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Provocative U.S. House candidate Rex Rammell has dropped out of the race and endorsed fellow Republican Darin Smith.

Rammell, who has goaded his opponents by claiming their staffs were gay, that they were afraid of horses or were not religious enough, said he chose Smith for his deep faith and conservative values. He claimed he has polling data that showed Smith was first in the race, which he declined to make public, and was best situated for beating Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, in the Aug. 16 primary.

“Rather than split the votes, the one that had the best chance of winning should be endorsing the other one,” said Rammell, a Gillette veterinarian, at a news conference in downtown Casper.

Rammell and Smith, who was also at the event, met at the Wyoming State GOP Convention in April. As they became friends, they discovered they both had similar viewpoints and religious sensibilities, Rammell said.

Rammell said he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smith said he is an evangelical Christian.

“Both Darin and I represent the faith community,” Rammell said about Smith, a Cheyenne attorney who does humanitarian work for the Christian Broadcasting Network.

But Smith interjected.

“I’m running for Congress, not pastor,” he said.

Despite eight Republicans remaining in the race, it’s now a two-way race between Cheney and Smith, Rammell said.

Smith concurred, then said that it is a four-way race among him, Cheney, Tim Stubson and Leland Christensen.

“The Casper poll said it’s a four-way race because it’s 60 percent undecided,” Smith said, referring to a Casper Star-Tribune and Wyoming PBS poll that showed 52.3 percent were undecided.

Rammell — who has run for U.S. Senate from Idaho in 2008, Idaho governor in 2010 and Idaho House in 2012 — claimed he hired a pollster to survey Wyoming voters and that the results showed Smith in first place.

Results of the only independent poll about the GOP contest were made public late Wednesday, commissioned by the two media organizations. It showed Cheney with 20.7 percent, Stubson with 8.7 percent, Christensen with 4.1 percent and Smith with 2.5 percent.

Smith on Wednesday said he possesses polling that showed he was doing better than the Star-Tribune/PBS poll. After saying he could win the undecided voters described in the Star-Tribune’s poll, he said the poll wasn’t accurate because it showed Rammell with just 0.8 percent. And everyone he talks to is voting for Rammell, he said.

Neither candidate released his polling but criticized Cheney for not releasing her polling data.

Although Smith is trying to attract religious and nonreligious voters, he sounded a note to resonate with the desires of the Christian right, saying at the end of the press conference: “Judge Neely, if you can hear me, I’m going to fight for you.”

Ruth Neely is a Pinedale magistrate who is arguing before the Wyoming Supreme Court she does not have to marry same-sex couples because of her religious convictions. The Wyoming Judicial Conduct and Ethics Commission is recommending she is removed from office because she’s in violation of the state’s judicial conduct code, which she swore to abide by in an oath.

Ballots have already been printed with Rammell’s name on them, according to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office.

Follow political reporter Laura Hancock on Twitter @laurahancock.


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