I had a dream where I was standing on a beach with my surfboard, waiting for that big blue wave to come in for Democrats.
Then I woke up and realized I was still in Wyoming, where there’s no beach to surf at and there will be no blue wave in November.
I still hold out hope Democrats can be competitive in some federal and statewide races. But take the Wyoming House? Please.
I’ve racked up a lot of hours covering the Wyoming House since the late ’70s. If you ever want to find me during the session, look on the House side of the Capitol. I’m the bald guy typing with two fingers in the corner in the fetal position. If you take pity on this formerly ink-stained wretch now living in an all-internet world and bring me a sandwich, I will eat it, but please know I can’t be bought.
I just looked at the general election campaign roster and it seemed like old home week. There are 29 incumbent Repub-licans – out of 60 representatives – who don’t even have an opponent. I’m fortunate that some will talk to me, even though they know I don’t agree with much of what they have to say.
For those who don’t talk to me, it’s OK. I get it. I’m never going to be a popular guy in your class. But I have a voice recorder on my phone, and I will follow you around all day, hoping you will say something I can write about, so it’s almost as if we’re talking.
Here’s a secret: I do the same thing to Democratic legislators. With so few of them, it’s an easier task. I wish it weren’t.
Currently, there are nine Democratic House members. Three incumbents are running unopposed: Reps. Cathy Connolly, House District 13 in Laramie; Stan Blake, HD 39, and John Freeman, HD 60, both in Green River.
Four other Democratic incumbents have GOP opponents: Reps. Debbie Bovee, HD 36 in Casper; JoAnn Dayton, HD 17 in Rock Springs; Charles Pelkey, HD 45 in Laramie, and Andy Schwartz of HD 23 in Wilson.
In addition to the 29 unopposed Republican incumbents, the GOP will automatically reclaim another seat because newcomer Cyrus Western doesn’t have an HD 51 opponent. Republicans will control exactly half of the House seats without having to compete in the general election.
Sixteen incumbent Republicans have opponents – 13 Democrats and three independents. Meanwhile, six Democrats and one independent face seven Republican challengers for open seats.
In all, there are 26 Democratic candidates for seats in the Wyoming House of Representatives. Even if half of them win, which would be a huge night for the party, since they only control 15 percent of the House now, they would still be outgunned 47-13.
It’s easy to see why so few Democrats choose to run for the House in the Equality State. One of the most difficult jobs anywhere is to be a candidate recruiter for the party here.
Here’s the sad reality they must convey, even if it hurts – and it will. A candidate can pour his or her heart into the race, spend all their spare time telling people how they would govern, do nothing wrong and still lose. In extremely red districts, the margin between winners and losers can be in the high double-digits.
I admire people who are committed to public service and are willing to run for office, especially the Wyoming House – Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike. “Winning” means spending either a month or two every year confined to a stuffy room while lobbyists and the public gawk at you. They call, text and send you emails that say you don’t know what you’re doing – or, worse yet, do know what you’re doing, and it’s some form of calculated evil.
It’s such a thankless job that maybe some Republicans should hang it up for a term or two and let the Democrats run things in the House.
To Democrats, despite everything I said above that might discourage you, please run for office. Voters deserve a choice, and as long as the Russians let us continue to have elections, you should give them one.
To Republicans, don’t become complacent, even though you hold almost all the seats in the House and all the cards in the high-stakes poker game of Wyoming politics. There will probably never be a blue wave, but there could be a trickle here and there, then a ripple, and maybe Democrats will eventually be standing up to their knees in the water, waiting impatiently for it to rise some more.
But for 2018, I’ve put the surfboard from my dream in the garage. I don’t even know why I bought the dang thing in the first place, even if I was asleep. I live in Wyoming, and I don’t surf. Heck, I don’t even know how to swim. But, like most of my Democratic friends, when I see one of them win, I’m proud, because I know they had to paddle like hell to get there.
The Drake’s Take is a weekly column by veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake, and produced by WyoFile.com, a nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.