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Bennett touts changes he has made in attorney's office

Jun 4, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett painted himself as a reformer at a rally last week formally kicking off his electoral campaign. Several local political leaders turned out at Hudson Town Hall to show their support.

Bennett was raised in Lander but lived in Cheyenne prior to taking over as county attorney. He said Fremont County Commissioners asked him to take the job and clean up the county attorney's office.

"I came back, and it was a mess. If you want to see how big a mess, look at the Supreme Court. Since I've been county attorney, two cases have been reversed out of Fremont County -- not cases I handled," he said.

He has spent the last year putting things right, Bennett told the 45 supporters in attendance.

"We're bringing back that concept that everybody is treated equally," he said.

He said he also a good administrator, pointing to the $7,000 he trimmed from his office's budget this year.

"We're trimming the fat," he said.

In remarks, his wife Patricia, who also is a lawyer, agreed with her husband's assessment.

"The word 'justice' had become a four letter word in Fremont County: just.

"Just charge them with everything you can think of to charge them with, and we'll see what sticks,'" she parodied. "That's not right."

In February 2013, Bennett and then-chief deputy county

attorney Pat LeBrun both applied to fill a vacancy in the county attorney post. The commission chose Bennett.

"Some people can't seem to get over that. It's starting to look like sour grapes," Bennett said.

LeBrun is now running against Bennett for the top job.

Bennett filed May 27 to run as a Republican.

He also took time to affirm his local credentials. He said relationships with supporters at the rally stretched back for years.

"Imogene, in the back, her husband was my government teacher. I went to high school with Cora Gist--these are my people," he said.

At times, Patricia Bennett took a combative stance.

The constitutional rights of citizens are being eroded in Fremont County, she said. Law enforcement had harassed her friends who erected a sign supporting her husband in their yard, Patricia Bennett said.

In another instance, law enforcement parked a patrol vehicle in front of the business that had put up a Bennett sign during peak business hours.

Another supporter felt the need to use an alias to post online messages supporting her husband, Patricia Bennett said.

"What a sad state of affairs," she said.

Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger also voiced his support.

"The commissioners did appoint Michael because they wanted a change in the county attorney's office, and that office has changed," he said.

Harnsberger also asked those assembled for donations for Bennett's campaign.

Other elected officials showed their support by attending, including state Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, Fremont County Clerk of District Court Kristi Green and former state Rep. Del McOmie, who is running for Lander Mayor. Staff of the county attorney's office turned out to back their boss, including new chief deputy attorney Bob Rose and all of the deputy attorneys from the Lander office.

When LeBrun announced his candidacy, he had the support of deputy attorneys from the Riverton county attorney office.

Bennett and LeBrun both filed as Republicans, so they will face off in the Aug. 19 primary. The winner should have a strong chance of taking the Nov. 4 general election, as no candidate from another party has filed.

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