Mead narrowly won the Republican nomination over runner-up Rita Meyer, and, with Ron Micheli and Colin Simpson also gathering strong support, finished with only 29 percent of the Republican voters supporting him. He attributed the closeness of the …
Republican Matt Mead and Democrat Leslie Petersen earned their parties' nominations for governor in last week's primary, and voters will have one, and possibly two more choices in November. Casper businessman Mike Wheeler was added to the general election ballot this week as the Libertarian Party's candidate, and University of Wyoming Trustee Taylor Haynes has submitted a petition to run as an independent.
Mead narrowly won the Republican nomination over runner-up Rita Meyer, and, with Ron Micheli and Colin Simpson also gathering strong support, finished with only 29 percent of the Republican voters supporting him. He attributed the closeness of the contest to the strength of the field he faced.
“It was close because of the quality of the candidates,” Mead said. “They all ran strong campaigns. I'm elated to have won the nomination.”
Mead, who ran first or second in nearly every county in the primary, the major exception being Park County, attributed his win to campaigning statewide.
“We made a point of not depending on places where there were a lot of votes,” Mead said. “We focused on every community, not just the big towns.”
Mead also noted reports about the cost of his campaign, to which he had committed a great deal of his own money, and said that spending was necessary because his opponents were better known than he was.
“We recognized that the people we were running against had good name recognition,” Mead said. “We knew we had to commit some of our own money to get my name out there, and campaigning is not inexpensive.”
Petersen's win over Pete Gosar, her strongest rival in the Democratic primary, was by a more comfortable margin. But she, like Mead, did not win a majority of the Democratic votes, due in part to the presence of three other candidates in the race who combined for 15 percent of the votes. Petersen said the competition was healthy for her campaign and the party.
“Pete ran a really good campaign. He really did push me,” Petersen said. “It was a healthy debate.”
Petersen said as Democratic state chairman, she had done her best to find a candidate who would run for the governorship before filing herself at the last minute, but, once she committed, she got into the spirit of campaigning.
“Once I started, I really got excited about the race,” she said.
Mead and Petersen both have ties to Teton County, where Mead was born into a ranching family with deep roots in Jackson Hole. Petersen, who was born in Lovell and grew up on a dude ranch near Dubois, has lived in Teton County since the 1970s.
Petersen's political resume includes serving as a Teton County commissioner and on the Wyoming Water Commission. She served as former Gov. Ed Herschler's legislative liaison, an experience she said is valuable because she was “in the middle between a Democratic governor and a Republican Legislature,” to affect legislation. She also ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature and for secretary of state in the 1970s.
Mead's government experience is as a prosecuting attorney in Campbell County, an assistant U.S. District Attorney and a Special Assistant Attorney General for Wyoming. He was appointed Wyoming's U.S. District Attorney by Pres. George W. Bush in 2001 and served until 2007, when he resigned to operate his family's agriculture interests in southeast Wyoming. As district attorney, he served on an anti-terrorism task force and an interstate effort to combat drug trafficking.
As governor, both candidates say a major focus will be on Wyoming's economy and creating jobs.
“We live in a big beautiful state, but you can't eat scenery,” Mead said.
Wyoming has natural advantages in the minerals, agriculture and tourism that drive the state's economy, Mead said, and the state should build on those assets to develop diversity. He added that the state must continue to improve electronic connectivity. Such connectivity is “almost the same as highways” to supporting business.
Petersen said she has no major differences with Mead on the economy.
“The governor's first obligation is to work for a strong economy,” Petersen said.
Petersen said she also agrees with Mead on the need for fiscal conservatism in state government.
“When I was growing up, we were poor,” Petersen. “I learned to really pinch pennies, and I intend to run a fiscally conservative government.”
That doesn't mean there aren't differences between the two on other issues, including the state's reaction to health care and environmental issues. Petersen said a “healthy debate” on those issues is needed, and she hopes her candidacy will generate that debate.
“A really healthy debate on the issues will give people more opportunity to think about them before they vote,” Petersen.
Mead, for his part, said he isn't taking the general election for granted, even though he is the clear favorite due to the heavy Republican advantage among Wyoming voters. He plans to continue campaigning throughout the state, just as he did in the primary.
“I will be working seven days a week during the campaign,” Mead said.
Haynes, a retired urologist from Cheyenne, submitted a petition with more than 7,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office this week for verification. If 4,988 of them are verified as valid signatures, he will be listed on the ballot as an Independent.
Haynes is registered Republican who is backed by the state's Constitution Party and has pitched himself as the most conservative candidate.
State Election Director Peggy Nighswonger said the verification process should finish by early next week.
Wheeler received the Libertarian Party's nomination at their state convention back in April.