By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
State Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, is withdrawing from the race for the secretary of state’s office, he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
Dockstader, publisher of the Star Valley Independent in Afton, said he decided to withdraw because he believed Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, was a stronger candidate.
“I think I have to look at the importance of who is in the race,” he said. “Ultimately, I feel like Tara has a strong position.”
Dockstader has served in the Senate since 2009 after serving for two years in the state House of Representatives. His departure from the race leaves three candidates for the Republican primary, Nethercott, state Rep. Chuck Gray R-Casper, and Centennial resident Mark Armstrong.
In leaving the race, Dockstader endorsed Nethercott, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.
Dockstader said his decision to drop out came from his conclusion that Nethercott is a better candidate for the job.
“There’s only a limited number of votes and I believe the best candidate would be Tara,” he said, “We need a professional person and in her past experience she represented the state very well.”
Nethercott said she is honored to receive Dockstader’s endorsement and confirmed the two did have a conversation about the potential of him dropping out.
“We’ve been evaluating the race carefully and we talked about it as friends,” she said. “We want to make sure Wyoming people are represented by a secretary of state that has Western values.”
Nethercott said a number of people had reached out to her and Dockstader with concern about the race.
Chuck Gray Reaction
Rep. Gray dismissed the endorsement, framing it as two “insiders joining forces with each other” and said he considered Nethercott a “hand-picked insider candidate.”
“The voters of Wyoming want election security and ballot drop boxes banned,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “This election is clear choice between a conservative who has accomplished election integrity and an insider who has opposed and continues to oppose election integrity.”
But Nethercott noted she has been working on election integrity since she joined the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee six years ago.
“I’ve been working closely with the county clerks to determine the best practices in election integrity and will continue to fight ensure they are secure,” she said.
There are no Democrats in the race.
Dockstader gave little sign he would make this decision over the past few weeks, campaigning throughout the state. He confirmed he made the decision after speaking with Nethercott.
In phone interviews with Cowboy State Daily in June, both Dockstader and Nethercott reiterated their commitment to their campaigns.
In discussing the idea that either might drop out of the race before the Aug. 16 primary, Nethercott said at that time that she and Dockstader would do what is best for Wyoming voters.
“In many instances Sen. Tara Nethercott and I agree on topics related to ensuring safe and secure elections in Wyoming by working with 23 county clerks, in addition to maintaining a successful business division within the Secretary of State’s office, ” Dockstader said in a press release. “Her commitment to economic diversity, job creation and job retention will also be reflected in the Secretary’s business division.”
Gray, a three term representative who is a member of five committees at the legislature, has been hosting free showings of the “2000 Mules” movie, a production that alleges people stuffed ballot boxes and overturned the results of the 2020 election. None of the footage in this movie was shot in Wyoming but it casts doubt on the integrity of elections nationwide. No evidence of election fraud has surfaced in Wyoming.
“I think Tara will be working with the clerks all across the state and she already has been,” Dockstader said. “I feel confident that if there are matters that need to have to be addressed she would address them.”
Dockstader is the first candidate running for a major state office to drop out. He said he is already planning to run for re-election to the Senate in 2024.
Monique Meese, a communications director with the Secretary of State’s Office, said Dockstader’s name will still appear on the ballot for the secretary of state’s race as the deadline for finalizing ballots has already passed. She said signs will be posted at polling places indicating his withdrawal.
Current Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced in May he would not seek re-election and is currently one of three finalists for a judgeship in Goshen County.