JACKSON – In a country that often seems
cleaved in two, Jim Roscoe challenged the hyperpartisan
divide to become Wyoming’s second independent
state legislator, and the first in 40 years.
Roscoe, the next representative for House District
22, which covers parts of Sublette, Teton and
Lincoln counties, said that “in Wyoming you used
to be able to think for yourself.”
After two terms representing the district as a
Democrat a decade ago, he chose to forgo party
support this time in hopes his nonpartisan approach
would appeal to voters.
“It worked out just as I had hoped,” he said. “I
think people were receptive to that. Going door to
door there was a very negative response to our divided
country because of party politics and being
put into a box.”
On the list of independents in the state Legislature,
Roscoe is preceded only by William
Holland, who represented Johnson County from
1971 to 1978, back when legislators were elected
Roscoe trailed his opponent, three-time incumbent
Marti Halverson, in Lincoln and Sublette
counties. But he clobbered her in Teton County,
drawing nearly three times more votes in his home
county – the highest percentage margin of any
race. All told, the Wilsonite won 2,495 to 1,983.
Even in the other two counties, Roscoe held
his own, trailing 179 to Halverson’s 204 in Sublette
and 935 to 1,269 in Lincoln.
He has lived in both Teton and Sublette counties
for years, and owns a construction business
with offices in both. But in Lincoln County, Roscoe
didn’t have many connections, so he made an
effort to campaign in the area, visiting towns like
Star Valley Ranch and Freedom.
“I did a lot of work down there,” he said.
Roscoe believes the flagship issues he ran on,
public lands and education, won him the race. He
said his objection to transferring federal lands to
the state, along with his desire to modernize Wyoming’s
education revenue stream, resonated with
voters throughout the district.
He sees certain natural resources, like lithium
and trona, as viable options to fund schools at the
current level. He added that such development
must be done responsibly “on our own terms and
“I think there’s a lot we can do on the minerals
front,” he said, “and on the energy front.”
He also said he supports Medicaid expansion
and believes counties should have authority over
whether to collect lodging taxes and how to distribute
He said he respects Halverson’s service over
the past six years, particularly on mental health
issues, for which he hopes to “carry the torch.”
With the election behind him, Roscoe plans to
do some hunting and prepare for office again after
a six-year break. As an independent, he faces new
dilemmas this time around.
For example, he said, both the Republican
and Democratic parties have invited him to caucus
with them, though he isn’t sure which he’ll
He also has to figure out which committees he
will sit on. Membership is generally balanced between
Democrats and Republicans to the extent
possible, and the state tries to include both parties
on every committee. But as the only legislator
without a party, he’s unsure how he’ll fit in.
“Where,” he said, “do you put this odd duck of