Know your candidates: 2020 election

The Kemmerer Gazette sent out a questionnaire to all candidates in Lincoln County. The candidates who responded were: 14th State Senate District – Fred Baldwin-Republican, Lyle Williams-Republican, T-Rex Rammell-Republican; 18th State House District – Tom Crank-Republican, Scott Heiner-Republican; 21st State House District – Evan J. Simpson-Republican; 22nd State House District – Bill Winney-Republican; Lincoln County Commissioner – Jerry Hansen-Republican.

What is the most important thing people should know about you?

Baldwin: I am just completing my sixth year in the Wyoming Legislature and have the experience, knowledge, and ability to work with other legislators in guiding Wyoming through this difficult time.  I am a Lincoln County and Wyoming native and a fourth generation Wyomingite. Most important, I believe, is my willingness to represent all of my constituents throughout the district and not just one special interest group, party, or individual.  My constituents’ beliefs and desires come before my own and for this reason I have been elected.

Williams: That I am a truly conservative Republican who will defend the lives of the unborn, our constitutionally protected rights, including the right to keep and bear arms and our ability to enjoy the fruits of our own labor. I am experienced in Wyoming politics having served in many capacities within the Republican Party from Precinct Committeeman to County Chairman to National Delegate. I am a devoted family man who has been married to the same woman for 40 years. Together we have raised six of the finest people you will ever meet and, so far, they have blessed us with eight wonderful grandkids.

Rammell: That I am a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-state’s right, pro-limited government freedom fighter born and raised in the mountains of the West. That I  believe in marriage between a man and a woman.

Crank: Lifetime resident of Wyoming, Wyoming public school educated, U.W. graduate, registered professional civil engineer and land surveyor. I have been in business in Kemmerer for 38 or more years and owned and operated a business for more than 26 years. In those 26 years our company has created good paying jobs for local people. I have learned to listen to all the issues with a project and not ignore the data that does not fit with a particular outcome. All the data matters not just the part that gets to a predetermined conclusion someone may have. I am an outdoor enthusiast with hunting, fishing and trapping being some of the reasons we chose to raise a family in Kemmerer. I have held hunting, fishing and trapping licenses since 1974.

Heiner: I am a conservative Republican that will vote Republican values. I have an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, Wyoming Pro-Life, Wyoming Gun Owners and will fight to keep open access to public (and state) lands in Wyoming.  The statement from President Ronald Reagan appropriately describes me – “You can’t be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.”

Simpson: I am a commonsense businessman who understands how small businesses survive in this difficult time.

Winney: I have experience in government budgeting and program development from my active duty in the Navy. I was very successful in leading organizations and how to ensure they are productive.

Hansen: I am available and willing to serve. I entered the race for county commissioner for a number of reasons, one of which is to give voters a choice. Terms limits for county commissioners do not exist. The other candidate in this race has been a commissioner for 15 years. This is enough time to become entrenched. My candidacy is, in a way, an opportunity to employ a “term limit”. It is time for a change. I want my children and grandchildren to be able to live and work in Lincoln County, should they choose to. The work has to be done now, to provide for that in the future.


What are the most important issues facing Lincoln County?

Baldwin: The devastation of the energy sector collapse is hitting Lincoln County especially severely. Rebuilding our economy based on new revenue streams will be the most important item we can work on. I will work to protect our coal, oil and gas as well as the nearby Trona as much as we can, but we can’t afford any longer to put all of our eggs in that basket and hope we survive. A great example of new thought is the ammunition manufacture in Opal. We need many more ideas and action like that to boost our economy and grow the county. Tourism can grow its presence as well and push us forward in these tough times.

Williams: The most pressing issue for the whole state is the massive budget deficit we face this biennium. The effects of the shortfall will be felt especially hard in areas of the state that depend on oil and gas and mineral extraction for the majority of their economy. Coal country will be hardest hit of all because of the anti-coal positions taken by much of the country. Loss of good paying jobs coupled with Cheyenne’s insatiable appetite for more revenue will mean we must have representation that will stand up against the tax and spend policies of the past.

Rammell: The choice between less government with low taxes and minimal regulations or big government with burdensome regulations and a personal and corporate income tax.

Crank: The most important issue facing Lincoln County is the early closure of the Naughton Power Plant which will be devastating to Lincoln County. The closure is driven by policies from outside of Wyoming and, like it or not, the consequences are dire. The loss of power plant employment, loss of coal mining jobs and loss of the county tax base are in jeopardy.

Heiner: The possible retirement of the PacifiCorp Naughton Power Plant will have a huge impact on Lincoln County. The coal mine employs nearly 300 people, and the power plant employs about 125. The power plant and the mine contribute taxes that constitute well over 50% of Lincoln County’s budget. Decisions to close these facilities need to include evaluating the impact to the community and not just reacting to the perceived “war on coal” hysteria that the liberal organizations and our media have been promoting. 

Simpson: Financial challenges. 

Winney: Agriculture, housing, and transportation. Ensuring Star Valley small agriculture producers are competitive is vastly important.

Hansen: The scheduled closing of units one and two of the power plant in Kemmerer is one of the most important issues in Lincoln County. It would have a tremendous negative impact on the employees, the community and the tax base, if it occurs. Every effort should be made to ensure continued operation. Solid waste management is another important issue in Lincoln County. A cooperative, multi-state, lined landfill could meet solid waste needs for the foreseeable future. It is in the county’s best interest to pursue this type of an arrangement.


What will you do to support Lincoln County’s economy?

Baldwin: I will seek out and support any legislation that protects our energy sector industries and uses all of the vast natural resources we have in this county. I will actively seek new opportunities wherever they might be found to bolster our economy. Support for new opportunities like the west coast port to export liquid natural gas are vital to our economy. Again, I would state that we have much untapped potential for increased tourism throughout the county and we need to develop that resource and use our most important resource, our people.

Williams: I will work to lessen the twin burdens of taxation and regulation on the citizens of Lincoln County. Good paying jobs only happen in an environment conducive to the exercise of free market principles. We don’t need government agencies and programs promoting new business development at the expense of the hard-working taxpayer. We need people free to vote with their dollars for the kinds of products and services they want. Business activity and diversification will follow. Government should clear the path and allow you to build your dreams. Coal isn’t dead but it is on life support. The best thing we can do for the coal industry is to have an elected Attorney General who answers to the voters instead of being the personal attorney for the Governor. Then maybe we can get aggressive about exporting our coal to markets overseas, especially China.

Rammell: I will fight for a small government with minimal regulations and low taxes, so all Wyomingites can live the lives of free men and women as the founders envisioned. I will also fight for state’s rights and that Wyoming will someday be sovereign over all its lands.

Crank: First and foremost, fight for our people. Regardless of one’s opinion on global warming and renewable energy, most people in south Lincoln County depend on jobs created by and through thermal coal. We fight for our people who are here now and work to try and keep them here in good paying jobs. Like all Wyoming’s major employment sectors, the key point in staying competitive is selling global.  The 18th State House District must move forward with manufacturing and new small business. Those businesses need to sell to the world not just local. Power sells to the West Coast, Trona and cattle sell to the world. Tourism sells to the world and brings them here. New opportunities must sell to the world, our market locally is just too small. High speed internet is necessary to do this and I support it. Studies are nice but what is needed is investment.

Heiner: The economy of Lincoln County is founded on mineral extraction and ranching. With my background in oil and gas and raised on a Wyoming ranch, I will support these industries. Wyoming coal is some of the world’s cleanest burning coal and there is a ready market for our coal if we can get it to port for export. Wyoming needs to get more involved with other intermountain states to open up the Washington and Oregon ports for coal exports. 

Simpson: I support legislation which encourages private businesses to thrive.

Winney: Ensure the agriculture community has a voice in Wyoming. The developing programs to ensure smaller livestock producers can get products to market will be a focus for me. Ensuring transportation for those commuting out of county is important.

Hansen: I would work to ensure that the business environment in Lincoln County remains attractive to business owners and operators. The county should encourage commerce and business operation, by reducing bureaucratic red tape. It is a difficult task to attract businesses to relocate from another state to Lincoln County. Helping to strengthen the existing businesses in the county benefits the community through employment and the provision of goods and services.


Why should small businesses support your campaign? 

Baldwin: I am a Lincoln County small business owner and recently have worked hard to get the federal CARES funding to all of our local businesses. I believe that small businesses are the life blood of every single Lincoln County community. They are the community identity and without them the community becomes just another dot on the map. Any help or relief to our small businesses is vital in an era where internet shopping has become the norm.

Williams: I will be the best friend small businesses in Lincoln County ever had. Small businesses are the backbone of a strong, stable economy. The key to diversity in Wyoming’s economy is not in promoting this industry or that corporation but in reducing, or better yet eliminating the unnecessary obstacles government puts in the way of small businesses. Several states are passing bills to eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing for example. Wyoming should be leading that charge. Some folks are looking into the possibility of building a small USDA inspected animal slaughter facility in Sublette County. This is a good example of how we need to be thinking statewide.

Rammell: Because I have been an independent business man for 30 years and I know the challenges associated with making a profit and taking care of employees. I understand that high taxes and excessive regulations are not only frustrating, but can kill a business; not just in the checkbook, but emotionally. I also understand that as small businesses go, so goes America.

Crank: I believe I understand small business needs and workings. As stated, before I have been a small business owner for over 26 years in Kemmerer. I have had to find the next job, finance projects and buildings, make payroll, and try and find employment packages to keep the talent we find and develop.

Heiner: The economy of Wyoming is founded on small businesses. As we work to grow and diversify our economy, we need to focus on supporting our small businesses through loans and block grants. Our small businesses have been hit especially hard during the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to ensure support is available so that we don’t lose this vital part of our economy.

Simpson: I am a retired CEO of a private business, so I know what their needs are.

Winney: I will follow their productivity and competitiveness closely.

Hansen: My wife, Jennie, and I started our first small business in Lincoln County in the 1980s. We are small business owners. We personally experience the positive impact of small businesses on individuals and families. We recognize the value of small businesses to our community. 


What is your opinion on climate change? What do you think is the role of science in determining public policy?

Baldwin: Climate change is real, and I believe the role of science in determining public policy is that of an advisory function. There is much distrust of all science in the world today, so much so that important concepts in protecting ourselves and our world get blown off as political agenda when there is solid research that proves otherwise. Our old world is tough but the number of wounds we inflict on her through negligence, misuse, and just plain abuse are one day going to take a terrible toll on the Earth and on all of us fortunate enough to be alive however long that may be.

Williams: There has never been a time in the history of the planet when the climate wasn’t changing. The extent to which man is responsible is impossible to determine. Science should always inform public policy on a number of fronts including climate, health, economics etc. Science should however never rule public policy. The ultimate source of power is the people who have delegated a portion of their power to government which is then answerable to the people for its exercising of that power. “Science” has been granted no power. We need to act responsibly as it pertains to our environment, but the future will require adapting to an inevitably changing climate.

Rammell: I am a veterinarian and an animal scientist. Science is truth. Science is not opinion or politics both of which change over time. The Earth may be warming short term or long term; we do not know. Until there is certainty with  science, I do not agree that we should make radical changes in our economy based on information we do not understand.

Crank: My opinion on climate change is it’s real and happening. Climate change looks for warmer temperatures and more moisture. Science should provide non-biased facts to policy makers.  Policy makers need the facts – like Walter Cronkite ended his news: “And that’s the way it is” – you figure out the policy based on the facts. I have considered Wyoming climate change and thought, what is the downside. Wyoming’s climate change may be easier to deal with in the winter, but people living on the coasts look at climate differently. The downside is political as much as it is science. Coastal states with billions invested in ocean front property become environmentalists when their investments might get flooded by a foot of water. Wyoming might not consider man-made environment an issue, but politically it is, and they have more votes and money than us, so we need to figure out what they want again.

Heiner: Without the influence of humans, the Earth has natural cycles that drive the climate. Many natural factors affect the climate, including changes in the Sun’s output or the Earth’s orbit, large volcanic eruptions and internal variability such as El Niño. Scientists measure these effects with an observed trend since 1970 that includes the effects of human greenhouse gas emissions. We need to weigh the facts and not get caught up in the hysteria that the media sometimes portrays. The efforts of ExxonMobil to build a world-class carbon capture facility in Lincoln County is an example of good corporate stewardship which will limit greenhouse gas emissions and promote a robust economy. 

Simpson: I am sensitive to climate change issues but allowing it to dictate how and where we utilize our natural resources is wrong.

Winney: Science must inform policy. There are lots of opinions on climate change, in my view there is much in the realm of “the sky is falling.” But in the end, the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is occurring and will eventually alter things. We must continue to research alternatives.

Hansen: As it pertains to the climate, it is prudent to utilize unbiased scientific data in the discussion of public policy.


What is your opinion on healthcare access for all? Explain you answer thoroughly.

Baldwin: I work in the health care profession and believe that access for all is vital. That being said, it is not realistic to expect every cutting-edge technological advance be available to every individual at any given moment. We need to strike a balance where we have health care practitioners functioning at full scope of practice. For instance, it is not feasible to have an ophthalmologist available for every eye exam or procedure. We have excellent optometrists in the state who are limited in their practice and not able to practice at full scope. The medical world is changing and we’re not keeping up.  Medicaid expansion could help or it could become so costly to the state that it would hurt the overall health access picture. Especially in rural Wyoming, we can’t expect to have every specialty available every day so we need to utilize our available resources, including telehealth.

Williams: When healthcare was an industry, access was nearly universal and relatively affordable. It has only been since it became a “system” that major problems started appearing. Massive pharmaceutical companies in bed with government, where they get sweetheart deals, corners on the market and immunity from lawsuits, have been the downfall of medical care in the United States. We need a free medical market including the opportunity to choose between different medical modalities such as homeopathy, naturopathy and so forth. Competition always provides the greatest quality at the lowest price.

Rammell: The only way to have healthcare access or universal healthcare for all is to have high taxes to pay for it. That is socialism. I am a capitalist.  I believe in personal responsibility and a limited government with a low tax burden. The reason healthcare is so expensive is because most people have their healthcare provided by the government either directly through programs like Medicaid or indirectly through tax deductions for employers. The other reason healthcare is expensive is because there are a lot of people who receive healthcare who don’t pay. Hospitals offset this by charging more to people with insurance, which makes insurance premiums go up. The way to decrease healthcare costs is to get the government out of it.

Crank: A one-payer system, which would be government or Medicaid expansion, we would be talking about taking the private sector out of the game. Historically, it has not been good with the government taking over – we typically lose efficiency and accountability. I believe it should be studied again. If the State of Wyoming would receive $9 for every $1 it spends, that seems like a means to covering some of Wyoming’s fiscal problem. If the concern is once you have it, you can’t take it away. I think most people understand if you do not have the $9 you cannot spend it. My background in health care is limited to finding health insurance for a small group. I have found something needs done with health care. One should not worry after 38 years of work and savings, that a health emergency could wipe out everything and drive one’s family to bankruptcy.

Heiner: Free universal healthcare is not free because we must pay for it with increased taxes. Universal health care results in extremely long waits when needing treatments and there is no patient flexibility because the health care is controlled by the government. Since the government controls the universal health system, they will ultimately determine who gets the needed drugs, health care equipment, and health care service. I lived in a country with public healthcare for a couple of years and saw firsthand that it doesn’t work. 

Simpson: Everyone deserves reasonable access to healthcare. However, most American’s work hard for that access. Giving it away to those who are not willing to work is bad policy.

Winney: We have a top-notch system with the best and the brightest going into medicine. Turning it into a government-led bureaucracy is not the answer. Ensuring that there are programs that enable all to have access must be pursued. There are safety nets for funding. I’ll ensure these remain viable.

Hansen: Access to health care for all is critical. How to pay for it is another matter. Coercing citizens to have health insurance, through the use of threats and fines, is government overreach. It is detrimental.


What is your opinion on current procedures for COVID-19? What would you change? 

Baldwin: Unfortunately, COVID-19 has become a political football when in reality it’s a very serious pandemic with potential to kill and cause long term health sequel that we’re just now starting to discover. Prevention measures like limiting transmission to others by wearing a mask and social distancing have become ammunition to prove political conspiracy dialogue. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, covering your cough and sneeze aren’t difficult things to do and accomplish a great deal in limiting the spread of many diseases, not just COVID-19. COVID-19 happens to be quite a serious virus in spite of all of the misinformation available on social media. As I tried to tell a fellow legislator one day a few years ago, not everything you read on Facebook is fact or even necessarily true and it is foolish to base an entire argument on something you looked at on your social media news feed.

Williams: Being an armchair Governor early on in the pandemic would have been grossly unfair. None of us are old enough to remember the last time our country dealt with a similar situation nor did anyone really know for sure what we were facing. Under those circumstances I think Governor Gordon was criticized unfairly. Now however, I am afraid we haven’t learned much from the experience and we are about to repeat the mistakes that were made. Going forward we need to follow the South Dakota model and rely on the good sense and neighborly concern of our citizens not government edict. Also, the State Health officer should be an advisory position not an authoritative one. No person who is not directly answerable to the people through the voting booth should have the power to put virtually the entire state under house arrest.

Rammell: No. 1 don’t shut down businesses. The proper role of the government is to educate and advise people using testing. The outbreak could have been controlled without shutting down the economy by testing and quarantine. Testing and quarantine was and still is the key to controlling the disease. Nursing homes and other high risk facilities should take extreme measures to keep the disease from entering where the most vulnerable are located. Other high risk people should take their own precautions like self isolation. I don’t believe they needed the government to mandate they take care of themselves. We are free people, but after this experience with government officials making demands on us I have begun to wonder how free we really are.

Crank: I believe the Wyoming health recommendations have been proper given the facts as we knew them. Closures of establishments such as restaurants, bars and churches have been an issue, but it takes time to figure out what works and what was overly burdensome on these folks. I think the problems are being ironed out with time. Being in an area that is just now seeing some jump in cases, I think it prudent to follow the health recommendations. It is not overly burdensome to wear a mask, practice social distancing, or shop during nonpeak times. Again, these are recommendations.

Heiner: In times of war, disease or other extraordinary conditions, Wyoming authorizes the governor to declare a state of emergency. Once an emergency has been declared, executive powers expand until the emergency ends. Although the governor needs to be able to respond to emergencies quickly, legislatures have an important role in making sure these powers are not abused or undermine the separation of powers vital to our democratic system of government. There needs to be firm limits on the exercise of emergency powers which should include prohibiting the governor from limiting freedom of the press, freedom of religion, or confiscating citizens' firearms. State laws need to grant the Wyoming Legislature greater oversight power by requiring legislative approval for an emergency to continue beyond a specified length of time and act as a check on the emergency powers of the governor.

Simpson: We need to make every citizen accountable for their own health. We should not allow the government to dictate what we can and can’t do. If I fall into a high-risk category, I should take appropriate steps to maintain safety.

Winney: Wyoming is working the problem well. Finding a middle ground, which many counties have, that enables economic productivity is vastly important. We cannot afford to shut-down activity for so long that the underlying financial support for the state dries up. Continuing such things as encouraging wearing of masks and staying distant from other people should continue. The biggest challenge we face is getting our children back in school. That needs to be started by each school district. The Wyoming Department of Education has already put out guidance. Each district starts there.

Hansen: As of July 14, when this was written, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the United States. Regular hand washing and personal hygiene, physical distancing and the voluntary use of face masks help reduce community spread. In my opinion, government cannot mandate what type of clothing citizens wear, including head and face coverings. However, businesses can have policies such as “no shirt, no shoes, (no face masks), no service”. Businesses should be allowed to fully function, for the benefit of their employees, their customers and their profitability.


Why should citizens vote for you?

Baldwin: I have the experience and the knowledge to get Wyoming back on track and moving ahead.  I have the leadership abilities to work with other legislators in correcting our financial shortfall and working towards the future. The only pledge I will ever sign is a pledge to work hard for all my constituents and to listen to the majority voice and not to a vocal minority. My door is always open and I’m willing to listen to all thoughts and all testimony as well as study in-depth each piece of legislation before casting my vote. With over 500 votes taken last session it is reasonable to assume that there is not 100% agreement from anyone on my voting record but you can depend on the fact that not a single one of those votes was taken lightly nor will any vote in the future be made on a whim.

Williams: Because I am one of them. I am a conservative family man who works hard and tries to do the right thing. I work in the oil, gas and mineral extraction industries, so I know firsthand the struggles of a boom and bust cycle. I have served my country in the armed forces where I took an oath to support and defend the constitution and I have never been released from that oath. I have experience in things political and a working relationship with several members of the legislature so I can hit the ground running. I can be trusted to represent the values of the citizens in 14th State Senate District.

Rammell: Wyoming is at a crossroads. Until recently we have been able to balance our budget mainly with taxes off coal, oil, and gas. Coal revenues are fading fast, oil is unpredictable, and natural gas reserves are vast with prices expected to be low for years. The government of Wyoming is the largest per person of any state in the union. To keep the government this size or even smaller we must find replacement revenues for fossil fuels. The canned answer is to both cut government and raise taxes. My solution is to cut government back substantially and raise replacement revenue by chartering a state bank to diversify the economy by guaranteeing business loans for new and existing businesses. I also believe taking over management of the public lands from the federal government could bring us a new and large revenue source.

Crank: I ask citizens to vote for me based on my understanding of local issues, ability to understand information and passion for the lifestyle in our area. I will continue fighting for mining jobs and our tax base. I am passionate about and keeping our hunting and fishing heritage intact. I will look on how we bring in manufacturing jobs which sell products to the world. In looking at legislation, I will continue to ask what needs fixed. I will keep in mind the guiding principles that founded this state – faith, hope, courage and justice. Faith in your neighbor, God, and yourself. Hope that a brighter future exists for our citizens and children. Courage which drives us to see our vision come to fruition and justice to see that all are governed under the same rules. I understand that if elected, decisions made and votes cast have consequences for people’s lives.

Heiner: I am a conservative Republican that will promote legislation that aligns with Republican core values. I will not be swayed by the liberal political winds that blow in Cheyenne. Wyoming is a wonderful state that I want to preserve for future generations as the preferred place to live, work and raise a family. 

Simpson: I am a retired leader of an Engineering Company. I have the time available to serve. I have the business know how to make technical and financial decisions as they pertain to the operation of the state.

Winney: I will stand for good, open and honest government. Taxes must be kept in line with our economy and be kept low. The legislature missed an opportunity over the past four to six years to reduce expenditures in smaller ways. Now the world has caught up with us. We face tough decisions as to cutting state spending. I’ve seen this before in my time on active duty in the Navy. We’ll get through it; it will take some courage. I offer the perspective that we start by looking at what must be protected, such as education.

Hansen: I am a Wyoming native. My family and I have lived on the East Coast and on the West Coast. It is a blessing for us to be back in Wyoming, and in Lincoln County, since 1997. It is a great place to live, work and raise a family. Citizens should vote for me if they want the best Lincoln County for themselves, their children and grandchildren. I want to see a county with sufficient industry and small business to encourage young former county residents to return, following additional education, to live and contribute to society. My name is on the ballot to give voters a choice to enhance the tremendous quality of life that we enjoy here.


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