Former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, during a press conference in April 2020. (Micheal Pearlman/office of Gov. Mark Gordon)

UPDATE: A lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming. The 16 plaintiffs from various political party backgrounds include: John B. “Jack” Speight, Rex Arney, Robin Hurless, Christopher O. Boswell, Tamsin Johnson, Doug Camblin, Tom Lubnau, Anne Ladd, Kathy Vetter, Steve Simonton, Dan Neal, George Simonton and Gail Symons. Former lawmakers Charles Pelkey, Ruth Ann Petroff and David Northup signed on as well. Northrup was among the applicants the committee did not select on Saturday. The suit names Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne, the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee and Gov. Mark Gordon as defendants. —Ed.

Despite the threat of legal action, the Wyoming GOP selected three candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction at its Central Committee meeting on Saturday. Now, process skeptics have said they will file a lawsuit in federal district court asking the judge to rule whether the voting process used over the weekend was unconstitutional, and to prevent Gov. Mark Gordon from choosing a replacement until the Central Committee complies. 

  • History: Two days before the Central Committee met in Douglas for its meeting, Campbell County Committeeman Tom Lubnau sent a letter calling on the Republican party to use a different voting process than what was tentatively planned. Instead of every county getting three votes, Lubnau urged Eathorne to use a different process that would more accurately reflect each county’s population. Otherwise, Lubnau said the process would violate the United States and Wyoming Constitutional provision of “one-person, one-vote.” On Saturday, no such changes were made to the voting process and each county was given three votes — one for each county’s state committeeman, state committeewoman and party chair. 
  • Who said what: At Saturday’s meeting, Eathorne told WyoFile he had not yet seen Lubnau’s letter, but confirmed he was aware of the allegations. He also pointed to “decades of precedent,” and said he did not expect changes to be made to the three-votes-per-county process. During the party’s discussion, Eathorne told the room “this is not an election,” and because of that, “the rules don’t apply here,” in regard to the Constitution.  
  • Why it matters: Former Superintendent Jillian Balow resigned earlier this month to accept a similar job in Virginia. Because Balow was elected as a Republican, the Wyoming GOP was charged with selecting three candidates for Gov. Mark Gordon to choose from. Gordon’s pick will finish out Balow’s term ending in January 2023.
  • What else you need to know: The three candidates selected on Saturday include Brian Schroeder, Sr., Marti Halverson and Thomas Kelly. Halverson is a former member of the Wyoming House of Representatives, while Schroeder and Kelly have experience in education, as was reported by the Casper Star-Tribune. The Wyoming Republican Party declined WyoFile’s requests to provide the applications the candidates submitted. 
  • Next up: If process opponents deliver the promised lawsuit, a federal judge will decide whether the GOP violated the “one person-one vote” principle of the United States and Wyoming Constitution. How the timing of the lawsuit will complicate or halt matters completely is unclear. At least one candidate is set to meet with Gov. Gordon as early as Tuesday.

Maggie Mullen

Maggie Mullen reports on state government and politics. Before joining WyoFile in 2022, she spent five years at Wyoming Public Radio.

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  1. Rather than throw invectives at each other let’s see the lawsuit for what it is. A complaint the statute itself is unconstitutional. The central committee followed statute and tradition. The plaintiffs think the law is wrong. Let a judge decide rather than calling each other names. My opinion, for what its worth, is the superintendent position should be appointed by the governor and not sit on the 3 state boards. If they do a lousy job its on the governor who can hire and fire at their pleasure. Right now we’re stuck for 4 years with whomever we elect.

  2. A dubious process with dubious candidates that likely would not qualify to run a school district in Wyoming let alone the state. Wyoming education is in for more of less.

  3. Have no idea why I should care about the method of selection in the long or short run.

    In other states, many of the people in these positions have PhDs in education, including at the local district level. And most states don’t have elections for the position. Don’t really see much benefit from an *elected* official at the state level. We haven’t seen major changes over the years in regards to outcomes so elections haven’t moved the needle.

    All 3 individuals up for selection may be fully qualified to run the dept and they may be able to do a great job. Who knows. It seems like a stretch to think that these are truly our best choices, however. Maybe they are the best choices living in Wyoming.

    I only know Marti. If she brings her political agenda to the Ed. Dept, I feel like that is a step backwards but I have no reason to think she can’t do a good job if she has time to grow into the position and puts the
    often irrational hyper-partisian world of politics aside (seems unlikely with Marti).

    Given the poor results/funding ratio in WY (for many reasons like small population in a large geographic area), one wonders how much anyone can actually improve our educational system. Add a leader thrust into the position without a background in management of public schools and better outcomes seem all the more unlikely due to anything going on at the state level. Maybe we should get rid of the position.

  4. One person, one vote? If that’s the case, why are the bosses of a single political party choosing someone to fill an elected public office? The entire idea of having parties make the choice, in smoke filled backrooms, should be ruled unconstitutional.

  5. In a previous WyoFile article Mr. Lubnau advocated for “a process that recognizes the population in each county. Each county should be allocated votes based on its population.” Substitute “state” for “county” and apply that same logic to the Electoral College. Neither of the most recent republican presidents would have served in that role under “one-person one-vote.”

  6. Looking at the comments that these 3 made to CSD my hope that we might, at minimum, get someone who admits that CRT is a strawman have been dashed.

  7. The proposed lawsuit is ridiculous! IF the GOP followed Tom Lubnau’s suggestions, then they WOULD be violating state statutes that lay out a prescribed method for selecting candidates for a vacancy. If Lubnau was so concerned about the process then why didn’t he work to get 8t changed when he was in the legislature? This is just another case of the Frontier Republicans wanting to change the rules because they didn’t get their way!

    1. Bob- a cursory examination of the process used and the ideological pedigree of the three candidayes selcted leaves absolutely no doubt that the Wyoming Repuslican Party has been taken over by extremists such as yourself.

      For those of you who do not know, Bob Ferguson is the Vice Chairman of my own Park County Republican Committee, and trust me on this: radical extremism is the new norm for those folks…

  8. Martin Halverson would be a great choice. She knows the issues better than anyone and has a long history of volunteer work and civic involvement. She was also a very good representative.