Candidates for state, federal offices square off

EVANSTON — The Evanston Chamber of Commerce held a meet and greet for U.S. and Wyoming State election candidates on Wednesday, July 27, at the historic Strand Theatre.

Shawn Ungerman was the moderator and David Benton the timekeeper.

“Each candidate is given 2 minutes for an opening statement, then 2 minutes for each of two questions pertaining to the office they are running for; and then a final two minutes for closing statements,” Ungerman said.

Those candidates present for the forum were Democrat Steve Helling running for U.S. Representative; Sen. Dan Dockstader, standing in for Republican Tara Nethercott, who is running for Secretary of State; Republican Curt Meier, candidate for reelection as Wyoming Treasurer; Republican Brian Schroeder, Republican Megan Degenfelder and Democrat Sergio Maldonado Sr., all running for Superintendent of Public Instruction; Republican Wendy Schuler, who is running for re-election in the senate, and challenger and fellow Republican Robert Wharff; three Republican candidates running for House District 19: Jon Conrad, Karl Allred, and Andy Stocks; candidates for House District 49: Republicans Ryan Berger and Vladimir Allred, and Democrat Tim Beppler.

Prepared questions for the U.S. Representative were:

• If elected, how would you create a more cohesive environment within the elected parties?

• What are a few concrete solutions that you feel would help fix inflation in Wyoming?

Expressing his anger and unhappiness with the state of affairs in Wyoming and the nation, Helling said, “D.C. is selling the country down the drain. We need to continue to develop our fossil fuels, shut down the Jan. 6 Committee and stop the runaway spending of the federal government.”

The questions for candidates for Secretary of State focused on election integrity and steps to improve Wyoming’s elections, and what the candidate thought of President Biden’s “30 x 30” land program, which will put more land under federal control.

Dockstader, representing Nethercott, said the candidate supports safe and sure elections and is a conservative who supports the values of the people of Wyoming. He did not know how she would answer the second question, he said.

Meiers was asked how secure Wyoming’s investments are with the downturn in the economy and how the current inflation affects the citizens of Wyoming. 

“I made some changes and spread investments around so that Wyoming was prepared for the inflation and it lessened the overall losses,” Meier said. “I think the raising of transaction fees on loans will help inflation.”

A question for the three candidates running for Superintendent of Public Instruction concerned the high suicide rate among teens in Wyoming and what they would do to help teens. The second question asked if they would make teaching financial literacy to all students a priority.

Schroeder said the purpose of education is to teach students to learn, to think, and financial literacy should be taught K through 12. He recommended that teachers be allowed to refer students to pastors as well as counselors.

“We need to keep gender ideology and the critical race theory out of the schools,” Schroeder said. “We need to reject federal funding and social engineering of our culture.”

Degenfelder said we need to provide support for counselors, who are overwhelmed, and also provide the option of virtual health care. 

“Teaching financial literacy has to be a priority,” Degenfelder said. “The next generation will have to deal with the federal government’s over-spending.” 

Maldonado agreed that financial literacy needs to be a priority, and accounting skills as well.

“We need to invest in our children because they are the future,” he said. “We need a collaborative effort that involves teachers, parents, legislators, and other leaders to invest in education and find solutions for teen suicide.”

The following two questions were repeated for all of the candidates running for state offices.

• If elected, how would you create a more cohesive environment within the elected parties?

  Do you feel Uinta County has the necessary infrastructure in place to handle future economic growth?

First to respond were the three candidates for House District 19.

Conrad said, “The first question is a profoundly relevant question. We’ve lost our ability to disagree. We can agree on mutual purpose, the state of our county, state and nation. I look forward, if I am elected, to establishing some ground rules.”

Karl Allred said he has served in the Wyoming Republican Party for many years and is a member of the Central Committee.

“We do need a cohesive environment,” he said. “People who know me, know I stand up for people stating their opinions.”

Stocks said he has a problem with the current Republican legislators and with their lack of transparency.

“Cohesive means things are alike,” he said. “It is truly difficult when we have division within the party.  I’d be happy to sit down and discuss things if we can get the ruling class out of the House.”

Candidates for HD 49 responded next.

Berger said, “My entire career is built on teamwork; I will advocate for cohesiveness. I am a proven leader, coach, and supporter of the community whom I will be a voice for.”

Vladimir Allred answered the question on cohesiveness by saying that he wants to hear what others think and why they think that way. 

“The things that are going on in the state and in the country bother me,” Allred said. “People don’t trust the government any more and that is why I’m running. I stand for small government, for the 2nd Amendment, I’m pro-life and am a Constitutionalist.”

Beppler got a laugh from the audience when he answered the question by saying, “Neither party is cohesive.”

“The issues are not partisan,” he said. “We need to work together, set aside differences and come up with solutions. I’m concerned, and that is why I’m running for office.”

All of the candidates agreed that Uinta County does not have the necessary infrastructure in place yet, but are working on it.

Evanston Chamber of Commerce Director Tammy Staley and Board President Mieke Madrid read letters from candidates unable to attend. Those letters came from Republican Chuck Gray, candidate for Secretary of State; Democrat Meghan Jensen, candidate for U.S. Representative; Republican Governor Mark Gordon running for re-election; and Republican Jennifer Zerba, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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