CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Tuesday's primary will decide how Wyoming voters rate Gov. Matt Mead's first term in office and whether his two challengers have gained traction within the state Republican Party. Here are five things to know about the vote:
Mead referendum: In May, core members of the Wyoming Republican Party voted narrowly not to censure Gov. Matt Mead for signing legislation last year that stripped State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, a fellow Republican, of most of her powers. The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional. Now Hill, a former junior high assistant principal who calls herself "Wyoming Tough," seeks to deny Mead a second term. Mead touts a record of attracting business and a declining unemployment rate that is consistently below the national average.
Doctor's fight: Physician and former University of Wyoming trustee Taylor Haynes staked out the farthest position of any gubernatorial candidate by calling for Wyoming to take over federal lands. He called for the arrest of federal officials who don't accede to state authority. Haynes also told the Casper Star-Tribune he would allow oil and gas drilling in Yellowstone National Park, but backed away from that remark a few days later.
Billboards all over: A casual survey of Wyoming's lonesome pastures, interminable fence lines and mostly quiet neighborhoods puts Haynes far ahead of Mead and Hill in terms of numbers of campaign signs. Numbers don't equate support, however — but lots of hammer-swinging by volunteers. Some of Haynes' campaign billboards outside Casper and Cheyenne are bigger and more elaborate than the smaller, simpler message signs touting Mead and Hill.
Voter registration: Though a primary is not a party-to-party face off, Republicans in Wyoming command the widest voter-registration advantage over Democrats they've had in several years. The gap has steadily widened for six years running. As of Aug. 1, Wyoming had 167,572 registered Republicans and 52,881 registered Democrats. In 2008, the figures were 136,844 to 57,327, according to the secretary of state's office.
Congressional ho-hum: This year's Republican primary was set to be national news. What happened? In January, Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, abandoned her bid to oust GOP Sen. Mike Enzi. Cheney cited family health reasons, but she also was having difficulty getting support from prominent Republicans, including most of the state's elected officials. Enzi now faces political newcomer retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan Miller, who lacks anything close to Liz Cheney's national recognition from her years as a commentator on Fox News.