They’ve all been inside the ropes of the legislative world in Cheyenne.
Now, in the hot summer days they’re campaigning to the wire for the Republican nomination for State Senate in …
They’ve all been inside the ropes of the legislative world in Cheyenne.
Now, in the hot summer days they’re campaigning to the wire for the Republican nomination for State Senate in Senate District 19 and hopes of a return trip to the State Capitol. The winner of the GOP primary election on Aug. 16 will for all practical purposes be elected in November, barring a write-in campaign, since no Democrat candidates filed for the seat.
The trio of contestants on the road in SD 19 includes:
R.J. Kost of Powell, the incumbent senator who has served four years in the Senate;
Ray Peterson of Cowley, who served nearly 13 years in the Senate until unseated by Kost in 2018; and Dan Laursen of Powell, who is looking to move up to the Senate from the House of Representatives where he has served since 2015.
“The past four years provide the evidence that I am here to serve and to be effective,” said Kost. “In my first four years, I have successfully authored eight bills. All of those bills were to help others, and it was my honor to be able to work for the citizens. I have visited in the communities, talked to the people, listened to their needs and problems and cared for them.”
“I feel I am a part of the communities, and they know who I am,” he added, “They know they can call me R.J. and that I am no different than anyone else. I am just a person they can rely on to help them out. I am not better than anybody. There is no glory or grudge I am here for. I am here to be the helper for the citizens I have been chosen to represent.”
Peterson stressed his experience over four and a half terms.
“I’ve tried to send the message in my campaign that I have the experience necessary to be an effective voice for this area in Cheyenne,” he said. “Combined with my conservative values, common sense and business experience, I can be the leader we need representing us in the Wyoming Senate. I’ve served before in those leadership positions. We need our senator to leverage their vote by serving in these influential positions.”
Peterson said rural communities and smaller schools need his type of leader in the Senate.
“I have a bill for helping small communities with infrastructure needs with water, sewer, street and sidewalk projects,” he said. “I’ll push to revamp our funding formula for our schools to provide a more equal distribution of money. My past experience has provided me with insight and the knowledge of how to get these things done.”
Laursen said his essential message is he is a fighter to go to Cheyenne and fight for conservative values in the Senate.
“I will vote in the Senate like I did in the House, for free markets and limited government and fight for personal liberties and state rights. The federal government is too over-regulating and forcing their policies on the state by threat of cutting off the money — the money they do not have.”
“As everyone can see, they’re spending into oblivion; $30 trillion is not working,” Laursen said. “Look at the inflation we are seeing — 9% this last quarter.”
Laursen noted that he has received the CPAC award for conservative voting five years out of the seven he has served as Powell’s representative.
Each of the three candidates mentions the legacy of Ronald Reagan in some way influencing their way of thinking.
Laursen noted he is a board member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, “and their slogan is belief in Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government and federalism.”
“Ronald Reagan supported ALEC and believed in these principles too,” he said.
Peterson considers himself to be a Ronald Reagan conservative.
“I’m a capitalist, free market, less government public servant. I’m not in this for the money or personal gain on any way,” Peterson emphasized. “I have the desire to make corrections in how we are governed; to do my part in preserving our nation’s founding principles and to make this nation and our state great again and deserving of God’s blessings.”
Kost said the term “conservatism” is tossed around in many ways.
“I believe there are so many definitions of the word that few know which definition is the correct one. That being said, the Ronald Reagan idea makes more sense to me. I am a strong supporter of the big tent approach, which I guess is also described as the Ronald Reagan philosophy, because learning from others as well as working with other ideas, philosophies and views is the way we can all find the best solution.”
“We need the open mind and the ability to collaborate with others to find the best solutions,” Kost said. “I strongly feel it is necessary to read the bills, understand and research the bills and then ask how the bills will affect those I am to represent before making any decisions how I am going to vote. If that aligns with the party, great, and if it doesn’t, then I will go with what I feel represents the people I am sent to Cheyenne to serve.”
Peterson says the issue of how Wyoming continues funding K-12 schools is the most important issue facing the next Legislature.
“Our past funding sources, such as coal lease bonus money, are all but gone, and we will need to look at other ways to fund our school building and maintenance. We need to continue to reduce budgets, live within our means, manage our investments wisely, shore up our revenue streams and ensure that Wyoming is taken care of for decades to come,” Peterson said.
For Kost, he said two things are “very important.”
“The first is finding ways to work together for the betterment of Wyoming and not this division we are facing. We need to think about what our purpose is in Cheyenne. That, I would hope, is to make the best decisions for all of the people on those topics identified as a problem or in need of legislative work.”
Second, Kost said, is the economy. “Wyoming must look to the future with open eyes and a better understanding of what our natural resources have provided for us, while at the same time looking for other means to move us forward as the clamps on natural resources continue to get tighter. How do we meet the needs of our state, and how do we transition into a productive state with the pride and work ethics we currently have as the driving force behind changing to meet the needs of our citizens?”
Laursen boiled it down to the essence of challenges facing the Legislature: “Property taxes, inflation and schools.”
SD 19 is a big area and incorporates voters from Powell and east Park County through north and central Big Horn County. The Senate district houses HD 25 and HD 26.
Laursen has worked hard at traditional campaigning — utilizing advertising to get his name out and knocking on doors to introduce himself in Big Horn County,
“I have two-thirds of Greybull finished and will start on Lovell the next week,” Laursen said. “I do believe I’ve done my due diligence in contacting Republican voters.”
Peterson said he’ll be increasing ads and personal contacts as the finish line approaches.
“I wish I could feel I’ve reached every voter in this Senate district, but folks are busy and time just gets away from all of us. I’ve had Politics in the Park gatherings in Lovell and Powell and will be hosting my final get-together in the park in Greybull on Aug. 4, Peterson noted.
“All of the candidates have invested a lot of time, effort and money to get involved and to serve the people. It would be good to see a big turn-out at the polls,” he added.
Kost continues to push hard with a campaign message that he will work tirelessly to assist everyone with the problems they face and the problems facing the groups within the district, the Big Horn Basin and the state.
“I am honored to serve District 19 and give back to the people and the area which has given to me. From a kindergarten youth whose mother met him at the bus to bring him into the house to change him out of his good clothes and into the worn out ones, to being able to serve for the district is the biggest honor I can ever imagine,” Kost said.
SD 19 candidates: Abortion law province of the states
All three candidates on the Republican ballot in the Senate District 19 primary runoff agree on this: The states should decide abortion law rather than Supreme Court ruling.
They are unanimous in support of the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade which empowers states to govern abortion. And they all support the trigger legislation passed by the last Legislature to make abortion illegal in Wyoming.
At the same time, there are differing views going forward.
“I voted in favor of the trigger bill and with the certification by the governor, I do support it as written,” said Sen. R.J. Kost. “I feel it should stand as is. Should there there be talk to remove the amendment allowing abortion for incest and rape, I will not support the bill. I cannot believe that an evil act such as rape or incest would still remain as a no-abortion allowed act. I believe there is evil as well as good in this world, and I struggle to understand why an evil act such as rape or incest would not be considered for abortion.”
The other sitting legislator running for the SD 19 nomination, Rep. Dan Laursen, has a slightly different view.
“I voted for the trigger bill that gave the abortion decision back to the states,” he said. “This has happened and is on hold by court order. It should stand and be tightened.”
By “tightening,” Laursen said he would support a move by fellow Park County House member, Rachel Rodriguez-Williams of Cody, to remove the amendment allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Former senator Ray Peterson supports the trigger legislation, but notes there will be “concerns” going forward. He doesn’t spell out the concerns.
“I do support the anti-abortion legislation recently passed in the Legislature” and the court decision to send it back to the states “where it should be,” he said. “I’m sure we will have concerns to work through as we progress down this road, but I’m also sure that we can address those issues as a state.”
After certification by Gov. Mark Gordon of the trigger legislation, HB 92, the 8th District Court in Teton County issued a temporary restraining order preventing HB 92 from taking effect. That order lasts 14 days. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for Aug. 9 to hear arguments on a request for preliminary injunction.