Jackson Hole Daily
Via Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — State Senator and Alta native Leland Christensen announced Friday that he will run for Wyoming Secretary of State this year.
The former Teton County sheriff’s deputy and county commissioner has spent the past eight years in the state Senate, where he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee for the past three years.
His decision to run was largely a result of current Secretary of State Ed Murray announcing he will not run for re-election amid sexual assault allegations. On Friday, Murray announced that he will resign his position effective immediately.
“Once it became an open seat I started getting calls from people all over asking me to run,” he said. “I think I can help Wyoming to get a little more diversified economically while looking to protect what’s important to Wyoming.”
A key part of Christensen’s philosophy will be getting out of the office to help small Wyoming businesses along Main Street and to determine how to best utilize Wyoming’s natural resources. Rolling out the welcome mat to recruit new businesses to Wyoming will be critical, too.
It’s important, he said, to find companies that are a good fit with Wyoming’s culture, like gunmaker Weatherby Inc., which recently announced it would relocate management and operations from Paso Robles, California, to Sheridan.
A fiscal conservative who has often advised against dipping into the state’s “rainy day fund” over the last few years, Christensen said diversifying the state’s tax base will be a top priority if he is elected, and one he believes can be reached.
“Wyoming’s been facing some real challenges recently, but we’re resilient. We’ll be able to overcome this,” he said. “We have some opportunities to improve ourselves and rise above this.”
Teton County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim, chairman of the Teton County Republican party, said having a Teton County representative at the capital will be a big help for town and county’s work locally.
“With our governor terming out it will be nice to have another Teton County representative … to influence the State Loan and Investment Board,” which manages the state’s permanent land funds and administers state grants, Vogelheim said. “Leland’s so great about establishing relationships, and that’s really important in this state, especially when Teton County is not often looked at as a part of the state.”
Fostering business growth is just one aspect of the secretary of state’s job. If elected, Christensen would also be in charge of the state’s elections.
Christensen said he will not start campaigning until after the legislative session where, he said, he will take special interest in bills about cybersecurity, updating voting machinery statewide and revising of campaign finance laws, and election rules and regulations.
Christensen already has competition. Rep. James Byrd, D-Laramie, who has served in the House since 2009, announced his campaign for the secretary of state Thursday.
The last time a Democrat served as Wyoming Secretary of State was Kath Karpan, who served from 1987 to 1995.
Christensen ran for the U.S. House in 2016, and his statewide name recognition should help him. Though he lost the primary to Liz Cheney, he garnered 22 percent, or 19,330 votes.