Gubernatorial candidate Bien wants to protect personal freedoms

CHEYENNE — For Brent Bien, there were three specific incidents that motivated his run for governor. 

The first time the idea came up was when former President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. The second time was when current Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon “shut the state down” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are 20,000 square miles bigger, 300,000 people fewer than South Dakota, and (they were) open for business,” Bien told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Thursday. 

The final trigger for Bien came with President Joe Biden’s election in November 2020. 

At that point, Bien thought, “We have a governor that’s already put our freedom on the table, (and now) there’s nobody at the federal level that’s going to stand up for our freedom,” he said.

After speaking with some other conservatives in the state and learning they weren’t planning to challenge Gordon in 2022, Bien decided he was the man for the job. 

Bien, who is running as a conservative Republican, is originally from Laramie. He and his wife, Susan, moved back to Wyoming about three years ago, following Bien’s retirement as a colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps after close to three decades. 

Working primarily as a Marine Corps aviator, Bien provided support in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Kosovo, and spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Most recently, the candidate was in Guam, leading the ongoing Defense Policy Review Initiative, which he said included building a Marine Corps base on the island territory. 

Bien then worked as director of safety and standardization for Bighorn Airways in Sheridan until last fall, when he retired to focus on his run for governor. 

Throughout all of his travels, Bien said he maintained his Wyoming residency and has voted in every Wyoming election since he was 18. 

Having watched the state’s politics for decades, Bien said he’s seen “a lack of leadership” among Wyoming’s governors – especially the current one. In shutting down the state, Gordon hurt businesses and workers, and allowed an appointed health official to run the state, Bien said.

The gubernatorial candidate wants to see “proactive leadership” in Cheyenne – a strong governor like Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota or Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, he said. 

“Wyoming should be leading,” he said. “I know that we are involved in some lawsuits against certain things that are coming down federally, but it seems like we always jump on the bandwagon. ... Let’s be the first.” 

Bien said his campaign “revolves around making Wyoming the freest state in the nation.” To do that as governor, Bien would emphasize “the three P’s”: protecting personal freedoms, pursuing government accountability and promoting state sovereignty. 

When it comes to personal freedoms, Bien said he’s particularly focused on “protecting private property rights, rights of the unborn, and, of course, the Second Amendment.” 

Bien said working toward government accountability means protecting voter integrity and ending crossover voting, moving toward more limited government, “fiscal discipline,” and school choice and educational transparency. 

In promoting state sovereignty, Bien said the goal would be to protect the state from federal overreach and reduce dependency on the federal government. 

“I’m all about working with the federal government, as long as it doesn’t encroach upon personal freedoms, nor the sovereignty of the state,” Bien said. 

He said that overreach has been happening for a long time but has really ramped up since Biden took office. 

As an example, he cited what he called “the Biden 30/30 land and water grab,” referring to a goal announced early in Biden’s presidency to conserve at least 30 percent of land and water in the U.S. by 2030. 

Bien also said he is a “big believer in promoting energy expansion.” 

“I think that fossil fuels are just as much our future as they were our past – we just have to change the narrative on them,” he said. “We have the technology to make – particularly coal, because we’re such a coal state – to make this extremely clean.” 

Bien said coal coming from the Powder River Basin is “the cleanest coal in the world” because of its low sulfur content. 

Bien also spoke in favor of what he called “insulationism.” At its core, he said, it means strengthening certain industries within Wyoming so the state doesn’t have to rely as much on the federal government and industry outside the state. 

The candidate drew a distinction between “insulationism” and isolationism, which he said he’s not at all interested in. 

“It’s just to better protect the state, to insulate the state from bad federal policy,” he explained. “And there’s no way to completely do that by any means. But when I look at the cost of everything in the grocery store, the gasoline and all this stuff – I mean, there is a way to do this.”

When he spoke to the WTE Thursday morning, Bien was readying for an evening visit to Thermopolis. 

Visiting towns across the state, even those with a small number of residents, has so far been a significant part of his campaign. In the past month, Bien has made stops in Hudson, Recluse, Thayne and even tiny Spotted Horse, according to his Facebook page, alongside larger destinations like Gillette, Casper and Cheyenne. 

During one recent visit to Cody, Bien said a campaign event originally scheduled for two hours lasted about eight. 

These visits and interactions with potential voters have only strengthened his commitment to his core campaign principles, Bien said. 

He acknowledged that the road ahead would be difficult in terms of challenging an incumbent for the gubernatorial seat. Even so, he feels he’s developed a following through grassroots campaigning. 

“I’ve had a career successfully leading people to accomplish desired results, but it does come down to putting teams together and listening,” he said. “I always listen. And some ideas may work, some may not, but I always listen to the folks on what their concerns are.”