CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A three-way race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination topped the list of contests in Tuesday's Wyoming primaries, whose results are often the last word in state politics since registered Republicans outnumber Democrats better than 2 to 1.
Gov. Matt Mead, scion of a well-known Wyoming political family, seeks a second term as he faces challengers Dr. Taylor Haynes and Cindy Hill, the superintendent of public instruction.
Mead, a former U.S. attorney for Wyoming, is the grandson of the late Sen. Clifford Hansen. Mead's late mother, Mary Mead, waged an unsuccessful campaign for governor. And in his first term, Mead focused on improving Internet broadband service around the state and enticed high-tech businesses to expand their operations.
He has opposed the federal Affordable Care Act and continues to resist expansion of the Medicaid program as he pushed a fairly conservative social agenda.
Mead won considerable support from Wyoming's energy industry for his unfailing support of the state's beleaguered coal industry. His administration has filed numerous legal challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's push to tighten air quality standards on coal-fired power plants.
Haynes campaigned on a dual-pronged message that apparently achieved traction among some voters. He says he wants to restore an emphasis on following the Bible and the U.S. Constitution in state government. Haynes drew criticism for declaring that, if elected, he intends to have the state take over federal land holdings and let county sheriffs jail any federal officials who resist.
Hill, meanwhile, says she's running to end government by an elite group in Wyoming.
Mead last year signed into law a measure that removed Hill as head of the Wyoming Department of Education following allegations she mismanaged the agency. Hill mounted a personal legal challenge, and a divided state Supreme Court overturned it as unconstitutional this year. She campaigned hard on her image as an outsider to what she called Cheyenne's governing elite.
Democrat Pete Gosar, a state pilot, faced no opposition in Tuesday's primary. He stepped down as Wyoming Democratic Party chairman to run.
In other primary contests, Democrats didn't field a single candidate for treasurer, auditor or secretary of state.
— Cheyenne businessman Ed Murray, Torrington lawyer and former House speaker Ed Buchanan, former state Rep. Pete Illoway of Cheyenne and Rock Springs City Councilman Clark Stith battle in the GOP primary for secretary of state.
— Jillian Balow, a former teacher and education official, Sheryl Lain, a top Cindy Hill deputy, and Bill Winney ran in the Republican primary for superintendent of public instruction. Democrat Mike Ceballos, a retired telephone company executive, was unopposed.
Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, a Republican who served from 1979 to 1997, said Monday that despite the overwhelming advantage among registered GOP voters, people in Wyoming often don't get too caught up with party registration but rather focus on candidates' credentials.
Simpson noted that many of the state's longest-serving politicians were Democrats, most recently two-term Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who left office four years ago.
"Many people in Wyoming will register Republican just so they don't have to argue with their neighbors too much. It ain't worth it," Simpson said.
Secretary of State Max Maxfield announced Monday that more than 19,000 voters had voted by absentee ballot. That represented 7.4 percent of all registered voters.