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In Gillette, Challenger May Have More Name…

Name recognition is huge in politics, which is why incumbents typically have a large advantage in elections.

Someone who’s already spent at least one term in office, if not many, is generally known, along with having established a track record of some of the things they’ve done since being elected.

In the case of the House District 32 race in Gillette, being the incumbent may be less of an advantage for state Rep. Ken Clouston, who is challenged by George Dunlap in the Republican primary.

Clouston is running for a second term in office, before which he was already well-known in Gillette as the owner and founder of Gillette Physical Therapy.

Dunlap carries his own level of local political recognition, however. He was elected many times over to the Campbell County Health Board of Trustees — 28 years in total — and was the founding member of the local Rotary Club.

Clouston said he’s not interested in slinging any mud at Dunlap and said their records speak for themselves.

“One of the reasons I’ve had success is because I’m respectful and listen to everyone’s opinion,” he said.

Who’s Clouston?

Clouston is a former Campbell County School District board member who moved to Wyoming from North Dakota in 2005. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2022, and has made education and health issues his main focus, which aligns with his previous experience.

One of his proudest achievements was passing a bill this year brought by the Joint Labor Committee requiring health insurers and other entities to follow prior authorization regulations, which Clouston believes will decrease patient care delays and serve as a model for the rest of the country.

“There were so many good things in that bill,” Clouston said.

He also was the lead sponsor of a bill that allows parents to access public education money to use for their children to receive private education.

Clouston said he’s running for reelection because he has unfinished business in the Legislature. His biggest concerns are natural resources and making a fiscally responsible state budget.

Clouston was the only member of the Gillette House delegation to vote for the biennial budget this past session, siding with the more moderate Wyoming Caucus Republican faction. He said he mainly did so because of important amendments made supporting construction projects at Gillette College that had been stripped from an earlier version of the bill.

Clouston also believes there’s something to be said for the effort put into crafting the budget. When the budget was initially voted down in the Senate, it led to a hurried attempt to find a compromise between the House and Senate for a final budget, which Clouston believes wasted time.

“We’ve got some very experienced legislators who spent a whole year working on it,” he said. “We have to respect the process.”

Clouston downplayed there being any divide between he and other Gillette state legislators and said they just differ on mental health solutions, social issues and a bill passed during the 2023 session expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers.

If reelected, Clouston said he wants to pass a medical insurance credentialing bill to better streamline payments between insurance companies and medical providers. He also plans to bring a bill that would expand the field of medical practitioners who can make people who have recently received back or leg surgeries eligible for handicap status.

He also wants to lower workers’ compensation costs in Wyoming.

State Rep. Ken Clouston, R-Gillette.
State Rep. Ken Clouston, R-Gillette. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Who’s Dunlap?

Dunlap is a third-generation Wyomingite and Gillette native who owns a local photography business.

He was removed from the Hospital board in 2018 after illegally releasing confidential and privileged information from executive sessions, according to the Gillette News Record.

Dunlap, who has testified before the Legislature on various occasions, doesn’t believe Clouston is effectively representing Gillette.

“Someone with courage had to step up and represent the people of Gillette, so I will fill those shoes,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap said he was first inspired to run after Clouston allegedly made a comment during his 2022 campaign that he was disgusted with former Rep. Tim Hallinan for sponsoring a bill to reduce the severance tax on the coal industry from 7% to 6.5%.

Clouston said this isn’t true and he 100% supported the cut, which passed into law. He said his real comment was that by decreasing the tax, it would also decrease the amount of tax going to the state for schools.

“I’m not sure if I was not clear two years ago when I answered that question or if George misunderstood the details,” Clouston said.

Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining…

Read More: In Gillette, Challenger May Have More Name…

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