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April 24, 2012 7:54 am

Local legislative races begin heating up

Written by CJ Baker

County set for first contested primary in years for House District 50 and Senate District 18

After each going unchallenged for their last five terms, longtime state legislators Hank Coe and Pat Childers of Cody both will face opponents in August’s Republican primary election.

Cody City Councilman Charles Cloud and former Park County Republican Party Chair David Northrup of rural Powell each announced last week that they’re running for the House District 50 seat held by Rep. Childers. Meanwhile, Cody TEA party activist Bob Berry announced he’s challenging Sen. Coe in Senate District 18 (see related story).

“In listening to the conversation this morning, I’ve come to a decision,” Cloud called in, announcing his challenge to Childers. The automotive shop owner said he respected Childers, but “I think we need a fresh perspective, a new energy in representing House District Court 50,” he said.

“I was wondering who my opponent was going to be,” Childers said. “Welcome to the effort.”

The legislator has been kept wondering about his next opponent for more than a decade. This will be his first contested race since 2000, when he defeated Cody Democrat Kim Capron in the general election. Childers’ re-elections to the Wyoming House in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010 all were uncontested.

An eight-term legislator who began serving in the House in 1996, Childers took no offense about being challenged this time around.

“I don’t have a problem with the debate, and if he (Cloud) wins, he wins,” Childers said on KODI.

Both also will have to contend with Northrup as well, who made his intentions of running public in a recent interview with the Tribune. Like Cloud, Northrup said he wanted to offer “a fresh, new perspective.”

Coe had an even longer streak of uncontested elections going than Childers.

Coe won a three-way primary race and a two-man battle in the 1988 general election to win his first term in the state Senate. He hasn’t had a single challenger since, winning his last five, four-year terms as the only candidate running.

That 20-year streak was also snapped Thursday when Berry later called in to KODI to announce a challenge to Coe.

“Welcome to the fray,” responded Coe. “I welcome the competition, and I welcome the discussion of the issues, and I’m very proud of my conservative voting record, so welcome.”

In a Monday interview, Berry said one of the reasons he’s running is not so much because of the makeup of Coe’s record, but because of its length.

“(Coe) has voted right on a lot of stuff, but he’s been there too long,” Berry said.

Berry said he’s an advocate for term limits — limiting legislators to eight years at a time.

“I think if you can’t get it done in eight years, then either you’ve done your job or you’re incapable of doing it, so go home,” he said.

Wyoming citizens overwhelmingly approved an initiative in 1992 that limited legislators to serving no more than 12 years in a given 24-year span in the House or Senate. However, the state Supreme Court later voided the measure, finding term limits must be made by a Constitutional Amendment rather than through a statute.

None of the three challengers voiced any personal beefs with the legislators they are opposing: Northrup said he had no ax to grind, Cloud had lunch with Childers on Friday (“Hopefully, I can pick his brain if I win,” Cloud said) and Berry said Coe was a nice guy.

As KODI’s show wrapped up, Coe quipped that “I’m just sorry we couldn’t make it a three-for,” referring to Krone’s seat.

Laughed Krone, “I’m not.”

There’s still plenty of time, however. Contenders can’t make their candidacies official until May 17, when the filing period opens for U.S., state, county and city offices.

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