SHERIDAN — The three candidates challenging Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, for the state’s sole U.S. House of Representatives seat called for drastic changes to the way Congress functions while Cheney insisted the governing body is on the right track during a debate hosted by Wyoming PBS at Central Wyoming College in Riverton Tuesday.
Cheney characterized her first term in Congress as productive and highlighted the passage of the Republican tax bill last year, the repeal of regulations and the strengthening of the U.S. military as major achievements from her first term in office and said she would continue with a similar agenda if re-elected.
Democratic candidate Greg Hunter, of Laramie, criticized members of Congress for being beholden to donors and fighting for special interests, rather than the interests of their constituents. He vowed to work toward reasoned solutions based on the needs of the state and its citizens.
“For too long our politics have been based on fear and not ideas,” Hunter said.
In particular, Hunter said he would focus on bolstering Wyoming’s energy, agriculture and tourism industries.
Libertarian candidate Richard Brubaker, of Riverton, focused on scaling back the federal government and reducing regulations, particularly on energy industries, in order to let private enterprise determine its own course.
Constitution Party candidate Daniel Clyde Cummings, of Casper, also criticized the size of government and called for an aggressive reduction of the federal government.
“The most pressing problem America faces today is the reckless spending of the federal government,” Cummings said. “It harms Wyoming as well as the rest of the nation.”
To cut back on government spending, Cummings said he would push for a Constitutional amendment that would repeal Congress’ ability to borrow money based on the credit rating of the country at large.
The debate also gave candidates the opportunity to address the current political polarization in the country and describe how they would seek compromise, but none of the candidates seemed committed to finding common ground.
Hunter described himself as someone who could find common ground with ideological opponents, but also said Democrats would likely take control of Congress in the coming elections and, as such, Wyoming’s best bet is to elect a Democratic representative.
“I think it would be in Wyoming’s best interests to elect someone like me, a Democrat, because I’m not sure the Legislature would want to work with my opponent who is currently there,” Hunter said.
Brubaker admitted it would be hard for him to work with lawmakers from either party, considering his ideological differences with them.
“As a Libertarian, I would probably have difficulty working with members of the big-government parties, either side,” Brubaker said.
Cumming insisted Democrats and Republicans were pursuing similar policies, resulting in a larger, more expensive government. He said, if elected, he would challenge what he sees as a consensus between the two major parties.
Cheney said compromise was important when possible, but added that compromise is increasingly difficult.
“I think it’s important to be able to work together, but I think you have to ask yourself, to what end?” Cheney said.
Cheney said she was concerned by the heated rhetoric taking over in the country, including calls for violence, which she framed as primarily directed toward Republicans and urged constituents to vote for candidates that would “defend the rule of law” and “protect the Constitution.”
The full debate is available on Wyoming PBS’s website. Wyoming PBS and The Sheridan Press will co-host a debate with candidates for U.S. Senate Oct. 25 at Sheridan College.