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Primary Legislative Candidates on State Government: Too Big? Too small? Just Right?

 

Democrat Pam Brown, left, spoke at the legislative forum at the Natrona County Public Library on Monday. She is accompanied by her granddaughter, campaign manager and blue sparkly dress wearer Hailey Brown, age 11.
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Wyoming’s state government does too much, does too little, does it just right, could do more, could do less, and could be doing just what it needs to do, Republican and Democratic House and Senate candidates said Monday.

On the too big side, one Democrat and three Republicans agreed at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Natrona County Public Library.

“There are too many committees to check things out,” said Democrat Pam Brown, a candidate who is running against fellow Democrat Eric Nelson to represent House District 36. The winner of the Aug. 19 Democratic primary will face incumbent Republican Rep. Gerald Gay in the Nov. 4 general election.

Republican Greg Flesvig agreed, saying agencies such as the Game and Fish Department are bloated. “You can’t whittle it down enough.” Flesvig is challenging incumbent Rep. Steve Harshman, HD 37.

Republican Kara Linn, who is challenging Sen. Bill Landen in Senate District 27, said government has grown especially in the past four years and will grow even more if the state adopts the national education standards known as Common Core.

And Republican Chuck Gray, said he’s running because his opponent, incumbent Rep. Tom Lockhart, HD57, has voted to increase the size of state government during his 14 years in office.

But two Republicans and two Democrats disagreed, citing the practical side of keeping a 97,814-square-mile state with approximately 583,000 people safe, educated, productive and on the road.

“Currently government is the right size,” said Republican Rep. Tom Walters, HD38, who is unopposed in the primary and general election. Because government has to provide certain services, it would not necessarily grow if the population increased, he said.

“We have to provide services,” said Republican Ed Opella, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Kendell Kroeker, HD35, appealed to voters’ feet. “Citizens don’t like to stand in line at the motor vehicle department,” Opella said. “People are very impatient, people like to have their services.”

Democrat Laurie Longtine, who is running unopposed to challenged Republican Rep. Bunky Loucks, HD59, in the general election, said the Legislature puts a lot of money into savings. She added that some people confuse spending with the size of government.

Nelson agreed, saying providing services is critical and that spending will increase as prices increase.

But those who said state government is the right size said, if elected, they would closely review budget submissions.

Of the 10 legislative primary candidates who did not attend the forum, seven sent letters saying they had prior commitments: Landen, Gay, Harshman, Lockhart, Sen. Drew Perkins, SD29; Republican Rep. Tom Reeder, HD58, who is unopposed in the primary and general election; and Republican Rep. Tim Stubson, HD56, who is likewise unopposed.

The three who did not send letters were Kroeker, Loucks, and Bob Ide, who is challenging Perkins in the Republican primary.

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