CHEYENNE - A constitutionalist conservative from Albany County is the latest to join the race to be Wyoming's next governor.
Taylor Haynes made a formal announcement Jan. 23 in Riverton that he would seek the governor's office for the third time. He previously ran in 2010 as a write-in candidate and lost in the 2014 primary when Gov. Matt Mead ran for re-election.
In 2014, Haynes came in second behind Mead, garnering just more than 32 percent of the vote, ahead of former Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill's 12 percent.
It stands to reason that Haynes could be a significant factor in a crowded GOP primary that's likely to see more candidates enter the race across the conservative spectrum. While speculation continues about whether candidates with more experience in elected office - such as State Treasurer Mark Gordon - will enter the race, Haynes joins a field already busy
with libertarian-minded individuals.
Rex Rammell, a Rock Springs veterinarian, announced earlier in January. That was followed by an announcement from Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman. Both took a hard line on state versus federal issues in their announcements. Bill Dahlin of Sheridan announced his intentions last summer. None of those candidates, including Haynes, has served in public office.
But Haynes doesn't consider his candidacy a long shot. For years, he said he's been cultivating a relationship with the Legislature and citizenry of the state. Haynes cites his life experience - from humble beginnings in Louisiana to his time as a medical practitioner in Cheyenne and his lifelong work as a rancher and businessman - as qualifications for the office. Haynes also points to his leadership work on boards and commissions, including two terms on the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees.
"This whole quest to be governor was not a lark," he said. "The encouragement from around the state has been very steady and very strong."
In fact, Haynes credits himself as being the original constitutionalist candidate in Wyoming gubernatorial races. Being a staunch constitutionalist in 2010 wasn't as mainstream as it is now, he said. When looking at gubernatorial candidates in Wyoming today that embrace that message, Haynes said he sees the influence of his prior campaigns.
The rise of the tea party in 2010 and politicians such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, helped spread awareness of the message he's long propagated, Haynes said. He said 2018 seems like an election year he could seize on those increasingly popular tendencies.
"This kind of imitation is flattering," he said. "It's a safe and popular thing to campaign on.
"I don't worry about other candidates very much. What I'm stressing as being the original is that I've always been there for that, but there are many other pieces."
The Constitution-based principles Haynes embraces tells the voters exactly how he would lead, he said.
"The Constitution is a fence for elected officials," Haynes said. "You operate in these confines. It's not your best opinion; it's not what you think."
As with his competitors, Haynes stressed state sovereignty and limited government as core values. In order to diversify Wyoming's economic base, he said the state should take control of federally managed lands so it can release industry on its natural resources.
But Haynes said it wouldn't happen in a way that would limit access. In his view, Haynes said opening up the lands to industries such as lumber and mining would actually increase public access to lands popular with its second-largest industrial sector: tourism.
Haynes also emphasized his Judeo-Christian approach to governance, though he said it doesn't mean a society exclusionary of non-Christians. It does, however, dictate his unwavering stance against abortion.
While Haynes would be the first African-American person to serve in the governor's office if elected, he said that's not a factor he's considered at all in his candidacy. Race, Haynes said, has never been a factor in his more than three decades living and working in Wyoming.
"Wyoming is not a place where race counts," he said.
Ultimately, Haynes said his life in Wyoming has been an excellent fit, and he sees his constitutionalist message as the remedy for all the state's woes. He points to a bumper sticker stating "Wyoming is what America was" as a mantra for his approach to governing.
"It's not about me - it's about this group of Wyomingites that want to see us return to that," Haynes said. "It's about the mission and the message.”