LARAMIE — Jackson philanthropist and conservative Christian political figure Foster Friess announced that he is entering the GOP primary for Wyoming Governor at the state Republican convention here Friday.
Friess, who made his fortune in investing and is active in national politics, said he felt called to serve the public by running for office.
“I just think it would be kind of irresponsible or ungrateful for me to brush off all the things God has done for me,” Friess said. “I’m going to have to give up an awful lot to take this position.”
Friess is little known within Wyoming’s statewide political scene but flirted throughout the fall with challenging Wyoming’s U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, mostly in comments to national news outlets.
His announcement regarding the governor’s race came following a confusing scene during a convention luncheon that Friess was sponsoring. In a press release late Thursday, Friess said that a “big announcement” would come during his speech at the lunch. But while Friess said that he would not be running for Barrasso’s seat, he added that he was told shortly before he took the stage that it would be inappropriate to announce his candidacy for governor during the lunch, because other candidates did not have the opportunity to speak.
Jackson philanthropist and investor Foster Friess confirmed that he is considering challengi…
Instead, he delivered a wide-ranging talk largely centered on his current public campaign to return “civility” to political discourse in the United States. Friess also addressed seemingly random issues, including the importance of arming the Kurdish soldiers, who he referred to as ‘my Pershmerga pals’, the poor quality of government health care on Indian reservations and how to improve the Republican political message (say “reallocate” Planned Parenthood’s funding rather “defund” it).
He also went on some decidedly uncivil tangents, including a suggestion that President Barack Obama had funneled money intended to mitigate climate change to relatives in a foreign country that Friess said he did not know how to pronounce.
“Zoowanatou ... it’s some little country I’ve never been,” Friess said. “It probably ended up with the president’s cousins.”
Friess alluded to his plans to enter the governor’s race during a question-and-answer period. He said he could not confirm a Politico article published shortly before he took the stage saying that Friess intended to run, but he did weigh in on what he would do as “CEO of Wyoming.”
“The next governor’s ... number one priority is traveling around the world to bring companies here,” Friess said. He also cited the need to improve returns on Wyoming’s more than $20 billion in investments.
Immediately following the event, Friess held court in the hallway for a group of roughly one dozen convention delegates and reporters to make his announcement official. A former varsity athlete, Friess towered over the crowd wearing a long, tan leather jacket while behind him a young aide with slicked-back hair stood erect and held Friess’s cowboy hat.
“I agonized,” Friess said of his decision to run. “It’s going to be some unpleasantness — I love my golf.”
Though he is little known within the statewide Wyoming Republican scene, Friess said it “should be very, very easy” to spread his message because only 300,000 people participate in the GOP primary and Gov. Matt Mead won the nomination with just 28,000 votes.
“I plan to do it by traveling around and listening to people,” Friess said.
(Mead won the 2010 primary with 30,272 out of the roughly 120,000 ballots cast.)
Friess said he still needs to learn a lot about the issues facing Wyoming because his hometown Jackson Hole News&Guide has not been an adequate source of news.
“I would say in Jackson Hole the paper is very left-wing so they give a perspective on what some of the issues are — but we hear about the grizzlies, we hear about the coal issue,” he said.
Friess did not have a clear position on the deficit facing public schools in Wyoming, but believed it was possible that the state was spending too much on administrators and not enough on teacher salaries. He said Wyoming should possibly follow Finland’s model of paying teachers more.
As for Endow, Mead’s economic diversification initiative, Friess said he needed to examine it more closely but believed that business development in the state should be driven by the private sector.
It is not clear whether Friess has hired a campaign staff yet. Friess said he has assistants that help with his philanthropic and political giving, as well as a scheduler. When asked if he had selected a campaign manager, Friess jokingly offered the position to a reporter.