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Election season tends to make fools of bettors, and the primary election in Sheridan County on Tuesday was no exception. Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, lost her long-held seat in the state House to newcomer Bo Biteman of Ranchester. The city’s mayoral race, which before Tuesday included five candidates, now features two drastically different candidates.
A loss of power
• Berger’s loss to Biteman represented a loss of power for Sheridan County. With Berger poised to become speaker of the House in 2017, her loss likely means the disappearance of considerable influence for Sheridan County. The speaker chooses which bills come up for vote — and which don’t — and assigns legislators to committees. Having a Sheridan County voice at the helm would have also advanced causes near and dear to Sheridan’s voters. Because many expected Berger to become speaker, some legislators have also expressed concerns about a power-vacuum forming in the House during a critical time for the state. Said one member of a state board during a meeting this week in Cheyenne, “I can’t believe Sheridan County gave up having a House Speaker.”
Bucking the trend
• Berger’s loss also indicates that voters have turned their backs on business as usual. Her loss, paired with the election of candidates who are saying “enough is enough” in their campaigns, could make for an interesting change in leadership locally. Mayoral candidate Roger Miller has said he would implement sharp reform to some decisions made by the city recently — mainly, he is against fluoride in the water system and the implementation of the city administrator position. He will face Sheridan City Council member Alex Lee, whose beliefs are in opposition. Challenger Rich Bridger in the Sheridan City Council race also garnered more votes than any of the three incumbents he faced. While his ideas aren’t radically different from the incumbents, his top spot on the ballot could indicate voters’ desire for change. All of the local legislators except for Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, will face challengers in the general election, as well, though Democrats have not typically fared well in Wyoming politics.
Showing up at the polls
• Voter turnout for the 2016 primary election was the highest it has been statewide since 2004. Approximately 56 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. Locally, the numbers were also above 50 percent. Turnout in the primary could mean any number of things but likely was a reflection of the number of choices voters had to make. The more options available, the more people vote. This is a positive aspect of the primary election and one we can only hope will become a trend rather than a blip on the radar as we head toward Nov. 8.