I think Senate President Phil Nicholas looks at an Amendment Convention as an opportunity to exercise some on behalf of Wyoming. As he explained in the Rules Committee, Wyoming is uniquely vulnerable in any “Grand Bargain” to balance the budget. It is heavily reliant on a mineral royalty arrangement it has with the federal government. Most big mines in Wyoming are on federal land, and Wyoming is not entitled to share in royalties. It gets some through some federal law or program which would be on the chopping block in a budget deal.
It’s generally understood in the Capitol that Nicholas is the sharpest knife in their drawer. He would lead any delegation to an Amendment Convention, and with one vote of 50 would have as much power as anyone. He could form an alliance with Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Alaska. I happen to know the Republican leadership in all of them, excepting Idaho. Nicholas is as bright, or brighter, than any of them. With almost 20% of the votes needed to form a majority of 26, this alliance could play a key role in the organization and functioning of the Convention. As a leader of this group, if not of an even larger one, he could ensure that whatever Amendment comes out of the Convention would protect Wyoming to the greatest extent possible.
This is why I think Nicholas will help us. With three out of 535, Wyoming is more vulnerable in Congress than it would be in an Amendment Convention. The Grim Reaper of budget cuts is coming, and he could save Wyoming’s bacon. A challenge, and, politically, the opportunity of a lifetime.
I actually kind of like Nicholas. He reminds me a little bit of me. What people call his arrogance is just impatience with the slow witted. You get tired of having to explain everything to people, and get short with them. This might be an issue if he runs statewide. It won’t hurt him at the Convention.
To be a leader there you not only have to be smart, you have to be seen as smart.
The greatest leader I personally knew was Gov. Jay Hammond of Alaska. In 1978 he won the nomination of the Republican Party, and, effectively a second term, by 97 votes over a divided field. I was Chairman of Hands for Hammond, a volunteer group, and I figured that without the contribution I made he would have lost. Of course, there were about 100 other people who could make the same claim.
They finished the pipeline during his term, and wealth began to flow into Juneau in astonishing amounts. The Legislature was determined to piss away every last dime, but they met their match with Jay Hammond. He clubbed the legislature like a dog, and they gave him 25% of the money, constitutionally. It’s up to $50 billion now. It’s like every Alaskan is born with an $80,000 savings account.
Jay was a preacher’s son from New England who flew Marine fighters in WW II. He came to Alaska after the war, became a bush pilot, and married Bella, the prettiest Eskimo girl in the state. This was a man’s man.
As I look back at a lifetime in politics, I really don’t have a lot to show for it.
But Jay Hammond was a friend of mine.