Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced Tuesday he will not run for re-election in a reversal of his previously stated plans to seek a second term.
“While I have been so grateful for the time I have spent as the Secretary of State, it would not be appropriate for me to explore a judicial opportunity while also running for this important office,” Buchanan said in a statement. The judicial opportunity referenced is an upcoming Goshen County District Court vacancy in his hometown of Torrington.
Meantime, at least one person has officially entered the race — Senate President Dan Dockstader (R-Afton), who filed for office the same day as Buchanan’s announcement. Dockstader has about three years left in his Senate term, so should he lose in the statewide race, he will remain in the Legislature. As of press time, no other candidate has filed for SOS.
History: Gov. Matt Mead appointed Buchanan in 2018 to replace former Secretary of State Ed Murray, who resigned following allegations of sexual assault. Buchanan then ran to retain the office and was elected later that year. Before then, Buchanan served almost a decade in the Wyoming House of Representatives, including a time as speaker of the House in 2012.
Dockstader has served in the Legislature since 2007, first in the House before making the jump to the Senate in 2009.
Why it matters: Secretary of state was once a little-known political office compared to other statewide officials, Buchanan previously told WyoFile. In recent years the office — which oversees elections and campaign finances, among other things — has garnered attention in the midst of heightened concerns about election integrity.
Buchanan has staunchly defended the integrity and efficacy of Wyoming’s elections in the face of disproved claims from prominent members of his party that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. His office has dedicated considerable resources toward verifying the security of Wyoming’s elections. He’s also taken to the road with public presentations across the state to answer questions, address concerns and bust myths. The voting machines used in 2020 were more secure and sophisticated than any other voting machines used in the history of Wyoming’s elections, according to Buchanan.
Without Buchanan in the race, other candidates will not face the challenge of beating an incumbent. They could also use misinformation about voter fraud and election integrity as a ready-made platform, Buchanan previously told WyoFile.
Dockstader commended Buchanan’s dedication to engaging the public with his election security presentations, but said there’s also “room for improvement” in securing Wyoming’s elections.
“What we’re hearing more and more is people are concerned about that,” Dockstader said. “We need to take a closer look at it.”
When asked if he thought the 2020 elections were secure in Wyoming, Dockstader said “for the most part.”
Last session, Dockstader co-sponsored a bill to restrict how people or groups can help voters deliver completed absentee ballots to county clerks. It ultimately failed, but Dockstader said he would pursue it and similar measures as secretary of state.
“We’ll sit down with party officials and work that out and find specific legislation that makes people feel comfortable, so they don’t walk away and say, ‘I’m not sure that I trust that process,’” Dockstader said.
Both Dockstader and Buchanan supported a voter ID bill that passed during the 2021 legislative session — Dockstader voting for it in the Senate and Buchanan testifying in favor of it as a “proactive” measure to instill voter confidence. The 2022 primary election will be the first true test of the voter ID law since it went into effect in July of last year.
Beyond elections, Dockstader said his No. 1 priority in office would be jobs and “making sure Wyoming’s open for business,” though he said that “maybe that would stretch the position somewhat.”
The office oversees the business affairs of the state, which includes administering the registration of business entities.
What’s next: Buchanan’s term ends in January 2023. Wyoming’s candidate filing period is currently open and will remain so until May 27 at 5 p.m.