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Perennial hardline candidate Rex Rammell announced Thursday that he was leaving the crowded Republican primary to instead run for Wyoming governor on the Constitution Party ticket, guaranteeing himself a place on the general election ballot.

Rammell’s move, which he had indicated was a possibility last month, shrinks the GOP primary contest to six candidates and it appears the Republican winner will face presumptive Democratic nominee Mary Throne and Rammell on the November.

Rammell said he believes that moderate voters will carry State Treasurer Mark Gordon to victory in the Republican primary but that more conservative voters will abandon Gordon in the general election.

The Rock Springs veterinarian first floated a third-party run in an email to Wyoming Republican Party leadership in April, arguing that the crowded primary made it less likely that the most conservative candidate would win.

Rammell, who has previously run for statewide office in both Wyoming and Idaho, is best known for his aggressive stance on public lands. Rammell said that Wyoming should seize all federal land in the state in order to reap the economic benefits. While Rammell believes that force would likely not be necessary, he said last fall that if the federal government did not turn over the land voluntarily he would order the Wyoming Highway Patrol to take it over and arrest federal employees on the land.

On his revamped campaign website and in a new campaign brochure, Rammell depicts employees of the Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency in black-and-white striped jail uniforms.

Rammell generated controversy during his run for Idaho governor in 2009 when he joked that he would like to issue a hunting tag for then-President Barack Obama.

In an interview Thursday, Rammell said that he anticipated Gordon would win the primary with 30-to-35 percent of the vote, with Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman and Taylor Haynes, a doctor and another perennial candidate, splitting the rural Republican vote and Jackson businessman Foster Friess attracting most of the evangelical voting base.

(He said Cheyenne businessman Sam Galeotos and Sheridan’s Bill Dahlin would be non-factors.)

Rammell believes he can attract many of the voters who back Hageman and Haynes in the primary, setting up a three-way split in the general election that might allow him to sneak into office.

Rammell said that Throne will take Democratic and left-wing voters while Gordon will pick up centrists and conservative voters will be up for grabs.

“If it plays out like I predict, it will be the first race in Wyoming history where there was a clear choice for the left, center and right,” Rammell said in an email. “We are about to see who Wyoming really is!”

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Gordon is running on his successful track record in the state treasurer’s office, which has seen improved returns during his two terms, and he says he’s guided by conservative values. However, Rammell pointed to past donations to Democratic candidates as evidence that Gordon is too moderate to draw the most conservative primary or general election voters.

Wyoming Republican Party chairman W. Frank Eathorne said last week that he was confident the party base would unify around whoever wins the primary and said that talks were already underway between the campaigns to guarantee that happens.

Rammell acknowledged both in the interview and in his email to Republican leaders that his plan may not work.

“I know many of you will consider me a traitor that might throw the election to the Democrats,” he wrote in the email.

Rammell said that he had been pre-vetted by the Constitution Party, which does not have an open primary, and will be officially confirmed as the party’s nominee at its convention in Lusk this weekend.

The Constitution Party is a far-right third-party with affiliates around the United States. The Wyoming Constitution Party’s website shows a range of policy beliefs that overlap with the Republican Party’s positions, such as opposition to abortion, gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act, as well as policies well outside the mainstream, such as opposition to public schools.

The primary election is Aug. 21 and the general election is Nov. 6.

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