U.S. Senate candidate Donna Rice speaks at the Washington Park August 3. Pictured right from Rice is Robert Short and Cynthia Lummis. (Oil City Staff)

CASPER, Wyo — 8 Republican candidates to take over retiring Mike Enzi’s U.S. Senate met at the Politics in the Park candidate forum in Washington Park Monday, August 3 . Voting is currently open in Natrona County for the Republican primary to be decided August 18. The winner will go on to face the Democratic Nominee in the November general election.

Devin Cade and Michael Kemler were the only candidates not in attendence.

Balancing the federal budget and paying off the national debt was a major theme, and cuts were a common solution.

Bryan Miller said there were too many redundancies in Washington administration and the regulatory entities should be brought back to the state level.

Robert Short said reinvesting in energy domestically could reduce costly foreign wars and engagements.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis said the main drivers of national debt were Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and that her attempts to reform the institutions while serving in U.S. House were killed. She said the institutions would go broke without reform.

Casper business owner and Army veteran Josh Wheeler emphatically responded saying Social Security was not an entitlement. “We paid into it,” he said. He told Oil City News before the event that he a plan to reform social security into a co-op model and that he would make it a crime for Congress to spend any of the principal pool of payments on anything other than health care.

R. Mark Armstrong said the budget started getting out of control when America went off the gold standard. He added America should get away from “baseline” budgeting and go to a “ performance-based, zero-sum budget,” so that government agencies were responsible for “every dime they spend.”

John Holtz said that rampant inflation was in America’s future unless the budget was brought under control.

Star Roselli said “defunding” the United Nations and foreign aid were among the immediate cuts to be made.

Donna Rice said the key to attracting larger industries was to first make sure that small businesses could succeed. “When Main Street America is healthy and providing for the needs of their community, the entire economy is affected.”

Lummis said trade that federal tax policy picked winners and losers in the energy industry by providing tax credits for certain forms of energy while penalizing fossil fuels. “That’s absolutely backwards and we need to change that.” She also said regulations needed to be rolled back so that rare earth minerals could be extracted in the U.S. rather than China.

Support for President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was heard. 

“I give president Trump high marks for his response,” said Lummis, noting Trump’s travel bans in February. “In addition, he recognized that… every state needs to deal with this issue according to the situation on the ground in each state.”

Robert Short said the federal government’s role was to support the states in their individual pandemic plans.  “What we should not do is cripple business to fight a pandemic,” but added that officials shouldn’t ignore the impact of COVID-19 on elderly and high-risk populations.

Armstrong took issue with fact that appointed, unelected officials like state and federal health officers were able to write policies that included legal penalties for those who violated orders. “We need to stop letting bureaucrats write law,” he said.

Strategies for keeping Wyoming’s oil, gas, and coal industries vital were also heard. Wyoming and Montana are currently suing the state of Washington over that’s state’s denial of permit for a coal terminal that would allow export of Wyoming coal overseas. Armstrong said the holdup represented a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Miller and Wheeler agreed with enforcing the Commerce Clause for all of Wyoming’s exports. Wheeler went further, saying “Shut off their power. They want to continue to block our coal? ‘Whoops, we tripped over the switch.’ I know that sounds a little mean but it actually happened in the Southern states. One of the states was having issues and they shut off the power to California. Shortly after that the problem was fixed. If we shut off the power to Washington state and Oregon, I think our coal will make it to the Asian countries that it needs to.”

Lummis added that America needed a strategic reserve of uranium. “Right now less than 1% of the uranium that we consume in the United States is produced in the United States.”

Armstrong  said the U.S. Department of Agriculture was a burden on Wyoming’s way of life. “They won’t let us graze cattle, they won’t let us log trees that are dead and dying from beetle kill, they change mandatory country-of-origin labeling on a whim, [and] the packing industry is a monopoly that pushes so hard against our ranches.” He said the solution was to appoint a new USDA director.

Armstrong also said that the National Environmental Policy Act needed to be rewritten, saying it attacks ranchers, fossil fuel industries and rural ways of life. “As a geologist, engineer and environmental scientist I understand it very well… and I think I’m the best guy to stop them.” He added: “Let’s get a hold of the hoax known as ‘climate variance’ and make sure we do good science.”

Expansion of nuclear energy and uranium mining got the nod from several candidates, including Armstrong and Roselli.

Several candidates expressed their ideas for expanding industrial opportunities for Wyoming.

Wheeler said that Wyoming was ripe to attract to hemp manufacturers. “Why don’t we have the people that who extract the CBD, make the shirts, make the clothing, make all the wonderful things that this plant can do here?”

Roselli also said she wanted to pass the PRIME (Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act) Act. “I want to see the slaughterhouses be in Wyoming, I want to see state inspectors, not federal inspectors, and we can rewrite our Constitution if need be to get this done.”

Short told Oil City News at the event that Wyoming was a prime testing ground for expanding the use of drones in industry, including agriculture. He said drones could deliver herbicides with the aid of imaging technology to specific plants in a field, saving costs. He added that his company has been building a drone-operating apprenticeship program. “We want to work on bringing prototype drone manufacturing to Wyoming,” he said.

Politics in the Park will continue the following two Mondays at 4:30 pm in Washington park, featuring candidates for Casper City Council.

“An original version of this profile misidentified Wheeler as an Air Force veteran. Wheeler has clarified to Oil City that he is an Army veteran not Air Force. The profile has been corrected and Oil City regrets the error.”