Wyoming’s election day is only three weeks away.
“Wait a minute,” you say, “I thought election day is always on the first Tuesday in November!” That is technically true. But in Wyoming that’s mostly a formality.
Truth is, Wyoming is one of the reddest states in the union. That means the real choices are made in the party primaries, not in the general election. Chances are that whoever wins the Republican nomination on Aug. 21 will be elected in November. There might be a few exceptions to this rule, but not enough to diminish the point.
Since the Republican party dominates state politics, two things tend to happen. First, it suppresses the conservative vote. That may seem counter-intuitive, but it happens. Busy conservatives are so sure that a Republican will be elected, they are content to let others concern themselves with the details. That would make sense except for the second fact.
The second fact is that in Wyoming, a significant number of Democrats run as Republicans. With about 93 percent of Wyomingites voting Republican, Democrats who want a serious chance to win will switch parties. This ought to cause busy conservatives to understand why the primaries are so important.
Just because all the candidates are members of the same party doesn’t mean they share your personal values. It doesn’t even mean that they embrace the party platform. You would be surprised to know how many Republicans vote against the party’s platform when they get to Cheyenne. In Wyoming, it is difficult to tell the players by the color of their jerseys. Instead of a soccer game, it’s more like a rodeo. You just have to know each contestant personally.
Elections should not be mere popularity contests. Much less should be they about name-recognition and who has the most money to spend on signs and mass media. Elections are about finding the candidate who shares your vision of where we should go and knows best how to get there.
Some share your vision, but don’t have the know-how necessary to navigate the halls of government effectively. For instance, if a governor thinks he will be like a king who can just call the shots, he will get a rude awakening in Cheyenne. There are three separate-but-equal branches of government. A candidate needs to have the people-skills necessary to lead and a detailed understanding of the bureaucracy to know how to navigate the halls of power.
On the other hand, there are some candidates who have experience and knowledge of how to lead people and work with bureaucracies, but who do not share your vision of where this state should go. An effective leader who takes you in the wrong direction is twice as bad as an incompetent leader who leaves us where we are. Progress is not just movement. It is movement in the right direction.
In Wyoming, there are five statewide offices up for election: governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. Together, these are known as the “Big-Five” and each is for a four-year term. The current superintendent has no challengers, so that office is not in play. The same goes for the secretary of state who will be challenged by a Democrat in November, but not during the primary.
Three Republicans are running for treasurer: Curt Meier, Leland Christensen and Ron Redo. For auditor, there are two: Nathan Winters and Kristi Racines. The governor’s race, however, is wide open. There are six Republican candidates. They are: Bill Dahlin, Foster Friess, Sam Galeotos, Mark Gordon, Harriet Hageman and Taylor Haynes.
In addition to these statewide offices, we will also be electing local people to represent us in the Wyoming Legislature. We will elect county officers and city officers as well.
In the broad sweep of world history, American citizens exercise say-so in their government like almost no one on earth. The majority of the world never gets the chance to make governmental decisions. You get the chance every two years. That’s amazing.
Christians believe that this is not just an accident of history, this is a stewardship from God. Your vote is not just a right, it is a duty. When we look at bad rulers in the past, we judge them for either neglecting their duties, or for making ungodly decisions. Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Hitler are people that we blame for evils that happened under their watch.
When people look back on our day, whom will they blame or praise? True historians won’t be blaming the politicians. The real responsibility lies with the voters who put them in office. Knowing this, our duty is not only to cast a vote, but to cast an informed vote.
The Uinta County Republican party will be hosting “The Greatest Show” at the Uinta County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Aug. 11. It’s huge candidate forum with every candidate on the ballot invited. I would highly recommend that you take time out of your schedule to be there.
Candidates for many offices will be there to tell you who they are and how they intend to govern. You can learn an awful lot by listening to them speak side-by-side. You can compare what things they emphasize and what they ignore. You can compare how much they know about the details of various issues and how Wyoming government works.
In addition to what they say about themselves, it is just as important that you learn what they have actually done in the past. What they have done well, they will tell you about themselves. What they have done poorly, their opponents will tell you. You will want to know about both.
Votes, donations, volunteer work, and business decisions from the past all matter. Anybody can tell you what you want to hear at the moment. Nobody can change his or her past. He can repent of it, or defend it, but he can’t change it.
If you can’t be there to hear them in person, there are great resources online. Several candidate forums around the state have been recorded and uploaded to YouTube. I recommend watching “The Republican Gubernatorial Primary Debate 2018” sponsored by Wyoming PBS. This July 12 debate brought together the three gubernatorial candidates who were highest in the polls. They got to respond to questions and to each other for almost two hours.
However you choose to inform yourself, it will give you confidence and peace of mind that, when you go to cast your vote, you will not be voting out of thoughtless name-recognition, or party-affiliation. This could trick you into voting against your own world-view. By taking your civic duty seriously, you not only will cast a vote, but cast an informed vote.
Author’s note: I have carefully refrained from telling you my candidate preferences in this column. If you want to know them, feel free to email me and we can talk. That being said, in the interest of full disclosure, I have been volunteering as co-chair of Harriet Hageman’s Faith and Family Committee since April.
Jonathan Lange is an LCMS pastor in Evanston and Kemmerer and serves the Wyoming Pastors Network. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow his blog at OnlyHuman-JL.blogspot.com.