Harriet Hageman

Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman is planning a run for Wyoming governor in the 2018 election.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

A Cheyenne water rights attorney is considering entering the Wyoming governor’s race, staking out ground on the libertarian right.

Harriet Hageman has been active in Wyoming and national politics, though has never stood for public office. She created an exploratory committee last month.

Hageman said that her consideration of a run has come out frustration with federal overreach, especially regulations on water and energy development.

“I’ve just reached the conclusion that somebody needs to address this,” Hageman said. “We need a leader who is willing to stand up and try to right this wrong.”

She believes that governors in general could take a more assertive role in pushing back against the federal government when it seeks to impose policies on states.

Hageman served as a state delegate to the Republican National Convention last year, when she told E&E news that she is skeptical of climate change data and models. She also worked as an adviser on Liz Cheney’s short-lived run against Wyoming U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi in 2014 and Cheney’s successful House run last year.

During Cheney’s run against Enzi, Hageman said, “If we’re going to change the trajectory of the country, we have to change our leaders as well.”

Hageman gained attention in the early aughts while serving as outside counsel for the state of Wyoming in a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service’s “roadless rule,” which barred road construction or reconstruction on millions of acres of Forest Service land.

She worked on behalf of the state from 2001 to 2003, clashing with environmental groups working on behalf of the federal government. But Hageman was removed as outside counsel several months after Democrat Dave Freudenthal was elected governor, a move she said was politically motivated.

Her fights with environmentalists landed her the moniker “Wicked Witch of the West,” a title that High Country News said Hageman was proud of. Hageman was a little more circumspect in an interview with the Star-Tribune, noting that some family members were offended at the name but saying she understood where it came from.

“I’ve been known to be an aggressive attorney,” Hageman said. “I’m pretty effective at what I do.”

Hearing from voters

A fourth-generation Wyomingite who grew up on a ranch near Fort Laramie, Hageman has worked for irrigation districts across the state as well as other government entities, including the city of Rawlins. She said this work has given her insight into day-to-day government operations.

Traveling around Wyoming this fall, Hageman said she has repeatedly heard residents emphasize the importance of good government and transparency.

“What that comes down to is where our money is being spent,” Hageman said. “How is it being spent? Why is being spent? Who are the decision makers?”

In addition to running her Cheyenne law firm, Hageman has traveled around the country talking to groups about regulatory overreach and the growth of the administrative state, in which professional agency staff, rather than elected officials, create sweeping federal policy, she said.

Hageman carries a large, three-year binder with her research on the topic.

The attorney said she sees the governor’s role as one of defending Wyoming residents from outside forces including “federal overreach.” But she said that part of that meant effectively overseeing state government operations, because the more power that can be moved from federal to state hands, the stronger Wyoming’s own agencies will need to be.

“If we are able or successful in pulling some of that power out of Washington, D.C., how do we ensure our agencies are able to provide services?” she said. “If I’m successful in getting power away from the EPA, our DEQ is going to be primarily responsible.”

Hageman said that she expects to make a decision on whether to run in January and that other entrants into the race will not affect her decision.

Her father, Jim Hageman, served as a representative in the Wyoming Legislature, where he was known as an advocate for agriculture, from 1983 until his death in 2006.

Race remains open

The Democratic field has consolidated around former state lawmaker Mary Throne, also a Cheyenne attorney, but the GOP’s pick for governor remains anyone’s guess.

State Treasurer Mark Gordon initially said he would announce a decision on whether to run by the end of the legislative session in March, but now says he may do so sooner. Secretary of State Ed Murray said he hopes to make an announcement by January.

Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, is termed out.

Sheridan businessman and political novice Bill Dahlin is the only Republican candidate to have officially entered the race so far.

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State Politics Reporter

Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics including the Legislature and Wyoming’s D.C. delegation, focusing especially on the major issues facing the Cowboy State like economic diversification and what it means to be the most conservative state in the nation.

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