By Jim Stanford on August 17, 2010
Today is primary election day. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters may register at the polls; you need to have lived here only a minute to vote. Click here to find your polling place.
What’s at stake? The governor’s race, for starters. There’s an important contest for Wyoming Legislature. And the fate of 11 specific purpose tax projects hangs in the balance, including $1 million for improvement of the Wilson and South Park access points on the Snake River.
Adding intrigue is the possibility that many Democratic-leaning voters may switch party registration (temporarily, likely) to participate in the Republican primary, where more races are contested. This used to happen in Teton County all the time, before Dick Cheney made the GOP so toxic and sent voters to the Democratic rolls in droves.
The biggest champion of this strategy, of course, is Capt. Bob Morris, who again is seeking the Republican nomination for Teton County commissioner. “Joining a party does not strengthen it; neither does it signify your allegiance for it,” he says on his Facebook page. “One joins whichever party has the more significant primary — even if that is the party which is the more contemptible.”
Capt. Bob used to go as far as advising young voters to “hold their noses” while voting in the Republican primary. The ploy worked in 2000, when he stunned everyone by winning the GOP primary.
Other candidates besides Capt. Bob could benefit today from crossover votes, including Ruth-Ann Petroff, former owner of the Domino’s Pizza franchise and Hard Drive Cafe. Petroff has been dissed twice in the News&Guide — first by the paper itself, which in the article announcing her candidacy repeatedly referred to her as the wife of Mayor Mark Barron, as if she had no accomplishments of her own (including multiple Small Business Owner of the Year awards). In another front-page article, she drew criticism from her GOP opponent, Joe Schloss, and his supporters for not being Republican enough. (Brilliant strategy, guys!)
Schloss is a former Homeland Security and FBI agent twice thumped in the race for House District 16 by outgoing Rep. Pete Jorgensen, D-Jackson. Third time is not likely to be the charm. The winner will face the estimable Len Carlman.
Finally, the governor’s race. No candidate stands to gain as much from Teton County Democrats switching parties today as Matt Mead, the former U.S. attorney raised in Spring Gulch. Mead will need a big push from his native county (he lives in Cheyenne and has ranches in Albany and Goshen counties) if he is to separate from the crowded GOP field.
Almost bewilderingly, Speaker of the House Colin Simpson of Cody trails far behind in the Star-Tribune poll, while State Auditor Rita Meyer is said to have the lead. Ron Micheli, a rancher from Fort Bridger, is the biggest wingnut of the bunch. Meyer, who served 23 years in the Wyoming Air National Guard, received an endorsement from Sarah Palin. Kiss. Of. Death.
In the Democratic primary, the governorship is the lone contested race. Leslie Petersen, a realtor from Teton County and chairwoman of the state party, is almost certain to win, having the support of the establishment. But her challenger, Pete Gosar of Pinedale, has put forth what I consider the best idea to come out of either primary: raising the severance tax on minerals as prices rise. That way as companies reap more profits, the state benefits as well. Gosar has advocated this idea fearlessly, as one might expect of a walk-on linebacker at the University of Wyoming who went on to make All-WAC.
Although he has pandered to the right throughout the primary, Mead is probably best of the GOP lot. A cynic might advise that Democrats register Republican to back Micheli or Schloss, who would be easier for Democratic candidates to beat. But that’s too Machiavellian for me. At the end of the day, let’s have two good candidates for governor and House District 16.