Republican Mark Gordon easily defeated Democrat Mary Throne on Tuesday to become Wyoming’s next governor.
Gordon, the Wyoming treasurer, earned nearly 68 percent of the vote, with roughly three-quarters of precincts reporting. Throne followed at 27 percent. Constitutional Party candidate Rex Rammell received 3 percent.
Multiple news outlets, including the Associated Press, called the election for Gordon minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m. He will succeed Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who has held the seat for two terms.
Gordon, running his first contested general election in a decade, arguably endured one of the most trying pathways to the governorship in the history of the state. In a six-way primary race that was, by itself, the most expensive statewide race ever run, Gordon outlasted political outsiders Harriet Hageman and Foster Friess to win one-third of the vote. It was the highest turnout for a Republican primary in state history, helped by hundreds of thousands of his own funds and one of the most experienced campaign teams in the field.
In a victory speech Tuesday night, Gordon — flanked by his wife, Jennie — thanked his campaign team and all those in attendance, acknowledging the difficulties he had faced along the way and the future he envisions for the state.
“We believe in Wyoming and the fact that we in Wyoming can make a difference in our future,” he said.
In the lead-up to the general election, he faced a formidable challenge from Throne, a spirited debater who often challenged and pressed Gordon on issues such as health care and education.
Throne, seeking the state’s highest office two years after losing her seat in the Wyoming House, offered a strong challenge to Gordon. Running a campaign based around tax reform and Medicaid expansion, Throne, while moderate on a number of issues facing the state, presented a stark contrast to Gordon on many others. Where Gordon discussed cost savings, Throne advocated for what she called “predictable” funding streams, and pay raises for public employees. Where Gordon was cautious on tax reform, saying he would not support new taxes but was open to later discussions, Throne made it the center of her message.
From the race’s start, however, Throne was perceived as an underdog, if still a competitive one. Her message was one of acknowledged unpopularity, often telling voters she was there not to tell them “what they wanted to hear but what they needed to hear.” She also lacked the monetary advantage of Gordon, having raised just one quarter of the funds raised by the Republican.
"I've run in nasty races in past years," said Throne in a concession speech in the ballroom of Cheyenne's Plains Hotel, alluding to her defeat in her re-election bid to the statehouse two years ago. "I want to applaud [Gordon] for not doing that. We've gotten Wyoming politics back to Wyoming politics. We were aggressive with each other, but we were aggressive on the issues. I am proud of that."
If elected, she would have been the state’s first female governor since Nellie Tayloe Ross, the nation’s first female governor (1925-27). Throne would have been the state’s 14th Democratic governor and its fourth out of the last six.
Gordon’s message of fiscal responsibility and his objective to “live within our means,” however, seemed to have resonated with voters across the state. The institutional pick, Gordon — who has served as state treasurer since 2014 — received endorsements from dozens of state legislators in the primaries and, in the final week of the race, notched endorsements from Mead and several major newspapers across the state, including the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and the Casper Star-Tribune.
Wyoming’s 33rd governor, however, won’t have much time to rest, inheriting a legislature at odds with itself over solving the state’s rising healthcare costs, looming revenue problems and significant shortfalls in its education and infrastructure budgets. To start his tenure, Gordon said he will point his attention to passing the budget priorities outlined by Gov. Mead in his final budget, and setting the stage for a number of start-of-term priorities, including a streamlining of the executive branch and overseeing the transition between himself and the incoming treasurer.
In an interview after his speech, he expressed optimism for a number of his policy goals — including a state-centered healthcare system and his own ideas for a “ground-up” approach to economic development.
“I’ve been in the treasurer’s office for more than six years, and I’ve built up relationships across the entire political spectrum with numerous points of view,” he said. “I really do think Wyoming is a small enough state that if we come together and respect each other’s points of view, we can find a way forward that will be based on conservative principles and common sense solutions.”
Follow politics reporter Nick Reynolds on Twitter @IAmNickReynolds
Mark Gordon: 67.9 percent
Mary Throne: 27.2 percent
Rex Rammell: 3.2 percent
Lawrence Struempf: 1.6 percent
Note: 368 of 482 precincts reporting
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Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.