Local elected officials, a Teton County billionaire and executives at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort all participated in the August primary by funding candidates seeking town, county and state seats.
County Commissioner Mark Barron, a Republican, was the most fiscally engaged local official, doling out a total of $1,150 to five candidates.
“Some I’m obviously very much supporting,” Barron told the News&Guide. “Others — they’re good people and financial support is helpful.”
Three people who received Barron’s support, Republican Peter Long, who also received his endorsement, and incumbent Democrats Natalia D. Macker and Greg Epstein, will be his colleagues on the Teton County Board of County Commissioners if they win in November. Two seats are up for reelection.
Mayoral hopeful Michael Kudar and Jackson Town Council candidate Devon Viehman, the other two candidates who Barron supported, would partner with him from the Town Council. The two boards collaborate on joint planning issues like housing and transportation.
But Barron was far from the only person, elected or otherwise, to invest in the largely uncontested primary. All but one candidate, Town Council write-in Jennifer Ford, advanced to the Nov. 3 general, while the whole slate of candidates for town, county and state offices received just north of $170,000 by the Aug. 11 campaign finance filing deadline.
Mayor Pete Muldoon, running for town council, contributed $50 to Vice Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson’s mayoral campaign. District 16 Rep. Mike Yin, who is running for re-election, contributed $200 to Commission Chair Natalia D. Macker’s re-election bid.
Ted Staryk, owner of Snake River Brewing and a Jackson Hole Working board member, sent $1,000 to Epstein and Macker.
Mary Kate Buckley, the president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and Jay Kemmerer, the resort’s owner, each contributed $500 to Epstein’s campaign.
In a statement, Buckley said she supported Epstein because “he has a strong track record as a Teton County Commissioner, and he is dedicated to our community.” She pointed to his work in support of Teton County’s last minute 2020 BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) Transportation Discretionary Grant application, which, if approved, would see the feds pay for a number of transportation projects in Teton County.
“Commissioner Epstein’s support in this project spanned partisanship and created the momentum to approve the project,” Buckley wrote. “That’s the kind of leadership that we need.”
Teton County billionaire B. Wayne Hughes Jr. also sunk at least $24,500 into town and county races, giving to candidates individually and through a political action committee, the Jackson Hope PAC. Hughes generally maxed out the amount he was able to contribute to each candidate: $1,500 as an individual, and $5,000 through the political action committee.
Elsewhere in the state, the billionaire cut $5,000 checks to Republican Wyoming House and Senate candidates facing challenges from right-wing opponents, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. He has penned missives lamenting the decline of civility in the country.
“We need common sense solutions and candidates with real leadership who promote a responsible and sustainable future for our community,” Hughes wrote in a statement provided to the News&Guide by a spokesperson. “In an age where division is promoted as the new normal, Jackson’s future rests in the election of candidates that know, love and respect our citizens and our culture.”
Hughes supported Long and three other candidates: Kudar, Viehman and former social studies teacher Jim Rooks, who is running for Town Council. Rooks has described himself as a “fiscal conservative,” Viehman told the News&Guide in March that she has been a Republican her “whole life,” and Kudar has said he opposes new taxes like the seventh penny sales tax, which is on the ballot in November.
Viehman, according to filings, was the only candidate Hughes gave to who did not receive an additional $1,500 individual contribution on top of the $5,000 doled out from the Jackson Hope PAC.
Christian Beckwith and Bill Winney, Republicans running for County Commission and Wyoming House, respectively, did not receive Hughes’ support.