Teton County Dems Elect New Players
JACKSON HOLE, WY – The line stretched out the door at the Senior Center Saturday as a mix of longtime Democrats and new faces filed in for a meeting of the Teton County Democratic Party. More than 100 people attended the meeting, where six officers were unanimously elected.
The meeting’s attendees and the Dems’ new leaders are emblematic of an increasingly politically engaged populace that spans several generations. Seasoned Dem Marylee White was elected chair and Michael Yin, 30, secured vice chair.
Shelby Read was elected treasurer, and Andree Dean secretary. Mike Welch and Lauren Dickey were elected state committeeman and committeewoman.
A common theme of the meeting was encouraging Democrats to get engaged in local and state politics, from activism efforts to running for office. Explaining why she wanted to run for treasurer, Read said, “I want to be involved. It’s my duty and responsibility to jump in.”
Leaders also discussed the Dems’ local victories and their larger concerns. “We have plenty of reason to be motivated and mobilized,” said outgoing party chair Luther Propst, referring jokingly to “the Putin, er, Trump regime.”
“I have serious questions about Trump’s ability to serve as president,” Propst told the crowd. “And I am troubled by a Republican Party that puts loyalty to party above loyalty to country.”
Propst said that even though Democrats had lost the presidency, there had been gains close to home. He cited the demise of a bill in the Wyoming Legislature that would have paved the way for privatizing public lands. He also pointed to strong Democratic candidates locally, including White who lost by a narrow margin to Marti Halverson in the race for House District 22, as well as Greg Epstein’s successful bid for county commissioner, leading the polls with 6,214 votes in the November election.
State house Reps. Andy Schwartz and Mike Gierau were also in attendance to report on legislative happenings.
Gierau said the highlight of his year was sponsoring a bill that would support education for immigrants with “cloudy” immigration status. Though ultimately the bill was denied a hearing in the House, Gierau said he was able to attach similar language in an amendment to another education bill, and that the issue got at least a bit of discussion in the house before it was shot down. The legislature, Gierau said, is “partisan as hell.”
Jackson Town Councilman Jim Stanford and County Commissioner Greg Epstein also spoke, encouraging people to vote in the upcoming May SPET election, when residents can vote to tax themselves to pay for projects like a new senior living center, affordable housing and a maintenance facility for buses and snowplows. The 10-item ballot will ask voters to consider nearly $70 million of proposals.
Finally the floor was open for comment from the audience. Wyoming Democratic Chair Ana Cuprill discussed her campaign to retain her position. A rival candidate from Pinedale, Kendra Cross, also spoke.
Chrissy Koriakin, 31, of the young grassroots activism outfit JH Activate, talked briefly about her group’s effort to organize progressive activists in the valley. Recently this included the February 24 town hall meeting, which garnered more than 200 citizens to Teton County Library despite the absence of invited lawmakers—Sens. Barrasso and Enzi and Rep. Cheney.
“If there’s a silver lining to the bad and ugly,” Koriakin said, “it’s this new group of activists that are stepping up.”
Stay tuned to PJH’s print edition for more about Teton County Dems’ new leadership.