Republicans Gain Four Seats, Dems Lose In Two Wyoming Legislature

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Leo Wolfson, State Politics reporter
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Republicans expanded their already overwhelming majority in Wyoming’s legislature after Tuesday’s election, adding four seats in the state House of Representatives. Though Wyoming’s red wave didn’t capsize the Blue House neighborhoods in Laramie and Jackson, it did inundate other Democratic-held areas like Rock Springs and the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Democrats fared much worse, losing two seats and falling from nine to seven state legislatures.

There are also no outside officials in the legislature since State Assemblyman Marshall Burt, a Green River Libertarian, lost his re-election bid and Republican Andrew Byron took the seat of Wilson’s resigned Independent Representative Jim Roscoe.

close calls

One of the few silver linings for Democrats on Tuesday was their ability to hold their ground in two hard-fought races. Jackson’s Liz Storer beat Republican Paul Vogelheim by 3.4% to retain the seat in House District 23, now held by Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, Blue. This was the night’s closest race by percentage of votes.

The close result came as a surprise, as historically Democrat-dominated Teton County gave US House Democratic challenger Lynnette Gray Bull twice as many votes as Republican nominee Harriet Hageman. The competitiveness of this race is perhaps a testament to Vogelheim’s popularity within the local community as a former Teton County commissioner. Vogelheim may also have been helped by the state record sum he raised and spent during his campaign.

The district also elected an almost all blue district commission, losing its one Republican commission seat and gaining a Democratic newcomer. A former Democratic commissioner, Greg Epstein, joined the Independent during his tenure as commissioner. The commission has made headlines in recent months for its tight scrutiny of housing development decisions in Teton County, where about 40% of all homes are worth more than $1 million.

Rep. Trey Sherwood, D-Laramie, also held her seat in House District 14, defeating Republican challenger Bryan Shuster with 9% of the vote.

Rep. Andi LeBeau, D-Ethete, did not fare so well, losing her two-year term to Republican challenger Sarah Penn in House District 33 with 11% of the vote. Penn is a nurse resident on the reservation but is not a member of the tribe. She advocated for parental autonomy in educational decisions, personal autonomy in immunization choices, and a pro-life platform.

Cheyenne stays red

Democrats also missed opportunities to turn seats in what is expected to be three competitive Cheyenne races.

Marcie Kindred, a Cheyenne Democrat, lost to Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, by 14% or 800 votes in Senate District 7. Elected in 2014, Pappas chairs the Special Committee on School Facilities, which oversees funding for state school buildings. He has served on numerous committees, including the Education Committee and the Tax Committee, which oversees tax and infrastructure legislation.

House District 44 in south Cheyenne remained Republican despite pre-2020 Democratic representation.

Republican Tamara Trujillo beat former Democratic Rep. Sara Burlingame for the district by about 21% of the vote Tuesday night.

Burlingame lost in 2020 to incumbent Republican Rep. John Romero-Martinez, who ran Tuesday as a write-up against both women and received just 10 votes.

Cheyenne Democrat Marguerite Herman came closest in her bid against Rep. Jared Olsen in House District 11, but still lost by 6% of the vote. This was the night’s closest race by vote margin, with Olsen winning by 131 votes. It was Olsen’s closest win since he defeated incumbent Democrat Mary Throne by 62 votes in 2016.

No Republican incumbents or seats were lost in Tuesday’s election.

Freshwater blue no more

Decades ago, Rock Springs was a Democrat stronghold for Wyoming, in part because of a predominant union presence, before the state gained the right to work.

things have changed.

Republican JT Larson beat incumbent Rep. Chad Banks of Democratic Rock Springs by about 21% of the vote for Representative District 17. The men differ in their approaches to taxation, with Larson hoping to resist additional taxes.

Burt lost his House District 39 seat to Republican Cody Wylie of Rock Springs. Wylie won with 50% of the vote.

Wylie was supported by Governor Mark Gordon, who is generally regarded as a supporter of a more moderate form of Wyoming republicanism.

Other Notable Breeds

• Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, easily defeated Republican opponent Roger Connett by 3,206 votes in Senate District 1. The win will likely propel Driskill to the position of Senate President for the next term.

• In District 46 of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ocean Andrew, R-Laramie, defeated by a wide margin challenger Merav Ben-David, a University of Wyoming professor who ran against US Senator Cynthia Lummis for the US Senate seat in 2020 . The upcoming term will be Andrew’s second as state representative.

• Mountain View Republican Jon Conrad easily beat Republican draft opponent Joe Webb and Democrat Sarah Butters for House District 29 in Uinta County. The Uinta County Republican Party supported Webb in his campaign.

• In a close vote in Albany County, incumbent Sheriff Aaron Applehans, a Democrat, beat Republican challenger Joel Senior. When Appelhans was appointed to fill the last two years of the former sheriff’s term, he became the first black sheriff in Wyoming. His election on Tuesday now makes him the first black sheriff elected in the state.

As of the unofficial final results, Republicans now hold 55 of the 60 seats in the State House and retain the 28 of 30 seats they hold in the Senate.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon at his Election Day Observation Party in Cheyenne on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

National Races

There were no surprises at Tuesday’s statewide races in Wyoming.

Hageman defeated Democrat Lynette Gray Bull by 45% of the vote. The blowout result was largely expected before the race and Gray Bull performed no better than their 2020 bid for the US home.

A University of Wyoming poll released just before the election showed that 67% of people who voted for US Representative Liz Cheney in the Republican primary said they intended to vote for Gray Bull. This demographic did not help narrow the gap for Gray Bull. This may have been tempered by active statewide support for Hageman, fueled by vehement opposition to Cheney.

Gov. Mark Gordon was reelected, beating Democratic challenger Theresa Livingston by 62% of the vote. Gordon won every district in Wyoming, including the left-leaning Teton.

Republican Megan Degendfelder beat Democrat Sergio Maldonado by 55% of the vote in the race for superintendent of public education. Degenfelder narrowly beat Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, who was supported by ex-President Donald Trump, in the primaries.

State Treasurer Curt Meier and State Examiner Kristi Racines, both Republicans, won their uncontested elections, as did Secretary of State nominee Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper. 13,574 written ballots were cast against Gray.

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