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Gosar plans to ‘hustle’ for governor; Democratic candidate said he feels issues will make him a strong contender

Pete Gosar stopped by the Park County Democratic Party booth at the Park County Fair July 22. County Chairman L.D. Yonts (left) and Dae Renaud were staffing the booth on the opening day of the fair. Pete Gosar stopped by the Park County Democratic Party booth at the Park County Fair July 22. County Chairman L.D. Yonts (left) and Dae Renaud were staffing the booth on the opening day of the fair. Tribune photo by Tom Lawrence

Hustle.

That’s a word Pete Gosar repeats over and over. It’s the key to a Democrat winning in heavily Republican Wyoming, Gosar said during a stop at the Park County Fair in Powell July 21.

More than three times as many voters in the state, 166,723, are registered Republicans, compared to 52,956 Democrats, as of July 1, according to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office.

Gosar said he will hustle to make up for that.

The Republican Party has a huge edge in fundraising, and Gosar said he knows he will be outspent in this election. Gov. Matt Mead spent more than $2 million to win in 2010, $1.2 million out of his own pocket, while Gosar said he would like to raise and spend $500,000, while realizing that is a lofty goal.

His answer? Hustle.

“I’m not very cynical abut Wyoming people, Republican, Democrat, independent or anything else, I have an opportunity to get a person’s vote if I can engage them in what we share in common,” Gosar said. “And I think that’s quite a bit.

“It’d be great if I had a half a million,” he said. “I don’t believe money will be an issue, whatever it is. Money does not buy accessibility.”

He said his plan is to “look them in the eye. You’ll get their vote honestly, and we plan on doing that.”

Gosar said he is “proud to be a Democrat. Mom and Dad told me, ‘Say who you are and people will accept you and take you at face value.

“I’m not cynical,” he said. “And I’m proud of that.”

This is the second time Gosar, 46, has sought the governor’s chair. He came in second in a five-candidate race in the 2010 Democratic primary; Leslie Petersen won the nomination but lost in a landslide to Mead.

This year, Gosar is the sole Democratic candidate. He was the state chairman but resigned that position when he announced his bid for the office. Gosar said when no one else came forward, he felt a strong desire to run.

“You know, I thought there were a lot of conversations to be had,” he said of his decision to run. “There needed to be a conversation, and I was willing to do it.

“And I think there’s an opportunity to win,” Gosar said. “I sense a growing dissatisfaction with the continued politics of making decisions based on polls and election season. I think people get tired of that.”

Gov. Matt Mead, Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill and Dr. Taylor Haynes are battling for the Republican primary, which will be held Aug. 19.

But Gosar is focusing on the general election on Nov. 4 and said he has no preference in the GOP race.

“Whoever wins would be, by definition, the strongest candidate in the Republican field,” he said. “I just focus on what we do and my team and what we do in the campaign.”

‘Nothing poll-tested about me’

Gosar said he plans to “hustle on social media” and in people’s neighborhoods. He said what people see and hear is what he has to offer.

“There’s nothing poll-tested about me,” Gosar said. “You’ll get the straight scoop from me in Jackson or Gillette, Laramie or Rock Springs. You won’t hear the message adjusted for the crowd.”

Mead’s communications director, Rennie MacKay, responded to those comments via email.

“The statement is irresponsible,” MacKay said. “As communications director for Governor Mead I have attended many, many events with Governor Mead and heard him speak on many, many issues and I have never heard him change positions on an issue. I also have never seen Pete Gosar at any of these events.”

Gosar has not spoken this year with former Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat who was elected in 2002 and 2006, but he said he’d like to follow in his footsteps.

“He hustled about a lot like we’re trying to do,” Gosar said. “That’s the ground that’s left to you as a Democrat.”

He said he admires the effort of  Charlie Hardy, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, who is running an uphill race against Sen. Mike Enzi.

“Very similar. You face the long odds in a statewide race with the money that the other side will be able to move against you,” Gosar said. “There’s a lot of disadvantages, but you just hustle, and I think that is what Charlie will do.”

He noted that Mead had spent more than $1 million of his own money in 2010 campaign and can dip into his wallet during this race, too.

“As a working guy, you can’t do that,” Gosar said.

He and his brother own an aviation business in Laramie, and Gosar also serves as pilot for the state. Mead has been his passenger several times, and the two men know each other, Gosar said.

But he said while they differ on many, if not most, issues, they get along well. However, the campaign appears to have struck a few nerves.

“Matt Mead and Pete Gosar first met when they were both candidates for governor in the 2010 primary election,” MacKay said. “While Pete did not move on from the primary election, the relationship continued. Governor Mead appointed Pete to the State Board of Education.

“We have been surprised by his negative comments,” he said. “We hope Pete will offer positive solutions and that the debate will focus on the issues.”

Medicaid expansion has been one primary issue, and Gosar, who has “Medicaid Matters” and a red cross on his campaign business card, is trying to bring it into even sharper focus.

On July 21, Mead said he would work with the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a Medicaid expansion program in the state. Gosar quickly responded.

“This administration’s decision to start looking at the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Wyoming comes four years too late,” he said in a statement. “During this time, the Mead administration denied access to proper health care to approximately 18,000 hardworking Wyomingites. This could have cost lives.

“His reckless and irresponsible agenda not only affects the working class of our state, but it also affects our local hospitals with $200 million annually of uncompensated care.”

In Powell, Gosar doubled-down on that statement.

“I can’t really speak why the administration is doing what it’s doing. I’ve been talking about the Democratic Party’s view and myself for more than a year now,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to turn down hundreds of millions of dollars to insure nearly 18,000 people.”

MacKay offered a rebuttal.

“Pete Gosar’s statements appear to overlook a legislative footnote providing for the possibility of a Medicaid waiver under certain conditions,” he said.

“This footnote has bipartisan support and is intended only to get a conversation started about possible options for Wyoming citizens,” MacKay said. “Governor Mead is opposed to the Affordable Care Act. His concerns about Medicaid expansion remain, even as the intent of the footnote is fulfilled. The discussion will continue.”

Gosar  supports the Next Generation Science Standards. He said most Wyoming residents, no matter their partisan beliefs, want the best possible education for kids.

Gosar said he is also opposed to reductions in hunter access programs and education, and he is concerned about the state’s high rate of injuries in deaths for workers. Employee safety must be considered even as economic development is encouraged.

Liberal stands on issues

He also disagrees with Mead and legislative Republicans who took away much of Hill’s authority last year and battled against her reinstatement earlier this year.

“I don’t think stripping the office was the way to go,” Gosar said.

He said he agrees with the state Supreme Court decision to reinstate Hill with full authority, although he said there was another answer — impeachment.

“She should not have been tried in the court of public opinion,” he said. “I think there’s a lot that bothers the people of Wyoming with what happened with Senate File 104 and the stripping of duties from that office.”

He supports increasing pay for workers.

“It makes economic sense to raise the minimum wage,” Gosar said. “I was a person who made minimum wage. You’re working to get behind. Something that has to change.”

He said while some jobs may be lost, the state as a whole will benefit. In many ways, it’s a smaller government issue, Gosar said, as people will be able to afford health insurance and food at the store. They won’t need as much government assistance, he said.

Gosar said he supports making sure women earn as much as men for doing the same job.

“A woman makes 63.8 cents on the dollar compared to me,” he said. “That’s intolerable in the Equality State.”

He also backs legalizing same-sex marriage.

“I support allowing all Wyoming families to marry,” Gosar said. “It’s covered by the Constitution. We have no second-class citizens in Wyoming. To me, it’s very straightforward. Wyoming is a live-and-let-live state.”

Gosar said he plans to return to Park County “a couple of times,” since it is a large population center for Wyoming. He said he does not feel it’s unfriendly territory for a Democratic candidate.

“Plenty of Republican folks that want their kids to have a quality science education,” he said. “A lot favor Medicaid expansion.”

Gosar said he hears a message of gloom and doom from a lot of people. They tell him he’s on a fool’s errand, that he has no chance, but he doesn’t let that get him down.

“We have a lot to offer,” he said. “We’ll just hustle.”

The Pinedale native was a walk-on for the University of Wyoming football team who ended up starting the second half of his junior season and all of his senior year. He was named a second-team all-conference outside linebacker as a senior.

“I’m a lifelong Poke fan,” Gosar said. “Running out on War Memorial Stadium was a thrill.”

He said he learned lessons then that still apply now.

“You hear those same refrains in the governor’s race,” Gosar said. “You know how to do this. You work hard and keep hustling. You just come out competing.”

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4 comments

  • posted by Richard Grayson

    August 06, 2014 6:04 pm

    I am, by some weird quirk of fate (meaning no other Democrat was stupid enough to do it), the unopposed Democratic candidate in the primary for Rep. Cynthia Lummis' U.S. House seat.

    Unlike Mr. Gosar and Mr. Hardy, I am spending no money (and taking none, not that anyone's dumb enough to offer) and doing nothing except some free social media on Twitter and YouTube and answering some newspaper questionnaires and those from interest groups.

    My candidacy is a token one, and anyone who doesn't want to vote for Rep. Lummis or her conservative Libertarian and Constitution party opponents, can vote for me. I'm a liberal Democrat.

    I figure I can get around 5-8% of the vote, but if not, I won't be sad. Good luck to Mr. Gosar and Mr. Hardy.

    Okay, that's enough campaigning for me this week. Have a nice day.

  • posted by position

    August 06, 2014 5:57 am

    “We have been surprised by his negative comments,” he said. “We hope Pete will offer positive solutions and that the debate will focus on the issues.”

    Well Matt, here is another negative comment. You and your Park county representatives all violated the Wyoming Constitution after you were warned many times not to proceed with SF-104. Either the constitution means everything, or it means nothing.

  • posted by TN

    August 05, 2014 4:12 pm

    Good luck to any Democrat in this state full of hypocrites and tea baggers.Wyoming really does need a washing out of Johnson County war politics,but more of the same does nothing.

  • posted by Dewey

    August 05, 2014 11:43 am

    If by some twist Taylor Haynes and not Matt Mead gets the GOP nomination for Governor in the primary , then we have a real horserace.

    Gosar could beat Haynes.

    Stranger things have happened here in a state that in recent memory has had more Democratic Governors than not...

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