CASPER, Wyo. -- Republican Gov. Matt Mead and gubernatorial primary challenger Taylor Haynes disagreed over settling refugees in Wyoming and federal land management Tuesday night during a debate that also touched on energy and the economy.
Haynes, a Cheyenne rancher and physician, said that he opposes having refugees settle in Wyoming because he is concerned about disease and even terrorism, the Casper Star-Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1kuzAyj ).
"I think they're groups of people brought in to kill our labor and undermine our culture," he said.
Mead, a former U.S. attorney for Wyoming who was elected governor in 2010, insisted the state isn't importing refugees but is exploring having a refugee resettlement program. Wyoming is the only state without such a program.
"Count the number of refugees we've brought under my administration," Mead said. "Zero."
The two sparred at a Casper College debate sponsored by the college, the Star-Tribune and KCWY Channel 13.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill also is seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 19 primary. She declined invitations to the debate.
Mead criticized Haynes' call to take back federal lands and Haynes' statements that drilling, grazing and mining could potentially occur in Yellowstone National Park. The Star-Tribune reported the remarks on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Haynes claimed he made the Yellowstone remarks to get attention.
"I did state that I would drill in Yellowstone, and I will admit to you all: I made that statement to draw everybody's attention to Yellowstone. I have no intention of drilling for anything in Yellowstone," he said.
"I think it's a poor way to get attention to say you'll drill in Yellowstone National Park and then say you don't intend to," Mead said. The governor also criticized Haynes over federal land management, saying the state often differs from the federal government but works with it on species protection and other issues.
Haynes criticized the state's conservative approach to savings with its rainy day fund. He said revenues should be distributed to municipalities for infrastructure and for veterans' services, mental health and juvenile justice.
Mead said he's returned money to local governments and supports infrastructure projects but that interest from Wyoming's permanent and temporary savings generates needed revenue.