Teton County candidates for Wyoming Legislature raised significant amounts of cash heading into Tuesday’s general election. The race for Senate District 17 netted more money than any other Senate contest.
Democrat Mike Gierau raised $25,480 to Republican Kate Mead’s $17,700. While Republicans generally raised more money than their Democratic opponents in Wyoming, Gierau outraised all candidates for a state Senate seat. Mead raised the fourth-most, Wyoming Secretary of State reports show.
Gierau’s top donors included $1,500 each from Pete Jorgensen and Tom Evans. He also took funds from political action committees: the Wyoming Rural Electric Association PAC ($250), Wyoming Education Association PAC ($200), Cigna PAC ($250), United Transportation PAC ($500), Wyoming Hospital Association PAC ($500), Wyoming Public Employees Association PAC ($1,000), Lawyers Active in Wyoming PAC ($500) and Federated Firefighters of Wyoming PAC ($500).
Mead’s top donors included $1,500 each from Virginia Elkins, Neal Manne and Nancy McGregor, and $1,000 each from Dunham F. Jewett and Muffy Ferro. She also received funds from PACs including Pfizer PAC ($100), Common Values PAC ($250), Wyoming Realtors ($500), Wyoming Stock Growers Ag PAC ($200) and Wyoming State Senate Republican Conference PAC ($500).
In the race for House District 22, incumbent Republican Marti Halverson brought in $31,048, making her the third-highest fundraiser for a state house seat. Challenger Jim Roscoe, an Independent, raised $18,449 (the sixth-highest total in races for state House).
Halverson accepted $14,000 from the Lincoln County Republican Party Central Committee and more cash from other Republican groups. She also received $1,500 from Susan Gore, a Cheyenne resident whose family founded the company that invented Gore-Tex fabric.
Gore has pumped millions of her personal wealth into political activities and nonprofit groups that speak loudly in the Legislature and on the campaign trail, according to WyoFile. Her staff had a role in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed corporations, unions, and certain nonprofits to ramp up their political spending, WyoFile reported.Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, an outdoor retailer known for selling Gore-Tex products, put money on Independent candidate Roscoe. Yvon, Malinda, Elizabeth and Fletcher Chouinard contributed a total of $5,000.
Roscoe also received $150 from Republican Alex Muromcew, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Andy Schwartz for House District 23. Muromcew raised $16,510 (ninth-highest total in races for state House) compared to Schwartz’s $10,725 (the 19th-highest). Schwartz’s list of donors includes many longtime locals giving $25 to $250.
Muromcew pledged in a press release to refuse industry and corporate PAC money, although he did accept $100 from Common Values, a Republican PAC chaired by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso. Most of Muromcew's donations, $15,750, came from individuals, including several individual donations of $1,000 to $1,500 each. Many of the donors have addresses from California and the East Coast.
“Many of the contributions that appear to come from out-of-state do come from people who have second homes in Teton County,” Muromcew said.
Muromcew said he was refusing PAC money because “it just raises the possibility of conflict of interest.” Muromcew questioned Schwartz’s acceptance of PAC money from the Wyoming Mining Association and Cigna.
Schwartz said he worked with the mining association on legislation related to a medical insurance fund for miners, and the bulk of donations came from Wyoming’s working class like teachers. He received $600 from the Wyoming Education Association PAC and $500 each from the Workers’ Help in Politics, Lawyers Active in Wyoming PAC and Wyoming Public Employees Association PAC.
“They give this money because they respect the work I do as a legislator,” Schwartz said. “They know they’re not purchasing my vote.”
In the race for House District 16, Republican Barbara Allen raised $14,350 to Democrat Mike Yin’s $13,450.
Allen’s top individual donors included Shirley and Ed Cheramy at $2,000 each, $1,250 each from Don and Judy Opatrny, $1,000 from Viesia Kirk, Jerry Kirk and Brett McPeak. Other donors included Clarene Law, Ruth Ann Petroff and Jim Darwiche.
Of Yin’s total, $1,158 were in-kind donations. Top donors included $1,000 each from Winnie Tan and Alfred Yin. Yin received $1,000 from Wyoming Education Association PAC, $500 from the United Transportation Union PAC, $250 from Workers Help in Politics PAC and $75 from NARAL pro-choice PAC. Other donors included Gierau, Mark Newcomb and Hank Phibbs.