Christian Beckwith has received less attention from a major donor and the Teton County GOP than other members of his party and some nonpartisan candidates vying for similar seats.
“I don’t have any understanding of why I haven’t been included,” Beckwith told the News&Guide. “I’d be very interested in knowing why.”
Beckwith, a climber and the founder of the SHIFT Festival, is running for a seat on the Teton County Board of County Commissioners as a registered Republican but was not invited to the Teton County GOP’s Aug. 17 forum for “common sense candidates.” He also did not receive a campaign contribution from Jackson billionaire and Republican donor B. Wayne Hughes Jr., as four other candidates with conservative leanings did.
Hughes funded a statewide political action committee, Wyoming Hope, that made $5,000 donations to 21 Republican Wyoming House and Senate candidates facing primary challenges from the right, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Four candidates for local office received the forum invitation and $5,000 or more from the billionaire, although three of those candidates are not formally aligned with the GOP. The four candidates are marketing and public relations consultant Peter Long, consultant Michael Kudar, real estate agent Devon Viehman and former social studies teacher Jim Rooks.
Long is running as a Republican for a County Commission seat. Kudar is running for mayor, and Viehman and Rooks for Jackson Town Council. The town races are nonpartisan, but those three candidates, like Long, were invited to the forum. All four also received $5,000 from Hughes’ political action committee, Jackson Hope, and Hughes bestowed three of the four candidates additional individual contributions of $1,500. Donations of $5,000 and $1,500 are the maximum contributions allowed from PACs and individuals.
Kudar has said he is opposed to new taxes, Viehman told the News&Guide in March that she has been a Republican her “whole life,” and Rooks has branded himself a “fiscal conservative.”
Asked why Beckwith wasn’t included in the August forum, Alex Muromcew, chairman of the Teton County GOP, said “he should have been” and that he would be included in party events in the future, including a virtual meet and greet Thursday.
“A lot of what we’re doing is going to be smaller candidate meet-and-greet events,” Muromcew told the News&Guide. “All of the candidates will be invited.”
Hughes, in a statement provided by a spokesperson, did not elaborate on why he did not give to Beckwith.
Beckwith declared his candidacy as a Republican and has described himself as a “Captain Bob Republican” in reference to the late, perennial candidate Bob Morris, who described himself as fiscally conservative but socially moderate or progressive.
Dick Aurelio had another word for that label: a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.”
“They’re sensitive to social issues and supportive of social issues but careful with fiscal policy,” Aurelio said. “I think that’s where Christian is. He’s pro-environment, he’s for responsible growth but not crazy growth, and he’s mindful of a budget.”
Aurelio is not a Republican and ran for County Commission as a Democrat in 2018. But the former politico said he did so in part because, as a conservationist with views similar to Beckwith’s, he was trying to figure out “where do I fit in?”
Beckwith filed when only one other Republican, Long, had declared his intent to run for County Commission. Primary rules allow the top two highest vote-getters in the Democratic and Republican contests for that board to move on when two seats are open. So, with only one spot taken on the Republican ticket when Beckwith filed, both candidates would have advanced — and did in August.
Beckwith said he’s a registered Republican who didn’t make “a strategic decision” about filing and doesn’t care about ideology.
“I’m not running to push an ideology or subscribe to some sort of identity politics,” Beckwith said. “I’m in it for this place.”