Guest Column

2024 is a chance to choose our future

By Khale Lenhart
Posted 6/20/24

Election season has arrived. Candidate filing for partisan elected offices closed last month, so we now know who is seeking election to our state Legislature, as well as federal and some county …

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Guest Column

2024 is a chance to choose our future


Election season has arrived. Candidate filing for partisan elected offices closed last month, so we now know who is seeking election to our state Legislature, as well as federal and some county positions. Looking to our Legislature, this year promises to be an especially important election. Most seats have contested Republican primaries, and most of the primaries feature candidates with significant ideological differences. This election will be one of the clearest chances that Wyoming voters have had to choose our path forward. 

With that in mind, we all must carefully consider what issues are important to us. What are things that matter and help us choose how to cast our votes? Is it allegiance to a person or group? Is it a particular policy proposal? How do character, capability and temperament factor into our determination? All of these are important questions that we must each answer individually.

At the same time, there are important issues facing our state that require proactive action. If a candidate is not informed on these issues, they are not prepared and they are not going to be able to do the things necessary to protect Wyoming’s prosperity. Wyoming’s economy must be at the forefront. We must do what we can to prolong the lifespan of our extraction industries, while simultaneously preparing for the day that they are no longer the economic drivers of our state. We should aspire to a gentle transition from an extraction-based economy to something broader, where extraction industries are one piece of a multi-faceted economic system. 

Our legislative candidates cannot have their heads in the sand. Claiming to “protect our core industries” by undercutting the development of new ones actively harms our state. Those of us who believe in a free market know that government should not be the entity choosing what industries are allowed to exist. It is unfair, oppressive and a violation of the very principles that make Wyoming and the United States great. Instead, industries will rise and decline, and the goal of our government should be to benefit from that growth when we have the opportunity. If your candidate says they want to use government to pick the winners and losers, do not vote for them. An unfair playing field that comes from the right is just as bad as one that comes from the left. Both lead to bigger, and worse, government.

We also need candidates who understand the importance of thinking about the long-term impacts of their decisions. This means recognizing that short-term pain may sometimes be necessary for long-term benefit. Whether on the spending side or the tax side, overreactions are more harmful than helpful. We need stability and predictability, not wide fluctuations based on the mood of the day. Having the courage and foresight to exercise restraint when the solution is worse than the problem is important. Statesmen recognize that their responsibility is to do what is right for the community, even if it is the hard choice. Politicians are too distracted by their own futures to care about the futures of those who elect them. We need to choose statesmen, not mere politicians.

Lastly, we need candidates who recognize the importance of strong communities. Perhaps this is true of a lot of places, but it is especially true here: Wyoming’s communities are what make us strong. We care for one another, we are committed to one another, and we need to do what is necessary to ensure that our communities have what is necessary to survive. This means setting aside ideological rigidity to actually look at what needs to be done. 

Many Wyoming communities are struggling with attracting the things that make for vibrant places to live. For some, the struggle is in building a workforce to fill vacant jobs. For others, a lack of access to sufficient health care means that they have trouble attracting or keeping population. Still others may lack the amenities that can take them from good to great. For all of them, our public officials must be willing to listen and seek real solutions, rather than letting them flounder and flail on the basis of ideology. Voters must listen to how candidates talk about these issues, and take that into account when casting our votes.

Above all, we need public officials who are committed to seeking the truth. We are often tempted to ignore contrary facts or opinions because it clashes with our existing understanding of the way things are. But we cannot afford that luxury. Wyoming needs quality leadership that is committed to our state’s future. As we all exercise our right and responsibility to choose our state’s leaders, let’s all commit to choosing a future that is forward-looking and visionary. Let’s choose statesmen.

(Khale J. Lenhart is a partner at the law firm Hirst Applegate in Cheyenne, where he has practiced since 2011. He is a former chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party.)