Jackson Town Council candidate Devon Viehman said she’s returning the $5,000 campaign contribution she received from Teton County billionaire B. Wayne Hughes Jr. via the Jackson Hope Political Action Committee.
Viehman said she feels returning the donation is the right move, given that Hughes donated only to Republicans in the Town Council and Jackson mayoral races, both nonpartisan contests.
In a Facebook post, Viehman wrote: “As everyone knows, Town Council is a nonpartisan political position, and my goal is to run a nonpartisan campaign. I have been and will continue to run for ALL of the dedicated and passionate members of our community who care deeply about our collective future. As a Town Councilwoman representing all of Jackson Hole’s residents — Republican, Democrat, Independent, Unaffiliated, and others — I will make data-driven decisions that are founded on common sense and common ground, not partisanship.”
In an interview with the News&Guide, Viehman said she was grateful to Hughes, but said: “For me, it’s just really important, since it’s a nonpartisan race, to only take money from truly nonpartisan PACs.”
Returning the donation was no small matter for Viehman’s campaign coffers, as the $5,000 donation represented 36.5% of the $13,700 she had raised as of the Aug. 11 reporting deadline before the Aug. 18 primary; the Jackson Realtor was third in the race. Former educator Jim Rooks led the council race in the primary, with 35.3% of the vote, while current Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon came in second, with 30.2%, followed by Viehman, who garnered 26.2%.
Meanwhile, Rooks, who also received the maximum $5,000 campaign donation from the Jackson Hope PAC, along with the maximum $1,500 personal donation from Hughes, said he plans to keep the money. Rooks, though, explained that he knows Hughes and has no qualms about Hughes’ decision to support only Republicans.
“Wayne and Molly Hughes are dear, close personal friends of ours, and I’m thrilled to have their support,” Rooks said. “They know that I am a centrist candidate, and they know that they are not giving me money with any strings attached.
“They’re amazing people, and I think it’s unfortunate that, just because they’re politically active, I think they’re being demonized a little bit.”
Mayoral candidate Michael Kudar, a consultant who is running against current Councilor Hailey Morton Levinson, also received the maximum donations from the Jackson Hope PAC and Hughes, $5,000 and $1,500. Kudar, who is registered nonpartisan, meaning he is not directly affiliated with any political party, said Tuesday that he also intends to keep the campaign contribution.
Though he doesn’t personally know Hughes, Kudar said: “My campaign appreciates any amount, whether it’s $10 or a maximum individual contribution of $1,500.”
Kudar added that he is “humbled” by the Jackson Hope PAC’s and Hughes’ donations “because it tells me you believe in my mission, my values and my principles.”
Jackson Hope PAC Manager Amy Larimer Milczewski implied that the decisions to donate to Republicans in the nonpartisan council races wasn’t solely based upon their party affiliations, as Kudar is not registered with a party affiliation.
“We see in Michael Kudar the character and leadership of someone like [former Wyoming U.S. Sen.]Al Simpson, who tells it straight and walks his talk,” said Larimer Milczewski, who has deep roots in Jackson and is a 1994 Jackson Hole High School graduate, in a text message. “We like candidates with common sense and are Wyoming through and through — that gives everyone hope!”
As for Rooks, Larimer Milczewski texted, “Jimbo Rooks is the best of the best. Everyone knows, loves and respects him for uniting and embodying real leadership for JH and the people who love it here.”