Buchanan resigns State Department early, won’t oversee election

GOSHEN COUNTY – Goshen County’s new governor-appointed District Judge Ed Buchanan, who is currently Wyoming Secretary of State, announced he is departing the state department earlier than typical and will not be overseeing the November General Election.

Buchanan will assume his judgeship in Goshen County starting in September and forego serving his last three months as the state secretary.

“I’m excited to be coming back home to my friends, family and colleagues and I am looking forward to getting back on the bench to serve my hometown and surrounding communities because I love the legal system and law,” Buchanan told the Telegram in an exclusive interview.

Adding, “I am leaving about mid-September as my duties and responsibilities in this office are wrapping up here quickly regarding the number of initiatives and programs I’ve been working on.”

“I’m excited about the transition to serve on the Judiciary back in Torrington and and serving the entire Eighth Judicial District as you know, that covers Lusk, Wheatland as well and Douglas,” Buchanan added.

The announcement comes on the heels of several Wyoming election officials resigning as soon-to-be Secretary of State-elect Chuck Gray is set to take the office after the November election due to him running unopposed in the General Election. Democrats and other Gray critics failed to present a candidate with the required signatures to run in November before Monday’s deadline.

Several critics of Gray cite his criticism of the contentious 2020 General Presidential Election, of which, Buchanan launched a statewide education campaign stressing Wyoming Elections were “safe and secure.”

Previously, Goshen County Clerk’s election officials told the Telegram, Wyoming did not fit the national narrative concerning fraudulent elections as the state and county does not use the voting machines in question, do not have drop off boxes, required individuals to vote via early ballot or in-person the day of election and other Wyoming statutes that protect Wyoming voters. Gray remains a skeptic of the overall 2020 election nationwide.

Data provided by both the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and Goshen County Clerk’s office indicates that voter fraud remains exceedingly rare in Wyoming.

Lawmakers statewide are calling for restrictions on the office of the Secretary of State, mostly aimed at Gray and his 2020 election skepticism. No additional information regarding possible future legislative action was available in time for publication.

Buchanan’s departure means he will not be overseeing the November Midterm Election, which means Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon will need to appoint an interim Wyoming Secretary of State to serve until Gray takes office in January.

Earlier this year, May 17, Buchanan announced he was not seeking reelection for the state department.

Buchanan was appointed to the Secretary of State’s office on March 1, 2018, by former Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead; he ran a successful campaign for the office that year and was elected to continue to serve as the Secretary of State in the November 2018 election.

Previously, Buchanan served in the Wyoming House of Representatives representing Goshen County, his hometown and where he is returning to as a district judge. On July 30, Gordon appointed Buchanan as Goshen County’s new district judge; he also serves as the LaGrange Town Lawyer.

Buchanan is expected to leave the state department for Goshen County on or around Sept. 15 and begin working on the bench beginning Sept. 19.

The Wyoming Republican Central Committee will be responsible for nominating three candidates to replace Buchanan and presenting those candidates to Gordon to serve as interim until January.

However, despite Gray running unopposed and winning the Primary Election in August, Wyoming Constitution prohibits the possibility of him assuming office prior to his January serving due to him currently still serving as a Wyoming state representative.

Per Wyoming State Constitution: “No senator or representative shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the state, and no member of congress or other person holding an office (except that of a notary public or an office in the militia) shall be permitted to be appointed to any other state office.”

Meaning, Gray would be required to resign from the office he is currently elected to and serving in as Wyoming Legislature to be able to assume office, however, because his elected term for his current office does not expire until January, he would be prohibited from assuming his new role until then.

According to Wyoming Legislative Service Office Director Matt Obrecht interpretation of the Wyoming Constitution, “It’s ‘during the term for which he was elected’ so (a resignation) doesn’t cure that.

Obrecht said a 2010 memorandum from other individuals in his office held the same position. That memorandum in-part read: “Resignation from the current term would not allow appointment to the civil office until after the end of the current term.”

This clause in the Wyoming Constitution has never been challenged in court but underwent a formal legal interpretation prior to the 2010 memorandum.

Shortly after declaring he would not run for reelection, Buchanan’s office released a press release over the summer stating that he had intended to leave the office early to pursue his appointment in the Goshen County District Court and according to Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman, was phrased vaguely so that “the secretary had flexibility to do his election duties.”

From previous conversations with Buchanan and his office, he told the Telegram he wanted a vague interpretation of when he would be leaving the state department for his new position as a district judge because he was unsure of how long it would take for him to complete a number of projects he was interested in and invested in as Wyoming Secretary of State. However, he also noted his time schedule also greatly was determined on the retirement of now-retired Goshen County Eighth District Judge Patrick W. Korell, who retired on August 2 and covered Goshen, Niobrara and Platte counties. Judge Korell announced his retirement late last year in 2021.

According to Buchanan’s office, the secretary has not yet filed his formal resignation and told the Telegram they did not know when that would be. However, Gordon would not be allowed to notify the Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne of Buchanan’s departure until that resignation was formally filed. Eathrone is responsible for running the Central Committee and will be one of the individuals to present three interim candidates to the governor and will have just 15 days to do so. Upon receiving those three nominations, Gordon will have five days to appoint an interim secretary per state law. The committee is made of three Republicans from each county and must have a chairman, committeewoman and committeeman and together the delegation has 15 days to present just three candidates.

Earlier this year, the committee presented Gordon with three candidates for Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, one of which being Brian Schroeder, who lost his bid for election in the August Primaries to newcomer Megan Degenfelder, after former Superintendent Jillian Balow resigned. This vote was the center of controversy and a lawsuit that alleges it to have been “unconstitutional” because each county got the same number of votes despite population and did not adhere to the “one-person, one-vote” provision. However, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote it would have been unlikely and nearly impossible for critics and plaintiffs to “demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits because the case law does not support their position.” This led to Gordon being able to nominate Schoreder to the Superintendent’s office earlier this year.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to my roots as a judge and cannot wait to see my Goshen County friends, family and colleagues once again,” Buchanan said.

The Telegram reached out to Gray’s office for comment, but neither responded in time for publication.

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