Two-thirds of the final debate between Republican gubernatorial candidates in Riverton Monday night was informative and entertaining. How often do you get the chance to watch two people try to out-crazy each other?
Cindy Hill and Taylor Haynes may be on the GOP primary ballot against incumbent Gov. Matt Mead, but they are really battling for the hearts and minds of the most extreme right-wing members of their party. It was difficult to pick a winner.
Predictably, Mead touted what he views as his success in steering the state’s economy in the right direction. He offered little that was new and might as well have just said, “If you’re happy with the status quo, I’m your guy.”
But his two opponents provided a fascinating peek at what a Gov. Hill or a Gov. Haynes administration might look like. You just can’t put a price on the value of that kind of pre-election public service. Republican voters can’t say they weren’t warned.
Armed rebellion! Non-stop mining and fracking! Throwing federal authorities out of the state and right on their Constitution-violating asses! Yes, it’s all a Tea Partier’s wet dream.
These are just a few things in store for the Equality State if either Haynes or Hill are elected. Of course, there are the usual stands against liberal views that are always part of the GOP platform: no same-sex marriages, no medical marijuana, no school standards that aren’t stamped “made in Wyoming.”
Hill, the state superintendent of public instruction, had the first shot at a question that noted some people believe they can rebel against the federal government if, in their minds, the feds are violating the Constitution.
“Do you believe you as an individual can act against the federal government based on your personal views of the Constitution, even when your views disagree with the interpretation of the courts?” she was asked.
Hill not only agreed, she paved the way for that conflict to actually becomed armed insurrection.
“In the Constitution it has a provision for the militia … there are states that are organizing right now — Tennessee’s one, and there are others in the United States — who have people within the state who, just as you described, who believe it is time,” she replied.
Mead’s answer, of course, threw cold water on Hill’s practical idea to have disaffected Wyomingites join a state militia so they could fight a federal government run amuck.
“Our [state] Constitution makes it clear we are an inseparable part of the union,” the governor noted. “There’s no one I know who likes all federal laws, including myself — there’s a lot I disagree with. But the way we handle that in this country is not to have an armed revolt against the federal government. We handle that through the court system. We handle it by who we elect to Congress and as president … You don’t get to pick and choose on a day-to-day basis which laws you like and which ones you don’t. We are a nation of laws.”
Haynes didn’t mention taking up arms, but he tried to make up for it by insisting that the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have no authority over Wyoming and will be removed as soon as he takes office. He also vowed to turn all federal lands over to the state and insisted the only land the feds own is the District of Columbia.
Under his leadership, Haynes promises prosperity as far as the eye can see. “We’ll have 51 percent more mineral wealth when I’m governor, and that’s just looking back at the status quo,” he said. “When we unleash our natural resource base I can’t calulate how much wealthier we’ll be, but it will be several orders of magnitude.”
The only thing left for the state to do, he added, “is to plan legislation for this increased wealth.” Yes, if there’s untold new riches pouring into Wyoming, that could certainly take awhile — that must be one of the burdens of being a great leader.
Hill, meanwhile, came out of the gate attacking Mead, pointing out he was wrong to increase the gas tax, support Common Core standards, and give money to out-of-state corporations to locate here.
But she used the bulk of her time to remind everyone that it was the governor and the Legislature who took away most of her powers mid-term through Senate File 104, the “Hill bill.” The Wyoming Supreme Court declared that effort unconstitutional, and returned her as head of the Education Department.
As she explained in her closing statement, she went to court not for herself, but for all of us.
“For so long, the powerful elite have controlled Wyoming,” she said. “SF104 exposed that small group that’s worked in the shadows and showed contempt [for the people]. They tried to justify their actions, but they couldn’t, for the people roared and said, ‘This is our state; we will not have our rights taken, or be disrespected.”
Hill said she was the only gubernatorial candidate who knew what to do to fight the “war on coal.” Her solution? Get angry!
“What we need is a coalition of outraged citizens, governors, senators and those affected industries,” she explained. “The dairy industry stepped up to the FDA when they proposed regulations and guess what? They backed off, and that’s what we need to do. … We have enough outrage to get the work done, you just need leadership.”
Mead sounded like an advocate of Medicaid expansion, instead of the opponent he’s been for the past three years. Haynes flatly opposes expansion because he still thinks Obamacare is unconstitutional, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.
Hill wants more details about proposed Medicaid expansion, but didn’t explain where she’s been since 2011, when Wyoming officials began debating the issue. “I’d like to know better who we’re speaking of and exactly what their needs are,” she said. ‘ I don’t think we have enough information right now.”
That’s true. All we know is that about 17,000 low-income adults without dependent children — the “working poor” — would finally have health coverage, many for the first time in their lives. We also know that expansion would save about 111 lives a year, and reimbursements from the program would help keep our community hospitals open and allow millions now spent on uncompensated emergency room care to be used for job creation in the medical and related fields.
Yep, not much to go on at all.
So who out-crazied who in this debate? It’s tough to call a winner, because both Haynes and Hill both worked so hard for the title. But our money is on the superintendent, if only for this nonsensical answer she gave about whether she would ever support same-sex marriage:
“Marriage is between a man and a woman, period. We have sisters and brothers, moms and dads, and aunts and uncles, and sons and daughters, and we all have to work together and live together, and it’s critical. Marriage is between a man and a woman.”