2017 has been an eventful year in Wyoming and the Star-Tribune’s most-read political stories offer a reminder of all that’s happened over the last 12 months. They also show what stories have captured your attention — often political intrigue and scandal. Below are the 10 most popular Wyoming politics articles of the year based on unique page views.
This was the first overview of how the governor’s race for next year is shaping up. Since the article was published in April, we’ve learned a lot more about the race including who is running and, more importantly, who isn’t (namely Cynthia Lummis). But the article’s popularity shows that the state is interested in what is expected to be a raucous Republican primary next year in the race to win outgoing Gov. Matt Mead’s seat.
Secretary of State Ed Murray added Wyoming to a list of dozens of states, including several Republican ones, that rejected the White House’s request for detailed information about registered voters for its federal inquiry into supposed voter fraud.
Public lands and Liz Cheney both elicit strong opinions from many Wyoming residents and this story had both of them. Cheney’s vote was actually on a package of rules, including one that would ease the transfer of federal land to states. “While understanding that the rule she was voting on was part of a rules package, I would hope that Congresswoman Cheney would side with the majority of Wyoming citizens and vote no on any future transfer legislation,” Casper sportsman Jeff Muratore told the Star-Tribune at the time.
Obviously the state’s struggling economy was a big story throughout 2017. This was also the year that data started trickling in showing that the Cowboy State was shedding residents at a rate unseen since the oil bust of the 1980s. This March article was only the first in a series showing that the state’s population was declining.
The allegation that Murray sexually assaulted a recent high school graduate when the two were working at a Cheyenne law firm in 1982 spurred strong reactions from those who were outraged at Murray and those who were appalled that anyone would believe a claim from decades ago. Murray strenuously denied the accusation by the woman, Tatiana Maxwell, and declined to answer specific questions about the alleged incident.
Many political articles are a little dry and focus on sometimes-arcane policy. Not this one, which told the story of Casper Fire Captain Jeff Atkinson, who died of testicular cancer, which his family believed to be caused by his work. Atkinson’s death spurred a group of fellow firefighters to advocate for new legislation to allow easier access to worker’s compensation for firefighters diagnosed with a disease linked to their profession.
This was one of two Wyoming political stories that went “viral” this year, being picked up by national media outlets that linked back to the Star-Tribune. Reproductive rights advocates were outraged that Senate President Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, assigned abortion bills to an apparently random committee: agriculture. Activists seized on the poor political optics, much to the chagrin of Bebout and Republican lawmakers. “The clear message that seems to be resonating around the Capitol is, are women livestock?” Aimee Van Cleave, then-executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party, said at the time.
The other article that went viral was this one from April, about Wyoming U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi telling a group of high school students in Greybull that he knew a cross-dressing man in Wyoming who got in frequent fights at bars. “He kind of asks for it a little bit,” Enzi said. “That’s the way he winds up with that kind of problem.” The story underlined the old line that Wyoming is one town with very long streets, as a Douglas man named Sissy came forward to say he was who Enzi was referring to. Enzi later called Sissy and apologized.
The Democratic Party in Wyoming doesn’t get much press given Republican dominance of state politics. But readers apparently enjoy drama and inter-party fights, with this article about Wyoming Democrats’ decision to elect a new party chair, Joe Barbuto, who backed Bernie Sanders in last year’s presidential primary. Party membership rejected two leaders who had supported Hillary Clinton.
Setting viral stories and tales of political drama aside, the most popular Wyoming politics story of the year was, fittingly, one about public lands. While Bebout has been supportive of securing state control of federal lands in the past, he announced a decision last January to kill a constitutional amendment that would have made it easier for Wyoming to take over federal lands. One sign of how much Wyomingites care about this issue? The article took the number one slot for the year despite coming out on the same day that President Donald Trump was inaugurated.