Members of Wyoming’s Senate during the legislative session on March 19, 2021. (Katie Klingsporn/WyoFile)

Opinion

The end of the legislative session marks the beginning of election season, and we are already seeing the signs of coming campaigns. The first political advertisements are emerging online. Aspiring candidates and incumbents are making noise as they evaluate whether to run or run again. As we enter into this season, we all should take a moment to reflect on what we need and require of our public officials. 

Our public officials represent more than just how they vote. They also reflect the values of the community. How they interact with others, the issues they make priorities, what they do in their personal lives and their ethics — all of these are important in demonstrating what we as a community consider acceptable and important. When we cast votes for particular candidates, we are making a statement about how we want to order our society and write our laws. We are also making a statement about the type of person we value and the conduct we want to see in leaders. These coming months are the time for us to think seriously about those statements.

There are two main criteria that Wyoming voters should focus on this election cycle. 

The first is competency. Many of our officials run for office because they believe they can do something meaningful through government service. They volunteer to wrestle with the tough decisions and make Wyoming a better place. Unfortunately, some politicians run for other reasons. These individuals want to use their position to make a statement about a pet issue or wield their influence to drag down those who disagree with them. In almost all cases, those who run for the wrong reasons also lack the competency to seriously address the issues facing the state. We need leaders who can understand complex topics, weigh competing interests and ideas and make hard decisions. People who are excessively focused on a pet issue rarely possess those skills. 

We may agree with their political stances, but if they cannot perform their duties, they should not be in office.

We as voters need to understand that we elect people for their judgment, not for their ability to act as a mouthpiece. Our elected officials have to be able to digest information, weigh it and make an informed decision. They must be willing to change their mind based on new information. Perhaps most importantly, they must be capable of actually performing the job they were elected to do. We may agree with their political stances, but if they cannot perform their duties, they should not be in office. It is up to us to hold them accountable for doing the whole job they were elected to do.

The second main criteria that Wyoming voters should focus on is civility. 

The most recent legislative session provided a sobering picture of the current state of civility in Wyoming politics. We saw elected officials being expelled from meetings for refusing to follow rules; another losing his committee seats as a result of a long pattern of poor behavior; allegations of physical threats and assaults (some substantiated, others proven false); online squabbling and personal attacks; and, even beyond what was seen in public, an all-around environment that we in Wyoming should be ashamed of. 

It used to go without saying, but we apparently must say it explicitly now: We as voters have to seriously consider whether those we put in office are worth our trust and votes. If they engage in bullying behavior, physically assault or threaten to assault others or otherwise show us that their actions do not fit our values, they are not worthy of our trust. They are not worthy of public office. Character matters. It is up to us — the voters — to vote them out of office. There is no excuse for treating others with a lack of civility and respect. We can disagree, even on big issues, and still treat each other with a basic level of courtesy.

The most difficult part of our job as voters is matching our ideas with our actions. We can tell ourselves that we value civility and competency, but we must also be willing to cast our votes based on those ideas. When we see that our public officials are unable to do their jobs well — even if we personally like them — we must vote them out. When we see that our public officials lack the quality of character to treat others well or to behave ethically — even when we agree with their political stances — we must vote them out. 

Failing to match our votes with our values sends a clear message that our values do not really matter. We must hold our public officials accountable, and that starts with holding ourselves accountable.

Khale Lenhart

Cheyenne attorney Khale Lenhart is a former chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party. He can be reached at khale.lenhart@gmail.com

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  1. Many years ago whenI was growing up in Cheyenne and attend McCormick Jr. High and Central High School when they were just a few blocks or a short walk from the Capitol building when I attended Central High School instead of taking the school bus home to my house on Willshire Blvd during the legislative sessions I would walk to the Capitol building and tell my Mother I was there and she would taken home with her after she finished her duties for the day as secretary for a Dr. James who was head of the special gifted students office located in then anteroom of the House of Representatives just outside the Gallery where the public and other could sit and listen as then People business took placeW. While most was mundane, simple debate, some decisions and votes, and an occasional loud speaker trying to drive home a particular point the business was carried out with civil and a general respect for all inside the chamber. I had then honer one day of sitting through a rather blusterous debate when a bill was being discussed as to wether a section would have a single word changed from or to and. The two representatives were passionate in defense of their objections and reasons. The debate lasted some 30 minutes and to be honest I could not remember if the bill was ever changed.
    But it taught me a valuable lesson, words matter and how we use them and interpret them is also extremely important. This was a giddy time in Wyoming’s History as in early 70’s the Power River Basin was quickly become the main source of low sulfur coal needed for a quickly expanding need for large coal fire power plants being built all across this state and nation. But there we’re som, even in that time that understood, that this boondoggle would not last forever and we must plan for the day so of course they pushed for a permanent fund where only then interest could be used for state funding and a portion of coal royalties had to be paid into the fund. Well this day have come and gone and we find our selves now facing closing mines leaving thousands unpaid and without benefits. Bankruptcys of coal companies that left millions of unpaid royalties to the state and even though millions have been spent on economic diversification of the state’s economy these recommendations have either been put on the back burner or completely ignored. I had the pleasure to return to the House and Senate galleries over the course of the last several legislature sessions and listen to the those who seem to be more concerned about ideology and fixing things that are not broken then solving immediate problems. A clear example of this is the desire to keep then coal coming from the ground for power production and invest in carbon capture. Then take the carbon dioxide byproduct and pump it into the ground. through our slowly disappearing aquifers and other undergound water resources to extra oil and gas. To turn out underground waters in seltzer waters that will eat and grow into giant sources of even higher grains of carbonates in our water. We are state unlike other that contain the rare earths and other needed compounds and for a truly great conversion to make a better cleaner world. We having discussions on a nuclear power plant using uranium, with all it’s toxic waste that even today we has a country still have not solved, when instead wen should be building thorium reactors with a much less dangerous byproducts fewer of them. In my several times I have testified before committees on subject I subjects I know about and have a passion for, it was clear that the big bucks from the corporate lobbyist have more weight then those who have to handle the aftermath of the corporate decisions that are made for the profit and not the safety of the people who carry out that job and the fact that they care little about the impact if their decisions where public safety is involved may be effected in a accident. It’s clear there are some in the House and Senate are simple out to fight culture wars and are not concerned with what’s best for those they. WE can fix this the question do we really care to care to fix it or are we dead set to become the West Virginia west of then Mississippi?

  2. “Give me Liberty or give me Death” – Patrick Henry

    Surely we all value the liberty to be let alone, free from unnecessary regulation that does not serve a compelling government interest in the name of the people.

    In that vein, my pet project has come about by the under-inclusive, unjust law that is the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act. There’s a lot more at stake than meets the eye.

    Protecting people from harming themselves seems a laudable goal, but, why not include alcohol and tobacco? Does their explicit exclusion without a rational and objective basis, fairly related to the object of regulation, not render a neutral, general law suddenly non-uniform contrary to Article 1 Section 34 of the Wyoming Constitution: “All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation”?

    How is it uniform to make two separate systems for dealing with “drugs” with a “potential for abuse”? Did this not sever the natural class to which the law applied?

    But you may say there’s a longstanding “tradition and tolerance” of the use of alcohol and tobacco to alter mental functioning. Is that “tradition” not arbitrary? Why not cocaine and heroin instead of alcohol and tobacco? Was their ‘get out of dodge clause’ for the drugs they prefer as against the drugs “traditionally” preferred by minorities not absolutely arbitrary?

    And, is this not contrary to Article 1 Section 7 of the Wyoming Constitution where it says: “Absolute, arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority”?

    Is it not a majoritarian abuse of power to carve out exceptions in the black letters of the law for the drugs to which the legislators, the lobbyists orient, the drugs they prefer?

    Could it be right that for one plant, cannabis, one loses their liberty, and, yet, for another, tobacco, they’re “liberty sticks;” for, that is the moniker under which women found the power to smoke tobacco?

    And, why smoke tobacco and drink alcohol except to alter one’s mental processes? Is this not freedom of thought?

    And, why prohibit the people the ability to use so called “controlled drugs” except to prevent them from experiencing those states of mind? Does this not deny freedom of thought to them? If this so be the purpose of the Controlled Substances Act, then here we have mind kontrol. And, most of the people have been duped until now.

    “It’s OK to alter one’s mental functioning with these drugs but not those drugs.” Does this not infringe one’s right to freedom of thought?

    I call this principle Cognitive Liberty, the right to alter one’s own mental functioning by any means of stimuli, including drugs, provided no harm to others results, for which laws already exist.

    You see being locked up for drugs and fighting for one’s liberty gives one a solid sense of our constitutional order. Contrary to the slander that I am just some druggie, an embarrassment to Wyoming, I’m a constitutionalist libertarian striving for the realization of our highest ideals, our right to be let alone.

    I have more than once lost my fundamental liberties to the arbitrary, non-uniform, majoritarian abuse of power, called the Controlled Substances Act.

    And, since fundamental rights to liberty, physical and mental, be on the table, the burden flips to the State to justify the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act, which they couldn’t even speak about in a court of law for fear that the trap of absurdity would spring open on them as they attempt spurious justifications after the fact for a law that has raped human dignity, stolen untold lives, deprived generations of children of their parents, corrupted the police and politicians at all levels, and, all because they prefer drugs the majority didn’t when they wrote that racist, class legislation into being.

    So, as I run for Congress as Representative for the Great State of Wyoming, with my pet project on full display, spare me the incivility of calling me a druggie and approach my arguments head on. You’d be doing more that the Attorney General was willing to do. For the record, here’s the Supreme Court public docket:

    https://efiling.courts.state.wy.us/public/caseView.do?csIID=27253

    -fiat lux!

    Casey William Hardison

    1. Mr. Hardison: Actually, there is much more reason to outlaw tobacco and alcohol given the immense damage they do to individuals and society as a whole.

      Society tried outlawing alcohol with disastrous results. Society then tried outlawing pot, heroin, hallucinogens, etc. with equally disastrous results.

      You mention in your post what the problem is: the rich and powerful are OK with tobacco and alcohol use, regardless of the great damage they cause. They are not OK with these other drugs you refer to unless you’re some rich dude peddling oxycontin to the rubes.

  3. “One May smile and smile and be a villain.”

    The public’s responsibility is to know who they are voting for, not just picking a party. There is a big difference behind every R on the ballot, and the public should have a way of discerning between them. republicans anymore.
    If they are so big about name calling moderates as RINO’s they should do a real service to party members by identifying the varying ideologies in the party abs which candidates align with which ideology. That would be productive and healthy for the party but it is transparent, and transparency scares the central Republican Party. It defeats their tactic of misinformation as their number one strategy in winning elections. Maybe the moderates in the party could push this idea forwArd and provide voters with that type of information?

  4. It used to be common sense that electing the right person for the job is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t very common these days. Instead our public discourse has become “common” in the sense of coarse remarks rather than true conversation, rudeness masquerading as political horse sense, and uncouth manners lauded as rallying points. None of which serves our state.

    I would love to see Wyoming as a shining beacon, to illustrate to our nation that people can disagree without being disagreeable. IF we elect those who have maturity, humility, patience and an ability to see the bigger picture, those who can discern whether their actions further the cause of democracy or harm it, we will be giant leaps ahead. We love our rights, yes, but these only exist if we bear our responsibilities as well – – like taking a good, hard look at the candidates.

  5. Elected officials need to “listen” to the citizens that elected them.
    I have been watching Liz Cheney on the internet.
    The people of Wyoming elected her.
    Is she listening to them?
    I was born in Wyoming and live now in Arizona.
    Paul Gosar is my congressman.
    His family needs to follow what you called: “civility”
    Just my 2 cents worth.

    1. The Gosar who is from Wyoming (Pete) is very competent and quite civil. He ran for Governor a few elections back. Was chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party. Nice guy . Smart. His day job was piloting the State airplanes. Used to be a teacher in Pinedale.

      The Gosar from your Arizona ? — Paul — his nine siblings have all but disowned the guy. Five of them very publically so. They want him thrown out of Congress. Civilly , of course. And competently. No bruises or permanent scars or disfigurements…

      1. Paul Gosar is most uncivil. He posted a cartoon of him killing another US Congressional Delegate. Words matter