out of the State Legislature. At a federal level, Cheney lost to Hageman by about 38% of the vote in the primary. 

Case was censured by the Fremont County Republican Party in May, which accused him of no longer representing the people he governs. In April, Case wrote an op-ed for Cowboy State Daily, issuing a rallying cry to establishment Republicans, a minority faction of the party that has a turbulent relationship with current party leadership.  

Even though the Central Committee meeting is taking place near his home in Riverton, Case said he will be out-of-state this weekend and unable to attend. He said no one has reached out to him personally from the party to give him a chance to respond.  

The State GOP is set to consider a separate resolution this weekend against the Corporations committee for furthering the draft bill to strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections and form a nonpartisan elections commission. This resolution stems from a censure passed in Park County on Sept. 1. 

Park County GOP has been a bellwether for many state-level censures, the first county to censure Cheney last year. This censure was followed around the state and nation, for her role opposing former President Donald Trump. 

“The Park County Republican Party condemns the recent effort of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee to remove the elections duties of the Secretary of State by creating an elections commission,” the Park County Resolution read. 

If passed into law, the bill would establish a nonpartisan elections commission to oversee state elections. The Secretary of State would take part in helping nominate candidates for this panel as a member of the State Canvassing Board. Gray’s election was one of the main reasons given for establishing the commission.  

A censure holds no legal bearing and is a formal reprimand. The Wyoming Republican Party censured Cheney last year, a move that was followed by the Republican National Committee, refusing to recognize her as a Republican.

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Hageman Will Not Participate In Any General Election Debates 

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If you want a chance to see Republican congressional candidate Harriet Hageman debate again before the general election, you’ll have to watch an archived version from the primary election. 

Hageman on Monday said that she will not be participating in any future debates during the general election. 

Hageman campaign manager Carly Miller told Cowboy State Daily that Hageman has traveled over 40,000 miles in the last few months, has spoken with thousands of voters and that’s a more effective way of meeting with Wyoming citizens. 

“This is a much more effective way of communicating with Wyomingites and it’s how she will continue. We thank you for your invitation, but respectfully decline,” Miller told Wyoming PBS in rejecting the offer to participate in an upcoming debate.

That news is a disappointment to Constitution candidate Marissa Selvig. Selvig told Cowboy State Daily that the “election isn’t over” and Wyoming citizens should be able to see the candidates ‘side by side’ to see how they “interact with people who aren’t in their own party.” 

“How people respond under pressure to a wide variety of differing opinions is an important thing for people to observe,” Selvig said. 

Public Affairs Senior Producer Steve Peck said in an email to Selvig that Hageman’s decision not to appear was “unfortunate” but said the debate will go on without Hageman.

He said Wyoming PBS will host Selvig, Lynnette GreyBull, and Richard Brubaker on Thursday, October 13 at the Robert A. Peck Art Center Theater in Riverton at  8 p.m.

Hageman is the overwhelming favorite to win the November election. She toppled current Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney by more than a two-to-one margin. 

“Hageman slaughtered Cheney by an astonishing number,” wrote Cowboy State Daily columnist Bill Sniffin. “The vote was 113,025 for Hageman compared to just 49,316 for Cheney. It was a blow-out of gigantic proportions.” 

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Poll: Americans Think Biden Speech Divisive, But Right About Trump, MAGA GOP Threat 

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By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily
Coy@CowboyStateDaily.com 

In Wyoming, a GOP haven, many voters support former President Trump and his Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement.  President Joe Biden in a recent speech condemned Trump and these supporters.  A recent nation-wide poll suggests most people agree with Biden. 

However, the same poll also found that people were concerned Biden’s Philadelphia speech was throwing fuel on the fire, divisive.  

A separate nationwide poll from a consulting agency found that most Americans thought Biden’s speech was dangerous. 

Reuters/Ipsos took its poll Sept. 7.  It asked people about Biden’s Sept. 1 Philadelphia speech in which he sharply attacked Trump and all Republicans who subscribe to the MAGA agenda. Biden said this group questions the outcome of the 2020 election, which makes these folks a threat to democracy and the country. 

The Reuters/Ipsos survey found more than 6 in 10 Americans think that Trump and his MAGA supporters are a threat to the country. 

A Reuters news story by Jason Lange on the agency’s poll said it “found a majority of Americans believe Trump’s movement is undermining democracy.”  

“Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the two-day poll – including one in four Republicans – said Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ movement is threatening America’s democratic foundations,” Lange wrote.  

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online nationwide with responses from 1,003 adults with 14 more Democrats than Republicans.  

However, 59% percent of respondents said Biden’s speech will further divide the country, Lange wrote. But just about half of respondents said they didn’t watch or follow the speech at all.

The Trafalgar Group also conducted a survey regarding Biden’s speech condemning Trump and his supporters.  This nation-wide survey of 1,084 likely general election voters found most Americans believe that Biden, in giving such a speech, is himself a threat to the country. 

Almost 57% of respondents to the Trafalgar Group poll said Biden’s speech  “…represents a dangerous escalation in rhetoric and is designed to incite conflict amongst Americans.” 

About 35% of those responding to the Trafalgar poll said Biden’s speech was “acceptable campaign messaging that is to be expected in an election year.” 

 Different news outlets focused on different parts of the same Reuters Poll.    

The New York Post led with “…Biden’s attack on Trump, MAGA will further divide US.” The Rolling Stone focused on the 25% of Republican respondents who agreed that Trump and some other Republicans were a threat to the country.  

In reporting about its poll, Reuters also started with the results indicating a majority of Americans believe Biden’s fiery attack speech that said “Trump’s movement is undermining democracy.”

In the August primary election, Wyoming voters elected candidates who have questioned the outcome of the 2020 election.  Trump won a larger share of support in Wyoming in 2020 than in any other state.  This year, Wyoming gave Biden his lowest job approval rating in the country, according a Morning Consult Political Intelligence survey.

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Sec. State Ed Buchanan Wishes Chuck Gray Well, Despite ‘Disappointing’ Campaign 

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Although the Secretary of State’s role in Wyoming has not historically drawn much attention, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan has overseen a more high-profile tenure. 

“If anybody wants to measure success, you look at how much enrichment you received in your life and how much did you teach to others,” Buchanan said. “This job has enriched my life greatly. 

“What an amazing treasure it’s been.” 

The security of the state’s elections was rarely questioned until recent years. In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, supporters of former President Donald Trump rallied around Trump’s claims that the election was stolen, rigged and rife with voter fraud. 

Although Trump won Wyoming by a larger margin than any other state, his claims of fraud were extended to the state. This rhetoric heightened during this year’s Republican primary race for Secretary of State, as winning candidate State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, promoted the idea that Wyoming’s elections are not secure enough and that cases of voter fraud are left unprosecuted in the state. 

Buchanan said he found this rhetoric “disappointing” and an example of political campaigning gone too far. He said “words and phrases” were used during the campaign that “do not apply to the state of Wyoming.” 

“It was obviously disappointing because I went to great effort to teach people about it (election security) and we have a candidate who uses too much rhetoric and instills unnecessary fear in the public,” Buchanan said. “It was disheartening to see someone effectively expressing, in effect, disinformation and outright lies told about elections in Wyoming.” 

“Candidates often play fast and loose with the things they say but if you’re not being truthful, you still have a responsibility to be accurate,” Buchanan said in a Thursday morning interview with Cowboy State Daily. 

One of the Secretary of State’s main duties is overseeing the state’s elections. Buchanan said this involves offering a broader policy vision for the public, but it is the state’s 23 county clerks who run Wyoming elections. 

Buchanan’s faith in the state’s elections has never wavered. This summer, he traveled the state, hosting presentations where he explained the election processes and laws in Wyoming and brought in staff from Election Systems and Software to explain how its voting machines work. 

Election fraud was a topic in campaigns leading up to the August primary, but there were no major setbacks or claims of irregularities or fraud. The Secretary of State’s office performed an audit of randomly selected ballots on election night and no issues were reported. 

Next Up 

Gray has no opponent in the general election and is expected to be the next Secretary of State. Shortly after his election, two high-ranking officials in the Secretary of State’s office said they were either leaving or planning to leave their positions.  

Buchanan said Gray has “a lot of work to do” to gain the backing of his employees, but it’s not an impossible task.  

“Candidates for political office have to choose words carefully when campaigning,” Buchanan said. “If they are not careful, they have work to do on the back end.” 

Elections have come under greater scrutiny during Buchanan’s watch, but he has remained steadfast in his belief that they are secure. His replacement ran successfully on a mostly opposite opinion.  

“No matter who won that race, I want them to be successful,” Buchanan said. 

Since taking over the office, Buchanan said he has tried to lead with a listening-first approach. 

“Anybody elected to an office should listen,” he said. “Anybody that does that can be successful.”  

He has also made an effort to learn as much as possible. Although Buchanan has an extensive background working as an attorney and in politics, he had never directly worked in elections before being appointed to the Secretary of State job by former Gov. Matt Mead in March 2018. 

The Secretary of State has many other responsibilities besides elections. They also serve as a member of the State Loan and Investments Board, a body charged with making critical financial decisions for the state.  Another duty is approving charter schools that want to open in Wyoming. 

“I’ve learned about the state’s business division,” Buchanan said. “I’ve learned so much about elections from my staff and the 23 county clerks.” 

The Secretary of State is also responsible for all corporate formations and serves as a regulatory body for securities exchanges in the state.  

Buchanan said the biggest challenge his office faces looking forward is the need to modernize and provide more services for the public online. Buchanan also wants his staff to have greater ability to enforce limited liability corporation and campaign finance laws. 

Gray has said he wants to look at making Wyoming’s limited liability corporation and trust laws stricter to prevent foreign oligarchs from using the state as a tax haven. Buchanan said he believes this activity is extremely limited. 

“Like everything, it is always a balancing act between free enterprise and appropriate government regulation,” he said. “It’s because of the freedoms we enjoy that we try to have the least burdensome laws.” 

Transition 

Although Buchanan initially signaled he would run for reelection, he pulled back from this commitment in May to apply for a district court judgeship in Torrington. Buchanan was chosen by Gov. Mark Gordon in July for the job. 

Buchanan said he considers being a judge the quintessential capstone to his career. 

“I love to have the opportunity with being a judge to be studying law, examining the law,” he said.  

In many ways, becoming a judge is a full circle moment for Buchanan. 

Buchanan’s life has been defined by the law, politics and aviation. He served as an officer in the Air Force from 1990-1994 and later earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Wyoming in 1998. 

He served in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 2003-2013, rising to the role of House Speaker by the end of his career there. 

“Next to my family, serving in the Legislature and as Secretary of State has been a highlight of a lifetime,” Buchanan said. 

But his preference to be a judge has been clear since he applied to be a circuit court judge in Goshen County in May 2019 — barely six months after he was elected to his first full term as Secretary of State 

Buchanan has said his last day on the job will be on Sept. 15.  

Wyoming law dictates that the governor must appoint an interim Secretary of State. The State GOP chooses three finalists for Gordon to choose from. 

Only a resignation letter from Buchanan can officially start this process, which Buchanan said he’ll deliver on his last day in office. 

Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, in a recent letter complimented Buchanan for his work, and implored him to stay on the job through the November general election. 

“The best candidates have a job they must wrap up before they can move on to a new position,” Eathorne wrote. “Gov. Gordon knew this when he selected you and the courts will manage if you need to remain in your current role until general election canvassing is complete.” 

Buchanan said although this request is flattering, he reiterated that it’s the county clerks and his staff that do the bulk of the work during the election. 

“If anyone bothers to read the law, it’s the county clerks that are running elections,” he said. ““Wyoming people need to rest assured they will get an election just as great without me.” 

He also said there has been a scramble trying to fill the Eighth Judicial District Court role since former Judge Patrick Korell stepped down on Aug. 2, with a rotating cast of retired judges and other actively-serving judges from around the state filling in the gap. 

“The reason I’ve worked this long is I wanted to find a good moment for a transition,” Buchanan said. He said he found mid-September the best time for a departure, with State Loan and Investment Board hosting a meeting on Sept. 14, its last meeting until early October. “I’m trying to balance the needs of elections and the judicial branches.” 

At First, No One Signed Up To Run For Mayor In Frannie, Wyoming – Now It’s A Race

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The race for Frannie town mayor has taken some unexpected twists and turns, especially when considering no one entered it at the start.  Now two men are committed to a head-to-head showdown in what was previously Wyoming’s sleepiest mayoral race.

Since nobody signed up to run for mayor in Frannie, a town of nearly 150 in northwest Wyoming, the Big Horn County Canvassing Board had to rely on write-in candidates to find a possible candidate from the primary election. 

When all 26 votes were counted, current Mayor Vance Peregoy came out on top with eight votes. In a close second was town council member Steven Richardson with seven. Both candidates received enough votes to be considered qualified candidates for the general election. 

Frannie Town Clerk Deidre Clendenen confirmed both Peregoy and Richardson have said they will now run in the general election, creating an exciting head-to-head showdown in what was previously Wyoming’s sleepiest mayoral race. 

“I figured I might as well, somebody’s got to,” Peregoy said. “It makes you feel good to have people nominate you.” 

Someone’s Gotta Do It 

Peregoy has been mayor of Frannie for 12 years. Clendenen has also been with the town for a dozen years and said she had never seen a mayor race play out like this, although there have been a few vacant town council races. There is currently an open seat on the town’s four-member council.  

In the 2018 general election, 50 people cast ballots in the Frannie mayor’s race. Although this turnout is lower than most elementary school’s student council elections, it’s respectable considering the town’s overall population. 

Peregoy said being mayor of Frannie isn’t too strenuous but even in a town as small as his, he still must deal with governmental bureaucracy. 

“You have to wade through all the government red tape with every damn thing you do,” he said. 

Peregoy’s duties include overseeing the town’s employees and approving all town expenditures and projects. He said most residents of Frannie are either retirees or young families, dealing with the same issues afflicting many Americans- inflation, increasing costs of gas and basic services.  

During one town council meeting in 2021, Peregoy had to break the news that the town couldn’t afford to purchase its own $10,800 street sweeper. To save costs, Clendenen only works four days a week in the summer. 

Most prominent of the challenges facing “the biggest little town in Wyoming,” he said, is keeping down the cost of trash and water.  

“You try to keep expenses down for the town’s people,” he said. 

Peregoy said he held back from running for a fourth term to give someone else a chance to be mayor. He did something similar in 2018 but signed up to run on the last day of the filing period upon discovering nobody had signed up. 

When asked about differences that separate him and Richardson, Peregoy said, “I’m not going to get into that.” 

Richardson, a relatively new resident who joined the town council in 2021, did not return a request for comment. 

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Wyoming General Election To See The Most Third-Party Candidates In 100 Years

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

This year’s general election in Wyoming will have the most third-party candidates to run in the state than any time in the last 100 years. One would have to go back to the World War I era of Wyoming politics, a time when the Socialist and Progressive political parties held a legitimate coalition of voters in the state, to find a time when there were more third-party candidates.  

There are 20 minor party candidates running in Wyoming’s statewide elections this November. Richard Winger, a San Francisco-based political scientist with Ballot Access News, confirmed that it is the most minor party candidates to run in Wyoming since prior to 1920. 

The majority of this year’s third-party candidates are running as Libertarians. 

One of the most competitive is Libertarian Bethany Baldes, a Riverton resident running against Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, in House District 55. Baldes is a well-known member of the Riverton community and lost to Oakley by 52 votes in 2020. In 2018, she lost to Republican David Miller by 53 votes. 

Baldes’ husband Jared Baldes is running for governor as a Libertarian, while her father Richard Brubaker is running for U.S. Congress as a Libertarian. 

“I think it’s wonderful,” Jared Baldes said. “Nothing is more important than for the voters to have choices in their elections. In Wyoming, there’s not a lot of choices outside the primary elections.” 

Jared Baldes said the U.S. needs to move away from its current two-party dominated system. 

“You have right wing, left wing, but it’s all the same bird,” he said. 

The Libertarian Party has had a presence in Wyoming for many years. In February, the party became an official minority party in the State Legislature for the first time when State Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, announced that freshman Libertarian Rep. Marshall Burt, L-Green River, had been appointed to the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee.  

Burt will take on Republican challenger Cody Wylie. 

One Libertarian who may also compete well in the general election is Rock Springs Misty Morris, running against Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs. Stith is one of the more moderate Republican legislators in the state. 

Morris previously owned a gun shop in Rock Springs. She received $500 from a political action committee that was mostly funded by Wyoming State Treasurer Curt Meier. This PAC gave money to a slate of staunchly conservative candidates.  

There are seven Independents running in the state-level races. To get their name on the ballot, these candidates had to obtain a certain number of signatures from electors in their district. 

Independent candidate Patricia Junek already ran against State Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, in the Republican primary as a write-in candidate for State Senate 23. She lost by 2,541 votes but will now get a second shot at the incumbent legislator with her name on the ballot.  

Jared Baldes said he doesn’t have a problem with losing primary candidates making a second go at an election in the general election, but said if voters have an issue with it, they need to address it at the State Legislature. 

“You don’t get to play Monday morning quarterback,” he said. 

Although he didn’t run in the primary, Lander resident Jeff Martin is very active in State Republican Party politics, organizing and hosting the “Save Wyoming” rally held in Lander this summer. Martin is running against Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, in the general election as an Independent. 

There are two minor party candidates running for U.S. Congress with Brubaker and Constitution Party member Marisa Selvig running against Republican Harriet Hageman and Democrat Lynette Grey Bull. 

Also running for the Constitution Party in the State Legislature is Michael Williams in Rawlins, Larry Williamson in Gillette and Matt Freeman in Cheyenne. 

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Don’t Sleep On This Year’s General Election: 8 Wyoming Legislative Races To Watch

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

In a state with a large GOP majority, there are still a handful of competitive Wyoming Legislative races to keep an eye on for November’s general election. 

In a state with an overwhelmingly Republican majority, many of Wyoming’s most competitive races are decided in the primary election. But there are more than a handful of State Legislature races in this year’s general election bucking that trend. 

Democratic candidates received far fewer votes than Republicans in almost every district in the primary election. This was likely due to at least 10,000 traditional Democrats who crossed over and voted in the Republican primaries. 

There are 37 contested races in the Wyoming Legislature this year. 

House District 44 

In Cheyenne’s HD 44, Republican Tamara Trujillo will take on Democratic former legislator Sara Burlingame. Trujillo took down incumbent State Rep. John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne, who happens to be her cousin. There were only 111 votes that separated those two leading candidates, but due to a low voter turnout, this made up an 11% difference between the candidates. 

Burlingame served in the House from 2019-2021 and is still considered one of the leading members of the Wyoming Democratic Party. In 2020, she lost to Romero-Martinez by 48 votes. She is pro-choice and the executive director of Wyoming Equality, a LGBTQ advocacy group. 

Trujillo is solidily conservative with a pro-life stance and a belief that the state should provide better support for school of choice options. 

Prior to Romero-Martinez’s election, HD 44 had been a longstanding Democratic-leaning district. 

House District 33 

Rep. Andi LeBeau, D-Ethete, will take on Republican Sarah Penn in the general election. HD 33 is an area that encompasses Riverton and the Wind River Indian Reservation and has historically been a swing district.  

LeBeau was raised on the reservation and considered one of the state’s foremost leaders on tribal issues. She won her 2020 election over nearest challenger Valaira Whiteman by 96 votes.  

Penn is supported by leaders in the Wyoming Republican Party. She has a pro-Second Amendment platform and is against COVID-19 mandates. 

LeBeau also won her 2018 race by a close margin. Prior to her taking office, the district was represented by Republican Jim Allen, who LeBeau beat in 2018. 

House District 14 

North Laramie’s HD 14 could offer a very competitive race in this year’s general election. Rep. Trey Sherwood, D-Laramie, will attempt to hold on to her seat against Republican challenger Bryan Shuster. 

Sherwood, a first term legislator, won her 2020 election by 85 votes. She is director of Laramie Main Street Alliance, an organization that supports downtown businesses in the town. 

Since the 2020 election, redistricting has added a few rural precincts to her district that voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in the past. 

Shuster is a Laramie City Council member who has pledged to support term limits for U.S. Congress members.  

HD 14 is a historical swing district, with both Republicans and Democrats representing the district over the last decade. 

House District 11 

Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, may have solid standing as the House majority whip and three terms under his belt, but he represents a district that has voted for Democrats in the last decade. Olsen faces a strong Democratic challenger in Marguerite Herman for the general election. 

Herman is a lobbyist for the League of Women Voters in Wyoming and a Laramie County School District 1 board member. She has also been the federal legislative chair for the Wyoming PTA.  

Olsen won his first election in 2016 by a narrow margin, but has won every general election race since then by larger and larger numbers over his nearest competitor. He won his 2020 race over Democrat Amy Spieker by 11% of the vote. 

House District 23 

Teton County’s HD 23 will likely stay Democratic despite Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, stepping down, but that does not mean this race won’t be at least competitive.  

Republican Paul Vogelheim will face Democrat Liz Storer in the general election. Vogelheim was a major supporter of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in Teton County, where Cheney had her biggest win in the primary election. Vogelheim was a Teton County commissioner from 2008-2019. He describes himself as a “Al Simpson Republican.” 

Storer has been lobbying at the State Legislature since 1994 and runs the George B. Storer Foundation, which invests in nonprofits and programs throughout the state. The foundation supports nonprofit journalism entities WyoFile, Wyoming Public Media and High Country News, University of Wyoming scholarships, and protecting sage grouse habitat and other projects.   

Democrats have comfortably won elections in HD 23 since 2014, but the district was represented by Republican Keith Gingery prior to that year. 

House District 13 

With progressive legislator Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, set to retire after her current term, Wyoming’s Democrats can’t afford to lose any seats considering the already-slim minority they hold in the Legislature. Although HD 13 has historically swung solidly blue in the past, the national trend of increasing political polarization could erode some of this Democrat-stronghold. Also, due to redistricting, only a small swath of land remains from the district that elected Connolly when she ran unopposed in the general election in 2020. 

Democrat Ken Chestek is running to replace Connolly and boasts a respectable political resume. Chestek runs Wyoming Promise, an organization working to remove corporate influence from elections and create better election transparency under the belief that corporations are not people. He has worked with the Legislature on bills related to this topic since 2016 and also ran for the State House in 2016, losing in House District 46 to Republican Bill Haley.

Chestek will take on Republican Wayne Pinch, who ran unopposed in the primary election. Pinch is a relative political newcomer and a small business owner. He is very moderate politically, supporting abortions in some instances and the legalization of marijuana.  

House District 46 

HD 46 will likely stay Republican under Rep. Ocean Andrew, but Democratic challenger Merav Ben-David may give him a solid challenge. 

Andrew represents South Laramie, an area that has traditionally leaned Republican. One of the most conservative legislators and the youngest in the state, Andrew easily beat Republican challenger RJ Lennox, a much more moderate candidate, in the August primary election. 

Ben-David, a University of Wyoming professor, ran against U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis in the 2020 election, earning more than 72,000 votes. Ben-David is very active in both the Wyoming and Albany County Democratic Party. 

House District 16 

Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, has easily won every race he has faced since he was first elected in 2018. He may face his toughest challenge yet this year against Republican Jim McCollum, father of fallen U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum.  

Yin is the House minority caucus chairman and one of the Legislature’s leaders on the topic of cryptocurrency. He is also a member of the judiciary and revenue committees.  

McCollum does not have political experience but gained widespread recognition and support in Republican circles for speaking against President Joe Biden in regard to his sons’ passing during the military pullout in Afghanistan. His family members have also sued actor Alec Baldwin for defamation. 

HD 16, an area encompassing downtown Jackson, is solidly blue but was represented by a Republican as recently as 2014. 

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Wyoming GOP Asks Secretary Of State Not To Resign Until After November Election 

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The Wyoming Republican Party has requested Secretary of State Ed Buchanan continue in his role through the end of the general election in November

This request was made Thursday in a letter sent to Buchanan from Frank Eathorne, chairman of the state GOP. Also signing the letter was Wyoming GOP National Committeewoman Nina Webber and Wyoming GOP National Committeeman Corey Steinmetz. 

“In our view, elections are one of the most important functions performed by the Wyoming Secretary of State,” the party wrote. “Most incoming secretaries of state have almost two years to prepare for their first general election. However, if you resign in mid-September when there is an election six weeks later, it may be setting your appointed successor up to fail.” 

Buchanan told Cowboy State Daily that he appreciated the confidence the Republican Party had in him but there’s no need to worry about the general election without him present.

“I am flattered to have the Party request me to stay on through the general election,” Buchanan said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “However, it is Wyoming’s 23 county clerks and the Secretary of State staff that do the heavy lifting for elections. Upon my departure, it will be business as usual in the Secretary of State’s Office throughout the general election and through the end of the year.”

Buchanan’s staff has announced his last day will be on Sept. 15, nearly two months before the Nov. 8 general election. He has accepted a judgeship in Goshen County, a job he was appointed to by Gov. Mark Gordon. 

“That is often the case with filling any position- the best candidates have a job they must wrap up before they can move to a new position,” the party wrote. “Gov. Gordon knew this when he selected you and the courts will manage if you need to remain in your current role until general election canvassing is complete.” 

Wyoming law requires that the party of the departing or departed Secretary of State select three candidates who could fill the vacant position.  The governor is required to appoint one of these three candidates to do the job until the next election. Narrowing down the finalists must take place within 15 days of the office holder’s official resignation. As of last Friday, Buchanan, a Republican, had still not given an official resignation.  

After the Republican Party delivers Gordon its chosen finalists, the governor has five days to make a final choice. 

The party questioned its ability to find a qualified replacement who could fulfill this job. 

“Any successor appointed would not take office until four weeks before election day and does not know your team members and has never worked with any of them,” the party said. “It is difficult to imagine who would want to assume the role on such short notice.” 

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, won the Republican primary for Secretary of State and is expected to be the next person in this role.  He is facing no Democratic opponent in the general election.  

When Gray takes office in January, he will have two years to work with the Secretary of State’s office staff before his first election in August 2024. Shortly after Gray’s election win, at least two high ranking officials in the office indicated they are leaving their jobs. 

The Wyoming Constitution forbids an elected official from being appointed to a seat in the state’s executive branch before the current term they were elected for expires, disqualifying Gray from being appointed because his state representative term does not end until the beginning of 2023. 

The letter requests Buchanan to stay in office until the general election process is complete, which, if that includes all certifying and canvassing efforts, will likely last through the end of November. 

Buchanan did not immediately respond to comment.  

Wyoming GOP Vice Chair David Holland, party executive director Kathy Russell, party attorney Brian Shuck, and party secretary Donna Rice were also sent the letter. 

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Ed Buchanan’s Last Day Sept. 15; Gordon, Wyoming GOP To Pick Interim Secretary Of State

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

draft blurb:  Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s last day on the job before he leaves to become a judge is Sept. 15.  It’s up to Governor Mark Gordon and the state GOP to pick someone to finish out the Secretary of State’s term.  The Wyoming Constitution presents hurdles for consideration of GOP Secretary of State primary election winner Chuck Gray. 

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s last day in that position is set for Sept. 15 and Governor Mark Gordon will need to appoint an official to fill his seat. 

Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Sept.15 will be Buchanan’s last day. Buchanan has accepted a judgeship in Goshen County, a job he will begin on Sept. 19, Wheeler said. 

Buchanan has not delivered Gov. Mark Gordon an official resignation letter yet and Wheeler said she doesn’t know when that will happen. 

As soon as Buchanan delivers his official resignation, Gordon must immediately notify Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne to call a meeting of the State Central Committee where three candidates who could fill the Secretary of State vacancy will be chosen by the party. 

This process could take place at the State Central Committee’s next meeting Sept. 16-17 in Riverton.  

“We really need the governor to notify the vacancy, but otherwise we’re ready to go,” said David Holland, vice chair of the Wyoming Republican Party. 

After the candidates’ names are delivered to Gordon, the governor will have five days to make his selection. 

This same process played out last January when former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow stepped down to take a similar job in Virginia.   

The process the State GOP used to select the three finalists sparked a lawsuit from 16 plaintiffs across the state, including former State GOP Chairman and state legislator Tom Lubnau.  

The plaintiffs claimed the voting process taken to select the candidates violated the Wyoming and federal Constitution rule of “one person-one vote,” by allowing each county party the same three votes. U.S. District Court Judge Skavdahl quickly ruled in favor of the defendants.  

Shortly after, Gordon selected Cody resident Brian Schroeder for the Superintendent of Public Instruction job. 

Schroeder lost a close race to Megan Degenfelder in the Republican primary election last month. 

Who Could It Be? 

The Wyoming Constitution says that “No senator or representative shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the state, and no member of congress or other person holding an office … shall be a member of either house during his continuance in office.” 

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, won the Republican primary for Secretary of State in August. There have been a few different campaigns mounted to try and prevent Gray from serving in office and to restrict his powers. 

On Thursday night, the Park County Republican Party passed a resolution issuing a formal reprimand to the State Legislature’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee. The reprimand was in response to the committee approving the draft of a bill last week that would strip the Secretary of State of their duty to oversee the state’s elections. 

Vince Vanata, a state committeeman for the Park County GOP, said this resolution will be circulated and considered at the state party’s central committee September meeting. 

Since Gray faces no Democratic or Independent challenger in the general election, he is expected to be the next Secretary of State. 

Since Gray’s current House term runs through the end of the year, the Constitution indicates he would be ineligible to fill the role as interim Secretary of State.

The key phrase in that constitutional passage is “during the term for which he was elected,” meaning that even if Gray were to step down from his Legislature seat, he was still elected for a term that ends at the start of 2023.

According to the Casper Star Tribune, a 2010 memorandum drawn up by the Legislative Service Office offered the same interpretation of the law. 

The only shred of doubt that may exist in the constitutional passage is the phrase “civil office,” which could be interpreted to refer to unelected positions. The Secretary of the State is one of the five elected members of the state’s executive branch.  

Gray did not respond to a request to comment about whether he finds himself eligible or not.

Holland said he was unaware of the constitutional passage related to this issue but said he supports Gray being appointed in the interim. 

“Obviously, we’re not going to violate the law and we’ll find a way to work around it,” Holland said.  

Former state legislator Marti Halverson could be a potential candidate if Gray isn’t chosen. Halverson was one of the three finalists chosen for the Superintendent of Public Instruction role last winter.

She spearheaded a campaign this past year through the State GOP, to audit elections from several precincts in Laramie and Fremont counties.  

“The elections director is just following state law,” Halverson said. “Any problem with the security of elections lays directly at the feet of the State Legislature.” 

Halverson said she doesn’t know if she would accept the Secretary of State role. 

“I would have to give it some thought,” she said in a Friday afternoon phone interview. 

She did say she believes Gray should stay in his current role as a state legislator until the start of his presumptive term in January. 

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Wyoming Legislator Says Highway Patrol Improperly Released Info In Trooper Arrest

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, wants to know why the Wyoming Highway Patrol sent out a press release announcing that it had arrested one of its troopers before he had officially been charged with a crime.

Brown filed a complaint, which he said serves mostly as an inquiry as to why a press release was given out, notifying the public of Trooper Gabriel Testerman’s arrest, before Testerman had officially been charged.

The press release issued late afternoon Tuesday said Testerman was taken into custody by the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office for an alleged crime he had been under investigation for since May. No details about the charges were given. 

Testerman did not have his first appearance in court until Wednesday, when he officially received his charges. He is being charged with three counts of inflicting sexual intrusion on a victim.  

In Wyoming, a defendant can be arrested before they are officially charged. At an initial hearing, a judicial officer will decide which, if any, charges a defendant is charged with. 

Brown has concerns that the highway patrol may have violated Wyoming law.  When it involves certain sex crimes, the law prohibits information being made public about a person until charges are filed “Prior to the filing of an information or indictment in district court.”

Wyoming statute 6-2-319(a), which applies to charges of sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual assault of a minor and soliciting, says a public employee may not release information about an alleged perpetrator before charges are filed. Certain Wyoming counties have interpreted this to mean before charges are filed in circuit court, while others have decided this means before they are filed in district court. 

Testerman has only been seen in Laramie County Circuit Court.

“What it really boils down to me, is we have the court of law, where a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and then the court of public opinion,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, they’re not the same.” 

Brown said the release was potentially defamatory and could be cause for concern as a potential lawsuit. 

The statute also says an actor’s name may be released to the public to aid or facilitate an arrest. There was no mention made in the press release regarding any issue that took place in locating or arresting Testerman. 

Brown said he suspects Highway Patrol was trying to get ahead of media coverage of the event and be transparent but said the handling of this event was “not normal.” He said he originally suspected that Testerman’s arrest had been leaked to the media, but became much more concerned when he found out this information was given out in a press release.

 A former member of the House Transportation, Highways & Military Affairs committee, Brown said he is knowledgeable about Highway Patrol personnel and practices. 

“For an agency that struggles with retention and hiring, I have concerns if it doesn’t have its own employees’ backs and is waiting for press to come,” he said.  “I don’t like any state employee having their name released unjustly.” 

Interim Highway Patrol Colonel Shannon Ratliff told Cowboy State Daily that he does not believe anything was done wrong in the release of the information. 

“I believe it’s our duty to be transparent,” he said. “We have a much better climate in Wyoming in the public’s perception for law enforcement than it enjoys nationwide. I believe this was fairly standard. We typically release information when one of our staff members is arrested.” 

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported Testerman was released from Laramie County Jail on Wednesday after posting a $100,000 cash/surety bond.

Brown filed his complaint by mail to Wyoming Highway Patrol Interim Colonel Shannon Ratliff, Lt. Col. Josh Walther, Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner and Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday afternoon

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