Wyoming Primary Today: A GOP State That Elects Democratic Governors by Gregory Hilton

Wyoming is a very Republican state which almost always elects Democratic Governors because of infighting. This year two term Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) is stepping down, and on paper the GOP has a huge advantage in the general election. There are 157,000 registered Republicans compared to about 65,000 Democrats. The state is solidly Republican on the presidential level and the GOP completely controls its Congressional delegation.
A united Republican Party would have no problem claiming the Governor’s mansion, but that rarely happens. Similar to Iowa, Republicans have bitter primaries and they are unable to coalesce for the general election. In Iowa that has led to Democratic Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver, while in Wyoming, Democrats have held the governorship for all but eight years since 1975.
Former Gov. Mike Sullivan (D-WY) served from 1987 to 1995 and readily acknowledges the internal GOP battle is the biggest boost the Democrats have received. This year the most prominent GOP candidates have leads ranging from 20% to 30% over the frontrunning Democrat. That is a highly advantageous position, but Republicans have been there before only to lose the general election. In today’s primary there are four serious GOP candidates seeking the nomination. According to the Associated Press they are:
Matt Mead, 48, a former U.S. attorney for Wyoming. He has put nearly $900,000 of his own money into his campaign, saying he needs to spend heavily to build name recognition.
Ron Micheli, 61, a former director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and longtime member of the state House. He’s campaigning as the “real conservative,” promising to fight “intrusions” by the federal government into Wyoming life. He has the support of social conservative groups such as WyomingWatch, Wyoming Family Coalition, and Wyoming Right to Life.
Rita Meyer, 59, state auditor and a chief of staff to former Gov. Jim Geringer. Meyer is a retired officer with the Wyoming Air National Guard and has stressed her military service heavily in her campaign. She was endorsed by Sarah Palin.
Colin Simpson, a Cody lawyer and former state House speaker. He has campaigned on his detailed knowledge of state government and energy issues.
Political scientist Oliver Walter, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Wyoming, said recently that he’s not sure supporters of Meyer, Simpson and Mead will back Micheli if he wins the primary. “Obviously his message is consistently the most conservative,” Walter said of Micheli. “While the other three perhaps share most of his values, they come across in the debates as a lot more pragmatic, I think.”
Scott Bothwell of Cody is a Micheli supporter who says “I think it’ll be a close finish, but not so close we’ll be deadlocked in a recount. People are taking hard looks at the candidates this year. Some of us have settled on our candidate months ago, but there are quite a few still up in the air. Simpson and Mead are both putting up a strong fight. I think Meyer has slipped a bit in recent days over joining/not joining the multi-state lawsuit against Obamacare.”
Brandon Rosty of Casper describes himself as a moderate and is backing Simpson. He says the three other GOP candidates are outstanding and he will not have a problem switching his allegiance this year. He believes this time Republicans will be united.
One of the best ways to understand the Wyoming GOP is to note that Dick Cheney is part of the party’s liberal wing! Simpson is being called “too pragmatic.” He has been damaged by comparisons to his father, former U.S. Senate Whip Alan Simpson (R-WY), who is the co-chair President Obama’s fiscal commission. Alan Simpson is pro-choice and is Honorary Chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay organization. Colin Simpson says he is the more conservative than his father but not as conservative as his wife.

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