Guest Column

Be careful how you vote in the primaries

By Khale Lenhart
Posted 8/4/20

The primary election is just weeks away and even though this campaign season seems more subdued than those in past years, it is no less important.

As we all know, the primary election in Wyoming …

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Guest Column

Be careful how you vote in the primaries


The primary election is just weeks away and even though this campaign season seems more subdued than those in past years, it is no less important.

As we all know, the primary election in Wyoming is often the more meaningful, as single-party dominance in many areas means the nomination is often tantamount to election. As we decide who we will trust to make the decisions about our state and nation, we should remember what is important in choosing who to represent us.

Policy matters. As easy as it is to get caught up in personal narratives and questions about whether officials have the right demeanor, politics is about enacting policies. It is about making good choices about how we order our society, spend our money and hold one another accountable. That is not to say that a candidate’s character does not matter (it absolutely does), but we often see good people with bad policies and bad people pushing for good policies. As we make our choices, we should not forget that policies matter and are the most important part of government. We should look for candidates with well-considered, conservative policies to support.

Character matters. Just as policy matters, character matters, too. I have written before about people who I agree with politically that are unfit to hold office because they lack the character to serve. Character matters because the public must be able to trust our elected officials. If they lack the character required for us to trust they will do the right thing, it undermines our faith that our government is working for us. Character is also important because our elected officials are a symbol of our society as a whole. For better or worse, we look to them as examples of how we should act and treat one another. If we elect officials without character, we are also making a statement about ourselves.

Solutions matter. Now is not the time for platitudes and vagueness. Our state has serious issues that will not wait before they must be addressed. Candidates who cannot say what they hope to do and how they will do it are probably not ready to be in elected office. Vagueness suggests one of two things: Either the candidate has not put the work in to be prepared for the position they seek, or the candidate is running not because they want to serve their community, but because they want the ego inflation that comes with the fancy title. When evaluating candidates, voters should be sure that they have something more to offer than vague platitudes. They should seek out candidates with actual proposals — and proposals that could work — before casting their vote.

Beware the attackers. Lastly, as with almost every election, I am seeing attacks against candidates. I am not one of those who believes every negative advertisement is bad. There is a place for contrasting with a political opponent and there is even a place for criticizing opponents — especially when they fail to meet one of the standards listed above. However, if the only reason you can articulate as to why you should be elected is an attack on the other candidate, you should not be in the race.

I see this most with candidates who attack the party “bonafides” of their opponents. If someone’s primary argument for why they should be elected is that their opponent is “not a real Republican” or “not a real Democrat,” they are probably not going to be an effective legislator. Legislation inherently involves finding solutions and compromise. The worst legislators are those that refuse to work with those they disagree with to find a solution and instead merely criticize everyone else for failing to meet their litmus test.

This is not to say that legislators should not have principles. Rather, the opposite is true. However, legislators should also not let their desire for the perfect solution get in the way of progress toward their goals. Some do their own cause a disservice because they oppose incremental progress and instead hold out for their perfect piece of legislation, even though it may never come. Those who attack their political opponents as not a “real” Republican or Democrat typically fall into the mold of those who cannot effectively legislate or lead. We can and should do better than those types of candidates.

In sum, we need quality candidates with solid, conservative policies, well thought-out solutions and good character to tackle the issues facing our state. We should avoid those without principles, without character and without viable ideas on how to address the problems before us. It sounds simple, but it rarely is. Vote wisely.

(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.)

Guest Column