This is the time of year when our Wyoming political world truly becomes the crazy season.
Between parades, celebrations and backyard meet-and-greets, the folks competing for political office find themselves on the dead run.
It is already July and the primary is toward the end of August. Most candidates have been working on this since last fall so it is truly crunch time.
So, with that introduction, let’s take a look at a couple of interesting races here in the Cowboy State.
Most observers would assume the incumbent Gov. Matt Mead should be a shoo-in for reelection. Rarely has a Wyoming governor lost reelection to a second term.
In my memory, Governors Stan Hathaway, Ed Herschler, Mike Sullivan, Jim Geringer and Dave Freudenthal all were able to win easy reelection to second terms.
Some folks believe that two of Mead’s primary contestants might have a chance.
First, is Supt. of Public Instruction, Cindy Hill, arguably the most controversial politician in Wyoming in the last 30 years.
She is a relentless campaigner and has built up a loyal following who support her.
This could have been a very interesting Mead-Hill race except for the addition of another aggressive candidate who also has a strong statewide following, Dr. Taylor Haynes of Cheyenne.
Haynes appears to be the most Libertarian of the three, which always plays well in the Cowboy State.
Mead looks like the front-runner and the fact that he has two folks going head-to-head against him could be enough to put him back in office. Mead has made some missteps but overall has done the job the folks who elected him four years ago expected of him.
The winner meets Democrat Pete Gosar of Laramie in the general. Pete is a good campaigner and the election could be interesting.
I attended a forum where four of the Secretary of State candidates spoke and it sure looked more like a race for governor. Not sure what folks were expecting out of candidates, but the questions sure seemed to fit a governor’s race rather than a race for the state’s SOS office.
From my vantage point, it appears that Ed Murray of Cheyenne is spending the most money. It is working to get him name recognition to the top of the group. He is a long-time businessman, attorney, and land developer. His secret weapons are his four daughters and wife who are tirelessly working for him.
He originally hired the two Bills to run his campaign, Bill Novotny of Buffalo and Bill Cubin of Casper. Both are very experienced. Novotny was involved in two of the most expensive campaigns in Wyoming history: Mark Gordon’s loss in 2008 to Cynthia Lummis and Gov. Mead’s victory in 2010.
Former State Rep. Pete Illoway, Cheyenne, arguably is the best qualified. Besides being an elected legislator, he has been a lobbyist at different times. He knows his way around state government. He has hired Dave and AnneMarie Picard, Cheyenne, to run his campaign.
Another former State Rep. is Ed Buchanan of Torrington (former Speaker of the House) who offers the same experience as Illoway. But again he may be falling short of Murray when it comes to spending money and getting his name out. Buchanan has Lorraine Quarberg of Thermopolis, another former state legislator, helping him. Buchanan may have gotten off the most interesting comment of the race when he claimed he was not going to “hire any political hacks.”
Clark Stith of Rock Springs is an attorney who has done wonders for the Republican Party in Sweetwater County. His tough chore is convincing people in other counties that his expertise makes him the best for the job. He has Amy Womack helping his campaign. Amy was running Liz Cheney’s campaign against Sen. Mike Enzi before Liz bowed out in late December.
The winner will face Jennifer Young, a member of the Constitution Party, in the general election.
Running for election in Wyoming in the Republican primary is an often confounding experience. You have to be able to cover vast amounts of ground. You need a statewide network. And most of all, you somehow have to differentiate yourself from the competitors by coming up with some kind of reason why you are the better candidate.
Good luck to all of you and thanks for spending all this time (and money) working to be elected to what can be relatively thankless jobs that are very important to all of us in the Cowboy State.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com or fine bookstores.