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New era for House District 23
The race for House District 23. It seems odd even writing that. Keith Gingery held the spot with an iron grip since 2004. No one dared even challenge the five-time incumbent in the primary or general elections in 2006, 2008, 2010, or 2012. In the same way 2014 hopefuls will have to “live up to the legend,” so to speak, Gingery also stepped into some mighty big shoes when he narrowly defeated Democratic nominee Mike Gierau for the seat left vacated by Clarene Law due to term limitations in place at the time (since rescinded).
From the Republican side, businessman Jim Darwiche and geologist Wally Ulrich will make a run for the House. The winner in this month’s primary will face business owner Andy Schwartz in the general election this fall. All three candidates bring considerable political experience to the table. Darwiche and Schwartz both served on the Board of County Commissioners – Darwiche from 2002 to 2006, and Schwartz from 2000 to 2012. Ulrich’s legislative career began early – at the age of 10 – when he testified at a legislative hearing chaired by Clifford Hansen.
Following is each candidate’s background and primary platform.
Darwiche moved to Jackson in 1977. He founded several businesses including Crazy Horse Indian Jewelry, Pedro’s Mexican Food, A Touch of Class, Shadow Mountain Gallery, and Native Fine Art. He is currently developing a major resort hotel (Hotel Jackson) with his son Sadek at the former site of the Woods Motel.
Darwiche served one term on the Board of County Commissioners. He also planned and developed numerous residential and commercial projects, including employee townhouses on Millward Street, and a commercial building on Broadway.
Darwiche’s community involvement includes his service on the boards of the Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, and the Teton Free Clinic. He also founded the Farmers Market on the Town Square.
Darwiche promises to bring fiscal responsibility to state government. He will also focus on excellence in education, and the protection of our natural resources including oil and gas development with respect for wildlife.
“As a conservative businessman, I will scrutinize the budget and I will support one-time spending that will solve long-term problems,” Darwiche says.
Darwiche also plans to champion relief for victims of rising property taxes in Teton County.
“Property taxes are rising. They are creating a huge burden on the average citizen,” Darwiche says. “I will explore reasonable options, such as a ‘tax cap,’ to protect our residents from the huge costs of escalating property taxes, and make sure that everyone will benefit.”
Darwiche envisions a balanced approach to energy extraction with respect to wildlife and its habitat.
“A healthy environment is important to our quality of life. We must protect the quality of our air and water for ourselves and future generations,” Darwiche says. “We are fortunate to have the gas, oil, and coal industries in Wyoming and I will work hard to ensure the energy industry operates responsibly.”
Protecting our local economy is also important to Darwiche.
“We must acknowledge that a sustainable, tourism based economy is a result of our sense of community, our Western heritage, and our natural surroundings,” Darwiche says. “I will do everything in my power to analyze the effects of state government actions on our economy because a vibrant economy provides opportunities.”
Ulrich is a fifth generation Wyomingite. He comes from a long line of geologists. His family was instrumental in creating Fossil Butte National Monument west of Kemmerer.
Ulrich is a past chairman and member of the WSGS advisory board, a trustee of the American Geological Institute Foundation, the chairman of the board of the National Foundation for the Geosciences and one of the founders of the Geologists of Jackson Hole. In 2010, Gov. Dave Freudenthal appointed Ulrich state geologist.
Ulrich lists his top priorities as follows:
“A creative expansion of our state’s revenue streams with more transparency for revenue and budgetary monitoring. Finding legislative solutions that address inequities in existing property tax assessment. Finding long-term solutions for Hoback habitat and energy endowment responsibilities to school children and education systems in Wyoming.
“Clarifying land use and access and incorporating solid, well-grounded science to solve problems and inform decisions. Expansion of local initiatives in professional development and education (Nursing, Hospitality Industry, and Biological and Earth Sciences). Creating incentives for entrepreneurs and small business startups, and innovative energy solutions. Stabilizing Wyoming resident water rights opportunities.”
Schwartz and his wife have owned and operated a couple of retail businesses in Jackson over the past 25 years – Broadway Toys and Togs and Altitude.
Schwartz is currently a member of the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council. Before that, he served for three terms on the Board of County Commissioners, chairing the board for much of that tenure.
Schwartz has spent significant time in Cheyenne, taking in state legislative sessions for some years now.
Schwartz hopes to represent the county with a message of responsible energy production with respect to acknowledging climate change as a danger to future generations. “I believe that climate change is real and poses a significant threat to our planet,” he says. “Wyoming will continue to be a leader in energy production, and I feel it is our responsibility to also be a leader in finding ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
Schwartz also plans to champion equal rights for all.
“I believe that Wyoming should be the Equality State not only in name but also in deed,” Schwartz says. “Women’s rights, gay marriage, affordable health care and pre-K education are examples of areas where I know Wyoming can do better.”
Schwartz adds, “I believe Wyoming can use the current budget surpluses to more strategically invest in its future. Protecting natural resources, nurturing small businesses and building a skilled workforce are vital to creating a thriving 21st century economy.”