Democrats pen party platform, discuss vacancies at convention

Apr 9, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Democratic Party established an eight-point platform at their convention in March, but no party members announced an election bid for the fall.

Roughly 40 delegates attended the meeting March 15 at the Lander Library to hash out their party's goals.

"Improve and strengthen business and job opportunities, and support a fair, livable minimum wage," was the first plank in their final platform.

Others addressed closing the gender wage gap; expanding Medicaid; protecting reproductive rights; ensuring a fair tax system; assuring quality, affordable education; protecting the environment; and supporting veterans.

Part of the meeting addressed the many local and state seats up for election in the fall.

Democrat officials recognized their party's underdog status in Republican-dominated Fremont County and emphasized how the party still could have an effect.

"Even if we don't win, we move the conversation forward," said Fremont County Democratic Party chairman Bruce Palmer. "Unless people step forward, we're not going to know there's an election happening in Fremont County."

Fremont County Commissioner Keja Whiteman, a democrat, suggested keeping an eye on small and non-partisan races, such as school boards, city councils and town councils. Democratic candidates have more than two months yet to decide whether to run: The filing period is May 15 to May 30.

"Even if you're not ready to take the plunge and run for the state Legislature ... there's things you can do in your community and be effective on many levels and bring that other voice," she said.

Whiteman also is up for re-election in the fall.

House District 33

State Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, reported on the recent legislative session and stressed the importance of elections. Goggles is not running for re-election after serving 10 years in office. He leaves open the one legislative seat in the county's delegation that democrats have held. He represents House District 33, which runs from Crowheart to Atlantic City and includes Ethete, Arapahoe and Fort Washakie.

"It's good to stand in a room full of democrats, because I'm usually standing in front of a room of 42 republicans," he said. "That is a numerical fact, we need to continue to elect democrats to the Wyoming Legislature."

Fremont County democrats would try to keep that seat, Palmer said.

"I know Patrick (Goggles) is working hard to get candidates," Palmer said. "We're going to support that, we're going to get out on the reservation and make sure (a democrat winning) happens."

Palmer asked if anyone in the audience planned to run for office, and no one spoke up.

That same day, two republicans, Jim Allen, who lives north of Lander, and Daniel Cardenas, from near St. Stephen's, announced they would run for the HD33 seat.

Legislative progress

Goggles recounted some legislative victories and struggles from the most recent session.

Many legislators were "ballistic" over the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling in December granting Treatment as a State status for the tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation and defining the boundaries of the reservation to encompass the city of Riverton.

"(They said) that there was going to be civil chaos in Riverton; it was going to be a race war and that Riverton was removed from the United States of America and taken over by a foreign power," he said.

Goggles advised calm, he said, because life was going on as usual.

"I said 'Give me a break.' There are people who are driving in Riverton who are stopping at stoplights, stopping at stop signs, going to Walmart, going to the casino," Goggles said. "We're talking about boundaries --the land status will probably remain unchanged."

A draft bill in the previous legislative session included $120,000 for online American Indian curriculum, Goggles said. The House of Representatives amended it to $80,000, he said.

With the influence of state Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, the conference committee moved the number up to $110,000, Goggles said.

Another partial victory came in the issue of expanding Medicaid for tribal members, he said. The bill would have had Wyoming grant a waiver so the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes could pursue expanding Medicaid for their members.

In the House of Representatives, 33 representatives voted to introduce it, but because it was a budget session, proposed legislation needed the support of 40 representatives to be introduced. Goggles said he is hopeful for the bill's chances next year during the regular session when there is a lower threshold for introduction.

"The good news is next year, should they run that bill again, it only needs 31 (votes) to pass," he said.

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