Taking Wyoming's political pulse


Remember the Gold Rush of 1848, at Sutter’s Mill, California? Like a moth to a flame, it attracted tens of thousands of people with “gold fever” by land and sea seeking their fortune. The non-California Territory population swelled to more than 100,000, compared to the pre-rush figure of less than 1,000 in 1847. Lands accessible by boat drew migrants, mostly men, from places like Mexico, Chile, Cape Horn, Panama, Peru, and even China. That same year near the Kenai River in Alaska, gold was discovered with similar outcomes-booms and busts.

The central figure in any of those lawless “gold crazed” towns was the assayer, whose job it was to examine, analyze, test, and determine the value and purity of the ingredients, and render a report of the gold sample. The report usually required a seal, authenticating the assayer’s qualifications. He had to deliver the bad news to many who believed they had “struck it rich.” If it was pyrite, or “fools gold,” it was worthless. The gold rush was all but over by1857. With the stroke of the pen, the assayer made and shattered the dream of thousands. That was his job. It wasn’t about personality or social status. Was it gold or not?

In the political realm, we’re charged with “assaying” candidates vying for a local, state or national office. One can follow the lead of the assayer of old by assiduously examining and analyzing their backgrounds and claims. Incumbents are somewhat easier-they have a track record at our disposal. One must be wise in one’s analysis. Pyrite and gold look the same to the untrained eye. Separating substance from rhetoric is one’s challenge. It’s not for the slacker.

Will the Huffington Post blog target our Wyoming Governor’s Race again, as it did in a October, 2013, when it posted, “Despised Tea Party Candidate Faces Long Odds in Governor’s Race?” That person was the embattled Superintendent Cindy Hill. Sadly, they were correct in charging that Hill was removed by Republicans. Many of those legislators blenched behind closed door meetings they claimed weren’t subject to Public Records Act disclosure. Their behavior was execrable. SF-104 still motivates many to rapt attention to legislative actions.

The 2018, gubernatorial stable is getting crowded. It’s time to formulate questions that’ll permit one to be a competent political assayer on this race or legislative ones. Blind allegiance to what others repeat is inimical to effective assaying standards. Consider a list of questions to that end. For example, what actions have they taken that supported or violated the Wyoming or U.S. Constitution? Does PAC money shackle their vote? Who’s running their campaign? Do they support any tax increase? Would they support strengthening future pro-life legislation? Any unexplained flip-flops on principle? Would they favor exhuming Medicaid expansion? Would they support Senate President Bebout’s proposed cuts to education funding? What about shrinking the size of Wyoming’s government? Do they support the Wyoming Business Council? Would they support Governor Mead’s newest “60 million-dollar baby” ENDOW? Would they support the 2017, Wyoming legislators State Efficiency Report Bill, chaired by Senator Drew Perkins, to create a legacy of administrative excellence and save money? Would they oppose further legislative attempts to grant LGBTQ’s special rights like the failed SF 115? What would they propose for Wyoming’s deteriorating infrastructure?

GOP conservative gubernatorial candidate, Cheyenne lawyer, Harriet Hageman, vowed to scrutinize the Wyoming budget process. Constitutionalists lauded her declaration, “Our rights do not come from government, but from God.” Driven by conviction, she asserted that without defending the unborn there’s no humanity. Excited onlookers report she quickly distinguished herself on the stump, with an unshakeable message of grass roots, foundational principles that’s the lynchpin of our Republic. That momentum and her intuitive grasp of what plagues Wyoming, establishes her as a early front runner. She has never held elected office. But she’s electable.

#MeToo clones have driven Secretary of State Ed Murray from the governor race. He withdrew after another woman accused him of sexual misconduct in 1987. Perennial GOP hopeful, retired surgeon, Taylor Haynes, tossed his hat in the ring again, after runs in 2010, as an independent write-in, and 2014 GOP primary. Sheridan businessman, Bill Dahlin, announced in July 2017, his gubernatorial candidacy. He too hasn’t held elected office. His claim, “We can co-own a new direction for a more stable Wyoming.” Dahlin touts his not-so-original diversification message of our energy reliant economy. Another perennial candidate, Rock Springs veterinarian, GOP libertarian, Rex Rammell, was quoted, “I’m Wyoming’s Donald Trump.” Some are drawn to his pledge of taking control of the state’s federal lands, emphasizing Wyoming’s sovereignty-not unlike Haynes. That take charge approach, resonates with his base, has been described by one political observer as “a bull in a China shop.” Nearly everyone, but Mark Gordon himself, has declared Treasurer Gordon’s run for the Cheyenne mansion. For political humor, former Democratic legislator, attorney Mary Throne, announced her run for governor in 2017. A recent Colorado College poll, disclosed a four percent drop in registered Wyoming Democratic voters since 2011. Those stats don’t bode well for her run to east 21st street. She has two chances to win-slim and none.

It’s not a popularity contest, but if the candidate meets the threshold of the office and adheres to one’s core values. Don’t be co-opted by mindless parroting from a “third hand account.” Vow a pledge of due diligence-the care a reasonably interested person should expend to consider casting a vote. There’s always the unknown factor in one’s calculations, such as a late entry, a scandal, like the one that derailed Murray’s train, or worse. Never too early to begin assaying. Grab your touchstone. It’s a long haul until late August. Pray for wisdom. What do you think?

Mike Pyatt is a Natrona County resident.

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