The 2022 election season is heating up. May 27 marked the deadline for most local and state candidates to file to run, and there’s no shortage of exciting races in western Wyoming and across the rest of the state.
KHOL News Director Kyle Mackie and Reporter Will Walkey recently sat down for an elections preview. The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
KYLE MACKIE: Joining me now for an elections preview is KHOL Reporter Will Walkey. Hey, Will.
WILL WALKEY: Hey, Kyle. Happy to be here.
MACKIE: Yeah, thanks for joining me. So, let’s start briefly at the state level and then we’re going to zoom in to local elections in Teton County and the greater Jackson area, which is really where we’re going to be focusing our reporting efforts this election season. Wyoming’s lone congressional representative, Republican Liz Cheney, is facing a tough reelection campaign. Tell us about the latest.
WALKEY: Yeah, sure. So, if you’ve been watching YouTube or TV, you know, like I do a lot of in my spare time, you’re probably noticing a lot of ads for both Liz Cheney and also Harriet Hageman, who is Cheney’s main challenger. She’s been endorsed by Donald Trump. Like you said, we’re not going to spend a ton of time here because this race is getting so much attention nationally. It’s also shaping up to be likely the most expensive primary in the State of Wyoming’s history—money is just pouring in on all sides. There are some other challengers as well, some other Republican longshots and some even some Democratic longshots. So, we’re going to be following it, however, I should just say it’s something that if you pay attention to Wyoming politics, you’re likely thinking first about this race.
MACKIE: Right. That election is really hard to miss online and anywhere in Wyoming these days. Also, KHOL is hoping to participate in a forum with those congressional candidates that would be organized by the League of Women Voters and the Teton County Library. So, stay tuned on that. We’re also going to skip today the big statewide races like those for governor, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction—those are going to be getting lots of statewide media attention. So, let’s just move on to the one local State Senate district that’s up for election. Incumbent Democrat Sen. Mike Gierau is running for reelection against a Republican challenger, Steve Duerr.
WALKEY: Yeah, absolutely. So, quickly, I’ll just do some geography: This district runs from essentially the Town of Jackson, the city limits north. So, that includes plenty of suburbs. It also includes places like Moose and Kelly and parts of Yellowstone National Park. So, if you’ve lived here in Teton County for a long time, you probably already know who Mike Gierau is, our state senator. He’s been a Jackson town councilor. He’s been a Teton County commissioner. He’s basically done everything before holding the role that he does now. He’s a loud voice in Cheyenne. He wears a bolo tie. He [co-] owns Jedediah’s, which is a restaurant in the airport. He’s also one of just two Democrats in the [State] Senate. So, he’s a huge voice for affordable housing and a lot of Teton County and other sort of Democratic-leaning issues in the State of Wyoming, and presumably a popular guy.
However, he has a challenger—someone who is his friend and a moderate Republican. His name is Steve Duerr. Duerr is moderate and he was also the head of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. So, he has a lot of background in sort of the economics of tourism. And he wants to make sustainable tourism one of the major sort of focuses of his campaign. He’s also interested in diversifying the economy of the State of Wyoming and also housing and things like that. So, it will certainly be a competitive race, which is interesting, especially for Mike Gierau, and we’ll see how far Duerr can push him on certain issues.
MACKIE: So, moving on now to Wyoming State House districts around Jackson—we’ve got a number of competitive races there, super interesting races. Out of three elections, only one has an incumbent running. And that’s Democratic Rep. Mike Yin. His district, 16, covers most of downtown Jackson and East Jackson, south of Broadway, down to about High School Road. And Yin is a software developer by trade who’s been a really popular representative since he was elected in 2018 and started serving in 2019. He’s advocated for a lot of critical Teton County issues, including workforce housing and a real estate transfer tax. He also successfully co-sponsored a county-optional property tax refund program this year, but Yin is now being challenged by a Republican candidate named Jim McCollum.
McCollum is the father of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, who was the marine from Jackson who was killed last summer during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. And McCollum is a carpenter and a poet who says he was inspired to run after his son’s death and after an outpouring of support from the Jackson community. So, Will, what’s going on with the other two house elections that don’t have an incumbent running?
WALKEY: Both are going to be interesting races to follow. Let’s start with District 23, which is being vacated by Rep. Andy Schwartz, a longtime Democrat and longtime politician here in Teton County. It runs north of Jackson, the Town of Jackson, like I was saying earlier, [it] hits Kelly, Moose and parts of Yellowstone National Park, where one [politically] unknown candidate—his name is Ryan Sedgeley—is running.
He’s a Democrat and he calls himself a proud progressive Democrat in rural America and in rural Wyoming. He can be characterized absolutely as a progressive, and he wants to push people on things like abortion access, certainly affordable housing, also things like climate change, where he’s in ground zero there in Yellowstone. He will be primaried as a Democrat by what should be considered a bigger name: Liz Storer, a major philanthropist in town. She’s also the wife of Luther Propst, who’s currently a Teton County commissioner. She should probably be considered the front runner in that primary. However, she is certainly not a shoo-in, even on the Democratic side. And then once that primary is done, there is a Republican named Paul Vogelheim, who’s also a former Teton County commissioner and also a moderate Republican, if you can sense a theme here on what part of the spectrum the Republicans who are running for office around here are…
MACKIE: A ‘lighter shade of red’ is sometimes how we hear about Teton County Republicans, right?
WALKEY: A lighter shade of red. And Vogelheim certainly falls into that. He’s basically already gone on the record as being super liberal when it comes to certain social issues but he’s a little bit more conservative fiscally, and I think that he should be considered a serious candidate for this district as well, despite the fact that Teton County is relatively blue.
MACKIE: Okay, great. So, that’s District 23. And then we’ve also got District 22, right?
WALKEY: Yeah. And House District 22 runs south of Jackson. You know, it includes parts of Teton County like Wilson and Hoback, but it also includes parts of Lincoln County, including Alpine. That’s an interesting district because it’s changing a lot. It’s shrinking and becoming more blue, kind of as Jackson and Jackson politics move south into Lincoln County. And so, an Independent named Jim Roscoe, who had been a longtime Teton County politician, is retiring and has said he’s not going to run. And there’s a race to replace him with, again, a moderate Republican, named Andrew Byron.
Byron runs a fly fishing outfitter in Pinedale and is also a volunteer firefighter in Hoback. He has unsuccessfully run for Teton County commissioners. So, he’s been here for a long time. He’ll definitely have support from the Republican Party. And then there’s no Democrat running, but there is an Independent named Bob Strobel. He’s a tech entrepreneur, best known as the person who created See Jackson Hole, those webcams that you see when you drive into town that are constantly filming. And he has the endorsement of the Teton County Democratic Party, as well as Jim Roscoe, who ran very left on most issues in Cheyenne.
MACKIE: Okay. Really interesting race there, all of these. Moving on to Teton County elections, we’re only going to talk about the county board of commissioners today. That’s the body that sets the county budget and makes land use decisions, among other responsibilities. But there are also other positions like the county sheriff, attorney and the clerk with elections that are mostly unopposed or are going to be settled in a primary. So, we’re going to go straight to the Teton County commissioners, where there are three seats up for grabs.
Two Democratic incumbents, Luther Probst and Mark Newcomb, are running for reelection. And then there are four new Republican challengers. We’ve got Alex Muromcew, who’s vice chair of the Teton County GOP, and Peter Long, Kasey Mateosky and Tom Segerstrom. A highway avalanche forecaster named Brenden Cronin also recently announced his intention to run as an Independent. But Independents have a little bit later to petition to file for candidacy—that deadline is late August, when we should know for sure [who’s running]. And then there’s also a crowded field for the nonpartisan town council elections, right Will?
WALKEY: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s interesting because all the folks that are up for reelection, incumbents Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen and Jonathan Schechter, align with Teton County voters in a lot of ways and should be considered strong councilors with a strong chance to be reelected. However, there is a field to replace them, and again, it’s nonpartisan, but it’s people from all over the political spectrum. I’m just going to list them right now.
You have Devon Viehmann, probably the biggest name on the list because she ran unsuccessfully but lost in a close election last time. She’s also a realtor and she also sits on the Jackson Town Planning Commission. Beyond Viehmann, there are also a fair amount of [political] unknowns, including Elliott Alston, Joel Smith, Kat Rueckert and David Scheurn. KHOL is going to be really excited to be learning all about these candidates. What’s exciting about this is that there’s so much competition and that all these electeds will be pushing each other to fight for what Teton County residents say they want right now.
MACKIE: Yeah, thanks Will. There’s so much to watch and learn, as you said, about these candidates, and that’s really all kicking off next week, starting with two candidate forums that KHOL is going to be participating in as some of the moderators. Those will be on June 22 and June 23 for the town and county elections. The forums are going to be virtual and live-streamed. These are the forums that are organized by the League of Women Voters and the Teton County Library.
WALKEY: Yeah, and if you’re a Teton County voter, we also want to hear from you, our listeners, about your questions for the candidates. What are the biggest issues on your mind this election cycle? Email either of us at Will or Kyle @jhcr.org and put “Elections” in the subject line so we can hear from you.