Voters will go to the polls Aug. 21 without knowing whether candidate Dr. Taylor Haynes meets constitutional residency requirements to be Wyoming’s next governor.
Judge Thomas Campbell on Friday rejected the Wyoming Attorney General and Secretary of State’s request to remove Haynes from the ballot, saying resolving the dispute over the candidate’s residency would take more time than was available before primary voting closes. Agreeing with court filings and arguments made Wednesday by Haynes’ attorney, Campbell said the state acted too late.
“Potential harm is already in play as voting on an absentee basis has been underway for weeks,” Campbell wrote in an order.
Removing Haynes from the race while the residency dispute was ongoing would be “an improper interference in the electoral process,” he wrote. Removing Haynes would have granted the Secretary of State and the Attorney General the result they seek — Haynes removal from the race — without ruling on the fundamental question behind their legal action — resolving the question of Haynes’ residency, the judge said.
Haynes did not agree to the state’s request for an accelerated legal process to reach a prompt ruling on the residency question. As such, the judge would not expedite the hearings beyond a pace that would occur in a normal lawsuit. Campbell’s ruling cancelled the trial date set for Aug. 7 and 8 and the judge is expected to set a new date.
The judge made no ruling on whether Haynes met the constitutional requirements of five years of unbroken residency in Wyoming to be governor. He observed, however, that “at this juncture, the affidavits and the parties’ assertions might be sufficient for the court to doubt the likelihood that the [state] will prevail.”
In press releases within hours of one another, the Haynes campaign held up the ruling as vindication while the Secretary of State’s office bemoaned Haynes’ refusal to submit to a speedy resolution.
“The State had hoped for a definitive resolution of this matter for the sake of the voters, the candidates for governor, and for Dr. Haynes himself,” Secretary of State Ed Buchanan said in his statement. “I’m still hopeful that that the questions before the court will be heard in a timely manner. I am surprised that Dr. Haynes unequivocally would not agree to an expedited hearing as a way to guarantee the swift resolution of this matter before the primary election.”
Haynes’ campaign, meanwhile, said that after weeks of coverage about his eligibility, “the court has ruled in his favor and he will continue his campaign.”
The Haynes campaign release referred to Buchanan as “Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, former campaign manager for Harriet Hageman.” Hageman also is running for governor in the GOP primary. Buchanan was Hageman’s campaign manager, but resigned when he was appointed to the Secretary of State’s office by Gov. Matt Mead in May.
“This was a politically motivated action based on information they received from an unverified anonymous source,” the press release quoted Haynes as saying.
“We will continue pressing hard to get the word out that I am eligible to be Governor,” his statement read.
But the Secretary of State’s press release emphasized that the judge had not ruled on Haynes’ eligibility.
“The same two questions originally asked of the court … are left unanswered and unresolved in the ruling,” Buchanan’s statement said.
“Does Dr. Taylor Haynes meet the residency requirement to hold the office of governor under Article 4 Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming?” Is the first question. The second unanswered question remains whether the Secretary of State has the authority “to act upon issues relating to a candidate’s eligibility,” by removing an unqualified candidate from a race.