Do the Wyo Dems have what it takes to bounce back in the 22nd election?
I was not sure how to interpret the information that the Wyoming Democratic Party re-elected almost all of his list of state officers. Is this move a sign of confidence in the current track or of resigning over the Democrats’ chances of winning more legislative seats?
After all, the 60-member House has just seven Democrats and the party is 28-2 outnumbered in the Senate.
So, to get a better idea of the vibe, I spoke with three party members from different parts of the state – people who regularly speak with voters.
Debbie Bovee first showed up in House District 36 in Natrona County in 2016. The welcome from registered Republicans has been generally cordial, she said, even though they told her she didn’t. ‘would not get their vote because of his party affiliation.
Bovee won the race and became the only Democratic representative in the county’s 12-person delegation, and the only woman as well. By 2018, when she sought a second term, the political landscape had radically changed.
“Running last time was really ugly,” Bovee recalls. “I think Donald Trump and ‘Trumpism’ made the candidacy particularly difficult. People are meaner now.
Bovee lost his second House contest to Republican Art Washut, a former police chief from Casper. She said her opponent and the NRA sent a brochure to HD 36 voters days before the election, claiming she was against gun rights. The last minute smear work did not allow time to set the record straight.
“One thing Republicans do really well is label us all,” she said. “People believe that every Democrat wants to take up arms. But in our party platform, we believe in the Second Amendment. We just want to find ways to protect people from gun violence. “
Bovee, a retired teacher, became disillusioned. While she no longer wants to be a candidate, she has channeled her enthusiasm for politics into a new role as president of the Natrona County Democratic Party. Now she’s trying to find candidates to take on Republicans like Washut.
Bovee tries to convince young people that they can have a voice to help them determine their future, she said. “I ask them, ‘What are the things that interest you that you want to see changed? “, Did she say.
Trey Sherwood asked himself the same questions last year and decided to run for District 14 in Albany County. His experience on the election campaign was very different from that of Bovee two years earlier. She said guns were not a problem, in part because her Republican opponent, Matthew Burkhart, had received an “F” rating from the NRA.
Knowing that she would need to enlist GOP voters because Democrats are a minority in her district, Sherwood said she only knocked on the doors of registered Republicans in the final weeks of the campaign. She presented herself as a hunter with little interest in picking up their weapons.
“I said, ‘My safe is full, I don’t need yours,’” she recalls. “I would ask them questions about their favorite hunting or fishing spots. We have shared wild game recipes. “
Republican voters had more in mind than the Second Amendment, Sherwood said. Some wanted to talk about taxes.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, this is where I’m going to lose them,’” she said. “I am very much in favor of tax reform and the elimination of tax exemptions. I told them the things I wanted to watch, and they were like, ‘good’.
Some voters even told him that they had studied Wyoming’s tax structure and found it unsustainable, given the declining mineral tax base. “They said, ‘We have to go further and impose an income tax,” Sherwood said. “I was always stunned by these conversations because I thought I was going to get the door slammed in my face.
Like his Natrona County counterpart, Sherwood also won his first race at home. The margin of victory was slim, only 75 votes, but she became the first Democrat to win the district since the early 1990s.
Maybe she can attribute it to a secret weapon. Her mother, a Republican who lives in Tennessee, came to Laramie and helped her campaign.
“My mom is pretty shy, and it definitely took her out of her comfort zone,” Sherwood said. “We would be on either side of the street and I could hear it, ‘Uh, uh, I’m a Republican, but I was wondering – would you vote for my daughter? She works very hard.
“And I could hear people laughing with her and just laughing and it was so funny,” she says. “She would give me a sign if they wanted to talk.”
Once elected, Sherwood partnered with two new House Democrats, Reps Karlee Provenza of Laramie and Chad Banks of Rock Springs, for “Freshmen Fridays” on Facebook Live, keeping viewers up to date on Legislative Assembly events. . The group plans to continue the shows once a month during the interim.
Banks is the luckiest Democrat in the Legislature. He had no opponents to the primary or general elections in his District 17 House contest.
But he also doesn’t have a Democratic business in his Sweetwater County delegation. Once a democratic stronghold, in recent years, Republicans have come to dominate. In 2020, two People’s Party members – Representative Stan Blake and Senator Liisa Anselmi-Dalton – lost their candidacy for re-election.
“Much of our Democratic backbone was the union component,” Banks said. “We still have a pretty strong [miners’] union, but we also have many non-union employees in the oil and gas industry and other businesses. “
Banks said he saw Democratic candidates for Sweetwater hurt by the same bogus anti-gun allegations that hurt Bovee at Casper.
“Social media can be a double-edged sword,” he said. “It helps us communicate, but it’s also very easy for people to talk about their neighbors in a way that they wouldn’t do in person or spread misinformation. The political climate has become so divisive. “
The banks said Democrats “tend to be portrayed as this extremely liberal far-left contingency, and I don’t think that’s the case in Wyoming.” Some of these messages need improvement. “
“A Democrat from Wyoming is not a Democrat from Washington, DC,” Sherwood agreed.
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Bovee said his party needed to remind voters that on most Wyoming issues there wasn’t much difference between moderate Democrats and Republicans. They can form coalitions and counter all the far-right fringe elements of the GOP push.
Banks estimated he votes the same as the House Republican sitting next to him about 95 percent of the time. The problem in 2020, he believes, is that too many Democrats have been drawn into the tidal wave of opposition to Joe Biden and the local perception of the party’s national platform.
“Despite the progress we have made [in Wyoming], people just went the other way, ”Banks said.
Trump won’t be on the ballot next year, but if the Wyoming Republican Party is successful, “Trumpism” is going nowhere. It’s their best weapon, and it’s no secret: The GOP has 69.8% of the state’s registered voters, and Trump won 69.9% of the popular vote here in 2020.
After talking to Bovee, Sherwood, and Banks, I think the Wyoming Democratic Party still has a pulse. But does he have the backbone, leadership and party loyalty he needs to win more legislative seats next year?
It won’t be easy. Any Democratic recipe for future success would do well to combine some of the trio’s distinct strengths: Bovee’s desire to reduce GOP dominance in his county, Sherwood’s ability to spread anti-gun attacks, and Banks’ reasonable appeal. to a renewed civility in the state. Politics.
Bottle it and ship it statewide, and the party has a chance to make inroads on Capitol Hill in 2022.