Candidates chosen for vacant house seat

LUSK – Three candidates were selected on Thursday at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds to fill the vacant position for District 2 of Wyoming’s House of Representatives.

Thirty-five votes were cast by precinct men and women of the Republican Party from Goshen, Niobrara and Weston counties with each vote consisting of three names. The top three candidates were selected to move on to the joint county commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Oct 19.

The candidates who received the most votes were Jeffery Dean (J.D.) Williams from Lusk, Greg Matney from Lusk, and Allen Slagle from Newcastle. 

Roger Huckfeldt from Torrington, R. Dean Nelson from Lusk, and Sara Sampers from Lusk were the candidates who were not selected to move on in the process. 

Goshen County Republican Party Chairman Kirk Haas welcomed the visitors and precinct voters to the meeting and went over the agenda for the evening. 

Corey Steinmetz, the national committeeman for the Republican Party, was nominated to be the chairman of the meeting. Haas said the three party chairmen of the respective counties felt it was most fair to have someone other than one of them run the meeting. 

“It worked out that Corey was willing to come up here and do this for us,” Haas said. 

After adopting the rules and procedures for the meeting, Steinmetz invited the six candidates to come up for introductions and to answer questions. The candidates were randomly assigned an order and rotated who went first on each question. 

Williams started the introductions and said he is a lifelong resident of Wyoming as he was born in Saratoga. Williams said he is a third-generation rancher and is proud of the country and state he was born in. 

“I’m proud to be an American. I feel blessed to have lived in Wyoming my whole life,” Williams said. 

Williams added he is not very political, but he felt called to apply for the position.

Matney went second during introductions and said he was born in Fort Collins Colorado. Matney said he became interested in politics while learning about the government in ninth grade. 

“How the three branches of the government were designed through the constitution. We studied the constitution a lot,” Matney said. 

Matney said he bought his first truck when he was 19 and has been in the trucking business for 29 years, but cows and ranching has been his main focus. 

Slagle, the only applicant from Weston County, said his goal is to represent everyone in the district from the southern half of Weston County to Northeastern Goshen County. Slagle said his beliefs will be at the forefront of his decision-making if elected. 

“I am a Christian and I believe in following biblical principles that means I’m pro-family, pro-life and anything else that is in the Bible that’s what I’m going to do,” Slagle said. 

Slagle said he is willing to listen to his constituents in order to do his job well. Slagle added the two biggest current issues in legislation is redistricting and the budget session. 

After introductions, Steinmetz asked the candidates questions about how they would address some of the current political issues in the state and the nation and how they would represent the Republican Party. The first question was on how long each candidate has been a Republican and if they uphold the beliefs of the party. 

Each candidate stated they have been Republicans for as long as they could vote and are committed to the party’s platform. 

Steinmetz asked the candidates if they supported the party’s stance on marriage being between one man and one woman. Candidates stuck to short statements to affirm their support in the party’s platform on marriage. 

Steinmetz transitioned to current affairs including if the candidates would vote to ban vaccine mandates in Wyoming if elected to which all the candidates agreed. 

Williams said to be in favor of liberty is to be against mandates. 

“That’s not our decision to make for someone else,” Williams said. 

Matney said he would oppose any mandate which went against
the constitution. 

“That goes against the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Matney said. 

Slagle said the mandate is an overreach by the government to tell private individuals what to do. 

“The government is saying we can’t take care of ourselves,” Slagle said. 

Along the lines of mandates, Steinmetz also asked what the candidates would do to protect the liberties of the people they would represent. 

Williams said it is always a privilege to stand up for one’s liberties. 

Matney related back to the constitution and said he believes the government is overreaching into the public’s rights. 

Slagle agreed with the other candidates and said the state legislature has forgotten it is sovereign and should stand up for unconstitutional measures from the federal government. 

Steinmetz asked how the candidates would fight against President Joe Biden’s plan against coal and energy. 

Williams said he is not a coal expert, but he would reach out to people who are to help him make the right decisions. 

Matney said the regulations get in the way of development. Matney also said he is not a coal expert, but there needs to be less restrictions. 

Slagle said the legislature may not be able to do a lot to oppose the president’s plan, but reducing regulations is the most important step in order to let businesses flourish. 

The next question was about how Wyoming’s government has spent money to diversify the state’s economy. 

Williams said the private sector does the best at making the economy drive. 

“I just can’t think off the top of my head of when the government gets involved how that helps all that much,” Williams said. 

Matney added the government trying to help is not good for the economy. 

“They need to get out of the way and let the private sector move things along,” Matney said. “That’s what works.”

Slagle agreed with the other candidates and said the key thing to do is to reduce regulation. 

“Regulation is what is killing businesses in our country.” Slagle said. 

Steinmetz asked the candidates about their view on Wyoming’s budget deficit and their willingness to increase taxes. 

All of the candidates said adding taxes is not the way to address the deficit and there should be budget cuts instead. 

The candidates were then asked about restrictions on guns and the need for gun-free zones. 

All of the candidates said there shouldn’t be restrictions on guns. While most of the candidates also agreed there should be no gun-free zones either, Sampers said she has a hard time being okay with allowing guns at schools. 

Steinmetz asked another energy question about Governor Mark Gordon’s plan with Bill Gates to create a nuclear power plant in Wyoming and if the citizens should have had a voice in the decision. 

Williams said the governor was acting in good faith on his decision but felt the legislature should have been able to give some input.

Matney said he was uncomfortable with the governor’s decision but was unsure how the legislature would get involved. 

Slagle said it wasn’t right for the governor to make the decision without the legislature’s help and the government needs to be more transparent to the public. 

Steinmetz final question was how the candidates will make themselves available if selected as the representative. 

Williams said his role as a manager has taught him to talk to experts throughout his career and he plans to do the same as a representative. Williams also said he is very busy with his job but has the means to be available to his constituents. 

Matney said he will make himself available to the people he represents but he cannot poll every person in the district on every issue. Matney added the role of a representative is to represent the people with their own values. 

Slagle said representatives need to be open and his plan is to visit communities to properly represent the people of the district. Slagle believes the most important aspect is to listen to the
people first. 

After the pre-selected questions, Steinmetz opened the floor to the precinct men and women to ask questions to the candidates.

Dan Cushman asked how the candidates would take back control of the federal land in Wyoming. 

Williams said he doesn’t know the logistics of taking back the land, but believes it is necessary. 

Matney said the government should not own land in general, but since Wyoming is a sovereign state, the people get to say what goes on within the state boundaries. 

Slagle talked about a proposed bill called the Wyoming Sovereignty Act which would allow anyone who saw something unconstitutional could bring it to the legislature to look at it. 

Niobrara County Republican Chairman Jeb Hanson asked the candidates about how the University of Wyoming reflects the state and how to address issues if it does not. 

Williams said he got his bachelor’s degree from the agriculture college at the university, but the school is moving away from its roots. Williams added it needs to correct course, but he does not know how to address it yet. 

Matney agreed about not knowing how to fix the problem and believes the university needs to reflect the views of the state. 

Slagle said he also got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming but said recent research from the school has made him question the school’s values. 

Before closing statements, Cindy Kenyon asked the candidates if they have taken advantage of Wyoming Statutes § 7-13-1401. which allows an expungement of a crime from a person’s record. All the candidates said they have not done so and do not have a criminal record. 

During Williams’ closing statement, he said he had no desire to be here, but asked the audience to think of why he applied for the position. 

“Every dream I’ve ever had has come true, so why would I volunteer to go to Cheyenne,” Williams said. 

Williams added he feels it is his responsibility to be the representative if selected. 

Matney thanked everyone for taking the time to come to the meeting and said if he is chosen, he will represent the people with his conservative values. 

Slagle said he appreciated everyone coming out and said the meeting was a representation of what grassroots government is all about. It allows for the people to be heard. 

At the end of the meeting, Steinmetz announced the vote count for each candidate. 

Williams received 34 votes, Matney received 22, Slagle received 21, Huckfeldt received 14, Nelson received 10, and Sampers received four. 

The joint county commissioners meeting convened on Tuesday, Oct 19 at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds to select the new representative. 

© 2022-The Torrington Telegram


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