State candidates split on focus in speeches
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
June 22, 2012
Ruth Ann Petroff, an incumbent running for the GOP nomination in House District 16, said she would work to improve the climate for small businesses.
Her challenger, Bob Biolchini, railed against the federal government and said he would work to protect Wyoming’s rights as a member of the state’s legislature.
They laid out their positions Tuesday at a Jackson Hole Tea Party forum held at The Virginian Lodge. The event drew six out of nine Jackson Town Council candidates, five state house candidates, four Teton County Commission candidates, the lone Jackson mayoral candidate and a U.S. Senate contestant.
Petroff and Biolchini are the only two candidates engaged in a contested state race.
Petroff said she would push legislation that offers sales tax exemptions to small and new businesses looking to spend capital on improvements. She would fight to keep taxes low in Wyoming, she said.
Petroff also touted her background as a small businesswoman and a “turnaround artist,” citing her experience helping various Domino’s Pizza franchises around the country. Petroff formerly owned the Domino’s in Jackson.
“Only in Wyoming can a pizza girl get elected,” she said. But that’s what residents want, Petroff added. “We want a citizen legislature.”
Challenger Biolchini said the federal government was “out of control.” The Wyoming Legislature should be the first defense against its abuses, he said.
“America is sick” because of too much spending, the country has “an ineffective Congress,” and “a president with narcissistic personality disorder,” he said.
“Money should stay in the hands of those who earned it, where it belongs,” Biolchini said. “Decreasing taxes and fees will increase job growth.”
The three candidates running in uncontested Senate and House races, Republicans Dan Dockstader, Keith Gingery and Marti Halverson, also spoke, but kept their speeches short.
Six of the nine candidates running for the two open seats in the crowded town council race spoke. Three candidates could not attend but had representatives read written speeches.
The speeches highlighted candidates’ backgrounds or stuck to policies they have already espoused.
“There wasn’t a lot of new ground or significant differentiation,” Tea Party board member Ed Cheramy said Thursday of the town candidates’ speeches. “People were feeling their way through the season’s first election event.”
County commission candidates also did not branch out significantly at the event.
Democrats Melissa Turley and Claire Fuller and Republican Barbara Allen and incumbent Paul Perry, also a Republican, all spoke.
All four candidates in the commissioners race will advance to the general election fight for two seats.
“I don’t think we’re going to hear a lot from the county candidates until after the primary,” Cheramy said.
Mayor Mark Barron, who is running uncontested, cited his track record with leading the town through economically difficult times.
U.S. Senate candidate Emmett Mavy spoke last and used his five minutes to talk about his life in Jackson. He said he would work to promote energy independence and fiscal responsibility if elected.
Roughly 100 people attended the event, Jackson Hole Tea Party members estimated.