The Teton County Library and Wyoming League of Women Voters held three primary election candidate forums during the last two weeks of June. KHOL was proud to be among the media partners presenting the forum, along with the Jackson Hole News&Guide and Buckrail.
The first forum on June 22 featured the contested partisan primary races for the Teton County Board of Commissioners, Teton County assessor and clerk of district court. A second forum on June 23 showcased candidates for the nonpartisan Jackson Town Council election and contested Democratic primary for State House District 23, and the third forum on June 29 focused on the contested Republican primary for Wyoming secretary of state.
Full video recordings of all of the forums are available to watch on the Teton County Library’s YouTube page at the links above.
Zooming into the most local races, both the town and county elections have a crowded field of candidates. Seven people are competing for just two open Town Council seats, and at least another six for three positions on the board of county commissioners. That includes incumbents like Jackson Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen, who’s running for reelection to the council.
“I was born and raised in this community. This is home. [I’m] absolutely committed to it,” Jorgensen said. “Public service is absolutely baked into my soul.”
Another incumbent, Jonathan Schechter, could not attend the town council forum and had a representative read a statement on his behalf instead. Jorgensen and Schechter are being challenged by Devon Viehmann, Elliott Alston, Katherine “Kat” Rueckert, Joel Smith and David Scheurn. Viehmann narrowly lost a 2020 bid for town council and was particularly strong on housing in the forum.
“I am a chair of the National Association of Realtors Land Use Committee this year, which is formed of 80 members from across the country. Our No. 1 goal this year is working on housing supply and affordability,” she said. “You’ve got to make it fair. You’ve got to make the zoning work. You’ve got to change the elders and you have to have inclusionary zoning.”
Meanwhile, Alston, who is Black, emphasized that he would bring a fresh perspective to the council, and Rueckert focused on the need to cut spending.
“I’m not going to make the same decision[s] as a lot of people that have come forward in front of me, because I don’t think a lot of people look like me and have been through my experience in this town,” Alston said. “I represent very much the marginalized here in town and the people that we are not speaking about.”
“I work in construction, [and] I’m [working] a lot in budgets. So, that’s why it’s actually fascinating for me to see what’s happening in this [town] budget,” Rueckert said. “What it looks like to me is we don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”
Smith and Scheurn did not show up for the council forum despite confirming their attendance.
In the commissioners race, two incumbents—Democrats Luther Propst and Mark Newcomb—are running for reelection. But the forum’s focus was on the Republican primary among four candidates—Alex Muromcew, Peter Long, Kasey Mateosky and Tom Segerstrom—three of whom can go to the general election. While the candidates are largely politically similar and moderate, Long said he’s running to be a voice for the working class.
“You know, my wife and I understand what it’s like working multiple jobs, juggling rising costs of health care, child care [and] seeing that dream of owning a home in tea time county slipped further and further out of reach,” he said.
Muromcew is vice chair of the local GOP and a member of the county planning commission, along with Mateosky. He differed slightly from Segerstrom, the former executive director of the Teton Conservation District, on the urgency of tackling water quality issues.
“It’s not that we have a water problem. It is a water problem due to inaction by our current electeds,” Muromcew said. “It has become a water crisis.”
“While I don’t want to take away from the issue, I do disagree with Alex that we are in crisis mode,” Segerstrom countered. “There are places where we are in crisis mode. But for the majority of the places in Jackson Hole, this is an emerging issue.”
For his part, Mateosky focused on a common sense approach to government.
“Overanalyzing everything and quibbling over, you know, what study, this study… we need to start moving forward.”
Early voting for Wyoming’s 2022 primary elections started July 1. The primary election date is Tuesday, Aug. 16.