Jackson philanthropist and investor Foster Friess confirmed that he is considering challenging Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso in the GOP primary next year, explaining his motivation in an email to the Star-Tribune.
Friess said that he had not considered a Senate run until former top Trump administration adviser and right-wing media mogul Steve Bannon called him and encouraged him to consider it.
“It pays $174,000 and hey, I have been out of work since 2001,” Friess, who is worth several hundred million dollars, quipped.
Wealthy Wyoming philanthropist and conservative Christian political activist Foster Friess h…
Friess said that “several recent incidents” have moved him closer to entering the race, though emphasized he had yet to make a decision. The incidents are as follows:
- The United States’ failure to arm Kurdish forces within Iraq, which Friess referred to as a “betrayal.” The Iraqi Kurds joined with the Iraqi government to fight the Islamic State but in October the Kurdish region in the country’s north attempted to declare independence, sparking a harsh backlash from the central government;
- The so-called “Uranium One” conspiracy, which claims that Hillary Clinton gave Russia 20 percent of the United States’ uranium supply while she was secretary of state;
- A general misuse of federal funds, which Friess ambiguously references as a recent revelation that “some of the fines levied are being allocated to the Fish & Wildlife Commission.”
The email represents Friess’ first comments to Wyoming media and came in response to a series of questions sent from the Star-Tribune.
Friess said that he was not interested in attacking Barrasso and that if he ran it would be to offer voters the pick of two elite options. Friess previously told the Washington Examiner that Barrasso was a hero of his and continued that praise in the email to the Star-Tribune, though he consistently misspelled the senator’s name.
“I am a huge fan of John Barrosso and if I do decide to run the people of Wyoming just need to decide if they would like to have Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers in the line up for them, figuratively speaking,” Friess wrote.
Friess added that while Barrasso said that he withdrew his name from consideration for Health and Human Services Secretary in the Trump administration, the lawmaker might still accept the post and leave the Senate.
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Friess acknowledged that he might face some opposition as a wealthy, Jackson-based candidate who was born outside of Wyoming. But he believed his upbringing might better resonate with the state’s electorate. He recounted his parents experience growing up on farms, noting that his mother dropped out of school to “pick cotton and save the family farm.”
“Most of Wyoming ... has a very negative attitude towards Jackson as it is considered sort of an elitist environment so whether or not my humble background will offset that needs to be assessed,” Friess wrote.
In addition to Friess, Bannon also reportedly recruited Erik Prince, the founder of private security contractor Blackwater, to run against Barrasso as part of a bid to unseat incumbent Republicans seen as too close to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
McConnell is seen by some on the populist right as too close to the Republican establishment and as standing in the way of President Donald Trump’s agenda. However, Republicans in Congress have largely voted in lockstep with Trump’s stated position on legislation.
Friess has little connection to Wyoming politics, though has been active on the national stage. He was a major backer of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and has donated significant sums to conservative Christian causes.
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Prince, who lives in Virginia but was in Wyoming last month to explore ways to establish residency, has been viewed as a more serious prospective candidate than Friess.
Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at The Cook Political Report, which forecasts Congressional races, said in an interview last week that she believed Friess may be floating a run as a way of making a political point in Washington.
“I think Friess is playing that game,” Duffy said. “I really do.”