Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) at his desk on the House floor. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Until primary election night, when he won his party’s Wyoming secretary of state nomination, Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) had a pretty dismal 2022. None of the five bills he sponsored in the budget session passed, including four that didn’t even come up for a vote.

Opinion

The previous year hadn’t been so hot for Gray, either. In September 2021, when former President Donald Trump went shopping for a GOP congressional candidate to send Rep. Liz Cheney packing, he bypassed Gray and endorsed Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman. 

Gray knows how to follow orders, and when Trump declared everyone else should get out of Hageman’s way, he dutifully dropped out of that primary. 

Gray even tried to win Trump’s favor with two bills to change the name of State Highway 258 to the “President Donald J. Trump Highway.” Trump may well be the most popular politician in Wyoming, but both of those bills failed. 

In May, opportunity knocked when Republican Secretary of State Ed Buchanan decided to not run for re-election. Gray announced his bid.

Gray leaned even harder into his Trump allegiance, making the former president’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen the centerpiece of his new campaign. The candidate called the election “clearly rigged” against Trump, with ballot drop boxes like those in Wyoming serving as the tool Democrats used for the theft.

Now, the idea that Wyoming voters can’t trust that their ballots will be fairly counted should have been a tough sell in a state where Trump trounced Joe Biden by 120,068 votes. If state Democrats are that inept at stuffing ballot boxes, they shouldn’t even be allowed to cross the street unassisted.

But Gray’s message that Wyoming’s elections are tainted by widespread voter fraud carried the day, and he defeated Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne), 50% to 41%.

Gray cast himself as an expert on voter fraud, because last year he went to Arizona to watch the Cyber Ninjas firm conduct a partisan “forensic audit” of Maricopa County’s presidential election. “I support the audit 100%. It’s an incredible, very important operation,” he tweeted.

Gray was briefed by Arizona Sen. Sonny Borrelli, who participated in the “Stop the Steal” effort that attempted to replace legitimate electors for Biden with a fake slate for Trump. 

The audit, which took more than seven months as the ninjas hand-counted ballots, did find election errors. Their report concluded 360 more residents voted for Biden than previously reported.

Yet Gray contends Wyoming should automatically conduct the same type of audit statewide using paper ballots, even though only four state residents have been convicted of voter fraud since 2000. All four, by the way, were Republicans.

Gray sponsored free showings of Dinesh D’Souza’s film “2000 Mules” to justify his desire to ban ballot drop boxes in Wyoming. Gray said the documentary, widely debunked by Reuters and other news organizations, shows “how the woke, big-tech left has stolen elections with ballot drop boxes.” 

In reality, only nine of 23 Wyoming counties used secure drop boxes in 2020 to allow voters to turn in their absentee ballots after governmental buildings closed for the day, or without entering the building.

Buchanan blasted Gray for showing the movie. “The implication is there is a connection between the movie and Wyoming, and you’re playing on fears of the voters that [are] patently false,” he said.

Fortunately, none of Gray’s proposed voter fraud remedies  — banning drop boxes and automatic state-run paper ballot audits — can be implemented without legislative approval.

Former Republican Secretary of State Max Maxfield, who endorsed Nethercott, filed a federal complaint against Gray for allegedly violating campaign finance laws. Maxfield questioned how Gray managed to loan his congressional campaign $300,000 when he claimed to only earn $11,000 in 2021. 

After calling the complaint “frivolous,” the work of “liberal insiders,” Gray eventually explained he inherited the $300,000 from his grandfather.

A WyoFile examination of his campaign finance filings revealed other inconsistencies. 

For someone with demonstrated privilege, he sure goes after folks for being insiders. The first time I saw Gray was at a Casper Republican forum in 2016. He blasted his then primary opponent, Ray Pacheco, as a “political insider” because he had been elected to the Casper City Council. Gray made it sound like Pacheco’s best buddy is Barack Obama.

Gray easily won both the primary and general elections. He dismissed Jane Ifland, his Democratic opponent in 2018 and 2020, as a “socialist” and swept to two more victories.

In 2022, Gray went back to his original playbook when he appeared at a Casper Boys and Girls Club forum. “This campaign unfortunately has gotten pretty nasty because when someone stands for the truth against the insiders, they will do anything to maintain their power,” Gray charged.

It’s time to face the harsh reality that someone who has the gall to deny the legitimacy of Wyoming elections, without a shred of evidence, will be in charge of them.

I agree that the campaign turned nasty, and truth matters. That’s why what the “Committee to Elect Chuck Gray” did a few days before the primary was so egregious. 

Unsolicited text messages were sent to many Wyomingites — including Nethercott! — that erroneously claimed she is “being sued for lying and slander,” investigated “for violating state campaign $$$ law,” and voting to “give herself a $30k taxpayer-funded raise.”

There is no lawsuit or investigation. Nethercott did vote to increase state officials’ pay, but that was months before Buchanan announced his position would be open. 

I don’t know how much damage the phony texts did to Nethercott’s chances of winning. Her loss by nearly 13,000 votes can likely be attributed to her declaring the election wasn’t stolen from Trump and such baseless claims are “undermining our country.”

As expected, Trump endorsed Gray. What’s surprising is that Gray polled about 40,000 votes less than Hageman, even though he and other right-wing candidates tried to tie themselves to her coattails. 

Hageman trounced Cheney, but Cheney’s post-election words ring true: “No American should support election deniers for any position of genuine responsibility, where their refusal to follow the rule of law will corrupt our future.”

Gray joins five Republican secretary of state nominees — in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and New Mexico — who are election deniers. Unlike them, he’s the first who is virtually assured of victory in November, because no Democratic, Constitution or Libertarian party nominees will be on the ballot.

There are only two ways Gray could lose, and both are unlikely. The first requires an independent candidate to obtain 5,418 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 29, and then outpoll Gray. The other, mounting a successful write-in campaign, is even a bigger longshot.

It’s time to face the harsh reality that someone who has the gall to deny the legitimacy of Wyoming elections, without a shred of evidence, will be in charge of them. 

To be fair, Gray isn’t the only one responsible for his radical election agenda. He’s a surrogate who took advantage of his politically expedient chance to deliver Trump’s lies to Wyoming. Just as culpable are voters who wholeheartedly bought them — hook, line and sinker.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

Join the Conversation

24 Comments

Want to join the discussion? Fantastic, here are the ground rules: * Provide your full name — no pseudonyms. WyoFile stands behind everything we publish and expects commenters to do the same. * No personal attacks, profanity, discriminatory language or threats. Keep it clean, civil and on topic. *WyoFile does not fact check every comment but, when noticed, submissions containing clear misinformation, demonstrably false statements of fact or links to sites trafficking in such will not be posted. *Individual commenters are limited to three comments per story, including replies.

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Dear sane people, if we need to have a write in candidate to defeat Gray, why not Tara Nethercott? Is this a possibility? Seems the most practical, best choice, does it not? Let’s go Tara!!!

  2. The ESS machines used in Wyoming can accept a fake ballot, a photocopy.
    All it takes is one bad person to want to change the results in one location.
    Did you know that?
    Will this comment get deleted to protect the guilty?

    1. With a state full of Republicans there is a possibility this could occur. I feel the election was stolen from Liz and Tara. How bad is it when the Republican party is looking for an independent to against Gray in the general election???

  3. Moderates, liberals, and non-populist conservatives aren’t going to make headway in persuading Wyoming voters to elect more reasonable competent people by calling them “radicals” and talking down to/about them. Whether you like it or not, most Wyoming voters believe Biden won by fraudulent means, and most voted for Trump without having felt the need to pinch their noses. Chuck tapped into that frustration and allied himself with Trump. Nethercott didn’t. She failed to actually get to know her audience. The political cliques where she did her palm greasing shielded her from interactions with the populist “riff-raff” to the point where she thought there were enough people like her to win. It turns out she needed the populist “riff-raff.” Now we’ll have to deal with “Chuckles” for four years. My guess is his Jupiter-sized ego, toddler-esque emotional skills, and extraordinary lack of real-world job experience will catch up to him pretty quickly. The higher they climb, the harder they fall. Meanwhile, I pray fervently for the health and welfare of Governor Gordon.

  4. Chuck Gray isn’t competent to take out the garbage without adult supervision. Now that Lander Senator Cale Case’s attempt to wedge an Independent candidate for Secretary of State into the November election has failed, it looks like Gray will indeed be the Secretary of State next year.

    Given that, perhaps we can sue to place the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office under court supervision during Gray’s tenure. This is especially necessary now that smart people in the office are already bailing.

    https://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/secretary-of-state-halts-unusual-effort-to-put-candidate-on-ballot-against-gray/article_e6da5c56-2301-11ed-9f0c-f3c15828ac4e.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

    https://cowboystatedaily.com/2022/08/18/policy-director-at-secretary-of-state-office-resigns-says-she-wont-work-for-chuck-gray/

  5. When the fox is in the henhouse, you can bet you’re gonna have problems. With Chuck Gray as Sec. Of State, you can bet we will have problems with our elections. When a conspiricist is lying about his opponents, you can bet he will lie to you too. That’s what liars do.

  6. Wyoming voters exercised their constitutional right to vote in a democratic process, rejected the establishment with a decisive mandate, and are predictably subject to hatred from radical ideologues who mocked them into action, and now refuse to accept the results. A GREAT day dawns for Wyoming’s future elections, as they will not be controlled by the establishment. God bless Wyoming!!

  7. Remember back to the good old days. Pre 2016. I am afraid cold , really dark gray days are upon us.

    chucky’s tactics were so nasty.
    I cannot understand how anybody didn’t see thru his lies

    How do we get signatures on this petition to get another candidate on the ballot

    I know the time period is short to get somebody else on the ballot.

    The Chucky will have to find another dead grandfather to get money from

  8. I participated in a “Star Panel” on TV 13 with Chuck Gray, about the future of coal. He went on and on about his plan to force Washington state to build an export terminal for us. The moderater couldn’t shut him up and nobody else got to say anything.

  9. We get what we ask for. Guys like this claim fraud against our freedoms when in fact they are the fraud!

  10. Every time this slimy weasel sticks his head out in public he must be confronted with the fact that his “election” is fruit of a poisoned tree by his own definition.

  11. Please get behind the growing effort to petition an independent candidate on to the ballot. As pointed out in Drake’s commentary it takes 5,418 signatures. Sign me up and get the word out. (It would be much easier if I could figure out how to stuff the ballot box.😂
    Oh wait, I’ll email Mr Gray for instructions or better yet, watch the mule movie thingy.)
    In all seriousness, Chuck Gray should never be allowed to occupy the office of the SOS except to whine and snivel about the “corrupt “ election process.

  12. There in one compact colorless gray corpus you can easily see everything that has gone horribly wrong with the contemporary Republican Party. From Washington D.C. to Wamsutter.

  13. Sad, sad time for my native home. We are no longer just a “Republican” state; we’ve fallen into the abyss of the extreme far right. I wish our voters had a better perception of where this will lead; but as typically happens, that won’t come until it’s too late.

  14. Well said, I am an election judge in Shell and our security is incredible, our training is sound, our county clerk , Lori Smallwood, and her staff are outstanding. Mr Gray has insulted us and I take it personally!

  15. Gray is another example of the vast majority of politician’s and bureaucrats. Crooks, liars, and phony crackpots no matter their political stripe.

    1. One of the axioms about fascism is that it’s proponents falsely accuse the “others” (liberals, communists, socialists, Democrats, satan worshippers, homosexuals, proponents of reproductive rights, etc.) of employing all the tactics that they enthusiastically adopt. The pot always calls the kettle black, or more appropriately, white in this case.

      1. LOL
        Not one Democrat can define fascism to meet a cursory definition.
        Look in the mirror. It is your party and the criminals of MSM, Silicon Valley and the Military Indistrial Complex. Sad ignorance.

    2. By promoting the idea that they’re “all the same”, you unwittingly allow the most corrupt to continue to engage in their nefarious activities with impunity. No party or person is pure, but the GOP is demonstrably the party of lies and baseless conspiracies at this pint, and has been for years.

      1. Your correct. Comparing the last 56 years of corruption in Republican and Democratic presidencies: both sides are not equally corrupt. GOP Admins Had 38 Times More Criminal Convictions Than Democrats, 1961-2016. This does not include Trump presidency.

    3. I’ve been a election judge in three states. I’ve been a election judge in so many elections in Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming I can’t remember who many elections I’ve done. Two things I find disheartening! First, some of the election judges express doubts that even in Wyoming we have elections that can be stolen. Another says Elections are fair in Wyoming but corrupt everyplace else particular in the coastal areas without designating which coastal areas. Finally they believe 2000 mules has a depiction of 2020 voting although time and time again it’s been debunked! Finally in Wyoming when the health of the Governor or the Governor travels outside the state he Secretary of State is his temporary replacement, that’s the scariest part! Who knows what this anti Democracy conspiracy driven piece of work might try! Look what has happened in the Secratery of State has happened! The start of resignations has already started because they fear what coming. This will allow, like Trump to recruit like thinking people that will lead to chaos in all the things that tr SOS handles and this includes elwctions