Secretary of State Ed Buchanan takes the oath of office on Jan. 7, 2019 after his 2018 election. Five months later, Buchanan has announced he will pursue a vacant judgeship. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan is seeking a judgeship just seven months after winning election to his statewide office and a judicial commission has submitted his name and two others for Gov. Mark Gordon’s consideration.

Buchanan put in an application with Wyoming’s Judicial Nominating Commission for a vacant circuit court judgeship in Goshen County. He was one of three names selected by the commission. The names now go to Gordon, who has 30 days to select a candidate.

The other two candidates are Patricia Bennett, a clerk at the Wyoming Supreme Court, and Nathaniel Hibben, a Torrington lawyer who is current president-elect of the Wyoming State Bar.

If he chooses Buchanan, Gordon will then have the opportunity to fill one of the five top statewide elected offices in his first year on the job. Buchanan’s selection for the judgeship would trigger a process in which Gordon would pick from three recommendations advanced to him by the Wyoming Republican Party.

If Gordon chooses Buchanan as a judge, it will be the secretary of state’s second appointment to public office in fewer than two years, and place the second unelected appointee in the secretary of state’s office in the same period. Former Gov. Matt Mead selected Buchanan for the secretary of state position after the Wyoming GOP submitted his name and two others.

The previous vacancy in the secretary’s office came after former Secretary of State Ed Murray resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct. After his appointment Buchanan ran successfully for the position in 2018. He won with 137,026 votes.

Executive Director of the Wyoming Bar Sharon Wilkinson said in her 17 years at that organization she had never seen a sitting statewide elected official apply for a vacant judgeship.

The Eighth Judicial District, Goshen County court is housed in Torrington, where Buchanan previously lived and practiced law. The move would carry a pay increase for Buchanan. The secretary of state earns $92,000 a year according to statute. When a new law passed by the Legislature goes into effect on July 1, a circuit court judge will earn $145,000 a year.

In a statement, Buchanan said he “felt called” to serve as a judge. “I did not lightly consider this step in putting my name forward,” Buchanan said in the statement. “Such a step came after prayer and careful consideration of the needs of the State of Wyoming, my family, and the citizens of Goshen County.”

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Should he be selected, Buchanan said, the former Goshen County representative and speaker of the house will have completed the trifecta in Wyoming’s three branches of government — legislative, executive and now judicial.

The choice was not an easy one, Buchanan’s statement read.

“I faced the impossible choice knowing that I could serve my state and community in Goshen County through the Judicial System,” it reads, “while also struggling with the fact that I love the work of the Secretary of State’s Office.  

“Ultimately, the call to serve Goshen County as a judge was strong, but the decision was made knowing that my staff at the Secretary of State’s Office are prepared to smoothly transition and seamlessly accommodate the arrival of an appointed Secretary of State, if that time comes,” the statement reads.

Buchanan said he would “honor” Gordon’s choice of judge.

The outgoing Goshen County judge Randal Arp announced his retirement in effective in July. Arp’s wife Pat announced shortly after her husband revealed his plans that she, too, would retire from a long term of public service, most recently serving as Gordon’s chief of staff.

Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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  1. So the voters deliberately chose Ed Buchanan to be Secretary of State for the next 4 years only to have him cede his position over to somebody else of the governor’s choosing within 6 months of taking office (Yes, I know he was already in the position prior to the election, but I think the principle still holds) while essentially being offered a better-paying job, also at the discretion of the governor?

    I think we need to Amend the State constitution so there is a mechanism for a special election in a case like this, or an amendment disallowing a sitting elected official from being appointed to a different job by a governor who also has the power to appoint their replacement.

    It just doesn’t seem appropriate that the Governor is allowed to effectively ‘poach’ a sitting statewide elected official for a different, higher-paying job, then turn around and appoint their replacement. What was even the point in holding an election for the Secretary of State if the governor gets to just install somebody different anyways?

    This leaves some serious room for utter shadiness to take place.

    I hope the governor chooses one of the other 2 candidates for the judgeship. And while I think Ed Buchanan should step down due to his obvious disinterest in doing the job he was bold enough to ask voters to give him, I don’t think the governor should get free-reign to choose his replacement either.

    This Wyoming Good ole Boys nonsense is so tiresome…

  2. Buchanan has obviously elected to have a lifetime appointment in backwater Wyoming than remain as Lieutenant Governor of the whole state for a very finite time. So much for public service. That establishes his character.

    Were it me , I would ask that Buchanan submit his resignation as the elected SecState before nominating himself for a permanent judgeship

  3. In a statement, Buchanan said he “felt called” to serve as a judge. “I did not lightly consider this step in putting my name forward,” Buchanan said in the statement. “Such a step came after prayer and careful consideration of the needs of the State of Wyoming, my family, and the citizens of Goshen County.”

    Yah, “felt called” … “prayer and careful consideration of the “needs” of WY, MY FAMILY, and the citizens of Goshen County … and my checking account and retirement fund … and my mortgage, car payment, daily/weekly grocery bill, health care costs, utilities, and all that other shit … hell yeah! … an additional $50K would certainly help me to move up a tax bracket or two and reduce my federal tax burden, too! So what if education is taking cuts … I’m gettin my publicly funded salary while there’s still some dough left and enough yidgits to pay me in this god-forsaken desert.”

    1. Not just an extra 50k, but an extra 50k AND job security. No term limits AND he doesn’t have to face a partisan election every four years. He’ll get that extra 50k every year until he chooses to retire.

      Yeah, *technically* he still has to be ‘retained’ by voters every 4 years, but no campaigning, no ‘competing’ with other candidates, and overall, basically no chance of failure. Only a handful of judges have ever lost a retention election in Wyoming since the practice was adopted in 1972.

      Personally, I think he ought to step down from his job as Secretary of State right now, judgeship or not. Obviously he is entirely uncommitted to faithfully and completely serving out the term of the job he not too long ago asked voters to give him. But then again, Wyoming voters sure do like to repeatedly and blindly toss every self-interested Wyoming Good ‘ol boy into office every chance they get, so perhaps having a person completely disinterested in the job as second-in-command is exactly what Wyoming deserves…

  4. Dear Mr. Graham;

    FYI, Patricia Bennett is not “a clerk at the Supreme Court”. Rather, she is THE Clerk of the Supreme Court , a highly sought after position of great historical significance, whose work is critical to the entire State Judiciary and the Wyoming Bar, hired by the Justices of the Supreme Court. She is also a veteran Wyoming trial lawyer. The brief description in the Cheyenne paper this morning is simply not accurate. I figured that you would like to know.

    Thank you.