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GOP Governor Candidate Haynes Likes Sovereign Citizens’ View of Constitution, Condemns Violence

Republican gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes approves of the strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by so-called “sovereign citizens, but abhors the violence some use to try to turn the nation back to what they believe a constitutional government should be.

In the past week, high-profile shootings in Georgia and Las Vegas have highlighted the sometimes violent sovereign citizens movement, with its numbers estimated at 300,000 and a track record for lawbreaking that has earned it a designation by the FBI as a domestic terrorist threat.

Some sovereign citizens in Wyoming in 2010 endorsed Haynes’ write-in candidacy for governor. He received 14,000 votes statewide, coming in third behind Republican Matt Mead and Democrat Leslie Petersen. (This year he faces incumbent Mead and Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill in the Aug. 19 GOP primary.)

In Natrona County four years ago, for instance, the late sovereign citizens’ group teacher John Arthur Taylor Jr. drove an old pickup with hand-made signs endorsing Haynes.

The following year, Haynes expressed his support for Taylor and the group he taught at weekly meetings in Mills.

“They are 100 percent correct in their philosophy and approach,” Haynes said then. “They’re right on the Constitution.”

Tuesday, he denied saying they were 100 percent correct in their philosophy and approach.

“What I did say was they seemed to know the Constitution very well,” Haynes said.

Other than discussions about the Constitution, he said he never saw a mission statement or learned what they specifically were about.

“I had a general idea that they thought the government should be constitutional but I was never clear on their approach to getting that done,” Haynes said. “That never really came up because I was never a part of that movement.”

By 2010, the movement was known for sharing many of the conservative views of the tea party movement — and sometimes views consistent with left-wing groups such as moveon.org — but with one fundamental difference.

The tea party wants to reform American government. Sovereign citizens want a wholesale replacement of it.

Adherents believe the original constitutional government was somehow replaced after the Civil War by an unlawful money-making corporate system. They believe it subjugated people with marriage and driver’s licenses, violated property rights through health and safety codes, kept millions of acres of land in federal hands, and erected justice-denying court systems to line the pockets of lawyers and judges.

And sometimes they have taken the logical step from believing the current system is illegitimate to using force to replace it.

Law enforcement authorities and civil rights watchdog groups in the past week have pointed to sovereign citizen affiliations on the part of Dennis Marx who was killed while trying to shoot his way into Georgia’s Forsyth County Courthouse on Friday, and on the part of Jerad and Amanda Miller who allegedly shot to death two Las Vegas police officers and killed another man before committing murder-suicide in a Walmart on Sunday.

Locally, Taylor was found guilty of possession of a deadly weapon with the unlawful intent to threaten another in 1996 by serving a “declaration of war” to a Fremont County attorney while carrying Uzi-type weapon. He was sentenced to between two and four years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary.

While admiring sovereign citizens’ views of the need for a government run strictly by the Constitution, Haynes deplores what some authorities believe sovereign citizens do when they resort to arms.

“Violence has no place in our body politic, no place,” Haynes said. “We have an excellent system that has actually preserved our republic since its inception where we can debate the issues, candidates debate, and the voters choose.”

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