CHEYENNE – Amid a pivotal moment for Wyoming and its future, Republican incumbents won every legislative race in Laramie County – including a victory over the area’s only Democratic lawmaker – in Tuesday’s general election.

There were seven competitive legislative races in Laramie County this year. In the only one featuring a Democratic incumbent, Rep. Sara Burlingame lost to Republican challenger John Romero-Martinez by 45 votes.

Elsewhere, the six Republican incumbents won by fairly sizable margins, as President Donald Trump won about 62% of the vote in Laramie County.

House District 44

In Laramie County, the most notable surprise of the night came in House District 44, where Burlingame was ousted by Romero-Martinez. Burlingame earned 1,497 votes to Romero-Martinez’s 1,542.

Though the margin between the two was just 45 votes, that gap was not narrow enough to trigger a recount, Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee said Tuesday night. The margin must be within 1% for a recount to be conducted, and Burlingame fell a few votes short of that.

Burlingame, who was first elected to the seat in 2018, said Tuesday night that her time in the Wyoming Legislature taught her a lot of lessons to help her “recommit to making our state the best that it can be.”

“I don’t think the Equality State is quite there yet – I think it’s aspirational,” said Burlingame, who is the executive director of Wyoming Equality. “We want to really be a state of equality, and the young voters are going to insist on that more and more.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she continued. “I’m still here and still dedicated to this state that we all love.”

Romero-Martinez could not be reached for comment on his victory Tuesday night.

Senate District 6

In a race that many were eyeing as a potential seat that could flip, Republican incumbent Anthony Bouchard defeated Democratic challenger Britney Wallesch by a wide margin in Senate District 6.

Bouchard earned 6,668 votes to Wallesch’s 3,700.

Bouchard, who has developed a reputation as one of the most conservative members of the Wyoming Legislature, won by nearly 3,000 votes against Wallesch. In an interview Tuesday night, Bouchard said he was glad to go back to work for his constituents at the state Capitol.

“After taking a beating from moderates in my own party and the radical left and PACs, I’m just thankful the voters in Senate District 6 still love freedom, love the Second Amendment, and they want fiscal sanity,” Bouchard said.

Wallesch, who founded the local Black Dog Animal Rescue, mounted a competitive campaign, with one of the highest fundraising totals of any Wyoming candidate this election cycle.

In an interview after results came in Tuesday, Wallesch saw some reason for optimism despite the loss.

“Even though this isn’t the outcome we were hoping for, there’s still a lot to be proud of, and I’m very grateful for my core committee and the volunteers and the donors that came together to try to make a go of it,” said Wallesch.

“This is a setback, but there’s a lot of need in our community, and there’s a lot of ways to help,” Wallesch said. “I don’t have any intention to cease that community involvement anytime soon.”

Senate District 6, which covers most of eastern Laramie County and a portion of Goshen County, has not been represented by a Democrat since 2004.

Senate District 8

Republican Sen. Affie Ellis won reelection Tuesday night for a second term in Senate District 8, defeating a former state representative in the process.

Ellis earned 4,217 votes to Democrat James Byrd’s 2,618.

Ellis has represented the area since 2016. In an interview Tuesday night, Ellis said she looked forward to another four years of service for her constituents.

“Going forward, we certainly have a challenge in making sure we right-size our government to make sure funds exist and that we’ve got reliable funds to fund government programs,” said Ellis, who serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Revenue Committee.

“I think a lot of those challenges will be solved through careful consideration of how we do our work, so we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us, but I look forward to doing that work and doing the best job I can,” Ellis added.

Senate District 8, which spans the area south of Pershing Boulevard to the Colorado state line and west of Central Avenue toward Albany County, was last represented by a Democrat in 2016.

House District 8

Republican Bob Nicholas was reelected to represent House District 8 in the Wyoming legislature after garnering more votes than Marcie Kindred, his Democratic opponent.

Nicholas won with 2,540 votes, or 52.8% in the district, which covers the area north of Pershing Boulevard on the west side of Cheyenne near Interstate 25. He was first elected to the position in 2010.

Kindred earned 2,257 votes, or 46.9%.

During a September candidate forum, Nicholas, who co-chairs the Joint Appropriations Committee, said “strategic” cuts to K-12 education would be necessary as the fund faces a $500 million shortfall.

“It has to be done in a way that does not hamper or reduce the quality of education that we’re providing to our students,” he said.

Nicholas added that he and other House members have begun to look at ways to raise additional revenue and have a “game plan on different ways to reduce the cost of education,” he said at the forum.

Nicholas could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Kindred told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that she was running “for my four boys and all of our children” and that she wanted more representation of women and young families in the Legislature. Like Nicholas, Kindred advocated for strategic budget cuts that would limit the impact to things like education, health care, infrastructure and safety. She set herself apart from Nicholas by saying that maintaining open communication with constituents would be one of her top priorities.

House District 11

Jared Olsen was reelected to represent House District 11 in the Wyoming legislature after defeating his Democratic challenger, Amy Spieker.

Olsen won with 1,792 votes, or 54.9%, in the district, which includes neighborhoods east of downtown Cheyenne, south of Lincolnway and east of Holliday Park, and areas between Jefferson and Allison roads. He was first elected to the position in 2016.

While campaigning, Olsen said the state’s jobs, economy and budget are the top three issues facing Wyoming. He highlighted his work on the Blockchain Task Force and as chairman of the Select Committee on Blockchain, Fin Tech, and Digital Innovation, and emphasized the need to attract new tech jobs.

Olsen also said access to public lands should be improved, and that the state should work to diversify its energy portfolio as demand for coal, oil and natural gas change.

“I’m extremely stoked, obviously, with the results, and super thankful to the constituents who turned out and voted for me and the support that they’ve given me over the last four years,” he said Tuesday night. “I just look forward to the next two years of serving them and doing the things that we’ve been doing and moving Wyoming forward and working hard for the people.”

Spieker, who earned 1,463 votes, serves as director of community health and analysis at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. She ran with the goal of increasing representation of women in the Legislature, expanding Medicaid, improving voter access and helping Wyoming move away from reliance on mineral revenues.

House District 12

Incumbent Clarence Styvar, a Republican, will continue representing House District 12 in the Wyoming Legislature after defeating Democratic challenger Lee Filer.

Styvar, with 2,326 votes, or 61.2%, easily beat Filer, who had 1,462 votes, in the district, which covers the southwest portion of Laramie County, including the area south of Interstate 80 and west of U.S. Highway 85.

He was first appointed to the seat in 2018 and elected by voters just months later.

On the campaign trail, Styvar said he’s against any new taxes and that the state needs to learn to live within its means. Styvar is focused on continued economic development and finding solutions to the state’s budget shortfalls, including attracting jobs in technology, manufacturing and medicine.

“I won, which is a good thing,” Styvar said Tuesday night. “I want to thank my supporters in my district, and I will continue to do the job they’ve hired me for.”

Filer, who represented House District 12 from 2013 to 2015, ran on the basis that “hyper-partisanship” in the Legislature has done nothing to improve the lives of residents in the district. His campaign prioritized economic diversification, access to health care and quality public education.

House District 41

Incumbent Rep. Bill Henderson won the race for House District 41 against challenger Rebecca Fields to retain his seat in the Wyoming Legislature.

Henderson won with 2,484 votes, while Fields earned 1,620 votes.

House District 41 covers much of central Cheyenne between Warren Avenue and Whitney Road south of Dell Range Boulevard.

“Wow, I just – I really respect and am proud of the district, the folks turning out to vote,” Henderson said. “And I really think that we should also acknowledge all the folks who stepped up to run and participate in the election process, because that’s what it takes for our democracy to work.”

Henderson said his biggest priorities will be helping the unemployed find a source of income and making sure people have access to affordable health care. He cited this summer’s announcement that the Wyoming PACE program will be eliminated as result of state budget cuts as an example why health care needs to be reprioritized.

“The PACE program is a big deal, and I heard that’s 200 people impacted,” Henderson said. “Everyone knows it costs less to take care of folks as far as health care needs in their own home, but when you force them into a nursing home … it’s just going to go up. You’re saying you’re cutting, but you’re going to end up spending more money. We need to work with the hospital and make sure we do the right thing for these folks.”

Henderson has served in the Legislature for the past three years, and has been a member of the Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force, Interstate Compact on Students of Military Families and several other committees.

“I work pretty hard; I take my oath seriously,” Henderson added. “You have to do a lot of research and listening to understand these various topics, and I just think it [reelection] means folks want me to continue serving and they want their voices heard. Jobs, health care and education – those are the main priorities.”

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus