At the end of the primary election filing period on Friday, near-record numbers of Republican candidates had announced for legislative seats representing Park County and nine candidates filed for two seats on the county commission.
Park County Republican Chair Geri Hockhalter said Monday that filings in Wyoming seemed low overall, but said she was “astounded” at the number of GOP challengers for the Legislature.
“I was amazed that there were so many challengers to some of the incumbents,” Hockhalter said. “I’ll probably get called out on the carpet (for this), but I think that our electeds in Park County and Big Horn and Hot Springs, the ones around us, all do a very, very excellent job.”
Hockhalter attributed the challenges to Wyoming newcomers who aren’t used to the state’s close-knit politics.
“We aren’t the kind of state that has to have turmoil every day,” she said. Hockhalter said she didn’t know why so many incumbents are being challenged.
“But hey,” she finished, “This is America — go for it.”
On the Democratic side, there’s no one “going for it,” as the party fielded no candidates for local races.
Park County Democratic Party Chair Dawn Decot said Monday that the party plans to “wait two more years” for mean rhetoric towards Democrats to die down.
“The rhetoric has been pretty harsh; you can just take it from there,” Decot said of why no local Democrats are running. She called the defeat of Park County Clerk Kelly Jensen in 2010 a “very, very very ugly election” based on her status as a Democrat.
“I think that kind of has people ruminating and we’ve had some people leave the state because of it,” Decot said.
She said she hopes there will be a return to cooperation and compromise in the future.
Four Republicans — Dave Blevins, Steve Walker, Billy Greaham and David Kellett — are running for House DIstrict 25, which represents the Powell area.
That’s a record number of candidates running for the district and the most to run from Powell in at least 30 years; three candidates ran in 2010.
The primary winner will be well-positioned to replace Rep. Dave Bonner, R-Powell, who isn’t seeking re-election.
Another four Republicans — incumbent Rep. Pat Childers of Cody and challengers David Northrup of Heart Mountain and Charles Cloud and T.D. Ball of Cody — are running for House District 50. The eastern part of Cody plus Clark, Crandall, the Heart Mountain area, the Willwood and Ralston make up the district.
There hasn’t been that many candidates for the district 50 post since 1992, when the district was first created and six contenders ran. Childers is a eight-term representative who hasn’t had a challenger since 2000.
Over in House District 26 — which now represents Garland, Deaver, Frannie and all of northern Big Horn County — Rob DiLorenzo of Emblem is challenging Rep. Elaine Harvey of Lovell in a two-way Republican primary.
Longtime state Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, is facing his first challenge in 20 years thanks to a primary bid from Republican Bob Berry of Cody for Senate District 18. The district spans western Park County from the Willwood and Ralston to Clark, Crandall, Cody and Wapiti.
House District 28, which now represents Meeteetse, Shoshoni, Hot Springs County, and southern Big Horn County, has three Republicans — Nathan Winters of Thermopolis, Echo Renner of Meeteetse and Roll Luehne of Thermopolis — and two Democrats — Carl Leyba and Connie Skates — in the running for the open seat. It’s the only race in the state that has contested primaries on both sides of the political aisle.
House District 24 Rep. Sam Krone, R-Cody, was the only local legislator to emerge from the filing period without a challenger. His district represents the western part of Park County, including the western half of Cody, the North and South Forks, Wapiti and the northern part of Yellowstone National Park.
Nine Republicans are set to battle it out for two slots on the Park County Commission.
Incumbent two-term Commissioner Bucky Hall will face off with eight newcomers: Greg Gaspers of Cody, Alex Gisoldi, Lee Livingston and Bob Stevens of Wapiti, John Wetzel of Powell, Edward Hughes of Cody, Dan Laursen of Powell and Ronald Reed of Cody.
Commissioner Dave Burke, R-Cody, isn’t seeking a second term on the commission.
Thirteen candidates — including one Democrat — filed for three available commission posts in the 2010 primary, though one candidate later bowed out. A Cody Libertarian ran in the general election.
For the first time since 2000, there are no women running for or on the commission.
Four of the six Powell City Council seats are up for election this year, but only one race is contested.
In Ward 3, former councilman Josh Shorb and Amber Yager have each filed for the seat.
Councilman Floyd Young is running unopposed in Ward 2, and Councilmen Jim Hillberry and Eric Paul each are unopposed in Ward 1. Hillberry is seeking the ward’s four-year term. Paul, who was appointed last year to fill a Ward 1 vacancy on the council, is running to fill out the remaining two years of a four year-term vacated by former Councilman Steve Scott.
Councilman Don Hillman, who currently serves in Ward 3, is the sole candidate for mayor of Powell.
It’s the first time since 2000 that the race for mayor will be uncontested.
The City of Cody has five candidates for its top post, including incumbent Mayor Nancy Tia Brown.
While significant, the end of the primary filing period is not necessarily the end of the road for would-be candidates.
For example, City Clerk Ardyce Busboom noted that residents may still run for the Powell City Council (or any other race) on write-in campaigns.
It’s also possible for candidates to make the general election ballot as an unaffiliated candidate. That requires filing a petition with signatures; one man told the Park County Elections office he’s planning to run for the commission as such a candidate.
Also, in partisan races where a major party does not have a candidate — basically, any of the races from the Democratic side — a candidate can still make the general election ballot if they get at least 25 write-in votes.
The Libertarian, Country and Constitution parties are also free to nominate candidates straight to the general election ballot from their state conventions.
Editor's note: This version clarifies the last time there were no women running for or on the Park County Commission.