Green River Star -

By David Martin

Forum focuses on H.D. 18


David Martin

Fred Baldwin, a physician assistant from Kemmerer, is the Republican candidate for the open House District 18 spot.

Looking to represent a district encompassing three counties, two challengers for Wyoming House District 18 spoke at the Sweetwater County Library Wednesday.

Fred Baldwin, a Republican from Kemmerer and Michele Irwin, a Democrat living west of Green River, are campaigning for the open seat.

Baldwin is a physician's assistant who has previously worked as a firefighter in Natrona County and in Rawlins. He currently is the assistant fire chief in Kemmerer. He formerly worked for the Bureau of Land Management as a helicopter firefighter and EMT. Baldwin said he has not interest in becoming a politician, saying he seeks to represent the people living in the house district.

Irwin raises buffalo on the Hamel Ranch west of Green River and has a masters degree in public administration. She knows what its like to work as a woman in a state that ranks 50th in pay equality for women. She also said she knows what its like to work in blue, pink, and white collar positions in the state. She said Wyoming is a wealthy state, but does not spend all of its money wisely, believing it needs to spend more money on local governments and in growing a strong middle class.

While answering what issues are similar in the district's diverse geographic areas, Irwin said the southwest corner of the state has large percentages of public lands that are home to the state's largest income generators -- mining and wildlife. She believes in maintaining multiple uses for lands, but admits there are some problems balancing the uses. Irwin also said water is a common issue being faced by people in the district and in the arid west.

Baldwin said the district is perhaps the most diverse in the state, saying some portions deal with issues related to agriculture while others deal with wildlife and mining issues. He believes not one single group should be focused on at the exclusion of the others.

"Not any group can have their total way," he said.

He said the area has abundant wildlife, but doesn't want to see it go away. He said he's also willing to listen and learn from people who have concerns.

Talking about same-sex marriage, Baldwin said marriage is a religious institution between a man and a woman, but said everyone should be treated equally.

Irwin said she supports same-sex marriage and said people can have their individual views, but the constitution supports equal protection.

During a follow-up question about if the state should fight the federal government, Baldwin said the state has spent too much money fighting the government and disagrees with the need to fight them. Irwin said it depends on the issue, but as far as same-sex marriage goes, she believes the Equality State should take a lead in supporting same-sex couples.

While talking about if the state or federal government is better suited to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, Irwin said a partnership with the federal government and global community is key in dealing with diseases like Ebola. She said the state can't take on the challenge of managing an infectious disease by itself.

Baldwin said the state is already well-prepared through the Wyoming Department of Health's preparation for other illnesses. He said support from the Centers for Disease Control would be needed, but also said Ebloa will sneak up on the state the way Hanta Virus did. However, he said hospitals such as Evanston Regional, are preparing as well.

With the BLM's programs involving wild horses, Baldwin said he doesn't believe the wild horse management program is successful, but said illegal trap and capture of horses is a much worse alternative. Baldwin said a small part of the problem also comes from ranchers who let their horses go, which go on to join the wild herds.

"I don't think we can let them run rampant," Baldwin said.

Irwin said the main problem with the BLM's policy is they're guided by the Wild Horse and Burrow Act, which she says needs to be updated and revised. Horse numbers are out of control, which she said impacts the land, other animals and the horses themselves. She said the horses would benefit from population control, but said some measures have drawn the ire of animal rights groups.

Talking about if the state lottery should include scratch tickets, Irwin said she's open minded about the issue and open to looking at the pros and cons of allowing scratch tickets.

Baldwin said he isn't a fan of the lottery, but doesn't know enough to make a decision about scratch tickets. He also has concerns about the heavy amount of money going into wages for the nine employees of the Wyoming Lottery Corporation.

"That's a huge question," he said.

Talking about when and how the state's rainy day funds should be used, Baldwin said the fund could support the government for the next four years if sales tax completely stopped. He said the state should spend the money carefully, but added it should go to cities and counties. He also said the state should support its coal because it's used outside of the state as well as in state.

Irwin said the state needs to spend some of the money, skimming funds off the top for infrastructure needs. She also said the state should continue to support coal and placing an energy campus in Sweetwater County.

Talking about the legalization of marijuana, Irwin said she's supportive of medicinal marijuana's oil form and said the state may need to look at recreational use at some point.

Baldwin said it's already available in a pill form that helps induce appetite and supports medical use of the plant. He does not support recreational use of the drug.

Speaking about expanding Medicaid, Baldwin said some states, such as Oregon, have had disasters results in expanding Medicaid coverage. He said his fear is after 10 years and the funding declines to 90 percent, it would decrease further. Baldwin said hospitals are in trouble now due to the Affordable Healthcare Act, saying the state needs to take care of its residents but doesn't need the ACA for it.

Irwin said she would support it, but also look at alternative areas where the state's population could be helped, saying the state is wealthy and can look into other areas.

When asked if they would support an issue their constituents support, but personally disagreed with, Irwin said it would depend on the issue being debated, but said sometimes a decision that's popular isn't the right decision.

"Sometimes what's popular isn't right. Sometimes what you have to stand for goes against your standing morals," she said.

Baldwin said legislators sometimes get information form political action groups that sometimes isn't distributed to their constituents, but said the issue is a two-way street.

"you're not going to make everyone happy," he said. "What we can do is read every bill and read every sentence, which is difficult to do," he said.

David Martin

Michele Irwin, the Democrat candidate for House District 18, discusses the Bureau of Land Management at the Sweetwater County Library System's political forum.

Answering a question about if federal lands should be transferred to state control, Baldwin said federal lands need to be managed more locally, but does not think transferring the lands directly to the state is the best option, saying negotiation should occur between state and federal officials. One issue he sees as a problem with a transfer is the fire budget, which he said would be a large sum for the state to cover.

Irwin said she supports federally-observed multiple uses for federal lands.

"Yes, it's messy," she said. "That's what democracy is all about."

While talking about if the Wyoming Game and Fish Department should be privatized, Irwin said she shouldn't and would not support privately run game bird farms. She views privatization as a slippery slope that would threaten wildlife management.

Baldwin said he things some things could be contracted out or taken over by other entities, but does not support full privatization.


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