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Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming's Legislature will take a youthful turn and add a few more women as a result of Tuesday's election.

The average age of the 23 newly elected lawmakers is 51.6. The average age of those they are replacing is 57.6.

In addition, the House will see a net gain of two women, boosting the Legislature's female membership to 16, or about 18 percent of the 90-member body.

Before the election, none of the lawmakers was below age 40. Now there will be a trio of 30-somethings, including Republican Becket Hinckley, the youngest at 32.

"I think it's outstanding," he said. "The state of Wyoming is looking forward. (Voters are) looking forward to Wyoming's future, and they see a little youth and energy and enthusiasm as a good thing."

Hinckley, a Cheyenne assistant prosecutor, admitted that he learned a few lessons from his former boss, retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, who often refers to Hinckley as a "young whippersnapper."

"The most important thing I learned from him is how imperative it is, win or lose, you have to get in and stay involved in the governmental process," Hinckley said. "If you're not involved in the game, you can't complain, and you get the government that you deserve."

Hinckley said it was Simpson who lit his fire, and that the former lawmaker also told him, "You've got to have a thick skin because politics is a contact sport."

The other new legislators in their 30s are Republican Edward Buchanan, 35, an attorney from Torrington, and Republican Steve Harshman, 39, a Casper teacher.

Although 75 seats were up for election, the political landscape changed little. Democrats gained one seat - hardly enough to make a dent in the Republican firewall.

The GOP will hold a 45-15 advantage in the House and 20-10 majority in the Senate when the general session begins Jan. 14, 2003.

Republicans have controlled both chambers since the 1976 election.

Just two incumbents lost, Reps. Dave Rader, R-Rawlins, and Don Warfield, D-Gillette. They were the two newest lawmakers, having been appointed since the 2002 session ended to replace legislators who resigned. Seven other incumbents were sent packing in the August primary.

A Natrona County race triggered a recount after one vote separated the contestants.

"I think that 'every vote counts' really counts in this instance," said the apparent winner, Democrat Liz Gentile, of Evansville.

Republican Bob Tanner, of Casper, had hoped to return to the Statehouse after a two-year absence but barring a reversal in Friday's recount, he could only wonder what if.

"There are always those things you can say you could have done," he said. "I guess she got to one more door."

The unofficial tally was 1,461-1,460 in favor of Gentile, a margin of 0.03 percent.

Democrat George Bagby, a retired railroad conductor from Rawlins, captured a seat formerly held by Republican Tony Rose, who is now the U.S. marshal for Wyoming.

Bagby beat Rader by 28 votes.

Warfield was appointed in June to replace Democrat Nick Deegan, who resigned to work for Terrence O'Brien, a federal appellate judge. But Gillette Mayor Frank Latta, a Republican, gained 61 percent of the vote to Warfield's 39 percent in an east Gillette House district.

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Hinckley will replace Rep. Mac McGraw, D-Cheyenne, who is stepping down, and Gentile will supplant Rep. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, who lost in the primary.

Another seat that switched parties is one that went to Democrat Pete Jorgensen, of Jackson. He will represent a newly created district in central Teton County replacing a district represented by Stephen Watt, R-Rock Springs. Watt made an unsuccessful run for governor and is leaving the Legislature.

Casper Democrat Nancy Berry, who served from 1997-99, lost to Amoco worker Bob Brechtel, a Republican who had knocked off incumbent Rep. Carolyn Paseneaux, R-Casper, in the primary after several near-misses in the past.

Besides Harshman, two other newcomers from Casper won House seats: business owner Mary Gilmore, a Democrat, and retired educator Tom Walsh, a Republican.

Rep. Harry Tipton, R-Lander, a 22-year veteran, won re-election, as did several other incumbents who faced challengers, including Reps. Tom Lockhart, R-Casper; Owen Petersen, R-Mountain View; Pete Illoway, R-Cheyenne; Floyd Esquibel, D-Cheyenne; Layton Morgan, D-Cheyenne; Wayne Reese, D-Cheyenne; Larry Meuli, R-Cheyenne; and Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie.

Others who survived the opposition are Reps. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette; Fred Parady, R-Rock Springs; Jack Landon, R-Sheridan; Jerry Iekel, R-Sheridan; Jane Warren, D-Laramie; Saundra Meyer, D-Evanston; Ross Diercks, D-Lusk; and Pat Childers, R-Cody; and Sens. Bill Vasey, D-Rawlins; Ken Decaria, D-Evanston; and Tex Boggs, D-Rock Springs.

Reps. John Hines, R-Gillette, and Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, were successful at switching to the Senate.

Sixteen members of the 2001-02 Legislature chose not to run again and seven incumbents were ousted during the primary, which will result in a turnover of 23 members, more than a quarter of the body.

Not since court-ordered redistricting in 1992 has so much upheaval occurred in the Statehouse. Ten years ago, 26 incumbents resigned, 17 were defeated and four seats were eliminated. The result was 39 new faces, a turnover of 43 percent.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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