Ardent state rights supporter and perennial Republican candidate for office Rex Rammell entered the Wyoming governor’s race Wednesday, pledging that if elected he will take control of the state’s federal lands — by force if necessary.
“I would sign an executive order requiring the state police to arrest anybody that didn’t vacate their federal offices,” Rammell said. “We’re talking about the BLM, the Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Park Service.”
But in an interview Rammell said he thought it was unlikely to come to that. He believes that Wyoming can work with Idaho and Utah to convince President Donald Trump to peacefully turn over federal land to the states.
Rammell believes that assuming control of all public land in Wyoming would solve the state’s budget deficit and secure its economic future by allowing state agencies to bypass federal regulations.
“A lot of our problems in the West will be solved if this one thing can be accomplished,” he said.
Rammell added that with coal and other natural resource commodities unlikely to increase significantly in price during the coming years, it was important Wyoming start to produce its own electricity to sell to its neighbors.
The Star-Tribune first reported that Rammell was considering entering the race on Monday. The Rock Springs veterinarian has previously run for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat as well as for governor and U.S. Senate in Idaho.
He said state control of public lands will be his keystone issue in the race to replace Gov. Matt Mead, who is barred from running for reelection next year by term limits.
Overlap with Hageman
Rammell is likely to share supporters with Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman, who plans to formally announce her candidacy Jan. 16.
Hageman, who specializes in water rights, has been highly critical of the federal government but has not explicitly called for the state to take control of all public land in Wyoming.
“I believe there has become a really extreme imbalance of power between the federal government and the state government,” Hageman said in an interview last fall.
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Rammell said that he decided to run because despite overlapping with Hageman on most policy issues, she has not been forceful enough on the issue of state control of federal land.
He acknowledged that several people had encouraged him to back Hageman instead of entering the race himself, but Rammell said she lacked the “courage” to take his stance on public lands. He allowed that she would make a great attorney general if he was elected.
Hageman declined to comment.
Republican political consultant Bill Cubin said that Hageman and Rammell will likely split a block of conservative voters.
“They’ll definitely be competing for that Constitution Party-registered-Republican-type voter,” Cubin said.
Cubin said Hageman likely had a slight leg up over Rammell because of her family’s deep roots in Wyoming and past involvement in Republican politics, including advising Liz Cheney during Cheney’s campaigns for Senate and House.
Rammell and Hageman join Democrat Mary Throne and Republican Bill Dahlin, a political novice and businessman from Sheridan, as the only candidates to have formally entered the governor’s race.
Secretary of State Ed Murray and State Treasurer Mark Gordon are perceived as the likely front runners if they choose to run.
Murray said last fall that he expected to announce a decision by the end of 2017, though a woman alleged in December that Murray sexually assaulted her in the 1980s, perhaps delaying any announcement. Murray has denied the allegation.
Gordon initially said that he would make a decision in March, following the Legislative session. He later said he might make an announcement sooner, though he did not specify a time.
House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, has been approached about entering the race and said he is considering it. Cheyenne businessman Sam Galeotos, a Republican, is also considering a run.
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Cubin said he was surprised that the race had not heated up yet. He added that running for governor in a large, sparsely-populated state like Wyoming is a lengthy process.
“It takes a long time out there on the road,” Cubin said. “I can tell you I’d be campaigning.”
Rammell first ran for public office in 2002, placing fourth in the Republican primary for an Idaho legislative seat. He lost two more races for the Idaho Legislature in 2004 and 2012. Rammell also ran unsuccessfully for an Idaho U.S. Senate seat in 2008 and for governor there in 2010 before running in 2016 for the Wyoming U.S. House seat eventually won by Cheney.
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Rammell has generated controversy in the past, including for saying that he would buy a license to hunt President Barack Obama. He also rode in parades around Wyoming two years ago, leading horses draped with fake corpses representing the Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency.
“In a way, I am Wyoming’s Donald Trump,” Rammell said. “I speak my mind.”