- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Cheyenne businessman Ed Murray painted himself as the only candidate who offers new blood when he faced off in a debate Wednesday night against three others also seeking the Wyoming Republican Party’s nomination for secretary of state.

But as Murray essentially criticized the others for their political experience, candidate Ed Buchanan of Torrington, a former speaker of the Wyoming House, retorted that Murray didn’t have his facts straight.

The testy exchange came in at a debate organized by Wyoming Public Media. Reporter Aaron Schrank noted that critics say the State Loan and Investment Board, a state-funding panel that includes the secretary of state, has given too much money to large communities. He asked the candidates how the playing field could be leveled.

Murray responded that as he has traveled around the state, he has heard from the leaders of several local governments that they’ve been deprived of funding for the past dozen years, ever since the state made changes to mineral-tax distributions to local governments through a process called “de-earmarking.”

The process redistributed money that had been guaranteed to local governments, highways, higher education and other entities for years. The measure was seen as a way to allow the state more control of its revenues.

“I’m the only candidate up here who’s truly local government,” Murray said. “The others have a record, a history, of opposing the efforts of local governments to receive - they have been unable, the local governments, to have any predictability and certainly of funding.”

Buchanan shot back: “I think that Mr. Murray’s the only candidate up here that doesn’t have a command of his facts, and perhaps some political experience would benefit him in this area.”

Buchanan, who left the Legislature in 2012, said, “The fact of the matter is local governments have not been strangled. They have received more money than they did before de-earmarking. The only thing that’s true is we do need consistency and predictability. But a lot of that has to do with the boom-and-bust nature of our economy.”

The State Loan and Investment Board administers a number of loan programs, including lending money from the state’s permanent funds and overseeing various capital-improvement and construction funds. While it’s difficult to determine the total amount of money the board disburses, it’s clear that local governments have seen increases in direct state funding as state budgets have grown.

Financial reports filed this week show Murray has raised more than $400,000 for his campaign, of which he put in more than $360,000 himself through personal loans. The other candidates - Buchanan, Pete Illoway of Cheyenne, and Clark Stith of Rock Springs - each reported raising less than $100,000.

As Murray emphasized his “outsider” status to state government, the others said their experience both inside and outside government would make them the best pick for voters.

Illoway, a businessman and former legislator, said the theme of his campaign is “experience matters.” He noted that he served 14 years on the legislative committee that handles corporations and worked closely with outgoing Secretary of State Max Maxfield on issues that included fighting corporate fraud.

Buchanan, a lawyer and former officer in the U.S. Air Force, noted he rose through the ranks in his 10 years in the Legislature and was selected as House speaker. He said his military service as well as business and government experience all helped him develop a leadership style based on civility and respect that qualifies him to serve as secretary of state.

Stith, a Rock Springs lawyer and former Sweetwater County Republican chairman, serves on the Rock Springs city council. He said he has introduced a “small government tool kit” that will help him streamline the office of secretary of state and make it easier for the public to do business with it.

No Democrat is running for secretary of state in Tuesday’s primary.

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