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Wyo GOP selects three superintendent candidates despite lawsuit threat

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow waves during the Central Wyoming Fair & Rodeo Parade in Casper on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

UPDATE: A lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming. The 16 plaintiffs from various political party backgrounds include: John B. “Jack” Sprieght, Rex Arney, Robin Hurless, Christopher O. Boswell, Tamsin Johnson, Doug Camblin, Tom Lubnau, Anne Ladd, Kathy Vetter, Steve Simonton, Dan Neal, George Simonton and Gail Symons. Former lawmakers Charles Pelkey, Ruth Ann Petroff and David Northup signed on as well. Northrup was among the applicants the committee did not select on Saturday. The suit names Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne, the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee and Gov. Mark Gordon as defendants. —Ed.

 Maggie Mullen, WyoFile

Despite the threat of legal actionthe Wyoming GOP selected three candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction at its Central Committee meeting on Saturday. Now, process skeptics have said they will file a lawsuit in federal district court asking the judge to rule whether the voting process used over the weekend was unconstitutional, and to prevent Gov. Mark Gordon from choosing a replacement until the Central Committee complies. 

  • History: Two days before the Central Committee met in Douglas for its meeting, Campbell County Committeeman Tom Lubnau sent a letter calling on the Republican party to use a different voting process than what was tentatively planned. Instead of every county getting three votes, Lubnau urged Eathorne to use a different process that would more accurately reflect each county’s population. Otherwise, Lubnau said the process would violate the United States and Wyoming Constitutional provision of “one-person, one-vote.” On Saturday, no such changes were made to the voting process and each county was given three votes — one for each county’s state committeeman, state committeewoman and party chair. 
  • Who said what: At Saturday’s meeting, Eathorne told WyoFile he had not yet seen Lubnau’s letter, but confirmed he was aware of the allegations. He also pointed to “decades of precedent,” and said he did not expect changes to be made to the three-votes-per-county process. During the party’s discussion, Eathorne told the room “this is not an election,” and because of that, “the rules don’t apply here,” in regard to the Constitution.  
  • Why it matters: Former Superintendent Jillian Balow resigned earlier this month to accept a similar job in Virginia. Because Balow was elected as a Republican, the Wyoming GOP was charged with selecting three candidates for Gov. Mark Gordon to choose from. Gordon’s pick will finish out Balow’s term ending in January 2023. 
  • What else you need to know: The three candidates selected on Saturday include Brian Schroeder, Sr., Marti Halverson and Thomas Kelly. Halverson is a former member of the Wyoming House of Representatives, while Schroeder and Kelly have experience in education, as was reported by the Casper Star-Tribune. The Wyoming Republican Party declined WyoFile’s requests to provide the applications the candidates submitted. 
  • Next up: If process opponents deliver the promised lawsuit, a federal judge will decide whether the GOP violated the “one person-one vote” principle of the United States and Wyoming Constitution. How the timing of the lawsuit will complicate or halt matters completely is unclear. At least one candidate is set to meet with Gov. Gordon as early as Tuesday.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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