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David Dodson

Wyoming U.S. Senate candidate David Dodson, right, and his wife Wendy post in this undated photograph. Dodson will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. John Barrasso. 

Happy Monday! Today begins the last week of the Wyoming Legislature’s 2018 budget session. At least that’s the plan. But there remains a distinct possibility that lawmakers will stay in Cheyenne through next Tuesday to finish crafting a budget to cover the state’s $850 million deficit. We’ll know more when this newsletter comes out next week.

Dodson a spoiler?

It’s hard to see a path to victory for David Dodson, the Jackson-and-California entrepreneur and business school lecturer who announced his intention to run against U.S. Sen. John Barrasso this year. For one, nobody in Wyoming political circles seems to know Dodson. And a wealthy Jackson resident with no political experience is hardly a shoo-in for any statewide office. He’s also running as a “Reagan Republican” despite his sole political donation on record with the FEC being made out to Bernie Sanders for $1,000 (he said he wanted to give Hillary Clinton trouble during the primary).

But Dodson has made two very savvy choices so far. The first was to run as an independent, while identifying as a Republican. By skipping the GOP primary, Dodson will be able to campaign straight through to November and not have to worry about being crushed by party stalwarts loyal to Barrasso in the August primary. Second, Dodson appears willing to combat the main obstacle facing obscure, independent candidates -- a lack of name recognition and ability to fundraise -- by spending out of his own pocket on advertising. The week he announced, Dodson took out full page advertisements in newspapers across the state featuring an open letter to Barrasso, and he made major digital ad buys on the Star-Tribune and Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s websites.

So we have a candidate who appears willing to put resources into his campaign and who is virtually guaranteed to appear on the November ballot with Barrasso and Democratic candidate Gary Trauner. I still don’t see much of a path to Washington, D.C. for Dodson, but he may be able to knock Barrasso from office anyway. How? If Dodson can pick up around 10 percent of the vote and Trauner can scoop up another 40 percent, Barrasso will suddenly have a competitive race on his hands.

Now all these are big, big ifs. In his last run for Senate, Barrasso won with a stunning 73 percent, while Democrat Tim Chesnut barely broke 20 percent. The only third party candidate in the race scooped up a measly 2 percent. So Trauner would have to double Chestnut’s share of the vote and Dodson would have to multiply the last independent candidate’s share by five in order to make this scenario possible.

The 2016 House race provided slightly more hope for Trauner and Dodson to knock off Barrasso, with Democrat Ryan Greene, who ran an earnest campaign, picking up nearly 30 percent of the vote and two, third party candidates collecting another combined 7.5 percent. Republican Liz Cheney still coasted to victory with 60 percent of the vote, but Dodson likely has deeper pockets than either Greene or the third party challengers, and money matters in elections.

Does Barrasso need to worry? If I was a betting man, I’d say not, though I am intrigued by the Wyoming GOP chairman W. Frank Eathorne’s decision to send out a press release just hours after Dodson announced two weeks ago slamming the candidate.

“Mr. Dodson has already insulted the Republican Party and shown himself to be a hypocrite,” Eathorne wrote. “Dodson is running as an Independent, claiming to be Republican, sounding like a Democrat.”

“He sounds more like a liberal ‘Pelosi Democrat’ along the lines of fellow Teton County resident and candidate Gary Trauner. This state does not need yet another liberal millionaire from Jackson Hole claiming to be something he is not,” the statement continued.

Eathorne went on to praise Barrasso, despite the senator not yet having secured the Republican Party’s nomination and murmurs continuing -- though starting to fade -- that he may face a primary challenger.

Interesting.

A charged resolution

Environmentalists and some sportsmens groups have been teaming up over the last year to create a Wyoming Public Lands Day. All that takes is a resolution from the Legislature. But nothing is ever so simple.

The Wyoming Senate took the resolution and turned it into “Wyoming Multiple Use of Public Lands Day,” which is hilarious because that’s a clunky and ridiculous name for a day, but also seeks to underscore how heated the debate over “public land” in the Cowboy State really is.

(Multiple use is a term generally used by the government to cover both recreation and natural resource management, including mining and logging.)

Stephanie Kessler of the Wyoming Outdoor Council lamented to me that the resolution had become politicized with the addition of “multiple use.” But of course, the resolution was always political. If groups want to celebrate a day, they can just... celebrate a day. According to holidayinsights.com, today is Multiple Personality Day and the Wyoming Legislature sure as heck didn’t pass a resolution declaring it as such.

Advocates of Public Lands Day wanted recognition from politicians of the importance of “public lands,” which is generally taken to mean federal public land and exists in contrast to state-owned land or private land. It’s part of the debate between those who advocate the transfer of federal land to state hands, and those who argue such a move would harken the end of public access to much of the West.

In any case, talking points being passed around by supporters of the original Public Lands Day resolution point out that some public land in Wyoming -- like national parks -- are not multiple use and would thus be excluded from the celebration.

“Why should Wyoming’s Public Lands Day have to incorporate a wonky federal government label that only confuses everyone and excludes some types of public lands?” the talking points sheet asks.

Wherever you fall on the issue of public lands, it is a little confusing that the Senate didn’t just either pass the resolution as written or kill it. The bill is now awaiting consideration in the House, and it remains to be seen whether a vote will be taken on it or not.

Galetos is in as governor field shapes up

Cheyenne businessman Sam Galeotos is all but set to run for Wyoming governor this year, having filed paperwork to form an exploratory committee late last month. I first reported that Galeotos, a former travel-technology industry entrepreneur and executive, was considering running in the fall.

Galeotos may not have strong name recognition around Wyoming, but he’s a respected businessman in his native Cheyenne and has the money to fund a serious campaign. Galeotos has already started staffing up with big names in state Republican politics. He’ll join Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman and State Treasurer Mark Gordon as the apparent frontrunners in the race, with a few less prominent candidates pulling votes from the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. Where Galeotos will fall on the ideological spectrum remains to be seen, as he has little political track record.

His few federal campaign contributions don’t tell one much. He donated $2,300 to Cynthia Lummis’ 2008 campaign for U.S. House and $1,000 to Mitt Romney shortly before the 2012 presidential election.

But his background as a successful businessman may lead to a reliance on pathos -- that Galeotos is the best leader, his particular political philosophy aside -- during the race. No doubt we’ll find out more once he formally announces.

(Roundup will return.)

Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics.

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