CHEYENNE — Wyoming’s primary election delivered few surprises with well-funded Republican congressional incumbents coasting to victory and most state legislators holding onto their seats.
The undisputed GOP heavyweights on Tuesday’s fight card — U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis — didn’t break a sweat. Barrasso dispatched two minor challengers and faces Democrat Tim Chesnut, an Albany County commissioner, in the general election. Lummis was unopposed and takes on Democrat Chris Henrichsen in November.
As Wyoming chairwoman for Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, Lummis said she intends to campaign statewide to underscore what she believes is a stark choice voters must make in November.
“Will we continue to manage our decline, which is what we’re doing now, or will we choose an opportunity society? And I don’t mean equal outcomes for everyone. I mean equal opportunity for everyone,” Lummis said.
Henrichsen, a political science instructor from Casper, was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Henrichsen has campaigned on a shoestring, sleeping in his car on the road and distancing himself from the national Democratic Party in a state where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats three to one.
“I think that the chief concern should not be party majorities,” Henrichsen said. “It should not be Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Our chief concern should be Wyoming families.”
Chesnut, of Laramie, said he wants to curb federal spending, work to stop the war in Afghanistan and get both political parties to deliver straight talk to Americans about complicated issues like health care.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “This country is so split right now and not working, and a lot of the country is concerned about what’s going to be shoved down their throat.”
It appears doubtful that Henrichsen and Chesnut can spend enough money to get their messages across to voters.
Federal Elections Commission filings show Barrasso has received roughly $3.4 million in contributions while spending $1.1 million. Lummis collected just over $500,000 while spending just more than half that much.
Henrichsen said recently he’s raised and spent about $16,000, while Chesnut said he raised a little over $800 and spent more than $300.
Andrew Garner, assistant professor of political science at the University of Wyoming, said it’s clear that more established Democrats stayed away this election cycle. Democrats only have a shot at winning Wyoming’s congressional seats when those seats are open and public opinion is swinging nationally toward Democrats, Garner said.
In state legislative primaries, several veteran GOP lawmakers lost their seats.
Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Casper, lost to challenger Jim Anderson, a retired businessman and longtime resident of Gillette. Jennings, who has served since 2005, is a staunch supporter of gun rights in the Legislature.
In northern Wyoming, David Northrup defeated Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody. Childers has served since 1997 and led Wyoming’s efforts to take over management of wolves from the federal government.
In far western Wyoming, challenger Garry Piiparinen unseated Rep. Clarence Vranish, R-Evanston. Vranish started serving in the House only last year.
Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, the longest-serving member of the Legislature, narrowly defeated Rep. Bob Brechtel of Casper in a race dominated by discussion of abortion and the federal health care law.