Gubernatorial candidate Mary Throne does not like labels. Running as a Democrat, she said she wants to try to tackle Wyoming’s challenges – including public land usage, education funding and building the economy – using good ideas, no matter which side of the aisle they come from. Wyoming has a long history of voting for the person, not the party, Throne said, but she wants to make sure it stays that way.
“Philosophically what distinguishes me is that I’m an independent thinker,” Throne said. “I feel very strongly that Wyoming the last few years has drifted too far to being like [Washington], D.C., where it’s all about loyalty to the party and following the party platform instead of being independent and coming together to decide what’s best for Wyoming. I didn’t know how to push back against that except to run for governor, so that’s what I did.”
Throne said she feels positive about Albany County and has taken time to talk to local businesses about what they need in a governor and what has worked in Laramie so far; she considers downtown Laramie’s growth a “huge success story.”
“I see energy like you have here in Laramie across the state,” Throne said. “But I don’t see the leadership in Cheyenne to match the innovation that I see going across the state. … We just really need to break out of that.”
Throne said she wants to make sure the next governor of Wyoming advocates for Wyoming’s interest in all issues, especially federal land decisions. She added keeping mixed-use federal public land is vital for many of Wyoming’s industries — including energy, agriculture and outdoor recreation — and the necessity of a balance between development and nature. She is especially interested in the Pilot Hill Project in Albany County, the initiative to preserve 5,500 acres east of Laramie to protect the Casper Aquifer water resource.
“That really isn’t just related to tourism but the quality of life here in Laramie,” Throne said. “And I think doing things like that will not only improve tourism but also attract more people to actually live here and start businesses. We haven’t taken advantage of our outdoor recreation opportunities across the state. We should also look at some sort of tourism or leisure tax to generate more revenue that could then be used to market different places.”
Building revenue is one of the major issues facing not just the state but Laramie and Albany County specifically, and Throne does want to increase how much autonomy cities and counties have to tax themselves.
“I noticed the Legislature makes local governments come and beg for money,” Throne said. “I support giving more flexibility to local governments to raise their own revenue. … That will help our larger cities like Laramie, Cheyenne, Casper, Gillette – [but] the smaller communities, which are vital in Wyoming, will still need a lot of support from the state because they’re never going to be able to raise enough revenue to provide necessary government services.”
Gov. Matt Mead’s 20-year economic diversification initiative, ENDOW, is one way the current administration is looking to provide a brighter economic future for Wyoming. Throne said she supports the initiative, but she worries it overlooks some of the current challenges Wyoming faces.
“We need endow now, some of it is too futuristic and there are changes we need to make now,” Throne said. “It’s the elected official’s job to make the decisions, and it’s really going to take leadership from the next governor to sift through what endow has proposed, pick out the best ideas and implement them.”
A self-proclaimed “Wyoming Democrat,” Throne said she does not necessarily follow the national party platform. She does, however, want to see shifts in major areas like education, health care and energy. Throne added the governor must “show leadership” on funding for education, because it will be hard to draw new families and businesses to the state without a good, well-funded education system.
“The price of oil dropping is not a reason to stop funding education,” Throne said. “Of course, we have to look for opportunities to save money in education like every place else, but we have a pretty darn good system in Wyoming. Our teachers and our educators did not suddenly become bad at their jobs because the price of oil dropped.”
Along with K-12 education, Throne thinks the University of Wyoming shows promise both academically and as an economic driver for Laramie and the state. She said she wants to make sure the university gets stable funding from the state as it grows but wants the school to keep its autonomy when it comes to decisions on issues like guns on campus. Throne thinks the students and administration should have some input on the issue as well.
Considering some of UW’s dorms are the same ones she stayed in during music camp in the 1970s, Throne said she thinks they need an upgrade, and the state needs to help the university grow.
“The university is going to be an economic driver going forward, the science initiative is fascinating,” Throne said. “The university, along with our community colleges, can be an engine for growth in Wyoming. … Everybody is trying to work together more so we can have a seamless education across the state. It’s not a competition, we’re all in this together.”
As a longtime energy attorney, Throne knows that energy is deeply intertwined with our state’s economy. However, according to Throne’s website, there are other innovative ways to utilize it for profit, including using coal for carbon-based water filtration systems or natural gas in fertilizer. Ultimately, like many of the issues, she said it comes down to a balance.
“I really like to stress that I don’t care if an idea is called conservative or liberal, Democratic or Republican, I just really care if it’s going to work,” Throne said. “I feel like we get so hung up on labels, that the label defines whether you can even talk about something. That just drives me nuts. … I got into this race because I feel very strongly that Wyoming is at a critical point where we can go down one way, the same old way, and actually really threaten the future of the state, or take on our challenges and turn those into opportunities and really build a bright future for Wyoming.”