An Open Book vs. Mystery Candidate

An Open Book vs. Mystery Candidate

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Andy Schwartz’s political views are an open book: Ask the Democrat what he thinks about a particular issue, and he’ll tell you in a straightforward manner.

Republican Jim Darwiche, on the other hand, remains enigmatic, at least to us. WyPols tried to ask him the same questions we posed to Schwartz, his opponent in the House District 23 race in Teton County that includes much of the county with the exception of the Town of Jackson. But all we received from his campaign was a form letter.

So we’ll tell you what Schwartz told us, and let you know what information we gleamed on Darwiche from other sources along with what his canned response to our interview request contained. If you happen to live in HD 23 and Darwiche knocks on your door, maybe he’ll answer your questions. Then again, maybe he won’t.

Both candidates are former Teton County commissioners. Schwartz served for 12 years, stepping down in 2012, and he was appointed by Gov. Matt Mead to the Environmental Quality Council, which provides oversight of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Schwartz said both political roles have helped prepare him to serve in the legislature. He was active in the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, and his work lobbying at the legislature and testifying about bills showed him how the lawmaking system works. At the EQC, he said, he’s learned a lot about the state’s environmental regulations and DEQ’s work.

He decided to run for the HD 23 seat that was vacated by five-term GOP Rep. Keith Gingery, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Schwartz was unopposed in the Democratic primary, while Darwiche defeated former State Republican Chairman Wally Ulrich in his party’s primary.

“I feel as though there is room for slightly more progressive voices in the legislature,” said Schwartz, who immediately added that if he’s elected, the first thing he will have to do is “get to know people and establish relationships before I can hope to affect change.”

Schwartz said his platform has focused on education, the environment, the economy and equality. He admits he doesn’t know much about his opponent’s views, primarily because Darwiche hasn’t provided the public with much information about his House campaign.

“[Darwiche] is more closely associated with the Tea Party than the mainstream Republican Party, as far as I can tell, and I certainly do not espouse Tea Party values,” Schwartz said. He said when he campaigns door-to-door, people ask him how he is different than his opponent.

“When I tell them [Darwiche] is opposed to teaching about climate change in schools because it’s not “solid, clear science”, for most people that’s pretty startling,” said Schwartz. According to a story published in the Jackson Hole News and Guide Darwiche indicated a similar perspective on evolution: “Would you want your kid to grow up and not believe in his father’s and his grandfather’s religion?” Darwiche asked.

“On equality issues we will probably differ,” said Schwartz. “He hasn’t said anything about them. Basically, my approach to equality is that there’s never any excuse for discrimination regarding gender, race, sexual identity, ethnicity or religion.

“We need to be the ‘Equality State’ in more than just name,” Schwartz said. On the issue of same-sex marriage, he said simply, “I think all people should have the right to marry the person they choose.”

Schwartz is totally in favor of Medicaid expansion, which the vast majority of Republicans in the legislature fought tooth and nail in this year’s budget session. “I don’t think people understand that Medicaid expansion would cover more than 17,000 Wyoming workers,” he explained. “They are working, they’re just not making enough money to afford insurance on their own.”

“We should expand Medicaid, not only for their sake, but because ultimately I think it will save the state money and reduce costs to the hospital system,” he said.

Darwiche’s form letter explained it’s his policy “not to respond to organizations that attempt to define me. These polling questions rarely give a complete and accurate description on my true position on the issues.” However, he did fill out a questionnaire from the Casper Star-Tribune (CST) prior to his primary battle, which is posted on his website, and gave the Jackson paper an interview. So he seems to lack consistency in his response to reporters.

He did offer a few things he supports that do define him. Here’s a sample:

  • He believes in “a limited government that is fiscally responsible and benefits all of its citizens.”
  • And he believes that every child “should have the opportunity for an excellent education that prepares them for life.”
  • He will work hard to see that the energy industry — which he noted we are lucky to have — “operates responsibly.”

Darwiche also promised to do “everything in my power to analyze the effects of government actions on the economy, because a vibrant economy provides opportunities.”

So there you have it — the Republican candidate wants limited government (because government can only hinder our economy rather than help it). Meanwhile, he promotes the need for an excellent education for kids (as long as it doesn’t challenge his religious beliefs against teaching evolution), a responsible energy industry (but let’s not go overboard with regulations that address climate change).

His response didn’t mention protecting wildlife or the environment – but he did talk about helping the coal industry in the CST survey. And his statement on his website that funding for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been adequately addressed for the next ten years is just plain wrong.

Darwiche concluded by saying if we share his vision and priorities, he would appreciate our support at the polls. “A donation would also be welcomed,” he added.

For the record, Schwartz did not ask us for any money.

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