With Wyoming’s primary election a month away, candidates are under pressure to communicate their priorities. But how do those campaign platforms line up with Wyomingites’ daily preoccupations? In an effort to center voters’ voices and to transcend political talking points, wyomingdigest.com teamed up with Wyoming Public Media and sent eight reporters out to communities across the state to ask: What’s keeping you up at night?
Here’s what we heard:
Kelby Eisenman, 17, grabbing coffee in downtown Casper. (Dustin Bleizeffer/wyomingdigest.com)
Kelby Eisenman, from Casper, turns 18 in September and is excited to vote for the first time.
“I guess what keeps me up at night the most is the lack of love in people’s hearts and the lack of respect a lot of people have for people with different identities.”
“As a queer person, it definitely feels dangerous to live in a state like Wyoming, especially with how much is going on in the U.S. government, and just how backwards it seems that some people are here in town. And luckily, I have a very great group of support and things like that. But I can’t say the same for my queer and trans friends.”
Kenneth Ellis, who moved to Jackson from Arkansas for work, said affordable housing is on the forefront of his mind.
Kenneth Ellis, 34, in Jackson across the street from Town Hall. (Mike Koshmrl/wyomingdigest.com)
“We all work two or three jobs and then we don’t have affordable housing. It costs like $7,000 just to get in and you gotta pay like $4,000 a month.”
“It’d be helpful if they could just build one apartment complex for low income housing”
Luc Colgrove, 28, setting up for “Rock the Block” in Casper. (Dustin Bleizeffer/wyomingdigest.com)
Luc Colgrove, from Casper, said he’s concerned with how felons are treated. Speaking from personal experience, Colgrove said regardless of what the felony is for, it can be hard to secure employment and housing post sentence.
“Wyoming is a fortunate state [in] that felons now have the right to vote. So once you complete your sentence, as long as it falls under certain criteria, your right to vote is automatically restored at the completion of your sentence. But oftentimes, one of the things that I find is when I reached out to elected officials, they kind of pushed me to the wayside because of that status anyway, you know, a conversation like this wouldn’t ever reach anybody to make any sort of a difference . . .”
Cindy Payne, a retailer in Lander, is concerned about the high cost of gas, groceries and healthcare.
Cindy Payne, 54, on the job at Simply Shoes in Lander. (Sofia Jeremias/wyomingdigest.com)
“It’s alarming. Like you’ll go into the store from last week and things have gone up again. It’s just like goodness, I don’t know what people with really large families are supposed to do.”
“I had to have some surgery and my insurance wasn’t that great and didn’t cover that much of it. So I have like, $100,000 worth of bills.”
Rachel Howerton, 30, on a bike ride next to Big Goose Creek in Sheridan’s Kendrick Park. (Maggie Mullen/wyomingdigest.com)
Rachel Howerton, from Sheridan, said that she’s worried about what water shortages mean for Wyoming’s future and the entire Mountain West.
“We’ve been in a drought for so long now. So water worries me for the fact that Wyoming thrives so much on ranching, farming communities. And a water shortage is going to affect grazing, it’s going to affect what we have in town.”
“I would like to see more advocacy and talking to bigger corporations because it’s not just our household usage that is affecting it the most. It’s more like corporations and policies that would be put into place that would help us on a larger scale.”
Erick Morales, who works at a hospital in Jackson, worries that cost of living will make it hard for first responders and law enforcement to stay in the community.
Erick Morales, 29, at Mike Yokel Park in Jackson. (Mike Koshmrl/wyomingdigest.com)
“We’re losing people due to housing. And it’s hard for people to stick around town because of how expensive it is.”
Sunny Goggles-Duran, of Riverton, wants to know why it’s so hard in Wyoming to talk about mental health.
Sunny Goggles-Duran stands in front of an inpatient treatment house at the White Buffalo Recovery Center in Arapaho. (Andrew Graham/wyomingdigest.com)
“It’s a big issue in Wyoming, not just the reservation, not just our communities here, but it’s a big issue across the state of Wyoming.”
“We are waiting for our leadership to really recognize that mental health is a big issue within the state of Wyoming and not put blinders on, you know, it’s not going to go away. If you don’t look at it, it’s actually going to get worse.”
Claudia Elzay, from Lander, said people could be more open to differing opinions.
Claudia Elzay, gardening at her home in Lander. (Sofia Jeremias/wyomingdigest.com)
“I think that would go a long way to making . . . people tolerate other people more easily. We seem to just want to fight. And that’s not good.”
“I’m very disappointed that Roe v. Wade got overturned, and I worry about gay rights and things like that, that could very easily follow that. And that concerns me a great deal.”
Donny Brown, who has lived in Gillette since 1978, said the state needs to hold on to its coal industry.
“I think it’s years down the road before they find something to replace it. If they close down, it’s going to be a game changer for this area . . . I mean, it’ll be a ghost town.”
“It’s almost like you’re trying to take a way of life from people here in Wyoming. There’s just no way they can do it without coal.”
Jamie Simonson, Superintendent of Sinks Canyon State Park in Fremont County, said he feels blessed to live in Wyoming.
Jamie Simonson, at work in Sinks Canyon State Park outside Lander. (Sofia Jeremias/wyomingdigest.com)
“I think everybody needs to, you know, speak the truth and look people in the eye and say, ‘it’s okay, let’s lift each other up and not tear each other down.’”
“We don’t need the government to help us. I think we can do that a lot better than the government can. We’ve proved that in the past. So I think it’s a lot better for us to help one another, lift each other up and not depend so much on the government, but depend on each other.”
Ron Wild, of Rock Springs, said he’s worried about a lack of kindness between people and between political parties.
Ron Wild, 57, volunteering for International Days in Rock Springs. (Daniel Bendtsen/wyomingdigest.com)
“Those are things that people in positions of leadership can address by simply being kind themselves in all of their interactions.”
“Civility, and public life, will allow us all to work together better. You’re never going to agree with anyone completely at all times. And if we work together better than we can achieve better results.”
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