Politics

Surdam For Mayor

Whatever the outcome of the general election, Cheyenne’s next mayor will be a woman, for the first time ever. Marian Orr received 28 percent of the vote, while Amy Surdam received 21 percent.

The primary ballot began with 10 candidates, but only Orr and Surdam will move onto the general election. Orr and Surdam both say they are excited to see two female candidates, but both say they are very different candidates.

Liz Cheney

After a hotly-contested primary, Liz Cheney secured the Republican nomination for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat by a landslide. Cheney took 40 percent of the vote. Her closest challengers were Leland Christensen, with 22 percent, and Tim Stubson, with 17 percent.

Cheney is a former Fox news commentator and the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, who held the seat she is seeking from 1979 to 1989. 

Liz Cheney first ran for office in 2014 against Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, but she dropped out of that race before the primary, citing family health problems.

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray says voting has gone smoothly across the state during today’s primary election. 

Murray said Tuesday that early voting for the primary was actually about 500 votes more than two years ago when the governor and all the top elected officials were on the ballot. He added that the races for U.S. House and some interesting local races in Cheyenne, Casper, and Gillette has turned out voters in those areas. But interest has been much lower in counties with few contested races.

Wyoming Democratic Party

The Wyoming Democratic Party is hoping that a new progressive caucus will bring in more grassroots voices and grow the party. The idea is to attract progressive Independents and current Democrats who would like to take a more active role with the party beyond the traditional structure. 

State Democratic Party Chair Ana Cupril said Bernie Sanders inspired lots of new voters to become interested in politics and many are not interested in traditional party politics. The hope is that the new caucus will get them interested.

Four state residents are calling for an ethics investigation of State Senator Eli Bebout saying that his support of the Abandoned Mine Lands bill improperly benefited a company that he partially owns. 

The company called Nucor received AML funding as a result of the legislation, but the bill did not pay Bebout directly and for that reason the Senate rules committee allowed him to vote on the legislation. Senate Minority leader Chris Rothfuss is a member of the rules committee and said Bebout’s vote was proper.

Wyoming Democratic Party

The Democratic National Convention wrapped up Thursday night with the official nomination of Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential candidate.  

Wyoming is a reliably red state, voting republican in every presidential election since the 1960s, so the Democratic candidate is typically an afterthought to most voters. But Ken Chestek, a DNC delegate from Laramie, said he doesn’t think Donald Trump will get much support in Wyoming.

Aaron Schrank

A poll commissioned by the Casper Star-Tribune and Wyoming PBS says 52 percent of Wyoming’s Republican voters are undecided in the race for the state’s lone U.S. House seat. The seat is being vacated by Representative Cynthia Lummis, who has decided not to seek a fifth term.

The poll shows that Liz Cheney is supported by 21 percent of those contacted, while 9 percent support State Representative Tim Stubson and 4 percent support State Senator Leland Christensen. But with 52 percent of the voters undecided, Cheney’s lead is not as firm as it could be.

NBC News / via Twitchy

The recent use of the acronym BLM in national conversation has left some Westerners confused. 

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, the Wyoming delegation wore t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter, or in shorthand, BLM. Nina McConigley is a writer who lives Laramie. She posted about the show of support on her Facebook page, writing "Wyoming delegation - all wearing BLM shirts! As a POC [Person of Color] in Wyo, this makes me so so happy." She says that elicited a lot of confused comments in response. 

Wyoming Legislature Service

A Wyoming legislator is hoping to change some minds during this week’s Democratic National Convention.  

House Minority Leader Mary Throne said energy is important to Wyoming and she is concerned that the Democratic platform is anti-fossil fuels. Throne added that Democrats from non-energy producing states don’t seem to understand the role oil, natural gas, and coal play in the national economy. 

 

Wyoming U.S Senator John Barrasso said he’s pleased with the final Republican Party platform that was adopted in Cleveland this week. 

Barrasso chaired the committee that drafted the platform. The document has been criticized for its stance against same sex marriage, its opposition to transgender men and women using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity, and its support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, among other things. But Barrasso said the platform represents Wyoming values.

Jason Senteney

A candidate for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives said he wants to require military service for 18-year-olds. 

Republican Jason Senteney of Torrington said  he wants to implement what he calls the National Service Plan where 18-year-old men and women would be required to serve two years in the military or a related job if they are not physically able. Senteney said this will get young people to respect each other and get them invested in the nation. 

Bob Beck

Due to declining state revenues, Governor Matt Mead announced that he is cutting the state budget by $248 million.

The Wyoming Department of Health is being asked to cut its budget by $90 million for the next two years, which Mead said will lead to a loss of 677 private sector jobs. The University of Wyoming will cut $35 million, community colleges $20 million and the Department of Corrections $17 million. Mead told the Joint Appropriations Committee Tuesday that he had no choice.

Wyoming State Legislature

It’s up to a legislative task force to decide how Wyoming should deal with structural issues at the state penitentiary building in Rawlins. They can either make repairs or construct an entirely new building.

The 13-member task force includes five senators. Senator Stephen Pappas, an architect from Cheyenne, is among five other senators on the task force.  

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Although Bernie Sanders won the Wyoming Democratic caucus with 56 percent of the vote, he received the same number of delegates that Hillary Clinton did. Sanders supporters are hoping to change that.

Sanders supporter and Democratic National Committeeman elect Jon Gardzelewski said state delegates supporting Sanders have filed a formal petition with the Democratic National Committee challenging the apportionment of Wyoming delegates to the national convention. 

University of Wyoming

As Wyoming faces tough choices about how to balance its budget, a new survey from the University of Wyoming looks at what the public would choose. 

It's the first scientific look at citizen opinion on the budget.

“Effectively we have three choices to face a budget deficit: Raise revenue, that’s increase taxes, cut services or agency budgets, or thirdly take money out of our savings account, the rainy day fund," said Rob Godby, one of the organizers of the survey. "And we were trying to figure out what combination or single action was most popular with people.”

Tim Stubson

A candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives has unveiled a plan to help Wyoming’s struggling energy industry—and to give back power to states. 

Republican Tim Stubson calls his plan “winning back the west.” His biggest effort is to use legislation and the power of the purse to remove what he considers burdensome rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bob Beck of Wyoming Public Radio

To save money, the Wyoming legislature may meet only 37 out of 40 possible days next year and will make other reductions in travel, staffing, and purchases.  

Due to a downturn in expected revenues, the legislature’s management council voted to reduce the legislature’s upcoming two-year budget by 12 percent. The governor is working with all state agencies and the University of Wyoming to reduce their budgets by an average of eight percent. 

Speaker of the House Kermit Brown said the upcoming session may be difficult and lawmakers may need all 40 days. 

According to a new poll, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has the third highest approval rating of Governors across the U.S. The survey results were released last week by the non-partisan media and polling organization Morning Consult, which listed Governor Mead’s approval rating at 67 percent. 

Jeff Cartwright is the communications director at Morning Consult. He says even with Wyoming facing a budget crunch, Governor Mead’s approval ratings may not be affected, simply because it’s hard to predict what will hurt a governor’s image.

Wikipedia Creative Commons

The legislature’s joint revenue committee wrapped up two days of discussions on possible tax increases to deal with Wyoming’s declining revenue picture. 

The committee looked at everything from increasing property taxes to pay for an education shortfall to letting communities add a sales tax on food. But at the end of the two days, the committee only agreed to draft two bills, both dealing with increasing the wind tax.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

A Wyoming legislative committee is looking into ways to help cities, towns, and counties raise more money, but a localized food tax failed to gain support Thursday.

State Senator Ogden Driskill of Devils Tower said the state will likely not be able to keep providing money for local government at the rate it has in the past. Lawmakers approved 105 million dollars for local entities for the next two years, a decrease of 78 million from the previous two years. 

Wyoming’s Democratic Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives says the Affordable Care Act has helped many citizens in the state, but he adds that it can be improved.  

Rock Springs resident Ryan Greene says there are a number of reforms that could help, but Congress has to stop trying to kill the ACA and instead look to fix it. He says there are problems with the current system.

“We pay twice as much for name brand prescription’s as any other nation on earth. Why? And then I can get my car insurance from Chicago, but I have to get my health insurance from Wyoming.”

AARON SCHRANK/WPR

Meet The Candidates 

Dr. Rex Rammell is a veterinarian from Gillette. In 2008 he was an Idaho candidate for the United States Senate and in 2010 a candidate for governor.  He is author of the book, "A Nation Divided: the War for America's Soul."  Dr. Rammell considers himself a firebrand constitutional conservative who believes the answer to many of Wyoming's problems can be solved with the Federal transfer of public lands.  

AARON SCHRANK?WPR

Nine candidates for Wyoming’s only U.S. House seat faced off in a debate Monday night at the University of Wyoming.

Republican Liz Cheney told the crowd that she’s the one candidate who can build a national coalition around fossil fuels and other important Wyoming issues.

But State Representative from Casper Tim Stubson said he’s the candidate with a proven track record representing Wyoming.

Maggie Mullen

The Albany County Democrats are asking Wyoming’s superdelegates to reconsider their commitments to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in order to more accurately reflect the popular presidential vote that favored Senator Bernie Sanders at last week’s statewide caucus.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Cheyenne City Council has been debating a proposed ordinance that would allow those living in certain residential zones in Cheyenne to raise chickens in their backyard. Right now, it is illegal to so do.

What has come to be known as the “chicken ordinance” would allow up to five chickens in a backyard within certain residential zones in Cheyenne. This week the ordinance was tweaked during second reading discussion.

Wyoming is sometimes called the Equality State — it had the nation's first female governor and was the first territory to give women the right to vote. But that legacy isn't visible on the floor of the state Senate. Just one of the 30 state senators is a woman.

"I am the queen of the Senate. I have my own little tiara," jokes Bernadine Craft, a Democrat who represents the mining town of Rock Springs.

The state of Wyoming was amongst the locations revealed in the data leak of the Panama Papers, that involved the large offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The leak included 11.5 million confidential files and pointed to millionaires and others that may be hiding their money in Wyoming based shell companies.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told supporters that he has a path to the White House and that will continue with a victory at the Wyoming Democratic caucus this weekend. 

Speaking at the University of Wyoming, Sanders encouraged his supporters to get the vote out.

Democrats and progressives win when there is a large voter turnout, Republicans win when people are demoralized, this campaign is giving energy and enthusiasm to millions of Americans.”

Flickr Creative Commons, by 401kcalculator.org

Wyoming has consistently ranked poorly among states when it comes to equal pay, but new research reveals the state as having the third largest lifetime wage gap in the country. Because of that gap, an average Wyoming woman makes about 651,000-dollars less than a man over the course of a 40-year-career.

WPR/AARON SCHRANK

Former President Bill Clinton was in Cheyenne Monday morning, telling a crowd of 500 to support his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the state’s democratic caucus Saturday.

Clinton defended his wife’s perceived anti-coal stance and said a transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable  energy will ultimately benefit Wyoming’s economy. He also criticized Wyoming’s Republican-led Legislature for failing to approve Medicaid expansion.

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