Ranchers among legislative candidatesWritten by Jennifer Womack
Wheatland’s Randy Stevenson has filed for House District 3 where Kirby Wilson will challenge him on the Republican ticket. Democrat Terry Jones is also seeking the seat.
If elected Stevenson says his focus will remain on small business, which includes agriculture, and the importance of competition. “Since the 1980s there’s been talk about how Wyoming should diversify,” says Stevenson. “Diversification is not just horizontal, it’s vertical. That means not only more types of business, but more people in business in particular segments.”
Stevenson says he’d use his seat in the legislature to educate fellow legislators about the importance of competition in a healthy business environment whether it’s oil and gas or agriculture. He serves as vice president of Billings, Mont.-based Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF USA) and the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), a group Stevenson describes as a think tank. Stevenson says he’d step down as OCM vice president if elected to the legislature, but remain a member of the board. As far as R-CALF USA, he says several of the board members are qualified to take the reins as president of the organization when the current president finishes his term.
There’s the potential to get involved and carry forth some of these ideas to the legislature,” says Stevenson of his work with OCM and R-CALF USA. “It’s not a partisan effort, but an educational effort.”
Ranch manager Tom Walters of Casper announced his plans to run against long-time incumbent and rancher Charlie Scott in Senate District 30. Walters is chairman of the Natrona County Conservation District and vice chairman of the Natrona County Republican Party.
“I would like to see less intrusion by the federal government into the management of Wyoming’s natural resources,” says Walters. “Our economy is suffering from overly burdensome grazing regulations and abuse of the Endangered Species Act by a few environmental groups. I want the folks that rely on the land, that make their living off the land, to have a friendly voice that they can trust in the State Senate.” Walters says he doesn’t take challenging a 30-year incumbent in Scott lightly, but says it’s time to thank Scott for his service and seek a fresh approach and new ideas.
Many incumbents with a presence in Wyoming agriculture have also announced their intentions to seek re-election. Among them is Senate President and Kaycee rancher John Schiffer on the Republican ticket in Senate District 22.
Representative Matt Teeters, Republican, will seek re-election in House District 5. Representative Frank Philp, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, will seek re-election on the Republican ticket in House District 34. In House District 52, writer and rancher Sue Wallis will seek re-election on the Republican ticket. Rancher Lisa Shepperson will seek re-election on the Republican ticket in House District 58.
Wyoming Wool Growers Association Executive Vice President Bryce Reece, who lobbies on behalf of agriculture, says it’s nice to have farmers and ranchers in the legislature as well as those who understand and support the industry. “It’s always helpful to have somebody in the legislature who understands the issues and is accessible so they can carry the message down on the floor.”
Reece says agriculture’s effectiveness in the legislature lies in the quality of legislators who have spoke for the industry, not the numbers. Despite frequent statements to the contrary, he says there really aren’t that many full-time ranchers in the legislature. “We’ve had good people in the legislature who have been able to communicate where agriculture is on an issue,” he explains.
“We need good strong, solid people who have a passion for ag and the livestock industry or for farming and ranching and don’t go down with a lot of pre-conceived notions and their own personal agenda,” says Reece.