THE BUZZ 2: Democratic Contender

By on May 17, 2016

Can a 33-year-old Rock Springs native end the 40-year drought for Wyoming Dems?

Wyoming Congressional candidate Ryan Greene is the sole Democrat vying for Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ seat. Greene will attend a meet-and-greet Monday in Jackson. (Photo: ryan greene campaign)

Wyoming Congressional candidate Ryan Greene is the sole Democrat vying for Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ seat. Greene will attend a meet-and-greet Monday in Jackson. (Photo: Ryan Greene Campaign)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – A Democrat in the lone congressional seat in Republican-dominated Wyoming has long been a far cry from this Cowboy State’s reality. But a first-time politician from Rock Springs has local and state Democratic leaders hopeful.

Ryan Greene, a businessman born and raised in Rock Springs, has thrown his hat in the ring as a Democratic candidate. He is the sole Democrat in a field of 12 seeking to fill U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ seat.

If elected, Greene will be the first member of his party to win the seat in 40 years.

Greene will speak Monday at a meet-and-greet event in Jackson.

“Ryan has a fresh set of eyes and is willing to work with both sides of the aisle,” said Ana Cuprill, chair of the Wyoming Democrats. “We need someone who is willing to find consensus.”

Greene asserts he can represent all of Wyoming’s interests and values. “It’s crucial that Democrats and Republicans work together to get things done,” he told The Planet. “Democrats may be outnumbered seven to three in the state, but we are 45 percent of Congress. Wyoming pays the price if we can’t work with Democrats.”

A Dem from the oil fields

Thirty-three-year-old Greene was born and raised in Rock Springs, where he lives with his wife and two children. A former roustabout and pipe welder, he is now the operations director of his family’s business, Greene’s Energy Services, a leading integrated service provider to the oil and gas industry.

But according to Greene’s campaign manager, Max Weiss, the family business doesn’t just work with natural gas and coal businesses. They’re also installing solar panels and wind turbines. With the downturn of the energy industry, Greene’s Energy Services has kept people employed by using oil trucks for hauling agricultural products, too, Weiss said.

Greene is very much a “Wyoming Democrat.” He supports the oil, gas, and coal industries as well as renewables. “Coal is not going away,” he said.

He also supports the controversial practice of fracking for natural gas and oil. “It’s part of our life and culture here,” Greene said. “The practices in natural gas fields are getting better. It gets cleaner every year.”

But he is still managing to win the approval of environmentalists. Noted conservation leader and chair of Teton County Democrats Luther Propst spoke highly of the Rock Springs resident. “Ryan Greene understands Wyoming—and Wyoming values—better than the leading candidate on the Republican side by a long shot,” he said.

Though he didn’t name her, Propst was likely referring to presumptive front-runner Liz Cheney (R-Wilson), who bungled her last attempt at Wyoming office two years ago. Few in her own party supported her in her bid for Mike Enzi’s seat, not least because she only claimed residency in the state the year before her campaign.

However, this year hasn’t exactly gotten to a down-home Wyoming start for Cheney, even though she does own a home in Teton County. She announced her campaign on Facebook—posting from her other home in Virginia.

Cheney, the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is an attorney and commentator for Fox News. She served in the State Department under George W. Bush.

Greene’s second key competitor also calls Teton County home. Long-time Alta, Wyoming resident and state senator Leland Christensen (R-Alta) hopes to fill Lummis’ seat.

Currently Chairman of the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee, Christensen is a fifth generation Wyoming native. He grew up in Alta and worked for 20 years in the Teton County and Lincoln County Sheriff’s offices. His staunch Republican platform focuses on limited government, Second Amendment rights, and fighting abortion rights. He positions himself as a friend of working people and traditional Wyoming industries.

Both Cheney and Christensen have issued hyperbolic clarion calls for rolling back environmental regulations of the coal industry.

“The War on Coal is devastating our economy, hurting every community in Wyoming, and putting thousands of our neighbors out of work,” Cheney writes on her campaign website.

“To win the war on coal,” Christensen states on his website, “We’ll need to push back on the heavy hand of the E.P.A. and work to reverse many of the disastrous policies we’ve experienced during President Obama’s tenure.”

According to Cuprill, we won’t hear that kind of rhetoric from Greene. “He’s not just going to make statements that people in Wyoming want to hear,” she said. “Those things are not working. People have been voting for statements that make us feel good, but that’s not realistic. Those tactics haven’t worked. Wyoming is still in a boom and bust cycle.”

“It’s just not true that if we roll back regulations everyone will go back to work,” Greene said. “What we need to do is look at the market.”

Greene says Wyoming cannot afford to ignore global initiatives like RE100, for which 58 of the world’s largest companies have pledged to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. The companies include Starbucks, Nike, Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola. Some of those companies have set the year 2020 as their goal.

“We have candidates saying they are going to tell Wal-Mart where it will get its energy,” Greene said. “That’s not going to happen. We have to give the market what it wants.”

Public lands, affordable healthcare

Dems say they are also hopeful of Greene’s vow to protect public lands. “[He] is not beholden to far right wing interests that want to transfer our public lands to private ownership,” Propst said.

“We need to make sure people understand federal versus state issue,” Greene explained to The Planet. “It’s popular to say ‘get the government out,’ but Wyoming doesn’t have funds to maintain these lands. State control is a step toward privatizing land.”

By contrast, he says the federal government will ensure that diverse users can have access. “On state lands you can’t have a fire for camping, or drive your ATV,” Greene said.

Unsurprisingly, Greene differs from Republican frontrunners on health care issues as well. Both Cheney and Christensen would continue Republican Party efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Greene says he would work to improve it.

“It’s not a perfect system,” Greene said. “Let’s look into ways to improve it.” He cited cheaper prescription drugs and a wider health insurance marketplace as options he’d like to pursue.

Unlike Christensen, who continues to vote against Medicaid expansion for Wyoming, Greene says he supports the measure, which could help more than 17,000 low income residents.

When it comes to abortion rights, Greene says he respects both sides of the issue but that he is solidly pro-choice. “Bureaucrats shouldn’t make that choice for women.”

Meet-and-greet

Greene will be speaking Monday at the home of Teton County chair to the Democratic Convention, Jessica Chambers.

“A lot of new, interested voters were brought to the Democratic Party here in Teton County by Senator Sanders’ nomination bid,” Chambers said. “Many wanted to know what they could do next after the caucus. I’m hoping Sanders supporters will come out to talk with Mr. Greene and share some of their concerns, questions, and ideas with him, and also get a taste for what’s going on elsewhere in the state.”

As it happens, Greene caucused for Sanders.

“Bernie is looking forward,” Greene said. “Wyoming needs to do the same.”  PJH

Ryan Greene meet-and-greet, 5 to 7 p.m., Monday, May 23 at 425 Flat Creek Drive in Jackson. Call Jessica at 718-913-9975 for more information. 

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About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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