A former Libertarian candidate for Congress and governor out of Laramie announced he will seek a seat in the Wyoming Legislature in 2020.
Lawrence Struempf, 49, an instructor in computer technology at Laramie County Community College-Albany County Campus for 17 years who also has a doctorate in instructional technology from the University of Wyoming, ran for an open U.S. House seat in 2016 and in the 2018 governor’s race to replace Matt Mead. As a third-party candidate, Struempf knew those races were long-shots. In his first run for a legislative seat, however, Struempf said he thinks he stands a real chance at winning.
“This time I truly believe I can win,” Struempf said Friday after making an announcement of his candidacy through his Facebook page.
Struempf, as he expected, was easily bested in 2018, garnering 3,010 votes compared to now-Gov. Mark Gordon’s 136,412. Facing off against now-U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Democrat Ryan Greene and Constitution Party candidate Daniel Clyde Cummings in 2016, Struempf earned a little more interest from voters, earning 9,033 votes compared to Cheney’s 156,176.
Now, in running for House District 46, a seat currently held by Rep. Bill Haley, R-Centennial, Struempf could for the first time be running as a major party candidate in a district that tends to come down to just hundreds of votes. No other Democrats have announced an intention to run for the seat, and Struempf said he’s spoken to local Democrats supportive of his candidacy.
“I’ve had a lot more help in my first week announcing as a Democrat than I had running for statewide office as a Libertarian,” Struempf said.
The Libertarian Party has often been associated with a conservative lean, considering the national party’s strong opposition to “any government interference into their personal, family and business decisions,” though it doesn’t promote itself as strictly appealing only to progressives or conservatives. But going back to his 2016 campaign, Struempf portrayed himself largely as a centrist, looking to explore the best ideas from across the political spectrum. After two third party campaigns, Struempf said he decided the best path forward is to accept that his best chance to win is to run as a major party candidate.
“I really worked hard to create a third party as a central party, but there just wasn’t enough support,” he said.
Struempf said he’s confident progressive voters will be able to reconcile his party affiliation change. His past policy positions, Struempf said, haven’t really shifted and should still appeal to Democratic voters in Wyoming.
“I could have them go and watch the debates for governor,” Struempf said. “(My policy positions) were very progressive and I think they speak for me. I do consider myself a moderate and trying to get the two parties to come together, but still very progressive.”
Albany County is unique among Wyoming counties, with half of its six legislative seats held by the minority party. Both chambers’ minority party leaders are from Laramie in Sen. Chris Rothfuss and Rep. Cathy Connolly, with one-quarter of the Legislature’s 12 Democrats total from Albany County districts.
However, HD 46 is a long-held Republican seat. Haley bested Democrat Ken Chestek in 2016 in his first race with 2,935 votes to Chestek’s 2,086. The mid-term election in 2018 saw a narrower victory with lower overall turnout in 2018 as Haley beat Democrat Jackie Grimes 2,317-1,944.
Haley told the Boomerang on Friday he hasn’t made up his mind one way or the other as to whether he’ll seek re-election in 2020. When asked if he had a deadline or any factors weighing into the decision, Haley said he “didn’t care to comment.”
As a long-time Wyoming resident, as a candidate and through his active roles in community, business and civic organizations, Struempf said he’s met a lot of people locally and across the state who inform his thinking on how to best move Wyoming forward. Struempf said he believes “completely in science and math” and would apply expert opinions and data to decision-making.
“I believe we need to trust and have science, data-driven decisions in our government,” he said. “I think that’s probably one of the worst things in the state and country is that we’re not using good scientific data to make our decisions.”
With his background in technology, Struempf said he’d like to see Wyoming pursue opportunities in attracting data centers which could take advantage of the state’s low electrical rates and cool temperatures. He would also like to see Wyoming explore restructuring electricity taxes, supporting wind energy development, implementing a tonnage tax on semis traveling through Wyoming that goes beyond what the state’s fuel tax can support, and continuing to make moves on cyber security and blockchain technology.
Wherever his positions fall on the political spectrum, Struempf said it’s all about wanting to help create a better future for the Cowboy State.
“I’m here to serve everyone in Albany County and Wyoming, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican or independent,” Struempf said. “I’m going to work hard to make the state better for the people of Wyoming.”