Gov. Matt Mead beat back two challengers to claim victory in the Wyoming Republican primary election Tuesday.
Mead, 52, defeated spirited challenges from Dr. Taylor Haynes and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill to win the nomination. He now heads into the general election facing Democrat Pete Gosar.
Mead said Tuesday he had an advantage over his two Republican challengers in being able to point to his performance over the last four years.
"While some days were easier than others, we always kept the campaign positive and tried to say everything positive," Mead said. "We didn't do anything with negative campaigning with respect to other candidates. I think that's fortunately still very well respected in Wyoming.
"I think ultimately the voters thought we had a better plan going forward, and they had confidence based upon the track record I've had in the first four years," Mead said.
Campaigning for a second term in office, Mead has enjoyed considerable support from the state's energy industry. He has been an outspoken advocate of Wyoming's coal industry, traveling to Asia on trade missions to seek overseas markets and filing numerous legal challenges to U.S. Environmental Protection air-quality regulations he says would hurt the industry.
Bruce Koerwitz of Cheyenne said Tuesday he voted for Mead.
"I vote Democrat or Republican, whoever's the best candidate," Koerwitz said, describing himself as a moderate Republican. "I think Mead is the best candidate."
Mead was restrained during the campaign in responding to blistering criticism from Hill.
Mead last year signed legislation removing Hill as head of the Wyoming Department of Education. She was successful in a personal legal battle to get the Wyoming Supreme Court to overturn the measure this year.
During the campaign, Hill had accused Mead of being complicit in an organized effort together with senior state lawmakers to remove her from office. Mead has denied the charge.
During a debate last month in Cheyenne, Hill said, "We have a governor who sits before us and doesn't always tell us the truth."
Hill said Tuesday night she believed it had been a good race, and she was glad to have been in it.
"And I trust the people, so they've elected this person again," Hill said. "And so we'll cope with that."
Hill said she regards the underlying message of hear campaign as this: People should always stand on principle and should never give up, no matter what they're facing.
Haynes wasn't directly critical of Mead in his campaigning, instead focusing on his view that Wyoming needed to act to reject federal regulations and end the federal government's ownership of land in the state.
Haynes has said he believes that federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have no authority in the state.
"They have two choices, they can stand down, or go to jail. And there's nothing in between that," Haynes said in a recent interview.
Attempts to reach Haynes Tuesday evening at his campaign event in Casper weren't immediately successful.
Mead, a former U.S. attorney for Wyoming, has said he doesn't believe that such proposals were constitutional.
Gosar faced no opposition in securing his party's nomination.
Gosar, 46, stepped down as chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party early this summer to mount his long-shot gubernatorial campaign. In Wyoming, Republicans hold a 3 to 1 registration advantage over Democrats, and the GOP holds every statewide elected office.
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