Candidates for Campbell County House District #31, John Bear and Micky Shober respond to questions at the League of Women Voters’ Candidates Forum June 22.
In addition to a heated debate between State Senate District 24 candidates Wyoming State Senator Michael Von Flatern and Campbell County business owner Troy McKeown, the Campbell County League of Women Voters’ Primary Election Candidates’ Forum at City Hall Monday also saw candor from nearly a dozen candidates running for the Wyoming House of Representatives in their respective districts, including those vying for State Representative District 03, 31, 32, 52 and 53 seats.
Among them, were candidates for Wyoming House District 3, which include incumbent Representative Eric Barlow (R) and Martin Phillips (R). The two discussed their top objectives, the state’s economic stance and how they’d make positive change.
When asked about ways to increase the currently plummeting state revenues, Phillips noted Wyoming’s natural resources “that we’re trying to sell” and beautiful tourism spots.
“But that only goes so far,” he said, adding that it’s not as much about raising revenues but how to spend what we have wisely.
“We have to live within our means,” he continued. “It’s part of the budget process.”
Phillips also stressed Wyoming’s need to prioritize what’s important.
“We’re going to have to be smart,” he noted.
When asked the same question, Barlow first explained the difference between the two types of savings we have in the state coffers, including liquid savings, or “rainy day funds,” and long-term savings, which fund a significant portion of our education and general funds.
“So, we don’t touch those savings,” Barlow said, speaking about the long-term funds.
“Unlike the federal government — who is operating at debt and deficit — the state of Wyoming is not,” Barlow noted, acknowledging that there’s going to be a lot of discussion about where we are fiscally in the state of Wyoming while prioritizing the types of spending that are most important to the viability and health of the state.
Next, the moderator asked what services each candidate thought were most important for the state government to provide.
“There’s two sides to the state budget: the education side (K-12) and the general fund side,” Barlow explained, which, he said, can be broken down into the five different programs that make up the bulk of the spending including the Department of Health, Department of Corrections, University of Wyoming, community colleges and city, county and towns and planning.
“If you want to make an impact in the spending of the state of Wyoming,” Barlow said, “you have to attack one of those.”
So, if you want to cut spending, he continued, “you have to look at nursing homes, you have to look at children with disabilities, you have to look at not putting as many people in prison … not building as many roads in your community. That’s what makes a difference.”
Phillips, on the other hand, stuck to the Constitution as a reference point for prioritizing the ways in which the state provides services to its citizens.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said simply, stressing life foremost.
“We have to protect life,” he said. “That’s your police, your fire department.”
Phillips also mentioned EMTs, infrastructure and park services and noted that while there are likely things we could be doing to reduce spending in correctional facilities, that specific item is not a top priority to him.
The biggest things, he said, are probably the police and fire departments.
Following Barlow and Phillips, were two local candidates who are vying for Representative Scott Clem’s seat in the Wyoming House of Representatives District 31: John Bear (R), a veteran, local business owner and self-proclaimed pro-life, pro-gun, avid hunter and church safety and security team training director committed to working with Campbell County youths, and Micky Shober (R), a former two-term Campbell County Commissioner and eight-year Campbell County School District Board of Trustees member with a background in ranching and local contract work.
“I love people and I want to protect them,” Bear said during introductions. “And I’ve not held public office before. I consider this an advantage as I am not a part of the establishment,” Bear said during introductions. “And as the public has seen their liberties eroded by the establishment, I believe that government need to be turned back over to the people.”
After listing off his qualifications as a long-time advocate of the community, Shober said plainly, “I believe I have the qualifications and experience and the ability to be a representative for Campbell County.”
When the same question posed earlier that evening about how to increase state revenues was again asked, each answered quickly.
“The only way that you can increase state revenue is by taxation,” Shober said, adding he’s not sure that’s the best solution for our mineral-based economy and instead offered up the idea of looking over what can be done to reduce costs and economize.
Bear touted his experience as a business owner in Gillette well-versed in dealing with the boom and bust cycle, cutbacks and wise budget decision-making, and said he’d promote getting PRB coal moving through U.S. ports and sold out of country.
As power plants around the world move away from fossil fuels, Wyoming needs creative, out-of-the-box thinkers and problem solvers, a moderator said.
“If you were elected, do you have any creative or outside-of-the box ideas for our state’s future?” she asked.
“I’d like to see some of the manufacturing plants come to Wyoming,” Bear said. “We need to move quickly to create opportunities for those businesses to operate here.”
Shober discussed rare earth minerals present in coal and ash and parting seams that could possibly be developed at places like the Integrated Technology Center, but added, “I’m not sure that we’re ever going to be able to get entirely away from coal.”
Additional candidates in attendance Monday evening included the following.
To view their discussions, click here.
The Primary Election is Aug. 18, with early voting beginning July 2.
The General Election is Nov. 3, with early voting beginning Sept. 18.
Absentee ballots are currently available at the County Clerk’s Election Department in the Campbell County Courthouse, 500 S. Gillette Avenue. For more information on voting in Campbell County including registration and requesting an absentee ballot, click here or call Charity Stewart, the Campbell County Clerk’s Department elections clerk, at (307) 686-1892.
Want to know who represents you and where to vote? View the easy-to-use Elections Web Map for important District and Precinct information at your fingertips.
To view candidates for statewide races, click here.
And be sure to look for a County 17 story on tonight’s Campbell County Commissioners’ Candidates’ Forum tomorrow.
Editor’s Note: Readily available links to candidate campaign pages have been provided above as a courtesy, and can be updated or included upon request.