Wyoming’s Republican gubernatorial candidates hewed to comfortable conservative positions— yes on guns, no on Medicaid expansion, yes on free-market liberties — while struggling to differentiate themselves on matters of policy during Thursday night’s hour-long debate in Riverton.

Gov. Mark Gordon, proposed hardening schools with additional security measures and teaching Wyoming’s youth about guns as ways to prevent school shootings. 

“I don’t think trying to have gun free zones is a good idea and I will fight against those,” the governor said. “I think that we educate kids about how to use firearms, how to do that properly.” 

Gillette resident Brent Bien, one of three Republicans vying to replace Gordon, also endorsed teaching kids about guns. 

“It’s such a big part of our culture,” Bien said of firearms, “and we need to teach those values early.” 

Rex Rammell, the third participant in Thursday’s debate, departed in his answer, but not by much. The self identified “staunch Second Amendment supporter” called for preserving constitutional rights and “protecting liberty,” adding that Wyoming ought to keep unwanted firearms out of schools. 

Gov. Mark Gordon in the Wyoming State Capitol in February 2022. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

“I actually believe that we should have security people guarding our schools,” Rammell said, “and I would even support some kind of a metal detector, so that [a school shooting] never happens in Wyoming.” 

Guns weren’t the only issue the three candidates agreed on during the gubernatorial Republican primary debate, despite their disparate political reputations. (A fourth candidate, James Quick was invited but didn’t attend the Wyoming PBS event at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.)

Fielding questions about issues like COVID responses, Medicaid expansion and party switching, the candidates repeatedly offered overlapping answers and look-alike positions. 

Gordon, the former state treasurer, is running for his second term as governor, and is perceived by many as more moderate than his challengers. Bien, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, is a political newcomer who’s aligned himself with Wyoming Republican Party favorites. Ramell, a veterinarian, is a serial candidate for state, federal and legislative office — first in Idaho and more recently in Wyoming — and is known for anti-federal government rhetoric in a state where nearly half the acreage is federally owned and administered. 

All three candidates opposed Medicaid expansion, which would help an estimated 19,000 Wyoming residents afford preventative healthcare. 

Gordon, who opposes the idea, said he’s been “very concerned” about costs Wyoming could be saddled with if the federal government’s contribution ever went away. 

Rammell made the same point: “What happens when those checks stop coming,” he said, “then what are they going to do?” 

Bien echoed the sentiment too, calling Medicaid expansion a bait and switch: “I do think after those first couple of years,” he said, “then we are on the hook for it.” 

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brent Bien speaks at the Save Wyoming rally in Lander on July 22, 2022. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

Critiquing how Wyoming handled the COVID-19 pandemic, Bien and Rammell both emphasized how they’d never close down businesses. 

“I think that’s an abuse of power,” Rammell said. “I don’t think that the governor has the authority to do that.” 

Bien, whose candidacy stems from personal displeasure with Gordon’s COVID response, said that closure mandates were a “very, very strong attack against civil liberties.” 

Gordon, who governed the state through the pandemic, and whose public health orders drew the ire of many fellow Republicans, played a similar card: “I’m proud of the fact that Wyoming was one of the five most open states,” he said. 

Candidates’ responses also lined up on crossover voting in Wyoming — the currently legal practice of changing party registration on primary election day to vote in the primary election of a voter’s choosing. Some Republicans credited Gordon’s 2020 primary win to party switchers, despite the arithmetic suggesting otherwise. Yet, all three candidates supported reform that would restrict voters from party hopping.  

Perhaps the only substantive difference on display Thursday was Gordon’s track record as an elected official — neither challengers have held office.  

Of the two challengers, Rammell was the quickest to blast Gordon’s tenure as governor. 

When the candidates were asked to critique U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who has gained national prominence for her role on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol, the sitting governor declined to offer his views. 

“Governors typically don’t get involved in races, and I’m going to do that now,” Gordon said. “When President Trump called me and said, ‘Please come to my rally,’ I said, ‘I’m glad to meet you at the airport, President Trump, but I am not going to take sides in this particular race.’” 

Rex Rammell, a Republican candidate in Wyoming’s 2022 gubernatorial race. (Courtesy)

Rammell maligned Gordon’s neutrality, contending it was not becoming of a leader. 

“When we have somebody like Liz Cheney, who has disgraced the state of Wyoming, I certainly, as governor, would take a position against her,” he said. 

Rammell also turned heads by asking Bien to drop out as the hour-long debate wrapped up. The former military man, Rammell contended, wasn’t eligible to be governor because his service had taken him out of state in the past five years — the immediately preceding residency requirement, according to state law.

“You’re not eligible to be the governor,” Rammell said, “and I ask you tonight, patriot to patriot, to honorably bow out of this race.” 

Bien declined. The Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, he said, affirmed his eligibility, as did attorneys. 

The Wyoming Secretary of State’s office is neither aware of any issues with nor investigating Bien’s eligibility.

“We didn’t find any issues with his application to run for office,” communications and policy director Monique Meese said, “and we haven’t received a complaint.”

Mike Koshmrl

Mike Koshmrl reports from Jackson on state politics and Wyoming's natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures...

Join the Conversation

15 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. We can only hope that Gordon has adopted his knuckle dragging Trump sycophant stance to appease the knuckle dragging Trump sycophants who dominate the Wyoming Republican Party.

  2. Don’t the candidates running for public offices while campaigning on a claim of a rigged election platform last time realize that if they win, their opponent will forever claim this election was rigged. And they need not furnish proof because the election deniers of the 2020 election never furnished proof yet still made the claims.

  3. I’m an old school Wyomingite. I was taught to look for and vote for the best candidate. As a kid I helped in Cody offices for Republican and Democratic candidates. I don’t know where these guys are coming from–it’s a very undemocratic position they are taking. When anyone says they want to prevent people from voting, that’s a bad sign. Yale historian Timothy Snyder has twenty rules in his classic “On Tyranny” and rule 3 is “Beware the one-party state. The parties that remade states and suppressed rivals were not omnipotent from the start. They exploited a historic moment to make political life impossible for their opponents. So support the multi-party system and defend the rules of democratic elections. Vote in local and state elections while you can. Consider running for office.” The position these candidates are taking are positions designed to make political life impossible for a person like me who wants to vote for best candidates and wants to participate in democracy. Boy did I like the pre-Foxed Wyoming better than this. I’m at home in any party in this state when I’m seeing a love of truth, community service, and security of children and wildlands, and there have been candidates who do that. Snyder’s work on Ukraine has been remarkable, and I value this rule: Beware the one party state.

  4. Oh,my (and I think the governor of the state I moved to from Wyoming in 1981 is totally incompetent) these guys running for governor take the cake. I will say that at least Gov. Gordon has stayed neutral about Trump and may be the best bet of the three, however. Wyoming truly has a “goobernatorial” race going, especially when you see where Bien and Rammell stand on issues.

  5. Rex Rammell? Is this the same man who was cited by the Idaho Game & Fish Dept for killing a cow elk out of season? Or the same Rex Rammell who ran for a seat in Sublette County while allegedly living OUTSIDE Sublette? Or the same Rex Rammell who ran a elk ranching operation in Idaho and allowed several elk to escape, resulting in every elk near his operation to be slaughtered, due to threat of the ranched elk being carriers of Brucellosis? Or, is this a different Rex Rammell?

  6. So sad to see these idiots are against gun control. As if the 18 year old Uvalde killer needed education on how to use a gun… 😥

  7. Governor Gordon also waxed nostalgic about Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” during the debate. I remember listening to the great communicator communicate—It was quite an event— not unlike when the circus came to town. Back in the glasnost era, a circus still had 3 rings; each one with something completely different to offer. It had a ringleader, and elephants, and clowns, and a barker peddling overpriced sugary fluff. Everyone worked together and everyone knew their place. I remember gasping in horror at the sheer volumes of “processed hay” that could pass through a pachyderm. I remember how unpleasant it was to be trapped in a hot tent with that stench; and I remember feeling really sorry for the poor clowns with shovels that had to do all of the heavy lifting necessary for the consumption of the sugary fluff to resume at a stiffened pace. Those days are long gone now. Today the clowns are running the show– still plenty of processed sugar and processed hay to go around—only no one is in charge of manning the shovels. I feel sorry that I don’t feel sorry for those poor clowns anymore…….

  8. Liz Cheney’s efforts on the Jan 6 Committee should make every Wyoming citizen proud. I disagree with nearly all her policy positions except the central idea that this country should remain a representative democracy and that the Rule of Law must be adhered to. Those who break the law must be held accountable. Cheney alone amongst our Congressional delegation has the integrity to stand for these principles. The extremists in our state legislature are truly acting in a disgraceful manner.

  9. I am T-Rex! Hear me roar! This guy is like a lot that aspire to government positions even as the prove they do not even know how our system works. Take this statement.

    “I think that’s an abuse of power,” Rammell said. “I don’t think that the governor has the authority to do that.”

    Well T-Rex started the sentence correct, He doesn’t think. T-Rex, the State Health Director in conjunction with Governor were given that power by a LAW passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the previous administration. Funny how he wants to run the State but is clueless on how our checks and balances work. Clearly unbalanced in demeanor and understanding of government is the sign of a narcissist that would abuse power once in office.

    Colonel Bien is another kettle of fish. He swore an oath to the Constitution but believes that the election was stolen. He should know better but clearly doesn’t which either says something about his lack of character or far worse could be indicative of the rot within our Military. Either way unqualified and an embarrassment to the Marines.

    “Yet, all three candidates supported reform that would restrict voters from party hopping. ”

    Again Party is not in the Constitution but these so called gubernatorial candidates want to put that disgusting entity above the desires of the voters. None of them are qualified to run the State of Wyoming.

  10. Gordon has my vote. Anyone who thinks Ivermectin is a treatment for Covid is not fit to lead the state of Wyoming.

  11. Liz Cheney is a rare politician from The Equality State. She is intelligent, well educated, well spoken, exhibits self determination and strong leadership. Liz has a moral compass and the fortitude to do something few Republicans are willing to do, expose Trump as the immoral self serving wannabe dictator he is. Too bad more Republicans aren’t like Liz. Claiming she has disgraced Wyoming is wrong headed.

  12. To trash on Cheney is a disgrace in itself. This rammell dude must be a Q follower. I see Cheney has brought honor to the state. She understands you can not have freedoms without the rule of law. This is the hill she has chosen to stand on and it is patriotic. Hageman and rammell seem very out of touch with reality.