Guest Column

May Wyoming’s 2022 be more predictable

By Khale Lenhart
Posted 1/18/22

With the end of one year and beginning of another, it is natural to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going. 2021 was a hard year to summarize in the political sphere. Beginning …

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Guest Column

May Wyoming’s 2022 be more predictable


With the end of one year and beginning of another, it is natural to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going. 2021 was a hard year to summarize in the political sphere. Beginning with Jan. 6 unrest at the Capitol and continuing to ongoing COVID impacts and mandates, a special session of the Wyoming Legislature, and continued challenges with budgeting for Wyoming’s future, a lot has happened this past year. If nothing else, let’s hope that 2022 is a calmer year in politics and public affairs than 2021.

Looking ahead to 2022, there are several things we know are coming that we can look forward to. 2022 is an election year, and this year’s election is sure to be dominated by the race for the congressional seat currently held by Liz Cheney.

Rep. Cheney has attracted challengers, most notably Harriet Hageman, who came in third during the last Republican primary for governor and has received former President Trump’s endorsement. It will be a fascinating race and I expect it will be unlike anything Wyoming has ever seen before.

As of the end of September, Rep. Cheney had set several quarterly fundraising records for Wyoming and had over $3.6 million in cash that she can spend on the race. Hageman already raised over $300,000 and had nearly a quarter-million on hand. While this pales in comparison to Rep. Cheney, Hageman has already raised more in individual contributions than she did in her entire gubernatorial campaign. For both candidates, the quarterly reports due to come out soon will undoubtedly show even more fundraising.

Regardless of the outcome, this race is sure to be hard fought and painful. We have never seen the amount of money or national attention on a Wyoming election that we will see this year.

With all the attention on the congressional race, the other positions on the ballot in 2022 have been quiet. Elections for governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and superintendent of public instruction will also be on the ballot. So far, no serious challengers have emerged, and the only person who has even announced a challenge is perennial candidate Rex Rammell.

The longer they go without serious challengers, the more likely that the other statewide elected officials will cruise to reelection. A campaign is a difficult thing, especially against an incumbent, and if a candidate is not already running now, it will be difficult to do all the things necessary to run a viable campaign.

This is all the truer with the high-profile congressional race taking the lion’s share of the attention and media coverage. Unless a candidate capable of self-funding emerges in the very near future, Gov. Gordon and the other statewide elected officials are looking quite secure in their reelection prospects.

We also know that 2022 will bring redistricting of the state legislature. This happens every 10 years due to the federal Census, and the Legislature is already working on draft plans for redistricting maps. It is unsurprising that this is already causing strife.

With much of the state stagnant or losing population, the Constitution requires changes in how the various regions are represented. Laramie County is due almost another entire representative, but areas that have declined in population are also seeing the impacts of their population changes. The Big Horn Basin, the northeast corner of the state and Sweetwater County are all struggling with how borders can and should be redrawn and what their future representation looks like. 

Unfortunately, some legislators are already expressing interest in setting aside the constitutionally mandated “one man, one vote” principles in favor of protecting incumbents. Last month, some expressed a desire for a plan that minimized “disruption,” rather than seeking the most accurate distribution of representation.

It should be abundantly clear that “disruption” has nothing to do with disruption of services or quality of government. For 99% of Wyoming’s population, change in who their state representative or senator is has no disruption on their life whatsoever. The only people who would be “disrupted” by the constitutionally mandated redistricting — required to ensure that representation matches population — are currently elected legislators who want to protect their seats. The Legislature should not ignore their constitutionally required duties in favor of protecting incumbents’ seats.

Lastly, we know that the Legislature will again be passing a biennial budget. Wyoming’s revenues continue to be a challenge — although thankfully not as bad as some of us feared — and no long term solutions have yet come to light. Gov. Gordon has been very fiscally conservative and deserves credit for taking steps to recalibrate Wyoming’s budget for expected future revenues. I expect the Legislature will continue this work.

There will doubtless be additional challenges that we cannot anticipate and surprises along the way. Let’s hope that 2022 is a more predictable year than the last one.


(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