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Joe MacGuire

Joe MacGuire shakes hands Tuesday after being chosen by Natrona County commissioners to fill Rep. Kendell Kroeker’s seat in the Wyoming Legislature. MacGuire was one of three candidates for the seat, which was vacated when Kroeker unexpectedly announced his resignation Dec. 22.

Joe MacGuire, a Casper businessman who has served on the Natrona County GOP executive committee for seven years, was appointed to House District 35 on Tuesday.

The Natrona County Commission named MacGuire the new representative after Rep. Kendell Kroeker’s Dec. 22 resignation. Kroeker, a Republican from Evansville, said he needed to attend to his business and couldn’t continue serving.

Commissioners said they were impressed by MacGuire’s breadth of knowledge about current issues facing the state – from the budget and local government funding to the Wyoming Business Council.

“This is going to be one of the hardest sessions any legislature’s seen for a long time,” said commissioner Forrest Chadwick.

When money from oil, gas and coal plunged, revenues to state coffers decreased by $400 million for general government operations. Public schools face a shortfall of around $700 million in the next two-year budget cycle.

“I don’t believe there will be any sacred cows,” he said in response to a question about how to solve the budget dilemma. “Everybody has to chip in and help solve the problem.”

The 64th Legislature convenes Tuesday for about 40 days.

MacGuire said he will travel to Cheyenne on Wednesday to be sworn into the Legislature for the remaining days of Kroeker’s term and prepare for the general session.

The 54-year-old works as a business broker, helping people buy and sell firms. He has a law degree and previously practiced as an attorney for five years. He’s worked as an election judge and poll watcher, too, he said.

MacGuire grew up in politics. His mother, Mary MacGuire, served in the Wyoming Senate as a Republican from Casper in 1993 and 1994. For years, she worked as a precinct representative, and Joe MacGuire said he has childhood memories of tagging along with his mother, knocking on doors to help the party at the grassroots level.

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“We were lucky growing up. Our parents were active and had a broad base of interests,” he said.

About 25 people listened as the commission questioned MacGuire and two other candidates – Ed Opella, a former commissioner and Casper City councilman and Bruce Sell, a local pastor.

Commissioner Rob Hendry said the majority of the people who called him asked him to select Sell because they felt his views were closely aligned with Kroeker, who was interested in privacy, individual liberty and guns.

And the Wyoming Gun owners, a gun organization that is generally further to the right on firearms issues than the National Rifle Association, weighed in by dispersing an email four hours before the commissioners met, saying Sell was the best candidate to represent its priorities.

But Hendry said he attended an event Saturday in which Natrona County Republicans winnowed down five applicants for the seat to three. Many of the callers were not present, he said.

“The precinct committee people from those precincts voted almost 2 to 1 for Joe,” he said. “I think that was telling.”

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Follow political reporter Laura Hancock on Twitter @laurahancock

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