During a Friday appearance on KODI-AM’s Speak Your Piece, Republican gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes insisted to local listeners that recent questions about his Wyoming residency were “clearly fake news.”
The way Haynes dismissively explained it, the whole thing is pretty simple: Sure, part of his ranch lies in Larimer County, Colorado, but “the ranch headquarters and buildings are titled [in] Albany County,” Haynes said.
He chalked the whole controversy up to a “leftist” news outlet that didn’t do its homework.
“Basically, you feel that if the so-called writer would have maybe taken that next step and looked at the title, this wouldn’t have even been a story,” Speak Your Piece host Darian Dudrick helpfully summarized.
“Right. And that would have killed their story. So why would they do that?” Haynes asked, laughing.
He suggested he was suddenly being targeted because “I don’t think they like the pure conservative aspect of my platform.”
That narrative — of a surging conservative being unfairly targeted by the liberal media because he’s such a threat to the status quo — certainly makes for a good stump speech on the campaign trail.
The only problem is that it’s not the truth. While there’s little doubt the questions surrounding Haynes’ residency have been raised by his political rivals, media outlets have been reporting on the issue because it’s serious — and could potentially end his bid for governor.
As Haynes admitted to a caller later in his Speak Your Piece appearance, his ranch house is actually located in Colorado, less than a third of a mile south of the Wyoming border. Haynes says he’s lived in Laramie, Worland, Cheyenne, Utah and Louisiana, but he claimed that northern Colorado home as his residence from late 2014 to mid 2015.
As a result, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, in consultation with Attorney General Peter Michael, has concluded that Haynes is ineligible to serve as governor, having not been a Wyoming resident for five straight years. On Friday, Michael filed paperwork in state district court in Cheyenne that asks a judge to block Haynes from running.
In a Facebook video posted Sunday night, Haynes predicted he will prevail, saying he’s “very pleased” the issue is going to court, “because now we can get this thing settled once and for all and move on with the campaign.”
It appears to us that Haynes is a longtime Wyoming resident in the colloquial sense of the phrase, but whether he meets the legal definition of a five-year resident will be up to a judge to decide.
The nonprofit news site WyoFile was the first to report on the controversy, breaking the not-fake news that state officials were investigating Haynes’ residency. It was that July 5 report that drew Haynes’ ire on Speak Your Piece, as he derided WyoFile as a “rag” that is “leftist and they are fake news.”
It was a classic example of an ad hominem attack, designed to shoot down the messenger rather than the message.
It’s unclear when Haynes thinks it would have been OK for media outlets to report on the issue (the Laramie Boomerang has also followed the story) or if he still considers any accounts of his battle to stay in the race to be “fake.” But it is clear that Haynes is not above spinning the facts to fit his narrative.
For instance, in a Friday afternoon statement, Haynes said all taxes on his ranch “are paid to Wyoming” and there is “no road access to Colorado.”
Both of those statements are, to put it charitably, misleading: Aerial photos clearly show a road going to his home and other ranch property over the border — and he’s paid taxes on that property to Larimer County, Colorado, records show.
Haynes appears to have a decent case that he, for all intents and purposes, has been a Wyoming resident for decades, but in our minds, he’s deeply undercut his defense with obfuscation and misdirection.
We hope voters look long and hard at the facts, and would encourage Haynes and other politicians to do the same. Just because news is unpleasant doesn’t make it fake.