CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Republican U.S. Sen. John Barrasso faced nominal opposition and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis was unopposed in Wyoming party primaries Tuesday that also promised to maintain the GOP's dominance in the state Legislature next year.
Barrasso, who is running for re-election for the first time, is gaining power in Washington as chairman of the Senate Republican Party Committee. A surgeon, Barrasso has made his mark as a leading opponent of the federal health care overhaul. He is opposed by Emmett A. Mavy of Alpine, a management consultant, and Thomas Bleming of Lusk, a self-described "soldier of fortune."
Tim Chestnut of Laramie, an Albany County commissioner, perennial candidate Al Hamburg of Torrington and William Bryk, a New York attorney who has filed as a protest candidate in several states, were seeking the Democratic bid to challenge Barrasso. Party activists said Chestnut was favored to win Tuesday.
Lummis has served in the U.S. House since 2008. In November, she will face Democrat Chris Henrichsen, a political science instructor from Casper, who also was unopposed Tuesday. Henrichsen ran on a platform of representing working families while distancing himself from the national Democratic Party.
In state legislative races, Republican primary candidates far outnumbered Democratic contenders — underscoring the weakness of the Democratic Party in this overwhelmingly Republican state and signaling that the GOP will keep its control of both chambers next year.
Republicans outnumber Democrats 26-4 in the Senate and 50-10 in the House. Out of 15 Wyoming State Senate seats being contested Tuesday, Republicans ran in 14 primary races and Democrats just three. Republicans were running in 57 of 60 House primary races and Democrats in 22.
Democrats last controlled both houses of the Wyoming Legislature in 1936, according to the Wyoming Secretary of State's website.
Some of the hardest-fought campaigns featured veteran Republican incumbents and conservative challengers.
Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, the longest serving member of the Legislature, faced an aggressive primary challenge from Rep. Bob Brechtel of Casper in a race dominated by discussion of abortion and the federal health care law.
Brechtel pushed legislation unsuccessfully in recent years that sought to restrict access to abortion services. He also noted in his campaign that Scott, chairman of the Labor Health and Social Services Committee, effectively killed a Brechtel bill that would have made it a crime for any state employee to implement the Affordable Care Act.
Scott, who was first elected to the House in 1979, said in an interview Monday that he killed Brechtel's bill because he thought it would make the state look extreme and silly. Brechtel couldn't be reached for comment on Monday.