Park Co. House Rep Hopefuls Clash Over Land Use

By Bryce Cornatzer
1 August 2014

A debate between state representative candidates was dominated by land use.

Candidates for Park County House Districts 24 and 50 participated in a Lincoln-Douglas style debate Wednesday night.

The debate was arranged by the Park County GOP and moderated by member Camara Clifton.

Each of the candidates selected an issue on which they wanted to speak. Incumbents in each district were then allowed to speak on their topic first, followed by the challengers.

House District 50 incumbent David Northrup began with the topic of education.

Northrup serves on the Joint Education Committee. He spoke to an increased demand for accountability in public education, future decreasing revenues that would be used to build new schools, and last year's controversial bill SF104 that stripped the Superintendent of Public Instruction of significant duties.

“The department is a difficult and changing animal,” said Northrup. “The problems in the department pre-date the current leadership. For this reason SF104 was written with the hopes of stabilizing the Department of Education.”

During cross examination, challenger Charles Cloud questioned Northrup on the Common Core education standards, asking if he was in support of the standards.

“I support them as a tool in the tool box,” said Northrup. “That's the best analogy I can come with. They're not a crescent wrench; they're not a box-end wrench, but they're definitely closer to a torque wrench that you use when it comes to precise measuring.”

Cloud is a former Cody City Council member and owner of auto repair business. Cloud took the position that Common Core Standards were much too restrictive in that they focus heavily on college readiness.

“I think of them more as the tool box,” said Cloud. “If it doesn't fit within Common Core, then you can't use it.”

He argued that not all students want or need to go to college when many trades prove more lucrative than some careers requiring a bachelors degree.

Northrup rebutted that that standards are far above Wyoming's current standards. Wyoming's standards  are an 'F' compared to Common Core's 'C' rating by the Fordham Institute. Northrup added that the standards needed to be adopted and then molded to fit the needs to all Wyoming students.

The next House District 50 debate was begun by Cloud who argued that the county commissioners needed to be supported by the legislature in their bid to claim federally owned land for the state.

“You said you're going support county commissioners,” said Northrup. “How are you going to do that in the legislature?”

“I think that giving them funding for the things that they need,” said Cloud, “and letting them know that [we're here] when they need help. When they're hiring in firms to come-in and represent them, where is the state backing them up? I think it's just showing-up at the meetings. I ask you—how many meetings did you show-up to with the county commissioners?”

Northrup said he's attended a few commissioner meetings.

Each candidate supported the idea of Wyoming controlling all public land within its borders. Cloud advocated that Wyoming claim all public lands and use them as the state sees fit. Northrup agreed that the state should manage all public lands within its borders but said he would like a transfer done through a constitutional amendment, guaranteeing  that public land would not eventully be sold to private landowners.  

The third and fourth debates were between challengers for the seat in House District 24.

As the incumbent, Sam Krone was allowed to begin with his topic, also on land use.

“I want to talk about something that I think the Executive Branch has done wrong,” said Krone. “Dealing with the students in Mammoth Hot Springs. We need to deal with that issue. We need to deal with the fact that the federal government is saying, 'We've done this forever but we're not going to do it anymore.'

“Second, let's talk about land use on our state parks. Our state parks are critical to Wyoming. I think we're seeing more and more restrictions on everyday citizens' use of the parks. I think we're seeing higher fees with less services.”

Krone went on to say that issues affecting sportsmen were of high importance and that the state's natural resources were under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"In 1980," said Krone, addressing federally-held public lands, "the legislature passed a statute that deals specifically with taking these federal lands into state custody. It talks about the process in doing so. I support that law that's on the books and I think that there are many processes that we can engage in to claim those lands."

Challenger Bob Berry is an open member of the Big Horn Basin Tea Party, a fervently conservative non-profit organization. Berry said that mainstream conservatives are taking-up the issue of claiming federal lands for the state for mere show.

“When it comes to federal-controlled lands in this state, the federal government has no constitutional authority to control those lands,” said Berry. “There is a movement in the western 13 states called the American Lands Council, that I support whole-heartedly. Sam pointed-out that there's been a law on the books for 30 years and what's come of it? I have not seen the will in the legislature, at all, to stand on its own two feet.”

The final House District 24 debate began with Berry addressing family values and criticisms he received during his 2012 run for Senate against incumbent Hank Coe.

“I was criticized quite heavily,” said Berry, “because I dared to raise the issues of abortion and gay marriage. The family is what holds this country together. The family is what God created. Those issues are important. The republic could not stand unless there was a strong a family and there are good and moral people standing-up for those rights.”

Berry did not ask for Krone's stance on either abortion or gay marriage and did not question his voting record. Instead, the clash occurred during cross examination and over a belief on education held by Berry.

“I would very much like to see families be able to control the education of their children,” said Berry. “I'd be in favor of giving them $16,000 a piece and a voucher so they could home school that child. Imagine what would happen if you could send your kid to Dachau or Normandy Beach and show them what the Second World War was like.”

“As a prosecutor,” said Krone, “I see these families that are torn-apart, that are drug-ridden, that have no real support structure, that are in terrible shape. The only place that some of these kids in these situations get a good meal is when they go to school. The only place where they have opportunities to be kids and not be somebody that breaks-up disputes in the family or to watch domestic abuse is at school.”

Following the debates, the audience was asked to rate each of the candidates on their capability, judgment, and collaboration skills.

According to the audience votes, challenger Charles Cloud won the debates against David Northrup, 631 points to 537.

In the debates for House District 24, incumbent Sam Krone won against challenger Bob Berry, with 723 points versus Berry's 557.

The Park County GOP plans to post the results of the audience vote on their website.

The primary is August 19.

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Location : LincolnWyoming