By Mike Koshmrl, WyoFile.com
The 66th Wyoming Legislature was made up of 79 Republicans, nine Democrats and just two members from a minor party or with no party ties.
One of those was Rep. Marshall Burt (L-Green River), a Libertarian from Sweetwater County. Then, seated in the corner of the House floor, there was Rep. Jim Roscoe (I-Wilson), the Legislature’s only independent.
After two terms in the Legislature (2009 to 2012 and 2019 to the present), Roscoe declined to run again and is on his way out.
Despite losing its only independent, there’s a chance the soon-to-be 93-member Wyoming Legislature will pick up additional minor party and/or unaffiliated elected officials.
Voters around the Equality State will find seven independents, seven Libertarians and three Constitution Party candidates on their general election ballots — the highest number of minor-party and unaffiliated candidates in a quarter of a century.
One of those candidates is Bob Strobel, an independent who’s on the ballot to replace Roscoe in House District 22. He’s up against Andrew Byron, a moderate Republican candidate whom the Wyoming GOP voted to financially support.
House District 22 is an amalgamation of disparate swaths of Wyoming. It includes super-wealthy, left-leaning Wilson and other southern swaths of Jackson Hole. Its southernmost reaches are another world: more-centrist Hoback Junction is part of the district, and so is right-leaning northern Star Valley, home to working ranches and small communities like Alpine, parts of Etna and Star Valley Ranch. Bondurant and Daniel Junction used to be included, but redistricting recently changed that. The northwest portion of Sublette County was lopped off because the population slipped and the district now stops at the Sublette County line.
Byron, who has self-identified as a “super moderate” Republican, is a Hoback Junction resident, real estate agent and volunteer firefighter who unsuccessfully ran for a Teton County Board of County Commission seat in 2018. Byron has received $2,500 from the Wyoming Realtors PAC and the Wyoming Republican Party voted to send him another $2,000 at its central committee’s September meeting.
At an Oct. 11 debate in Wilson, Byron said he did not ask for Wyoming GOP funding and that he hasn’t seen it. “I wonder if that check ever will arrive, because I’ve come out as a very moderate Republican,” Byron said. “I have a large issue with the former president.”
Though running as an independent, Strobel has historically identified as a “Republican classic” kind of guy, he said at the Wilson debate.
The newcomer to politics and resident of Etna has a techy, entrepreneurial background, having founded a webcam website, SeeJH.com, and the brick-and-mortar store, Jackson Hole Computer Clinic. He’s trailing Byron in funding, having raised only $1,800, according to the secretary of state’s website. Outgoing representative Roscoe has thrown his support behind Strobel, who struck the same tone as Byron on many issues while the two debated, whether it was local control over land-use planning, public land policy or abortion — both are pro-choice.
What to watch for:
There’s not a lot separating Byron and Strobel ideologically or in terms of policy positions, and their parallels might make for a close race in House District 22. Byron has said as much, telling the Jackson Hole News&Guide their similarities “might be difficult for both of us.”