ETNA — Marti Halverson’s induction to Wyoming politics was the result of a single vote.
The year was 2000, and Halverson was living in Alpine when she saw on her election ballot that no candidate had filed to be the Lincoln County Republican Party committeewoman for her precinct. She didn’t even have the chance to tell her late husband to also write her name in: “I had no time. He was over at another [ballot] booth somewhere.”
Nevertheless, her vote is all it took.
“Next thing you know, I got a congratulations letter from the county clerk,” Halverson said.
The impromptu inkling to sign herself up kicked off what’s become a nearly quarter-century-long run at Republican Party politics at the county, state and national level. Although voted out of the Wyoming Legislature and, more recently, the chairperson’s seat of the Lincoln County GOP, her profile remains high: She was among the Republicans who took the stage during former President Donald Trump’s 2022 rally in Casper.
Halverson’s name has also been linked to more ignominious causes. She was implicated in a covert operation that planted spies to gather intel on so-called RINO politicians and Democrats in Wyoming. She denies involvement.
Along the way, Halverson has devoted herself to a dizzying array of volunteerism, including director roles at Star Valley’s Mid Valley Fire District, Lincoln Self Reliance, Wyoming Right to Life, the county party, and other state and local groups.
Marti and Stan Halverson came to Wyoming from Pennsylvania in 1996 partly for practical reasons: It was closer to Stan’s kids, then in California and Colorado. But there was also an element of finding political refuge, as the couple was drawn to the Equality State by its conservative politics.
Once she became involved with the Lincoln County Republican Party, Halverson slowly and steadily helped build it up. She cultivated a major donor program, and she was an omnipresent figure at fundraising events.
“She was the first one there, she was the last one there,” said Margaret Tueller, a fellow precinct committeewoman with Halverson. “She was setting up, taking down and serving the whole time. She was always in the trenches.”
When Stan, her late husband, died of heart failure in 2010, the loss partly inspired the idea to run for a seat in the Wyoming Legislature, Halverson said. A dozen years ago, House District 22 — which treads over much of southern Teton County — had somewhat reliable Democratic Party representation. When it looked like the Legislature was going to tack on Star Valley Ranch, Halverson saw an opportunity.
She ran. And Jim Roscoe, the incumbent, forgot to file before taking off on a river trip.
“The Wyoming Democrat Party sent a helicopter to get him,” Halverson recalled.
Operation find Roscoe failed, she said.
Roscoe, who spoke with WyoFile after this story originally published, had a different telling of what happened. He didn’t want to run, but filled out the paperwork to do so anyway. There was an error in his address that invalidated the filing. There was no helicopter, he said, though a friend who was a late arrival to the float and hiked down into the Grand Canyon did tell him that people were looking for him.
Roscoe also disputed that House District 22 was a friendly district for Democrats leading up to 2012.
Regardless, in the general election, Halverson edged out Bill Winney, who ran as an independent, for the win.
Once in office, Halverson became known as one of the farthest-right members of the Wyoming Legislature. In the early days of her Cheyenne tenure, the Republican Party and power in the statehouse were largely one of the same, though now the right is more divided.
Halverson was involved in one of the first indications that the Republican element was fracturing in Wyoming, she said. That was in 2012, when Halverson beat out Barbara Cubin for the Wyoming national committeewoman to the RNC, she said. Cubin was a 14-year member of the U.S. House representing Wyoming, and just three years removed from her time in Congress.
“And all I did was stand up and give my five-minute speech,” Halverson said. “And I won.”
Halverson aimed to push the party farther right, describing herself as a “new conservative.”
“I might be considered one of the grandmothers of the movement,” Halverson said.
Some Halverson qualities, however, don’t neatly align with the typical new-conservative value supporting shrinking government with few exceptions. Early on in her time in office, she fought to restore cuts Gov. Matt Mead made to mental health programs in the wake of the 2008 recession.
“Wyoming was pinching pennies, but the wrong pennies were being pinched,” Halverson said. “I don’t think we’ve ever recovered from that.”
Generosity and personal experience
Halverson knows about hardship and dealing with mental illness firsthand. After losing Stan, she fell into a severe depression.
“The casseroles stop coming, the cards stop coming, and you just spiral down,” Halverson said.
A foreign exchange student she took on — “a 6-foot, 2-inch kid from Thailand” — helped pull her out.
“So, from 2010 through July of 2011, I was a host grand-mom to a 16-year-old,” she said. “We’re still very close.”
Halverson had her own child, too. Her son, Gary Falk, was a climbing guide who died in a 2016 accident on the Grand Teton at the age of 42.
Halverson’s tendency to help those who are struggling goes beyond a desire to address mental illness. She supported legislation that opened up state funding that supports organizations like Lincoln Self Reliance, a community service provider for people with developmental disabilities, Executive Director Darrel Skinner said. She helped out in other ways, too, he said.
“She’s involved with a group that buys a lot of the livestock from the 4-H program,” Skinner said. “And she was donating that livestock so that we could have the meat processed for our clients in our residential homes.”
Lincoln Self Reliance targeted Halverson to serve on its board. She took on the task and stayed at it for nine years, he said.
Halverson’s generosity and ambition are clear in her engagement in politics, too, said Tueller, her fellow Lincoln County precinct committeewoman.
“She has a policy that no Republican candidate should ever have to pay for a motel room in Star Valley — she always hosts them,” Tueller said. “She’s a champion of helping people out.”
In Wyoming politics, Halverson is known for being outspoken. At the former president’s Casper rally, she welcomed Trump to “mega, ultra MAGA country,” branded the current president “low-energy Joe” and called his administration a bunch of “Marxists, incompetents and liars.”
The loose tongue and brazen politicking has landed Halverson in national headlines. She told a Christian Science Monitor reporter in 2022 that Jan. 6 rioters in the U.S. Capitol building shouting “Hang Mike Pence” is “nothing,” and that they probably didn’t mean it.
And, according to a New York Times investigation, Halverson provided a list of politicians and political appointees allegedly marked as “corrupt” or too moderate, who were then targeted by a Susan Gore-funded spy operation.
“Frankly, I have nothing to say on the subject,” she told the Times last year.
Halverson did talk about the allegation with WyoFile. She confirmed that she generated a list of legislators for Gore, sorted into who voted on what in regard to spending bills, but she denied being aware of how the list would be used. Had she known it could be used for spying, she wouldn’t have made it, she said.
When asked, Halverson also didn’t outright condemn spying, if it was occurring. Democrats, she said, are “probably doing the exact same thing.”
But Halverson’s more incendiary qualities may have cost her politically. Roscoe reemerged in Wyoming politics and knocked Halverson out of the House District 22 seat in 2018. This spring, Halverson lost her Lincoln County GOP chairmanship to former treasurer Wade Hirschi in a 35-32 vote, Cowboy State Daily reported.
Still, Halverson’s not one to just walk away. She again ran to be a precinct committeewoman, and she won — this time with more than one vote.
“That didn’t stop her one bit,” Tueller said of Halverson losing her chair seat. “She’s just as active today as she was as party chairman.”