While a lot of media attention is focused on next year’s race for Wyoming’s open U.S. Senate seat, the real action might occur for the Cowboy State’s lone House seat.
Most pundits believe that current Rep. Liz Cheney will seek that U.S. Senate seat against already announced Cynthia Lummis and a host of others, including possibly GOP mega-donor Foster Friess.
It might be wishful thinking, but a lot of Republican leaders are sure hoping that Liz stays in the House. Historian Jean Haugen of Lander was excited that if Lummis and Cheney both win, the Equality State would have two women in its three-member delegation. That would be worth bragging about, she exclaimed.
Personally, I believe the even bigger prize that Liz Cheney wants is to be the country’s first female president. Now that is an aspiration. And don’t count her out.
But first, everybody has to get by this next campaign.
The topic of this column is a potential future House race like none we have ever seen before. If Liz jumps, and that is a big if, then we will see one heckuva donnybrook in the race for her House seat.
The names I am hearing are some familiar ones and some not so well known.
For example, Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith ran before and really got to know the state again last summer when he was Foster Friess’s campaign manager.
Another guy, who is referred to as “Bush’s banker guy,” out of Jackson, is Republican heavy hitter Bob Grady. He has a big resume nationally and although not known statewide, he is very well known among the state’s bigwigs. Economist and expert on just about everything, Jonathan Schechter of Jackson, says Grady “is all in.”
Up in Park County, GOP worker Geri Hockhalter says she keeps hearing good things about current Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow as an ideal replacement for Liz in the House.
Republican go-getter John Brown of Lander mentioned a lot of the same candidates but also said: “Hell, Frank Eathorne (current state GOP chairman) might even throw in his hat...”
Several of my sources mentioned the ubiquitous Jon Downing, who had headed up the Contractors Association, the Mining Association and the Liberty Group. Most recently he has been working for Vice President Mike Pence.
Another candidate who ran before is Tim Stubson of Casper. His name came up a lot, along with Cheyenne legislator Affie Ellis. Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) is also a possibility.
State Rep. Tyler Lindholm (R-Sundance) sure has been looking a lot like a candidate lately, based on his Facebook postings and penchant to get into the news. Check out his spiel on gun control on the Cowboy State Daily. One of the best explanations I’ve heard.
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Former legislator Randall Luthi recently moved back to Wyoming to work in state government. Was this a way to get back into the action so he could run?
Former State Sen. Jayne Mockler of Cheyenne is impressed by State Rep. Tara Nethercott. “Brilliant, competent young woman,” she says.
Two names from last year’s GOP primary came up, Harriet Hageman and Sam Galeotos of Cheyenne. Consensus was that Harriet might do it, Sam probably not.
Several of my sources mentioned political operative Bill Novotny of Buffalo. He certainly knows how to run a campaign and has incredible knowledge of who’s who in each county.
Novotny, though, sent me this: “Hope all is well in Lander. I understand you are sniffing around for a story on the U.S. House race. Here are three folks you shouldn’t overlook:
“Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow. He has the conservative bona fides and the legislative skills to make a real argument for the job. Won a contested race for leadership against a conservative darling while maintaining his libertarian leanings.
“Superintendent Jillian Balow. Track record of winning in contested primary and general election races. Scared everyone out of the field on her reelection. Popular, tenacious and has the ability to clean up messes.
“Rep. Cyrus Western. Intelligent, hardworking and ability to deliver on campaign promises. Lots of new legislators haven’t passed a bill. He passed the Dayton-Ranchester gas line bill on his first try. Don’t count him out.”
On the Democrat side, the expectation is that frequent candidate Gary Trauner of Jackson will run for either the Senate or the House.
Last year’s governor candidate Mary Throne was also mentioned by a number of people. Although she lost to Mark Gordon in the general election, she made a lot of friends on both sides of the aisle during her campaign. She was recently appointed to the Public Service Commission by Gov. Gordon so that might rule out a run.
Pete Gosar of Laramie was also mentioned, as was Milward Simpson, who recently headed the Nature Conservancy in Wyoming.
Scotty Ratliff of Riverton suggested Rodger McDaniel of Laramie, Rich Lindsey of Cheyenne and Michelle Sullivan of Sheridan.
It is early and these are just a few of the names that have bubbled to the top. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a fun political year in Wyoming!