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Candidates for U.S. House Representative were asked, "How do you plan to close the political divides, both in your own party and across party lines?"

SHERIDAN — When the Pew Research Center surveyed people in 17 countries last year, 90% of U.S. respondents said society was split along partisan lines. This was the most of any country surveyed.

The survey begs the question: Is unity no longer achievable in American politics? Many of the candidates for U.S. House think it is, but it’s not going to be easy.

“We need to determine what we agree upon and move forward,” Democratic candidate Steve Helling of Casper said. “We need to forgive past transgressions, including moving forward from the 2020 election, which I think still provides a significant amount of friction between those who think the election was likely stolen and those who do not. If elected, I would stress the need to treat others as we want to be treated and to love our neighbors as ourselves, even when we disagree.”

Eight candidates are running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wilson.

In addition to Cheney and Helling, this year’s candidates include Republican Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne, Republican Denton Knapp of Gillette, Republican Harriet Hageman of Cheyenne, Republican Robyn Belinskey of Sheridan, Democrat Lynnette GreyBull of Fort Washakie and Democrat Meghan Jensen of Rock Springs.

GreyBull said her campaign’s motto is “believe there is good in the world.” She said that belief is key to developing relationships across the aisle with people who believe differently than you. Those relationships, in turn, allow lasting change to take place.

“I actually hope I think beyond parties completely, and that we all can, because the problems we’re facing today go beyond liberal versus conservative,” GreyBull said. ”…My own community doesn’t have the time and space for partisan or internal party bickering, and I don’t think the rest of the country does either.”

Republican candidates were more divided on whether bipartisanship was a good idea. Belinskey said she operated with a bipartisan mindset and “would promote unity by being open-minded for discussion” both within her own party and across party lines.

“Political divides could be closed by finding common ground solutions on issues facing both parties utilizing common sense and reason,” Belinskey said. “Problem solving with ultimate resolution of the issues at hand would be my objective.”

Hageman, on the other hand, said she is generally unwilling to make any concessions to the Democratic Party.

“One of the problems with the way Washington, D.C., operates is that very often ‘compromise’ or talk of unity means capitulating to Democrats, whose policies have gotten us into the many predicaments we now face as a nation,” Hageman said. “If bipartisanship means agreeing with the policies that brought us rampant inflation, a crisis at our southern border and $30 trillion in national debt, then count me out.”

Jensen said all relationship problems — whether interpersonal, business-related or in the realm of politics — are due to communication issues. A lack of civil conversation can cause people on both sides to feel dehumanized, she said, and only compassion and understanding can heal those wounds.

“If I’m elected, I’d work to bridge the gap between folks,” Jensen said. “…We’re human first and everything else next.”

Bouchard, Knapp and Cheney did not respond to multiple requests via phone and email to participate in this article.

Stephen Dow is a reporter at The Sheridan Press. 

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