An out-of-state mercenary and an evangelical Democrat are considering runs for Congress. A leading candidate for governor has been accused of sexual assault. And campaigns for the 2018 elections have yet to begin in earnest. With an open governor’s seat and a U.S House and Senate seat on the ballot, it is likely to be a year full of political mailers, stump speeches and — hopefully — some serious policy debates.

But before voters are able to make their selection, the races will have to shape up a little more.


So far, the biggest Republican names being floated for the race to replace Gov. Matt Mead have yet to make any announcements. Secretary of State Ed Murray, State Treasurer Mark Gordon and House Speaker Steve Harshman, a Casper Republican, have declined to say whether or not they will enter the race.

Murray and Gordon have suggested they have strong interest in running, through Murray may now be dogged by allegations made last month that he sexually assaulted a woman in the 1980s. Murray has denied the allegations.

The two men have high name recognition and experience campaigning across the Cowboy State. They are also likely to appeal to different segments of the Republican electorate. Murray is religious and quite conservative, touting his bonafides as a Cheyenne businessman. Gordon is more moderate. A former donor to Democratic politicians, Gordon is likely to point to his success generating strong returns on state investments after being appointed treasurer by Mead.

Another relative moderate, Harshman could compete with Gordon for votes but might be able to run slightly to Gordon’s right in the primary, given that Harshman does not have a history of supporting Democrats.

Harshman would also have the benefit of being from Casper, a major population center crucial to winning statewide office, where he’s successfully coached the Natrona County High School football team.

But with Murray, Gordon and Harshman all undecided — or at least yet to make a public announcement and start campaigning — the field belongs to the Democratic candidate Mary Throne, a former state lawmaker, and three political novices in the Republican field: Bill Dahlin, Harriet Hageman and Rex Rammell.

Dahlin is a Sheridan businessman without an obvious political base, whereas Hageman and Rammell are running as states rights conservatives concerned with the federal government’s impact on Wyoming. Rammell has run unsuccessfully for public office several times since the early aughts, whereas this is Hageman’s first campaign. The Cheyenne attorney has been plugged into the political scene in the state for years, though, serving as an adviser to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and working on some environmental lawsuits for the State of Wyoming.


The race for Republican U.S. Sen. John Barrasso’s seat appeared to heat up in the fall when two big — if odd — names emerged as potential challengers. First out-of-state resident Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private security contractor Blackwater, said he might challenge Barrasso due to the incumbent’s inadequate support of President Donald Trump. Then Jackson philanthropist and conservative Christian political donor Foster Friess said that he might run as well, despite Barrasso being a “hero” of his. Both Prince and Friess were recruited to run by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who is seeking to unseat sitting Republican senators.

But political observers in the state say that both men would have an uphill battle in a race against Barrasso, who remains popular in the state and has not done any of the things that make an incumbent politician vulnerable.

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For his part, Barrasso has become more vocal about his support for Trump. Since November, little has been heard from either Prince or Friess about a run against Barrasso.

But last month, Democrat Gary Trauner — who came within about 1,000 votes of winning Wyoming’s House seat in 2006 — announced he’ll be running against Barrasso.


The House race is the quietest so far. Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican, is running for reelection and no big names have come forward to challenge her in a primary. The only Democrat who has spoken about running is Jackson doctor and author Mary Neal, who the Star-Tribune first reported was considering a run several weeks ago.

Cheney remains controversial among some Wyoming conservatives due to her out-of-state roots. But she has been an active freshman legislator in Washington, D.C. and has made it back to Wyoming frequently, attending community events and engaging in the retail politics necessary in the state. Neal may have some cross-over appeal due to her status as a darling of conservative evangelicals following as a result of her writing about traveling to heaven following a near-death experience. But any Democrat will face a tough battle winning statewide office in Wyoming, and Neal has no political experience.

The state primaries are Aug. 21 and the general election is Nov. 6. Democrats and Republicans must file paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office by June 1 and independent candidates must file by Aug. 27.

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Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics.


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