The three candidates running for Senate District 10 had a plethora of topics to discuss last week during an online candidate forum.

Democrat Jackie Grimes and Republicans Rep. Dan Furphy and Craig Malmstrom are running for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Grimes will automatically advance to the general election as she is the only Democrat running for the district.

Furphy is technically an incumbent in the Senate race, but as a member of the House of Representatives.

The forum was held on July 23 via Zoom and was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Laramie. University of Wyoming College of Business professor and director for the Energy Economic and Public Policies Center Robert Godby moderated the forum.

The primary election is Aug. 18, with absentee voting underway now. The general election is Nov. 3.

Since the forum didn’t feature opening and closing statements, the first question of the evening allowed the House candidates to explain their qualification for the state office.

Grimes said she’s a great representative of Albany County, explaining that she’s a woman in her 30s, a mother and her husband owns a small business. She feels that people like her and her family are underrepresented in the Legislature, and she wants to change it.

Furphy explained that he’s already been elected to the House for two terms, giving him a background that would make it easy for him to move to the Senate.

Malmstrom described his work at Visa as a major qualification for the Legislature, pointing out that as a businessman for a no-fail company, he was prepared to tackle the state’s budget.

Budget shortfall

Furphy said the solution to the budget shortfall is a “three-legged stool.” One “leg” is more budget cuts, but the representative credited Gov. Mark Gordon for his current approach to this.

“Let the agencies make the decisions of what to cut,” Furphy said.

The second leg was revenue, meaning that the state should diversify its sources. Furphy ran out of time before getting the chance to explain what the third leg was.

Malmstrom said he’s already working with the nation’s largest home builders to bring land sales to the state. He also suggested creating new senior living facilities in Albany County, as well as a neighborhood for people looking to rent.

He also believed that the state should expand its mineral resources, as well as expand into new market segments.

Grimes said her biggest goal was to create an action plan in the Legislature, no longer allowing the lawmakers to spend money on redundant studies.

“We’ve had over three examinations of Medicaid expansion,” she said. “We are wasting money looking at this again.”

Education spending

Malmstrom reiterated that he was working to bring more revenue to the state, which would keep eyes away from the state’s education budget.

“We do several things well here in Albany County and education is at the top of that list,” he said.

As an educator herself, Grimes believes Wyoming’s educational system is a model for the rest of the country to follow. She believed the state’s schools are facing “unprecedented” spending due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Furphy did feel some of the school districts could be consolidated and that there were too many administrative employees. He also felt the state spent too much money on new schools, especially in rural districts.

“We need to get some local buy-in before we construct some of these schools,” he said.

University of Wyoming

Grimes noted the board of trustees’ recent controversies (such as the firing of former president Laurie Nichols) have somewhat tarnished the university’s reputation.

However, she said that she gave the university credit for its low costs and educational standards, believing the school’s resources should be protected and expanded.

Furphy admitted that the Legislature has been concerned about the university’s governance, but still pointed out that he was a strong supporter of UW.

“We need more students at the university and we need to fully fund the university to keep it going,” he said.

Malmstrom thought the university was doing terrific from an educational and social standpoint. He said the key to success in the next few months was to provide personal protective equipment to university faculty, staff and students to ensure everyone felt safe returning to campus.

However, he said housing was an issue to be addressed at the school.

Health care

Furphy noted that he’s supported Medicaid expansion every time it has been brought forward in the Legislature, and added that he felt many hospitals in the state were underfunded.

Malmstrom said that by bringing in new jobs to the state, companies can offer health insurance to their employees, which would cut down on uninsured rates in the state. Since there are around 18,000 uninsured Wyomingites, Malmstrom said the state should create around 25,000 new jobs that have salaries of at least $82,000 per year.

Grimes agreed Medicaid expansion was critical for the state, but it wouldn’t get the job done on its own. She added that the state needed to do a “massive” overhaul of its health care system, pointing out that Wyoming has one of the highest insurance rates in the nation.

Occidental land purchase

Furphy admitted he wasn’t sure where the state currently was on its bid for the 1 million acres of land and 4 million acres of mineral rights through Occidental Petroleum. However, he felt that it could be a sound investment, but was concerned to take money out of the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund to pay for the land.

Grimes said she had a lot of concerns about the purchase, including the lack of transparency and the bad timing of the purchase during a pandemic.

Malmstrom supported the purchase, saying that it would allow for natural gas extraction and would be a sound investment for the state.

Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at elfylucille@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.

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