CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming increasingly has become a one-party state in recent years, and the Republican primaries for governor and two of the state’s congressional seats Tuesday could well prove to be the definitive contests.
A Democrat hasn’t held statewide office since Gov. Dave Freudenthal left office nearly four years ago. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats roughly 167,000 to 52,000, and the numbers are becoming increasingly lopsided.
The decline of the traditional two-party system in many Wyoming races means that many of the real battles will play out in the primary. Here are the top races:
Gov. Matt Mead is seeking a second term and faces Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill and Dr. Taylor Haynes, a retired urologist, in the GOP primary.
Mead, a former U.S. attorney for Wyoming, has opposed the federal Affordable Care Act and mounted lawsuits against proposed federal air quality regulations he says threaten the state’s coal industry.
Hill’s run is part of a personal crusade inspired by legislation Mead signed last year removing her as head of the Department of Education. A divided Wyoming Supreme Court this year reversed her ouster.
Haynes says he’s running to return a focus on the Bible and the U.S. Constitution to state government. He promises to drive federal land management agencies out of Wyoming.
Pete Gosar, the former Wyoming Democratic Party chairman, is unopposed in seeking his party’s gubernatorial nomination.
No Wyoming Democrat is chal-lenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis. Her only primary challenge comes from Yoder Republican Jason Senteney, a correctional officer. The only Democrat who filed is Richard Grayson, a political gadfly from Apache Junction, Arizona, who put his name on the ballot with no thought of running a serious campaign.
U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi is seeking a fourth term and enjoys considerable name recognition and fundraising advantages over four GOP challengers. They are Thomas Bleming of Lusk, a self-described soldier of fortune; Arthur Bruce Clifton of Cheyenne, an oil company worker; Bryan E. Miller of Sheridan, a retired Air Force officer and energy consultant; and James Gregory of Jackson.
On the Democratic side, Charlie Hardy of Cheyenne, a former Roman Catholic priest; Rex Wilde of Cheyenne, a worker with a contracting company; Al Hamburg of Torrington and William Bryk of Brooklyn, New York are seeking the party’s senate nomination.
Republicans hold all three of the state’s congressional seats, all statewide offices and control the legislature. This year, Democrats have admitted defeat in the statewide races for treasurer, auditor and secretary of state by not fielding a single candidate.
Republicans struggle in the run-up to the primary to distinguish themselves from their opponents without resorting to the sort of scorched-earth political tactics that candidates can employ when facing each other across party lines.
Secretary of State
The Wyoming secretary of state’s race is a free-for-all after the incumbent, Max Maxfield, decided against seeking a third term.
Cheyenne businessman Ed Murray has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into his campaign for the GOP nomination.
Torrington lawyer Ed Buchanan, a former speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives, is campaigning on his experience.
Former state Rep. Pete Illoway of Cheyenne also points to his government experience; he served for years as chairman of the House committee that handles corporate issues.
Rock Springs lawyer Clark Stith is a city councilman and former Sweetwater County Republican chairman.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
The race for superintendent of public instruction drew three Republicans and a single Democrat.
For the GOP, Jillian Balow, a former teacher and education official, has run a campaign blaming Cindy Hill for problems affecting Wyoming’s schools. Sheryl Lain, a top Hill deputy, defends her boss. Bill Winney is the only candidate who hasn’t served as a teacher in the state’s K-12 system.
Mike Ceballos, a retired telephone company executive, is unopposed for the superintendent nomination in the Democratic primary.