LARAMIE – Wyoming officials are seeking a court ruling that would make Republican candidate for governor Taylor Haynes ineligible for the office.
Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and Attorney General Peter Michael determined Haynes is not eligible to run for governor and the Republican candidate’s ranch home lies in Colorado.
Michael said in a court filing he can prove “by a preponderance of the evidence that Haynes has not resided in Wyoming for the constitutionally required period necessary to become governor.”
Haynes filed to run for governor as a Laramie resident and has dismissed accusations he lives in Colorado.
Michael and three other attorneys at his office signed off on a Friday court filing saying Haynes has lived in Colorado for at least some portion of the past five years and should be removed from the ballots. Michael wants a court ruling “ordering Dr. Taylor Haynes to withdraw from the race or otherwise cease his campaign.”
In a Saturday news release, Buchanan said the request for court intervention is not a decision “we’ve taken lightly, but it is undoubtedly a necessary step which will allow for this issue to be resolved for the protection of the election process, the voters, and for all candidates for governor in 2018 and in future elections.”
The state’s primary election is scheduled for Aug. 21, and Michael has asked for an expedited court hearing.
Buchanan said “the review of this issue by the Attorney General, in cooperation with my office, has been thorough, timely, and included communication with Dr. Haynes.”
The Wyoming Constitution requires gubernatorial candidates to have resided five years preceding the next election within the state.
In 2014, Haynes registered to vote while identifying himself as living at 795 Bull Mountain Road in southern Albany County.
That address is the location of Haynes’ ranch, Thunderbasin Land Livestock & Investment, which straddles the Wyoming-Colorado border.
However, the ranch’s residential buildings are located on the Colorado parcel, and Haynes changed his voter registration after Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales informed him March 6, 2015, that the Bull Mountain Road residence was in Colorado, not Wyoming.
Based on two sworn statements from Haynes, Michael has determined the candidate must have lived in Colorado from at least Nov. 4, 2014, to July 6, 2015.
That means Haynes is ineligible to run for governor, regardless of whether he still lives on his ranch bordering Wyoming and Colorado.
A Friday news release from Haynes suggests he still does live at that ranch, which he argued should still qualify as a Wyoming residence.
“The contract for deed and the title for the ranch, including the residence, have a Wyoming address,” Haynes said in the release. “All licenses, including driver’s licenses and license plates, taxes, utilities, registrations, fees, etc., are paid to Wyoming. There is no Colorado address in existence for the ranch and no road access to Colorado.”
In her 2015 letter disqualifying Haynes as a Wyoming voter, Gonzales said the Haynes ranch is considered a Wyoming address by the U.S. Post Office only “due to the proximity of Laramie.”
“You are eligible to have mail delivered to you as a courtesy despite the fact that your property is in Colorado,” Gonzales told Haynes.
With only a month to go before the primary election on Aug. 21 and early voting already underway, it was unclear Saturday what will happen with ballots. Secretary of State spokesman Will Dinneen said the office will be waiting on the court’s ruling before proceeding with any changes to the ballot.
“Given this pending litigation, I don’t have any elaboration for you on your ballot questions at this time, but our office will be prepared to swiftly comply with any decision as it relates to the administration of the election,” Dinneen said in an email.
Because no statute authorizes Buchanan to remove candidates’ names from ballots after they’ve been printed, Michael has asked for a court ruling to give Buchanan “the authority to do so.”
The Secretary of State is also seeking Laramie County’s district court to issue a judgment agreeing Haynes is not eligible to be governor.
If the state judge determines Buchanan does not have the power to remove Haynes’s name but the candidate is also not eligible to serve as governor, Michael is hoping the court will at least issue “an injunction preventing Dr. Haynes from running for the office” as a “remedy for the harm stemming from Dr. Haynes’s candidacy.”
“Allowing candidates to appear on a ballot even though they are ineligible for the office they seek is likely to cause significant and irreparable harm,” Michael said in the Friday complaint. “The candidate may receive donations, volunteer support, and the votes that could go to other candidates, potentially affecting the result. In addition, if the ineligible candidate ultimately gains office, the election will undoubtedly be contested, a costly and time-consuming process that throws the certainty and uniformity of the electoral process in disarray.”
Friday’s news release from the Haynes campaign claimed “every previous owner of the ranch throughout its long history in Wyoming has been a Wyoming resident, has voted in Wyoming, sent their children to Wyoming schools, paid taxes in Wyoming and been considered residents of Wyoming.”
Haynes calls foul
Haynes suggested political interference in the residency dispute and noted Buchanan was involved in the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Harriet Hageman before he was appointed to become Secretary of State.
“Why the rules would change for me, now that I’m a Republican candidate of the office of governor, is quite suspect,” Haynes said.
Buchanan served as Hageman’s candidate campaign committee chairman and resigned from that position before his was sworn in March 5. Dinneen said Buchanan resigned his position with the Hageman campaign “to avoid any conflicts of interest in his new role as Secretary of State.”
Dinneen said in a Saturday email Buchanan’s referral of the complaint to the Attorney General’s Office “was based entirely on the laws of the State of Wyoming and had no bearing in Edward Buchanan’s brief role with Ms. Hageman’s candidate campaign committee.”
Haynes did not explicitly blame the Hageman campaign in his press release.
“We have a very reliable source telling us where this came from, but our campaign is not joining in the mudslinging that’s happening between other candidates, even though I’ve now been targeted,” he said.
Hageman did not comment on Haynes’ implications when she was contacted by the Boomerang on Friday.
State Election Director Kai Schon said that when the Haynes’ residency complaint was received June 25, the report was handled over to Michael’s office in compliance with a recent law the Wyoming Legislature passed in 2018.
“As this review was conducted, we also reached out to Dr. Haynes and asked him to provide clarification of his residency,” Schon said. “The materials submitted by Dr. Haynes were reviewed by our office and passed along to the Attorney General’s Office in cooperation with their review of this issue.”
In addition to the ranch property, Haynes said he’s also owned or leases homes in Laramie for years. He said he currently holds a lease on an apartment in northeast Laramie.
However, when he filed to run for governor, Haynes listed a commercial property on Laramie’s Third Street as his residence.
Haynes served on the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees for 12 years and has been involved in the state’s Republican Party for years. He currently serves as precinct chair for Albany County 45-2 and was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016.