POWELL — Had you asked Richard George his political plans a couple months ago, he might have said he was kicking around the idea of running for Park County commissioner.
But after a pair of accusations of sexual misconduct recently culminated in the resignation of Republican Secretary of State Ed Murray, George says several people approached him about filling that position. It just so happened to be around the same time that George and his wife Rebecca, who live between Cody and Powell, decided to get out of the farming business.
“We’ve been thinking about opportunities that have come our way and we thought, you know, why not?” George said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, he was one of five Republicans who’ve applied to serve out the rest of Murray’s term as secretary of state.
George, who is the Wyoming Republican Party’s National Committeeman, said politics is not a spectator sport.
“You step up to serve where there’s an opportunity,” he said. “You know, you don’t have to be a lawyer or a doctor or somebody with an advanced education to be involved in politics.
“In fact, I would rather see the common man be involved in the common man’s government instead of people who are looking to elevate themselves above other individuals or separate classes,” he continued. “... I think this is a neat opportunity.”
George said he’s long held an interest in ensuring the state has fair election process and he’s heard concerns over the years about people struggling to registering companies — two areas that fall within the secretary of state’s purview.
If chosen, George said the regular business of the “well-run” office would continue to be handled by the “good people” already there.
The technical qualifications to serve as secretary of state are simple: you need to be at least 25 years old, a Wyoming resident and a registered voter. In this case, you also must be registered as a Republican to apply for the position with the party.
The Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee will sort through all the applications on Saturday and forward the names of three candidates to Gov. Matt Mead. Mead will then pick one to serve as secretary of state through early 2019. Voters will choose who will serve in the position from 2019 through early 2023.
Whoever is picked to serve by Mead is free to run for the full, upcoming term — and will likely have an advantage on the rest of the field.
If he’s not chosen to serve as the interim secretary of state, George says he’ll support the person picked by the governor and will not run for the position.
As for whether he’d run for a different office, “We’re just going to take this a day or two at a time,” George said.
He praised the work of former Secretary Murray, calling him a “nice man” and his resignation “so unfortunate.”
In stepping down on Feb. 9, Murray said he’d been unable to focus on his job because of allegations made by two women; one said Murray performed an unwanted sex act on her — an allegation he denied — while another said Murray forcibly kissed her — an incident he said he did not recall.
The women went forward with their accounts in December and January, with the alleged incidents dating back to the 1980s.
“I would not tell anybody at this point that Ed Murray is guilty of anything, because we weren’t there; we don’t know,” George said.
He also said that, with the #metoo movement across the U.S., “anybody that any other individual wants removed from office is a target.”