CHEYENNE – The two in-state candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to unseat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney discussed their stances on issues including a flailing national economy and systemic racism during a forum Thursday night in Riverton.
The candidates’ forum, which was organized by WyomingPBS and Wyoming Public Radio, came a few weeks ahead of the state’s Aug. 18 primary. During the forum Thursday night at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, the views of the two in-state candidates – Lynnette Grey Bull and Carl Beach – overlapped on some broader themes, though some specific policy plans diverged.
Both candidates mentioned helping the U.S. economy, which had its worst quarterly GDP drop in history reported Thursday, as the main priority if elected to serve in Wyoming’s sole U.S. House position.
Grey Bull, a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe and vice president of the Global Indigenous Council, said Congress needs to continue COVID-19 relief initiatives into next year.
The $600-a-week federal unemployment relief that recently expired from the CARES Act was “not enough to sustain our families,” Grey Bull said. She mentioned paid leave plans being offered by all employers as something she would push for in future aid legislation.
“We have to make sure that major corporations can contribute, but I think it’s the responsibility of Congress to pass legislation to make sure that all employers have COVID-19 medical leaves,” Grey Bull said.
Beach, a Saratoga native who returned to the state after time abroad teaching, said the pandemic has laid bare some of the vulnerabilities of the country’s economy, including a lack of domestic manufacturing, vulnerable supply chains and “unmodernized” social safety nets.
“A resilient economy really needs to move past the neo-liberal economic policies we’ve seen for the past 40 years that continually bring wealth to certain individuals while leaving the middle class and lower class out,” said Beach, adding his support for a more progressive tax system in the United States.
Beach pointed to the nation’s health care system as a cause of its precarious economic position, and he reiterated his support for a single-payer system, arguing it would be especially beneficial for rural states like Wyoming.
Grey Bull did not offer her support for a specific health care proposal, but emphasized mental health as an issue that needed more attention in Congress.
The candidates also discussed racism during the forum, both offering their full support for the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.
Beach applauded the House for passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would curb qualified immunity for police, and impose a ban on both chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level. The Senate has not taken up the legislation.
Both also paid their respects to civil rights hero John Lewis, whose funeral was held Thursday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Grey Bull, who met the former congressman while lobbying in Washington, said he understood well the common thread between Black and native issues in dismantling racism.
“I believe that we owe it to Rep. John Lewis to not only move the social justice path forward, but also to implement that into our communities, both rural and urban,” Grey Bull said.
Whoever wins between the Democratic candidates will move on to the Nov. 3 general election. In the Republican primary, Cheney, who was first elected to the House in 2016 and has already risen to be the third-ranking Republican leader in the chamber, faces Blake Stanley. Wyoming PBS tried to organize a debate between the two, but Stanley was unavailable.
Early and absentee voting are underway for the primary, and local election officials have recommended mailing ballots by Aug. 7 to ensure each vote is counted.