As the Campbell County Primary Election results flooded in late Tuesday night, Troy McKeown stood humbled in a room of fellow candidates as he watched the votes pile up.
“I believed that I had a good chance tonight,” McKeown said. “I did not believe what happened would happen.”
McKeown, a local business owner and political newcomer, has toppled longtime incumbent state Sen. Michael Von Flatern to claim the state Senate seat for District 24 in Tuesday’s primary election with about 64% of the vote.
“I am very humbled and I can’t wait to get to work,” McKeown said.
The first returns showed McKeown claim a lead over Von Flatern of 1,044 votes to 437. That momentum carried forward, as McKeown won out with 2,373 votes to Von Flatern’s 1,360, including absentee and mail-in ballots.
“I think a lot of us worked very hard to get where we’re at, and I think we spoke to the citizens of Campbell County,” McKeown said. “I think they’re ready for something other than business as usual.”
Von Flatern as first elected to the state Senate seat in District 24 in 2005 and had held on through the years until Tuesday.
After the results came and facing a life outside of state politics for the first time in 15 years, Von Flatern was still processing the results late Tuesday.
“I really did think it would go the other way,” Von Flatern said. “I’m shocked, as anybody would be who thinks this through.”
Before the votes came in, Von Flatern expressed that he felt the political tides changing, as he said a tilt toward farther right candidates was appearing as a trend through this year’s early election cycle.
“The far right is running somebody in each primary and they are hoping to take over the Senate and the House, one or the other or both,” he said early Tuesday. “And that has a lot to do with my anxiety as to wanting to know the results of all of the races.”
McKeown is new to Wyoming politics, but said he brings experience as a local business owner of two grocery stores and 27 years in the Army, where he spent time working at the Pentagon, he said.
“I don’t understand a lot of the political stuff yet, but I’ll learn and I’ll learn fast,” McKeown said.
His lack of political experience is something that, at times, McKeown wore as a selling point to voters, drawing a clear distinction between himself as a non-politician and the incumbent group of senators.
As other candidates who bill themselves as “more conservative,” he focused on a back-to-basics, constitutionally focused brand of politics, something he said is lacking from some of the lawmakers in Cheyenne.
“I think people are ready to get back to the Constitution and I think people are ready for blunt, hard truths," McKeown said. "I think they appreciate the fact that a lot of us just say it how it is. I don’t think many of us were very political.”
Among McKeown’s chief concerns are balancing the state’s budget and avoiding tax increases, he said.
However, Von Flatern questioned whether McKeown, and the far right contingency of the primary, is prepared to face the realities of state politics.
“The right is going to rule Wyoming and will cut out, we’ll just cut our way out of this debt,” Von Flatern said. “They have no concept of what they’re doing.”
McKeown took in the election results alongside primary candidates Bill Fortner, who defeated incumbent Bill Pownall for state House District 52; John Bear, winner of the race for House District 31; Martin Phillips and Roy Edwards at Bear’s house.
While his stint in office does not begin just yet, he said he is ready to represent the voters of his district when it does.
“We’ll take a couple, two, three days and enjoy the victory and then it’s time to get ready to get down there and it’s time to get to work,” McKeown said.