Candidate forums aim to inform Teton County voters ahead of November election

The Wyoming League of Women Voters and the Teton County Library are organizing forums from late September through mid October.
Amanda Padilla (L) and Steve Duerr (R) are challenging incumbent Mike Gierau (D) for the Senate District 17 seat. (Screenshot courtesy of Teton County Library)

The November general election is around the corner, and the Wyoming League of Women Voters and the Teton County Library are trying to get Teton County voters prepared with as much information as possible. The two organizations collaborated to present four general election candidate forums on Sept. 21 and 22, with more scheduled to come.

KHOL is among the media partners moderating the forums, alongside the Jackson Hole News&Guide, Buckrail and WyoFile.

The first forum on Sept. 21 featured candidates running for Senate District 17 and the St. John’s Health Board of Trustees. The following edition on Sept. 22 included candidates for the Teton Conservation District Board of Supervisors and the Teton County School District Board.  

Three candidates are running for Senate District 17: Democrat incumbent Mike Gierau, Republican Steve Duerr and Libertarian Amanda Padilla. District 17 is one of the two seats — out of 30 — currently held by a Democrat in the Wyoming Senate. According to Gierau, this means that working with Republicans is essential.

“I don’t have the luxury of not listening to Republicans,” Gierau said, describing his weekly dinners with a GOP lawmaker.

Meanwhile, challenger Duerr thinks his own party has become too conservative. 

“We’ll have to stand against the hard right,” he said.

Padilla, the Libertarian, believes the people of Teton County aren’t being represented at all in the state’s Senate.

 “I would really like to be able to stand up and go to Cheyenne and fight for us as a county and make sure that we have a seat at the table and that we are heard,” she said.

After focusing on Senate District 17, the forum spotlighted candidates for the St. John’s Health board, which oversees Jackson’s hospital. Four seats are open, and three incumbents — Mike Tennican, Katharine Conover-Keller and Evan Jones — are running for reelection. Challengers include Lou Hochheiser, Tim Rieser, Brent Blue, Pam Cutler and Shannon Brennan. 

The Sept. 22 forums started with the conservation district board, which works to conserve the county’s natural resources by monitoring well water and reducing fire risk, among other responsibilities. Four candidates are running for three supervisor seats. The roster includes incumbents David Adams, Steve McDonald and Bob Lucas, as well as challenger Cate Watsabaugh. Lucas couldn’t attend the forum, so he submitted a statement.

Finally, the local school board race is hotly contested, with seven candidates competing to fill three seats. The only incumbent is Keith Gingery, who’s running for a third term. Challengers include Stephan Abrams, Reade Dornan, Tyrel Wray, Jon Baker, Thomas Smits and Emily Reycroft. Abrams was the only candidate who couldn’t be present at the forum and submitted a statement.

Full video recordings of all of the forums are available to watch on the Teton County Library’s YouTube channel.

Teton County Library and the Wyoming League of Women Voters are also hosting candidate forums on Sept. 28 and 29, as well as on Oct. 11 and 13. All forums will be held at the Ordway Auditorium, except the Oct. 11 event, which will be held at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center. Recordings will be available here after the forums.

Wednesday, Sept. 28

6 p.m.: House 16

6:30 p.m.: Jackson Town Council

Thursday, Sept. 29

6 p.m.: House 23

6:30 p.m.: Teton County Board of Commissioners

Tuesday, Oct. 11

6 p.m.: House 22

Thursday, Oct, 13

SPET (Special Purpose Excise Tax)

5 p.m.: Open House

6 p.m.: Short Presentations + Q&A

7 p.m.: Open House

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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