SHERIDAN — Candidates seeking statewide or legislative seats in the 2014 election hit upon nearly every popular talking point in Wyoming politics during the candidate forum held Tuesday at Sheridan College.
The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee organized the event, which had a much higher turnout than past years’ forums. The increased participation reflected national polling numbers that register how unhappy citizens have been with the government’s performance. In January, a Gallup poll showed that 65 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the nation’s system of government and how well it works. That was the highest percentage in the polling since 2001.
Nearly every candidate Tuesday night spoke to those concerns, criticizing government overreach and stressing the need to return the government to the people.
Candidates speaking at the forum included individuals running for the U.S. Senate, Wyoming governor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction and local house districts.
Some of the candidates who could not attend had representatives read letters on their behalf.
Below are some of the highlights from each race represented at the forum.
Sen. Mike Enzi
• Harlan Rasmussen read a letter on Enzi’s behalf.
• Miller is a Sheridan High School alumnus who served 23 years in the military. In his introduction and closing remarks he commented that he is “weary of the same old song and dance” in national politics.
Q: Given the current economic situation how would you approach fiscal responsibility?
A: Miller said he wants to rein in the federal regulations burdening states.
He noted that agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency have no authority to dictate rules to the states and said the agencies’ roles are redundant because the state has its own agencies to handle those issues. He said he would bring those jobs and that authority back to the state, lowering the amount of money spent on bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.
Q: Describe your perspective on energy independence.
A: Miller described Wyoming as the battery of the U.S. with its large amount of natural resources. He noted though, that much of the land is owned by the federal government, which is keeping those resources from being accessed. He said Wyoming should own all of the land within its borders — whether that means it is owned by private citizens or the state government.
Q: Do you support Internet taxing?
A: Miller said he does not and noted that taxing is “as toxic as Common Core.”
Other comments: Miller also discussed EPA decisions that have impacted the state and the federal government’s constitutional authority to pass drug legislation.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis
• Letter was read on her behalf by Melinda Abbott.
• Letter read on his behalf.
• Letter read on his behalf by Tyler Julian.
• Letter read on her behalf.
• Letter read on his behalf.
• Haynes was born on a produce farm in Louisiana, but now owns a ranch, works as a urologist and runs an insurance company. He noted that Wyoming has “made a lot of noise” in regards to federal policies and over his viewpoints, but said Wyoming has to lead the charge against federal overreach.
Q: Asked to discuss his thoughts on immigration.
A: Haynes noted that while immigration into the U.S. is a well-defined process, illegal immigration and the efforts of government to circumvent the process for African “refugees” is an insurgence that will threaten the state’s labor force and culture.
Q: Thoughts on Senate File 104, or the Cindy Hill Bill.
A: Haynes said he’s thought it was unconstitutional from the beginning and is 100 percent against it.
Q: Asked to discuss his thoughts on EPA’s rulings in the state.
A: Haynes said he believes they are unconstitutional and the EPA has no authority to make such rulings in any sate.
Secretary of State
• Letter read on his behalf.
• Buchanan emphasized his five-point plan to improve the state’s business office. His goals include improving customer service and government transparency, being proactive against fraud, conducting an internal audit and serving as an ambassador for the state.
• Murray noted his four pillars for leading the office — continuing to progress in terms of technology, fighting fraud, increasing voter turnout and growing business.
• Stith emphasized that he is the “small government” candidate in the race and said he has pledged to reduce the size of the Secretary of State’s Office by 9 percent in the first four years.
Q: Asked to comment on their stance on term limits.
Stith: He argued that the state already has term limits; they are called elections.
Murray: Said he is for term limits and noted he believes the Founding Fathers envisioned a government led by ordinary citizens, not career politicians.
Buchanan: Said he is against term limits and that he believes elections accomplish that goal.
Q: Do you feel funding levels to local government are appropriate?
Murray: Murray said he believes local governments are being strangled by a lack of funding and the state needs to establish a more predictable revenue stream for the communities.
Buchanan: He said local government does need a better way to predict funding from the state, but noted that in the past the state hasn’t always had the money to give. “There’s no amount of money government won’t spend,” he said, adding that funding will likely never be enough, but programs are in place to help struggling communities.
Stith: He advocated for better predictability in funding as well and noted that the way communities must lobby and compete for funding from the state is absurd.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
• A retired commander of a nuclear submarine, Winney said he observed the Wyoming Legislature for 10 years and began focusing on education issues about six years ago.
• With experience in education, management and administration, Balow said she believes the education system in the state is broken, largely due to a lack of leadership by current officials.
• A former teacher and self-proclaimed national expert on education, Lain said she’d like to focus on stopping the federalization of education.
• A former telecommunications businessman, Ceballos said he’d like to create stability in an agency that has been more of an anchor than a sail in recent years. He’d also like to re-establish a positive relationship between the superintendent’s office and the Legislature.
Q: Do you support the federal mandate that is Common Core?
Winney: Winney said no and added that the mandate does not allow teachers to be flexible.
Balow: She said she’s concerned about the assessment burden that is attached to the Common Core. While high standards for students are necessary, she said, Common Core is less about standards and is more of a movement that is not right for Wyoming.
Lain: She reiterated her desire to move away from the federalization of education and said she believes that more rules and regulations result in lower student achievement.
Ceballos: While Ceballos noted that the Common Core’s ties to federal funding is problematic, he cautioned constituents about “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” He said he would work to establish standards that with Wyoming and keeps kids from living in their parents’ basements permanently.
Other comments: The candidates each also discussed the role of the Legislature in education, which ranged from strictly funding to advisory. Balow noted that the Legislature has had a lack of confidence in the Department of Education recently and has been forced to overstep its authority.
House District 29
Rep. John Patton
• Patton noted that while the district is completely within Sheridan’s city limits he does not limit his representation to those constituents, but rather the state and county as a whole. He also said he is running again to give back to a community that has given him and his family so much over the years.
• Mulholland noted that he believes crating job opportunities and diversifying the economy are key issues. He’d like to see the state better able to withstand the busts of the energy industry.
Q: Please comment on your second amendment stance.
Mulholland: He noted that he has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and believes gun rights are a constitutional privilege. He also noted that Patton has a C rating from the NRA.
Patton: Patton said he likely owns more guns than Mulholland, but believes in personal responsibility when it comes to gun ownership and laws. He noted that there is nothing in the constitution that says you have a right to be irresponsible.
Q: Should the superintendent of public instruction be an appointed position?
Mulholland: He spoke to Senate File 104 and noted that the legislation took away the voice of the people, who had voted Cindy Hill into office. If you want to change the way government is run, he said, you should put it to a vote of the people.
Patton: Appointment versus elected isn’t the problem, Patton said. He noted that education starts in the homes and communities of the state, not the superintendent’s office.
Other comments: The candidates also discussed fiscal responsibility.
House District 30
Rep. Kathy Coleman
• Coleman noted in her introduction that she has always taken on leadership positions in politics, and, she must be good at them because she keeps getting asked to step to the plate. She also noted that while she has been relatively quiet in Cheyenne, she has been learning the processes and finding solutions to her constituents’ problems.
• He emphasized that he is an average citizen who has spoken with others who are concerned about overspending, tax increases and the apparent disregard for states’ rights.
Q: Discuss your Second Amendment stance.
Jennings: He said gun rights are a “fundamental thing.” He also noted that they are not just about hunting and personal protection, he said the rights were established to keep the government a little bit leary of tyranny.
Coleman: Coleman noted that you can’t take every gun rights bill at face value. She spoke with constituents on a variety of bills and when the intent of the law is lost in the process, she would opt to vote against it.
Other comments: The two candidates also discussed fiscal responsibility and the need for economic diversification.