Scott narrowly holds off SD30 challenge

2012-08-21T22:37:00Z 2013-03-21T11:56:11Z Scott narrowly holds off SD30 challengeBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Star-Tribune staff writer The Billings Gazette

CASPER -- Republican Sen. Charles Scott narrowly survived a primary challenge from Rep. Bob Brechtel in a Senate District 30 contest that pitted the moderate incumbent against a hardline opponent.

Scott received 1,222 votes to Brechtel's 1,147, according to complete but unofficial results counted Tuesday after the polls closed.

The win virtually assures that Scott will represent the rural Natrona County Senate district for another four years. No Democrat is running for the seat.

Reached after the votes were counted, Scott said he was relieved to have won another term.

"It does validate the feeling I had going into this [primary] that I had to take this challenge very seriously," said Scott, who's been representing the district since 1983.

Brechtel gave up the House District 38 seat he held for nearly a decade to challenge Scott. He did not respond to a message left Tuesday night seeking comment.

The primary contest offered voters a choice between two very different brands of Wyoming conservatism. Scott is considered a moderate in the mold of U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson. While his willingness to compromise has helped him pass legislation, including the popular Hathaway Scholarship, it's also frustrated the far right members of his party.

Brechtel is viewed as a staunch conservative on fiscal and social issues. He earned the endorsement of the family values group WyWatch, which called him a "shining light for the pro-life movement." The Wyoming Liberty Index ranked him third among House members for his work in the last session.

The primary result was too close to conclude that voters favored Scott's style of conservatism over Brechtel's, said veteran campaign manager Bill Cubin.

"I think a lot of people like Charlie," he said. "He's likeable. He's a nice person. Everyone has high regard for his intellect and his abilities."

Scott is a critic of federal health reform. But he also believes government should play some role in health care. He developed Healthy Frontiers, a pilot program that used preventative care and incentives in an attempt to control health costs while extending coverage to more of the uninsured. House lawmakers eliminated the program's funding during the last session.

Brechtel also opposed the health care law, insisting it trampled on personal and religious freedoms. He proposed developing a system that would encourage Wyoming doctors to volunteer their services in exchange for state assistance on the cost of their malpractice insurance.

In 2011, Scott voted against a Brechtel-sponsored bill that would have required doctors to offer ultrasounds to women before an abortion. That same session, Brechtel sponsored a bill that would have made it a crime to enforce the health reform law in Wyoming. Scott killed the bill in committee.

The high-profile primary spurred fundraising rarely seen in a Wyoming legislative contest. Brechtel collected $22,500 in the pre-primary reporting period, according to state campaign finance records. Scott raised $13,900.

Candidates typically spend less than a few thousand dollars on state legislative races.

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