Less than a week before primary day in Wyoming, the state’s candidate fundraising numbers have been released, giving insight into the money they have raised and spent.
Wyoming’s midterm elections are on Tuesday, when posts such as governor, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction will be up for grabs.
In two of these three, there is no real starting race, opening the field to heated races.
Secretary of State Ed Buchanan is not running for election, having sought and won a judgeship in Goshen County. Now Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, is battling Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper for the seat of secretary.
Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow resigned to take the same post in Virginia earlier this year, meaning the Wyoming Republican Party was tasked with filling the seat. The party’s central committee selected three candidates, including Governor Mark Gordon nominated Brian Schroeder, who is now running to be elected to the post.
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Because Schroder is unelected, but has held the position for a few months, he has some advantage on his side, but probably not as much as someone who served a full term and was elected by the voters .
Former President Donald Trump has thrown his support behind the two most hardline Republicans in those races: Schroeder for superintendent and Gray for secretary of state.
Gov. Mark Gordon, meanwhile, faces several opponents to his right in his re-election race.
Secretary of State
Gray’s campaign raised about $528,000 compared to $333,000 for Nethercott, according to campaign finance reports released by the secretary of state’s office. But Nethercott raised more individual donations ($181,350) than Gray ($17,480).
Gray’s father, Jan Charles Gray, donated $500,000 to his campaign, records show. Gray himself donated $10,000 to his own campaign.
Nethercott also loaned her campaign $95,000, which she said was “necessary to start [the] country.”
“I am honored and grateful for the financial support of the generous and hardworking men and women of Wyoming,” she said. “This campaign would not be possible without their support.”
Excluding Gray’s or Nethercott’s own donations or immediate family donations (Nethercott also had a cousin who donated $2,500), Nethercott outscored Gray by about 10 to 1.
Both candidates have just over $96,000 in the bank to spend.
Some of the big names who donated to Gray were Dan and Carleen Brophy, two wealthy political donors, in addition to Susan Gore, founder of the Wyoming Liberty Group and the Gore-Tex heiress, who was accused in an investigative article from the New York Times last year. to fund a political espionage operation in the state.
Gray also received donations from Representative Tim Hallinan, R-Gillette, Senator Tim French, R-Powell as well as Wyoming Republican Party leadership Donna Rice.
Nethercott received donations from more than a dozen Republican lawmakers and three Democratic lawmakers — Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie and former Senator Liisa Anselmi-Dalton.
Nethercott also took nearly $55,000 from political action committees, records show. Gray gets $500 back in PAC money.
“President Trump has endorsed our campaign because I support voter integrity measures and have passed the voter ID bill,” Gray said in a statement. “But the insider establishment has plenty of money to back candidates like Liz Cheney and Tara Nethercott, including with PAC dollars. Nethercott campaign worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — I am grateful to all of my supporters, including my family, for stepping up to counter these liberal attacks with funds from family businesses I helped build .”
Gray and Nethercott became candidates on opposite sides of the election integrity debate.
Gray casts himself as a skeptic in the 2020 presidential election, saying there was more fraud than the margin of votes between Trump and President Joe Biden. Gray is pushing to ban ballot boxes, which became a target after the release of “2000 Mules,” a film that alleges widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Gray has also sponsored numerous screenings of the film in all of Wyoming during the campaign trail.
Nethercott says there is “no objective evidence” to prove the 2020 election was stolen for President Joe Biden, and she repeatedly stresses her confidence in Wyoming’s election.
According to a database run by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, Wyoming has had only three cases (involving four people) of voter fraud in 40 years, and none since 2014.
Once again, Gordon faces several opponents to his right politically.
The Governor brought in around $541,000. Of that amount, $392,800 came from individual donors — the incumbent governor received $100,000 in loans from his wife and $45,000 from PACs (about 80% came from PACs outside Wyoming).
In the 2018 gubernatorial primary, Gordon came out on top of a crowded field with just 33% of the vote, helping spur an unsuccessful right-wing push to call a runoff election.
Gordon is not well liked by some members of the extreme right in Wyoming. Several times during a recent gubernatorial debate, Gordon made sure to point out that he is “a Republican, and a conservative Republican at that.”
Gordon is challenged by retired Marine Brent Bien, who made nearly $100,000, records show. More than a third of that came from him or his immediate family. Well himself donated more than $31,000. From individual donors, Bien raised approximately $54,000.
“Brent and Sue have been blessed with great careers that have allowed Brent to continue his service, including using his own money to travel the state and meet voters where they are,” said Sam Rubino , campaign manager of Bien. “This campaign has always been about the hard working people of Wyoming, not the millionaires and political donors.”
Vet and serial political candidate Rex Rammell, meanwhile, raised just $9,200 from individuals while loaning his campaign more than $66,000.
Rammell has a colorful history, including criminal charges and multiple job offers in Wyoming and Idaho. He ran for governor of Wyoming in 2018 as the Constitution Party candidate and made several runs in Idaho.
During the recent debate, Rammell used his closing statement to accuse Bien of failing to meet the state constitutional requirements necessary to serve as governor.
To run for governor, a candidate must reside in the state for five years, but according to the state constitution, residency is not lost through military service, and Bien – who recently returned to the Wyoming after serving in the military – said he maintained residency throughout his time in the Marines.
Rammell filed a complaint with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, which responded by closing it without taking action because the complaint “requests a legal analysis of the term residency that goes beyond that contained in current statutes.” .
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Megan Degenfelder, former director of policy in the Department of Education and currently head of government and regulatory affairs for Morningstar Partners Oil & Gas, has raised nearly $130,000 from individuals, plus about $10,000 from her immediate family and 70 $000 in loans of his own money.
“It’s clear that Wyoming voters want conservative elected officials who they can count on, who have truly lived and contributed to our communities, and who are focused on the issues that matter to our state. As a lifelong Wyomingite, I am that candidate. I will be accountable to the taxpayers of this state and will work tirelessly to prepare students for a successful future in Wyoming,” Degenfelder said in a recent press release.
She also received a significant amount of PAC money – $23,050.
“The PAC’s major donations came from industries in Wyoming that represent the workforce that students will eventually enter,” Degenfelder said. “It shows that they have decided that I am the candidate most likely to understand the needs of the industry.”
Like Schroeder, Degenfelder also ran to be acting superintendent when Balow resigned, but ultimately secured fourth place in the central committee vote.
Degenfelder also received the endorsement of former U.S. Senator Al Simpson, a political icon from Wyoming who recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis and more than 20 current lawmakers, according to a statement from campaign press.
The Trump-endorsed Schroeder has followed Degenfelder in individual donations, raising less than $27,000 from people who aren’t himself or his family.
Some of that money came from Gore, Hallinan and former state Rep. Marti Halverson (who was also a finalist for superintendent earlier this year).
Schroeder is the former principal of Veritas Academy, a private Christian school in Cody, and has experience as a family and youth coordinator and as a teacher and administrator at private schools in California, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming.
He is deeply conservative; he called on Wyoming to enact legislation similar to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, which, among other things, “prohibits classroom discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity at certain grade levels “. He advocates for more parental control in public schools. He opposes the teaching of critical race theory (which is not currently taught in public schools in Wyoming).
The other Republican candidate in the race for superintendent is Casper-based substitute teacher and cosmetologist Jennifer Zerba, who raised just $300 from two people.
While fundraising is an indication of a candidate’s viability, it is not uncommon for those who elevate their opponents to lose the election.
Early voting is underway and primary day is Tuesday.
Staff reporter Maya Shimizu Harris contributed to this report.
Follow state political reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis