Understanding the 2020 Wyoming Ballot

Figuring out what’s on the ballot takes a lot of time and effort. In a place like Cody, where you have to painstakingly go through candidates’ Facebooks or scour old news articles, it takes even longer. There aren’t any comprehensive voting resources available online, at least not that I could find.

In this absence, I decided to compile resources and research into one, hopefully easy-to-understand breakdown of the 2020 ballot. It took me the course of several days to get as much information as I could and in some places, it’s still lacking. But hopefully this is a start.

Two things to note:

1) I am not including if a candidate is pro-2nd amendment or not because no Democratic candidate is against the 2nd amendment. Contrary to what Republicans say, the 2nd amendment is not under threat, particularly not in the gun-loving state of WY.

2) I’m trying to be as impartial as possible, except on this topic. Everyone in WY has likely experienced the awful effects of wildfires, much of which is directly related to the effects of climate change.

Climate change is real and any candidate who does not want to help the environment does not ultimately want to help the US. We will not have a living, sustainable planet without making this a priority. Many candidates who are supporting things like the Green New Deal are also supporting immense job creation — for jobs that will last, unlike gas and oil.

US President: Trump vs. Biden

There is no possible way to sum up these two candidates and everyone is familiar with both names. I’m still (briefly) covering these two because especially in a state like WY, there seems to be a lot of loyalty to a candidate who, put simply, is a liar and does not have their best interests in mind.

To say this table covers a fraction of ideas and actions is a gross understatement. I’m really only focusing on things that are most recent and seem like they should be of importance to Wyoming residents.

Donald TrumpJoe Biden
Does not have a platform.Extremely comprehensive platform, found here.
Talks about the “terrors of Biden’s America” presently, despite us living in Trump America.
Trump taxes working-class Americans more than he taxes billionaires — they pay less than working-class citizens and undocumented residents.
Condones white supremacy.
Complete mismanagement of COVID-19. Just recently shut down second stimulus check until after election.
Against Green New Deal and the jobs it could create, against helping the environment. Repealed climate regulations.
Claims to be “anti-abortion” but was pro-choice up until 2016 election. Currently invests in medical companies that use human embryonic stem cells. Women detained at immigration centers report being forcibly sterilized.

US Senator: Lummis vs. Ben David

Cynthia Lummis Key PointsMerav Ben David Key Points
Build the wall, keep building national defenseAward-winning ecologist, focuses on sustainability, keeping public lands in public hands, environmental health correlates to human health
No environmental protections, committed to stopping the Green New DealTransition to alternative energy sources (other than fossil fuels) not only for environmental protection, but for WY job creation
Anti-abortion, potentially anti-women’s access to healthcare/rightsPro-LGBTQ+ rights, advocacy; pro-women’s rights; pro-indigenous peoples’ rights
Backed by Trump & NRANot sure that she’s backed by NRA, but she is a hunter

US Representative: Cheney vs. Grey Bull

Liz Cheney is the incumbent and daughter of former VP Dick Cheney. She comes from lots of money — a point I bring up as a stark contrast with Grey Bull.

Lynette Grey Bull is self-described “of the working class” and a community organizer. She has done a lot of work for Indigenous rights, specifically regarding sexual assault in Indigenous communities and women’s rights.

Cheney Key PointsGrey Bull Key Points
Really only has press releases on her site. Haven’t found any actual info on what she wants to do for the state or plans that she has. Seems to care the most about the following:Human welfare, human rights, indigenous rights, women’s rights
Honoring veterans, defenseEnding veteran homelessness
Oil & gasPro-sustainability, pro-public lands in public hands, cares about environment
Healthcare — basically in agreement with the Republican party, but does want to support legislation that aids tribal communitiesAccess to affordable healthcare for all

State Senator: Tim French (District 18)

Below is a summary of Republican Tim French’s platform. There is no one running against him.

  • Anti-abortion
  • Against raising taxes
  • Wants to open public lands to grazing, timber, mining, oil & gas
  • Wants to open more charter schools in WY and take away from public education
  • “Supports” veterans but has no tangible actions on how to support them
  • Seems to “back the blue”

State Representative: Sandy Newsome (District 24)

Sandy Newsome has no one running against her.

  • Restoring WY budget, supports strategic budget cuts
  • For education, believes in “long-term school funding and savings strategies in order to sustain our high standards” — has no tangible plans on her site to make an impact
  • Worked (works?) on Forward Cody Board. Wants to bring alternative industries and businesses to Cody, but of the ones that were brought (Cody Labs, Wyoming Authentic Products, Sleeping Giant Ski Area), a few have struggled and/or shut down.
  • Supports WY tourism, again doesn’t seem to have tangible plans past her experience in “[budget] cuts that would have the least impact the [sic] tourism industry which is so important to Park County.”
  • Supports voter photo ID (not requiring a driver’s license, but rather a photo ID for voting)
  • Does not support sanctuary cities.

County Commissioner: Livingston vs. Mangold

Both candidates are Republican, Livingston is the incumbent. Honestly had a very hard time finding things for both candidates. Here’s some of what I’ve gathered:

Lee Livingston

  • Trying to get grizzly bears removed from Endangered Species Act; wants to possibly allow for hunting them
  • Does not approve on Shoshone National Forest plan to build new roads or trails, specifically for motorized recreation unless it’s a “a short stretch to tie existing trails together to make a loop.”
  • Regarding unemployment, says “A lot of it is there’s a lot of folks who just don’t want to work. you give them $600 a week [in unemployment benefits], they’re not going to work.”

Scott Mangold

  • Co-owner of radio station KPOW
  • Former Mayor of Powell, during his time claims to have helped lead “an effort to build a citywide fiber optic network to boost local businesses.”
  • Doesn’t want to see cuts to law enforcement, roads, or “closing bridges
  • Wants to return to a landfill system instead of taking trash to Billings, despite this saving the city of Powell a reported $120,000 per year compared to Cody

Retaining WY Supreme Court Justices

Justices Lynne Boomgaarden, Kari Jo Gray, Bobbi Overfield, and Edward G. Luhm all have spots up for renewal. If retained, they’ll serve on the Wyoming Supreme Court for another 8 years.

I sifted through a couple of recent (2020) court cases and it’s about as boring as you would expect. On the whole, it seems that the current Supreme Court is thorough and tries to be as fair as possible (though this is just my personal opinion). Here’s one example (all others available at Justia):

  • In the case of Brook Mining Company hoping to develop and operate a new surface coal mine, the State Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, seemingly because the legislature changed for coal mine applications.

As for individual justices:

  • Boomgaarden ruled in favor of a man who, upon being pulled over, was never charged with a crime, but had hundreds of thousands of dollars confiscated by a state trooper.
  • Gray was once a chief of staff to former governor Matt Mead; he was the one who appointed here to the bench. He faced some controversy and was struck down by the Supreme Court for drastically limiting the role of Director of WY Education Dept. While Gray’s views are harder to find, Mead is anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage.
    Gray is, however, supposedly very empathetic to her constituents. She spearheaded what became known as the “most improved child support program in the United States.”

Other Judicial Retentions

Bobbi Overfield is up for a District Court judge renewal (5th district). She has a strong legal background, specifically in water law. She “studied rangeland ecology and watershed management at the University of Wyoming.”

For a 5th district circuit court judge position we have Edward G. Luhm. On lawyers.com he gets a fairly high 4.4 star rating (out of 5).

Mayor

Matt Hall is the incumbent with no one running against him. He got his start as a real estate agent in Cody and grew up in Cody as well. Hall is a self-proclaimed Republican.

On Twitter, he shows support for Liz Cheney, WY governor Mark Gordon, and Trump. He seems to support raising the age to 21 for buying tobacco products. Hall also liked these tweets:

Council Member

Jerry Fritz is the only person on the ballot for a City of Cody council member position.

Northwest College Trustees: Jones vs. Kuipers vs. Newsome

Pick up to two candidates.

Richard Jones is simultaneously anti-abortion as well as a believer in having a “traditional two-parent household.” He is against legalizing marijuana. He thinks everyone should have a right to carry firearms at their place of employment if the employer is not protecting people well enough (including schools and hospitals).

Tara Kuipers is currently a consultant and has advanced degrees in Counseling and Adult Education. She’s given talks on the importance of community education.

Bob Newsome is married to Sandy Newsome and is the only candidate who’s a current trustee. He started Sunlight Sports in Cody but no longer runs it, but has taught many other outdoor-related courses throughout the community.

Cody School District Trustees

Pick up to four candidates.

  • Stefanie Bell supports funding rural schools and believes in public education. One Cody local who grew up here described her as “very Catholic” and “basically the reason our schools canned sex education.”
  • Ryan Brown is “a youth programs coordinator by day and sports pundit by night,” according to the Cody Enterprise. He’s coached for a number of sports as well.
  • Jessica Case seems to support bringing diversity and culture into Cody. She participated in the Friendship Family Program, a program that essentially places international students into local Cody homes.
  • April Conaway is a local dental hygienist with four kids in the school district. She’s also married to a middle school teacher, is a self-described nerd who loves to do research and has some experience serving on boards and leadership groups.
  • Tom Keegan is an attorney who first got on the school board in 2016.
  • Tim Lasseter moved here from southern Missouri in 2018. When he first ran for a board position, he said he wants to increase teacher salaries and eliminate discrimination and bullying. That said, at least one of his past profile pictures on Facebook is of Trump. Anecdotally, a Cody local described him as “an alt-right POS.”
  • Sheri Schutzman has volunteered with parent groups at various Cody schools for a decade plus and currently works with the Booster Club at CHS. She doesn’t want to micromanage day-to-day operations for each school building and instead should “keep the board focused on the high-level aspects of running a school district.”
  • Norm Sedig faced a controversial firing as head tennis coach in July. More than 630 people (mostly parents and student athletes) signed a petition protesting this decision which let go Sedig after 35 years as “one of the more decorated coaches in Wyoming history.”
    The reasoning was apparently due to a lack of supervision but again, many rebuttal letters protested this — Sedig said the only time he could think of was when parent complained about teenagers using technology and inappropriate language on a bus. This same parent, however, was supposed to be supervising that group of kids.
    The school board chair refused to comment on the situation.
  • Charlie Yates doesn’t have much info out there. According to one Cody local, the Yates family is a rodeo family.

Cemetary District Trustees

Pick up to three candidates.

  • Greg Blenkinsop is a local lawyer who has no record of misconduct in his career as an attorney. He is seemingly the only candidate not already serving on the board.
  • Tara Hart is the current chairwoman of the board and works at a local bank.
  • Chan Richard is the current treasurer of the board.
  • Gary Williams is the current vice chairman of the board.

District Supervisor Rural Cody Conservation

Pick up to two candidates.

  • Richard B. Jones is mentioned above, as he’s also running for a board position with Northwest College.
  • Joe A. Kondelis is tied to the Western Bear Foundation which is “dedicated to the protection & development of bears, bear habitat, & bear hunting in the Western United States.”

District Supervisor Rural Cody Conservation

Russell A. Dwyer Jr. is the only candidate listed on the ballot. There’s hardly any information about him online, except for an incident in 2016 in which a Russ Dwyer was the first on the scene to a fiery car crash and helped passengers get out of the vehicle. However, it’s not listed as to whether this was Dwyer Jr. or Sr.

Cody Fire Protection

John P. Krebes is a Realtor in Cody and the only one on the ballot for this position. Not much else out there on the internet regarding him or his skill set for fire protection.

West Park Hospital District Trustees: Nielson vs. Middleton

  • Glenn Nielson is a Mormon father of 5 who has served on several boards, including the MT/WY Associated Employers Healthcare Trust and Wyoming Business Coalition on Healthcare. He’s the president and chairman of Y-Tex Corporation.
  • Dr. Frank Middleton has board certification in internal medicine and infectious diseases, taught at a medical school and was asked to join the board by current board chairman, Lenox Baker. He is also a Vietnam War veteran.

West Park Hospital District Trustee

Ty Nelson is currently the treasurer of the board. Unless his LinkedIn isn’t up-to-date, he is also the president of First National Bank in Cody.

Ballot Propositions

Constitutional Amendment A

What it’s about: Municipal Debt for Sewage Systems

ForAgainst
A “yes” vote gets rid of the limit on debt that a municipality can reach for sewer projects.
It also allows legislature to establish rules regarding additional debt for sewer projects.
A “no” vote leaves the existing debt limit measure in place.

From Ballotpedia:

“A ‘yes’ vote supports the measure to remove the constitutional limit on debt that a municipality may incur for municipal sewer projects and to allow the legislature to establish rules in statute for additional debt for municipal sewage projects.

“A ‘no’ vote opposes the measure to remove the constitutional limit on debt that a municipality may incur for municipal sewer projects, thereby leaving in place the existing limit on debt for sewage projects of 4 percent of the assessed value of the taxable property within the municipality.”

Proposed One Percent (1%) Optional Sales Tax

Update Oct. 8: I spoke with someone at City Hall directly and this is what they had to say:

  • Instead of a specified list, this tax is very open-ended. The local governments of Park County can use this money as they please.
  • Four cents to every dollar already goes to the local governments (but Cody only sees a fraction of that).
  • The first thing the City Hall employee told me this money is going towards is putting a police officer in the middle school and paying for his cop car.
  • They also mentioned that this helps cover the Fourth of July parade, which costs a staggering $50,000-$60,000 annually.
  • Infrastructure and money for the local animal shelter was listed as well, with examples of “in case a roof suddenly needs replacing.”
ForAgainst
A “yes” vote approves a 1% sales taxA “no” vote means you don’t want taxpayer dollars going towards this open-ended agenda

Proposed Four Percent (4%) Lodging Tax

What it’s about: Renewing an existing Park County lodging tax.

ForAgainst
A “yes” vote keeps a 4% tax on lodging (paid by hotels, Airbnbs, etc.) that goes directly to the travel council’s marketing budget. This is used to support bringing tourism to Park County.A “no” vote does not renew this tax.

Proposition to Allow Pari-Mutuel Wagering in Park County

What it’s about: Legalizing gambling on off-track horse race betting, in the form of electronic gambling terminals. These betting terminals would go in bars and restaurants (as owners see fit).

The benefit is more money can come into the county, the downside is it could affect those with gambling addictions (and their families).

ForAgainst
A “yes” vote legalizes this type of gambling in Park County (it already exists elsewhere in WY)A “no” vote continues to keep this type of gambling out of Park County

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