Negative mailers causing controversy in Wyoming legislative races

Contested legislative districts in Laramie County have been flooded with mailed advertisements in recent weeks.

But some of those mailers are drawing criticism that they are negative, inaccurate or both.

One such case is in House District 11 in Cheyenne, where both candidates have criticized mailings distributed against their campaigns.

This past week, a mailer funded by the Wyoming Republican Party was sent to HD 11 voters. It depicted incumbent Rep. Mary Throne,  D-Cheyenne, with Hillary Clinton and stated that Throne is “too extreme” and indicated she does not support the coal industry.

“The idea of the piece is the idea I’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton’s ‘war on coal,’ which is absurd,” Throne said Friday, noting her endorsements by groups like the Wyoming Mining Association.

But how the mailer was constructed was “particularly offensive,” Throne said.

The photo of Throne that was used was originally of her and Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, who Throne called a “friend and colleague.”

The women posed together for the photo in 2015 because it marked the first time both the minority and majority leaders in the Wyoming House of Representatives were women, Throne said.

The person who created the mailing used software to remove Berger and insert Clinton, as well as change Throne’s legislative nametag into a Clinton campaign badge.

Throne said it was one of several mailers that have been sent out against her in the district.

Jared Olsen, the Republican challenging Throne for the seat, said he saw no issue with the mailers.

“I wouldn’t for one minute apologize for that,” he said, later adding, “I have no problem with what the state party is doing in the district.”

Olsen said in his view, the mailers show information voters need to know, which in this case is that Throne endorsed Clinton.

A previous mailer that criticized Throne for campaign contributions from certain political action committees fits the same bill, Olsen said.

“Voters deserve to know,” he said.

Olsen also denounced mailers – six by his count – that were sent by organizations against his campaign.

Three were from Women Lead Wyoming, and three were from Wyoming Hunters and Anglers Alliance, he said.

Another mailer from Throne’s campaign compared her positions to those of Olsen.

Olsen said that mailer did not accurately reflect his opinions and did not cite information provided.

He said he was most upset about the flier stating he was a “party insider tied to platform.”

Olsen is the chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party.

“I’m not going to apologize for being a Republican,” he said.

Olsen said his campaign itself has only run positive mailings, though he said he does have input on mailings sent by the state party.

Other ads in the state have also tried to tie candidates to Clinton, who is unpopular in Wyoming.

Liz Cheney’s Republican campaign for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives recently started running a television advertisement tying her Democratic opponent, Ryan Greene, to Clinton.

A mailer in Senate District 6 also tried to tie Kym Zwonitzer, a Republican running as an independent, to Clinton.

That mailer, from Republican candidate Anthony Bouchard, also said Zwonitzer is liberal and said the Zonta Club, which she has been involved with, “backs the United Nations’ extremist agenda to push for more abortion around the world and for dangerous open border immigration policies.”

The Zonta Club is an organization that seeks “to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy,” including working to combat violence against women, according to its website.

If voters perceive ads as being negative, it’s not known whether those messages will be effective.

Dave Marcum, a political science instructor at Laramie County Community College, said there’s no universal consensus on the effectiveness of negative campaigning.

“If you can pin your opponent to a position that you know is unpopular with people in the area you’re running in, you’re going to do it,” he said.

However, too much negative campaigning could backfire, Marcum said.

“My sense is that if (negative ads) is your only message, you’re going to turn people off,” he said.

From Wyoming Tribune Eagle