House candidates talk lands
Seven of the nine Republicans seeking Wyoming’s sole U.S. House of Representatives stopped by Rock Springs to answer questions posed to them by members of the Sweetwater County GOP.
The two not attending were Tim Stubson and Heath Beaudry.
While much of the discussion was cordial, Rex Rammell frequently focused on Liz Cheney as a target for verbal barbs, criticizing her on how long she has resided in Wyoming and questioning whether she truly supports Wyoming residents’ values.
When asked about what the candidates thought made them qualified for the office, many focused on their experience in management or other governmental experience. Paul Paad said he’s worked in managerial roles throughout much of his life, starting at age 14 as the manager of a pinball arcade. He also believes in negotiating, not compromising, for a desired result. Paad said he believes compromise means a person is giving up something in the process.
Jason Senteney, who ran against outgoing U.S. House member Cynthia Lummis in 2014, said he came back to Wyoming after managing multi-million dollar businesses, worked as a broadcast journalist and served as a Marine. He believes those combined experiences would help him succeed in the U.S. House.
“I think I could do Wyoming justice,” he said.
Cheney said she has generational ties to Wyoming and was raised on Wyoming values. She said she has the experience to take on “the big fights,” which started 25 years ago when she worked in the United States Agency for International Development. She said she learned a lot about where money flows in Washington D.C. through that position.
Mike Konsmo, a teacher at Northwest College in Powell, said he is humble and is always willing to listen to the voters.
Rammell said he is an expert in public-land issues, having worked in ranching. He believes federal lands should be transferred to the states and thinks Wyoming can’t send someone to Washington, D.C., without knowledge in public-lands issues.
Darin Smith describes himself as highly qualified and a winner, leading a team of 15 people on humanitarian service projects throughout the world. He also said he’s an expert on Islam and how to combat the religion. He wants to bring tenacity and integrity to the U.S. House seat.
Leland Christensen has a background involving agriculture, law enforcement, military service, logging and public service. He previously served as a county commissioner in Teton County and is a member of the Wyoming Senate. He believes it takes a team to accomplish a task and is willing to work with other representatives to help Wyoming.
Candidates also were asked about their views on who should control federal public lands. Many of those candidates supported the idea of state ownership, with protections ensuring access would remain.
Rammell said he would like the federal government to transfer the deeds to their land to the state, ensuring Wyoming’s sovereignty while kicking out agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. He also said people should expect 100 percent access to those lands, except when personal safety is threatened.
Smith said the transferal of lands has to happen and multiple use of the land needs to be ensured, suggesting amendments be drafted when lands are transferred to keep those lands in public ownership.
Christensen said the tricky issue with the lands issue is what would ensure the state would keep open access to those lands. He believes the lands should have improved rules favoring multiple usage.
Paad doesn’t believe the public lands fight is one to take up because the state can’t afford it. He said a state attempting to take federal land without approval from Congress is unconstitutional and said the state hasn’t communicated how it would intend to use those lands.
Senteney said his favorite camping spot near Laramie Peak became a part of the Wyoming’s trust lands, which has prohibited him and other from camping at the site. He disagrees with the state’s action, and believes the state should manage, but not sell public lands.
Cheney said she disagrees with people she described as “radical feds” seeking to preclude federal lands from all human activity and said the federal government has been an “absolute failure” in regard to its management of public lands.
Konsmo said public lands can be used to boost tourism in Wyoming, which would help the state’s economy.