Sen. Nethercott says Rep. Gray disqualified in secy. of state race over FEC issues

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Aug. 6—CHEYENNE — One candidate to succeed Ed Buchanan as Wyoming's next secretary of state has accused one of her rival office-seekers of not having sufficient qualifications.

A Friday afternoon news release from Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, said Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, is disqualified from being the secretary of state. Nethercott cited a recent complaint to the Federal Election Commission against Gray. Separately Friday, former President Donald Trump endorsed three GOP candidates for statewide office, including Gray.

In the FEC complaint, former Secretary of State Max Maxfield contended there were insufficient financial disclosures from Gray when Gray was previously seeking to become the next U.S. House member from Wyoming. In the complaint, Maxfield said there is an "implausibility of the disparity between the reported assets, reported income and the amount loaned to the campaign."

An FEC spokeswoman said by email she "can't confirm that we have received that complaint." On Tuesday, the WTE had received a copy of the filing from Maxfield's lawyer.

In her new written statement that was distributed by email, Nethercott pointed to "his short-lived run for U.S. Congress, in which Gray claimed he makes $11,000 a year and has no significant personal assets, including not owning a home. Yet campaign information also shows Gray loaned his campaign $300,000."

Gray did not comment on the allegations filed at the FEC or on Nethercott's comments.

In a brief phone interview Friday, Nethercott would not say exactly if she was directly asking Gray to exit the secretary of state's race, noting that such decisions are up to voters. She said she had not spoken directly with Gray about this issue, and she had not filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's Office. She suggested the FEC could be the appropriate venue to adjudicate this issue related to Gray's qualifications.

"l'll let him decide what he wants to do with that," Nethercott told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, regarding whether Gray should drop out. "I'm just asking Chuck Gray to explain where the money came from," referring to the $300,000 loan to his previous campaign for Congress, Nethercott said. "The money doesn't add up."

Maxfield endorsed Nethercott in her bid to become secretary of state. This endorsement was in a letter to the editor of the WTE, which was published this week.

In a phone interview Friday, Maxfield noted he had endorsed Nethercott well before he filed his concerns with the FEC about Gray. He said Nethercott was not aware of his FEC complaint before he made it. And the former secretary of state said he was not sure himself if Gray should drop out, though there are significant questions about his lack of transparency.

"Someone who can't explain where $300,000 came for doesn't deserve to be secretary of state," Maxfield said. "I certainly don't think he is qualified after that kind of discrepancy in his filing."

Maxfield said he generally agreed with Nethercott that the lack of information in Gray's past-campaign disclosures was disqualifying for Gray to become secretary of state.

Responding to the complaint at the FEC, in a statement given to the Casper Star-Tribune, Gray said earlier this week that "this frivolous filing is just liberal insiders who are trying to get Tara Nethercott elected working with the dishonest media at the Star-Tribune to distract from Nethercott's record."

The Republican primary is Aug. 16.

Jonathan Make is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's assistant managing editor and editor of the Wyoming Business Report. He can be reached at jmake@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3129. Follow him on Twitter @makejdm.