Governor's Forum

Economic diversification, regulations on businesses and a state income tax were among the topics discussed at a Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce Forum for Wyoming Gubernatorial candidates Monday morning in Cheyenne.

Candidates included Republicans Foster Friess, Sam Galeotos, Harriet Hageman, Taylor Haynes and Bill Dahlin. Democrat Mary Throne also took part. Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon, a Republican, sent word that he was unable to attend because he was at a legislative committee meeting.

Below is a brief summary of some of the candidate positions on various issues.

Taylor Haynes - Haynes once again laid out his view that Wyoming should take over management of federal lands in Wyoming. He also said the key to diversifying and improving the state economy is to reduce government regulation and the tax burden on business and industry. He said the notion that government jobs improve the economy is false. "Those are government jobs, those are a tax burden," Haynes said. To improve the economy, he said the key is to "cut taxes. You cut regulation, you make things reasonable." Haynes also said it's critical to follow both the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions, and vowed to make that a priority if he is elected governor.

Bill Dahlin - Dahlin, a Sheridan businessman, touted himself as the only candidate for governor who sells coal which he said gives him an insiders understanding of the energy industry. "Wyoming's energy industry faces some challenges. That's my backyard," Dahlin said. On the subject of diversifying Wyoming's economy, Dahlin pointed to hemp farming and associated industries as a major opportunity. He also said that while there has been a fair amount of discussion and effort put into attracting tech industries to the state over the past 20 years, so far tech has mostly failed to become a major player in the Wyoming economy.

Foster Friess - Friess told the crowd his life story was the epitome of the American dream, going from a childhood in a poor family in a small town to "a wealth beyond our belief. My wife and I pinch ourselves sometimes" to make sure their story is real. Friess said many of the skills that helped him accumulate such personal wealth would translate well to the Wyoming Governor's office. He disagreed with Haynes on the issue of taking over federal lands, saying a better approach would be to let the feds take some of the risks and bear some of the costs of those lands while Wyoming industries are able to utilize the lands. He likened it to using an uncle's beach house. "If there is a fire there your uncle has to pay for it, but you still get to use the beach house."

Sam Galeotos - Galeotos, a Cheyenne businessman, recounted his business career, which led him to leave Cheyenne for 20 years before returning 16 years ago. He emphasized government efficiency and prioritization of spending on essentials versus "things that may be nice" but aren't vital. As an example, Galeotos said if elected he would go over the Wyoming budget line by line to weed out non-essential and inefficient spending. He would then take the savings and apply them to paying Wyoming teachers and improving health care. He also said spurring economic growth will mean creating jobs outside of the state's core industries, both for the short term and for future generations.

Harriet Hageman - Hageman, a Cheyenne attorney, said one of her primary reasons for running is "to fight federal overreach." She said that while overzealous federal agencies are a problem across the country, they are especially burdensome to Wyoming. She cited the Environmental Protection Agency as being especially problematic and said her experience as an attorney specializing in natural resource and land use cases battling federal bureaucrats and agencies in court gives her enormous insight into some of those issues. She also called for a widespread review of state spending to find out what services might be better performed by the private sector. Hageman said Wyoming's "legacy industries," including mining, agriculture, and tourism, are the key to economic growth going forward.

Mary Throne - Throne, the only Democrat at the forum, cited her 10 years experience in the state legislature as preparation for the job of being "Governor of all of Wyoming." Like Hageman, Throne has also worked as a natural resource attorney, having dealt with cases in the oil, natural gas, uranium, and trona industries. Throne said of that experience "My background is perfect, and I really consider my energy expertise as something I bring to the table.' Throne cited the difficulty in getting liquor licenses as one of the regulatory burdens that are unnecessarily placed on small businesses in the state. She said those regulations date back to the 1930s in many cases and need to be looked at. She also said technology could have a similar impact on Wyoming's economy to that of electrification in the early 20th century in many parts of the county.

Every candidate at the forum also opposed a state income tax. You can watch a video of the entire forum here.