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July 29, 2014 7:25 am

EDITORIAL: Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Wyoming Democrats?

Written by Tom Lawrence

Sometimes it seems like being a Democrat in Wyoming is similar to being a vegetarian at a barbecue.

There’s not much reason to get too excited.

It seems like they are the soccer fans at the Super Bowl, the wine drinkers at an Old West saloon or cats in a kennel. We don’t believe rumors they can hold a meeting in a phone booth, but that’s only because when do you ever see a phone booth nowadays?

Just look at the numbers and the history. The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office reports that as of July 1, there are 166,723 registered Republicans in the state compared to 52,956 Democrats. That’s a more than three-to-one advantage for the GOP.

It doesn’t get much better when you examine the books. Sen. Mike Enzi, who is the overwhelming favorite to win a fourth term, raised $267,000 from April 1 to June 30, and had more than $1.6 million cash on hand.

His little-known Democratic opponent, the earnest Charlie Hardy, raised a bit more than $6,000 in the same cycle and had little cash on hand.

It’s the same story in the governor’s race, with Gov. Matt Mead holding a huge edge over Democrat Pete Gosar, and in the “contest” for the state’s lone U.S. House seat, incumbent Cynthia Lummis, a Republican like every other person holding a major office in the state, has more than $220,000 cash on hand.

She is basically running unopposed, although Richard Grayson, of Apache Junction, Ariz., has filed to run as a Democrat, while admitting he knows he stands no chance of winning.

It wasn’t always that way, and Gosar went to great lengths last week to try to persuade us that it doesn’t have to be that way in the future.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, was elected in 2002 and 2006 and won re-election in a landslide. Although he is only 63, not that old for a politician, he has never mounted a campaign again.

Freudenthal proved that Wyoming voters will choose a Democrat if they like and trust him. Can Gosar convince them he is the kind of person and politician they can support?

We admire his willingness to try. It’s an uphill climb and one he undertook only after no other candidate came forward. Gosar was the chairman of the state party, a job he dropped to become its gubernatorial nominee.

He said there are reasons for hope. Wyoming, like its Western neighbors Colorado and Nevada, is slowly becoming more diverse. Many of those new residents lean toward the Democratic Party.

In addition, poll after poll shows younger people are turned off by the GOP’s anti-gay rights stance and opposition to same-sex marriage. Add in their views on environmental issues, marijuana legalization and other issues and there seems to be a generational opening for the Democrats.

In addition, the growing divide in the Wyoming Republican Party, with tea party supporters working to remove traditional Republicans from office and positions of authority, is an opportunity for the Democrats. A lot of moderate voters are unhappy with the continued family squabbling in the GOP; surely some of them can be persuaded to change their registration.

But it’s also about the candidates. Freudenthal charmed voters with his plain-spoken approach, boots and jeans and moderate positions on issues.

Gosar, a Pinedale native and former University of Wyoming linebacker, also fits the role well. He is just 46 and is a nice-looking, friendly and well-spoken man.

That seems like just the kind of person a party should build around. But it need a lot of building.

The Wyoming Democrats need to recruit candidates for office from the local level to statewide races. Not a single Democrat is seeking public office in Park County — that’s ridiculous.

Lummis is being given a free pass, which allows the GOP to focus its energies and dollars on other races. If the Democrats want to compete, they must do just that.

We favor a government with two strong, involved parties. To fly straight, a strong right and left wing are both needed. While the Democrats find themselves in a deep hole, they can brighten their mood with this realization: They can only go up from here.

6 comments

  • Comment Link July 29, 2014 9:04 am posted by Richard Grayson

    Although I have no chance against Rep. Lummis, have absolutely no money, and will probably be lucky to get double digits on Election Day (assuming I win the U.S. House Democratic primary), I am running a series of hard-hitting campaign videos like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiYvhmJBOKs

  • Comment Link July 29, 2014 9:05 am posted by WyomingGal

    Yep, the old adage appears true, even in Wyoming politics: He who hath the gold, makes the rules. Isn't it about time we got money out of politics? We already know that absolute power, corrupts absolutely, and a big wad of cash is more than capable of doing the same thing. When a politician accepts large amounts of cash from a few well-monied persons or organizations/businesses, those people expect the politician they contributed to to do things their way and vote in their best interests, which makes that politician somewhat beholden to those contributors rather than the people of Wyoming. Please remember at the polls that it is "We the people" of the State of Wyoming who are supposed to be the politician's employers, not some corporation or well-off individual who usually have their own agendas which might, or might not be, in the best interests of the Wyoming public at large. I will vote for the best person for the job and not put all my faith in (or exercise my voting privilege for) those who have the biggest 'war-chests' or simply because of which letter they have behind their name. Having a 'D' behind one's name doesn't make a politician a dummy any more than having an 'R' behind someone's's name make that particular politician retarded.

  • Comment Link July 29, 2014 9:39 am posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    A Democrat in Wyoming is treated like one of too many bull calves on a dairy farm,so why bother since the phony RINO's will usually buy their way into everything in this state.A sorry state of affairs,pun intended.

  • Comment Link July 29, 2014 12:18 pm posted by clipstein

    remember you need a new county clerk. we buy them all the latest in computers and etc. this clerk does not know how to use and refuses to use. sold a piece of property and 18 months I get a name in the paper for being behind in taxes.....WAIT TILL HAPPENS TO YOU.

  • Comment Link August 03, 2014 9:25 pm posted by Bruce Wilkinson

    Don't count out Charlie Hardy for US Senate against Mike Enzi either. Enzi is vulnerable having not done much over the past 6 years to benefit Wyoming while becoming the chummiest with the Washington establishment and the huge corporate lobbyists with deep pockets. Those lobbyists think they can come to the state of Wyoming and buy a US Senator for cheap and with Enzi they are right. Charlie Hardy is earnest it's true, but I think Wyomingites will come to find Charlie as also fearless and incorruptible as well, and that might change things.

  • Comment Link August 04, 2014 12:53 pm posted by Sharea LinDAE MoAn-Renaud

    Yes, building community, working together productively, supporting our candidates, building solidarity, getting people registered, getting out the vote! Pete Gosar for Governor 2014 Charlie Hardy for US Senate & Mike Ceballos who is so much more than just a politician! P.S. I want to acknowledge and thank our Larry Yontz for all of his work here in Park County with Linda Pettengill, whose posters of Wyoming's Democratic governors gave substance to our presence in Our Park County Proud parade entry, there were lots of encouraging and supportive faces there as there will be at the polls in a matter of days....the count is on to primaries!

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