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Former Cheyenne Democrat faces off against three-term incumbent in Republican primary

Cheyenne resident Thomas Lear isn’t hiding the fact that he only registered as a Democrat in February and is now running in the Republican primary for House District 12.

In fact, he owns it and said his personal politics continue to evolve. Lear said his positions on limited government and personal choice represent traditional Wyoming Republican values, although he is more “open-minded” on social issues such as gay marriage, which he supports.

“Whatever I have been, I have always been moderate,” Lear said.

Lear is running against state Rep. Clarence Styvar, R-Cheyenne, who is seeking re-election to his fourth term.

Styvar did not respond to multiple requests for an interview for this story. He joins the Republican Party’s far-right Wyoming Freedom Caucus group.

Who is Lear?

Lear said he is running for the Legislature to help as many people as possible and return the state to what he remembers from his childhood.

Lear is from Wyoming and graduated from high school in Alaska. After a brief collegiate baseball career, he returned to Wyoming to earn his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming.

Lear worries that Wyoming is losing its “live and let live” attitude toward outside influences and national politics. Lear believes that Wyoming’s state government should be as small as possible and that the people should make their own decisions.

“Now the state government is starting to make personal, private and health care decisions. This is not the Wyoming I knew,” he said. “I really feel like people who don’t really understand what Wyoming is are pushing these ideas, an agenda that they have that doesn’t represent the majority of Wyoming.”

If elected, Lear says he will continually solicit feedback from his constituents. He believes certain lawmakers do not represent their constituents, but rather pursue personal agendas. Lear said many are recent transplants to the state or are not natives.

“Wyoming is not far right, Wyoming is not government interfering in your life,” he said.

After working in baseball for about a decade, he accepted a teaching position at Laramie County Community College in 2016. Since that time, Lear has been the lead instructor of English as a Second Language and American Social Studies and is also an instructor in the school’s sports management school. program. When people complete these programs, the school also helps its students find future employment.

“We literally help people achieve their dreams and goals,” he said.

He also worked at the Snowy Range Academy in Laramie, which gave him insight into the K-12 landscape in Wyoming.

About education

Lear is concerned about recent developments in public education in the Cowboy State, with school staff often targeted by parental rights issues and in several cases budget cuts.

He is not in favor of school vouchers, which allow parents to use public money to send their children to private schools.

“I believe if you want to go to a private school, it’s a family decision and it’s something the family has to pay for,” he said.

Although Wyoming has some of the highest per-pupil funding for public education in the country, Lear believes the state should spend more. Many conservatives have pointed to this statistic and the fact that Wyoming is in the middle of the pack in school performance as evidence that this money is not being spent efficiently.

“I feel like if we just made a few changes, we could provide the best education system in the country,” he said.

He also opposes a bill passed during the most recent legislative session that would ban transgender care for minors in Wyoming. While he doesn’t think it’s a real problem in Wyoming, Lear believes decisions about getting such treatments should be made between the family and the doctor. He fears that this will lead to more government intervention in healthcare in the future.

“For the state to issue an edict where they know better than the family and the doctor for a child, doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “We don’t want the government making decisions about health care.”

He also reflects that the Legislature cut funding for the University of Wyoming’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office, causing the school to eliminate the program. He believes this will hurt the school’s athletic recruitment, overall enrollment and especially the school’s minority student population. Declining student numbers are an ongoing concern at UW.

Lear believes that the true meaning of DEI has been misrepresented and that its true purpose is to educate people about different cultures and perspectives.

“We’re going to kick ourselves by telling students not to come to Wyoming because your diversity, your culture, it’s not accepted here,” Lear said.

Lear said he wants to run a clean campaign and will not attack Styvar, other than offering “very different” representation. Styvar has taken a different route, sharing several posts from conservative sources criticizing Lear on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“It’s just as ugly as everyone says,” Lear said of the politics. ‘You have a lot of people who want to tear you down. There are a lot of people who call you names and antagonize you because they think they know who you are, but they never took the time to get to know you or listen to what you said.”

Who is Styvar?

Styvar is a Wyoming native and decorated Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. He has lived in Cheyenne for about 25 years.

In 2023, he passed legislation establishing a special license plate sticker for female veterans in Wyoming.

He is also passionate about the topic of annexation of cities and towns and has introduced legislation that would require written approval from a majority of all landowners who own a parcel of land in an area before it is annexed into a municipality. Styvar said on his Facebook page that he plans to bring back this legislation if re-elected.

Styvar thinks differently than Lear on the issue of school vouchers and introduced his own legislation in 2021 that would have created public savings accounts for parents whose children seek private special education services.

He supported this year’s bill to create education savings accounts that would allow people in Wyoming to attend private schools with public money.

Styvar also co-sponsored legislation banning transgender care for minors in Wyoming and supported eliminating the university’s DEI program.

He has also shown some inclination toward bipartisanship, getting two Democrats to co-sponsor his 2021 bill that would eliminate fees and fines for juvenile offenders.

Some criticized Styvar and certain Freedom Caucus members this legislative session because they oppose a increase in state tax-related benefits for the death of spouses in response to the killing of a Sheridan police officer this winter. Styvar said the falling police officer, Nevada Krinkee, knew what he was signing up for when he became a police officer.

HD 12, which covers southern Laramie County to the Colorado border, has shown a tendency to be quite conservative.

Styvar won both of his contested general election campaigns against Democrats in 2018 and 2020 by comfortable margins.

His closest election came in his first Republican primary, where he defeated his opponent by about 100 votes.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at [email protected].

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