A Republican challenger defeated one of the top Democrats in the Wyoming Legislature by the narrowest of margins Tuesday.
Jared Olsen edged ahead of Democratic incumbent Rep. Mary Throne in House District 11, with 1549 votes for 51 percent of the vote. Throne received 1486 votes for 49 percent of the vote.
Olsen’s effort to unseat incumbent Throne was among the most-watched races in the state. The campaigns and their supporters spent substantial sums of money, and both candidates have been critical of negative campaign ads directed at them.
Throne, 56, has been in office since 2007 and served as minority floor leader since 2013. She grew up in Campbell County, where her grandparents homesteaded, and earned degrees from Princeton and Columbia universities.
The five-term veteran is viewed as one of the Democrats with the best understanding of state finances and policy.
Olsen, 29, is an attorney and chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party, a position he has held since 2015. Olsen grew up in Evanston and was the first person in his family to attend college, earning degrees from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and the University of Wyoming. He is seeking public office for the first time.
Both candidates were on the receiving end of negative campaign mailers leading up to the election.
An ad attacking Throne featured a photo of Throne that had been manipulated to look like she was standing with Hillary Clinton. In the original photo, Throne had been posing alongside one of her Republican colleagues.
A mailer critical of Olsen claimed the candidate supported transferring federal lands to state ownership. He said that was false, although he is interested in state management of small sections of Bureau of Land Management land on a trial basis.
With Democrats firmly in the minority, Throne said she had the freedom to question policies related to state finances rather than falling into step behind GOP leadership. At the same time, she diverged from her party’s stance on coal and received support from energy industry groups.
Olsen is in favor of zero-based budgeting to address the state’s financial shortfall. Under such a system, state agencies would have to demonstrate the specific need for funds rather than using the previous year’s numbers as a baseline. He would also consider suspending the state’s wind generation tax to encourage development.
HD11 includes neighborhoods east of downtown Cheyenne, south of Lincolnway and east of Holliday Park and between Jefferson Road and Allison Road.