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Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., departs the Senate after a vote in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18, 2018. File photo by Jonathan E...

Experienced politicians win Wyoming’s primary

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The only candidate with experience in elected office beat five challengers Tuesday to claim the Republican nomination for Wyoming governor, a win that goes a long way toward winning top office in this deep-red state.

Meanwhile, experience also won out as U.S. Sen. John Barrasso fended off a well-funded challenger in his GOP primary.

In the race for governor, State Treasurer Mark Gordon beat wealthy political donor Foster Friess by a comfortable margin despite Friess’ national name recognition and last-minute endorsement from President Donald Trump.

Gordon also beat rancher-attorney Harriet Hageman and dot-com businessman Sam Galeotos in a race uncharacteristically full of political newcomers for Wyoming.

“It was the kind of hard-fought battle people in Wyoming would expect,” Gordon said.

Friess said Gordon would make a “good governor” and said he would continue to advocate for issues including financial transparency in Wyoming government.

Gordon faces attorney and former state Rep. Mary Throne, of Cheyenne, in the general election. Throne beat three little-known candidates to secure the Democratic nomination.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Matt Mead is term-limited after serving two full terms.

Wyoming’s party-registration statistics alone give Gordon a huge advantage over Throne, but Wyoming not long ago had a Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, who served two terms before Mead.

“Traditionally in Wyoming we focus on the person and not the party when it comes to electing governors. We like our governors to be independent and thoughtful,” Throne said.

Gordon called Throne “a formidable force” and said he’s not taking the race for granted.

Barrasso beat five opponents, including investor and Stanford University lecturer Dave Dodson of Jackson Hole. Dodson put $1 million of his own money toward a campaign that questioned Barrasso’s ties to corporate interests and Washington political insiders.

Barrasso spent much of Tuesday attending to business in Washington, D.C., and after thunderstorms delayed his flights, he landed in Casper well after polls closed.

“I’ve always been in Wyoming for primary day but we canceled the August recess. We’re working on (nominee Brett) Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. We’re working on lots of things,” Barrasso said.

As for beating Dodson, Barrasso said he works every day thinking about how to make life better for Wyoming residents and “I think that the voters saw that.”

A political newcomer, Dodson hinted he might continue advocating for term limits, reducing the influence of money in politics and other issues he focused on in his campaign.

“I will not in any way stop this fight because I knew that these problems existed, but now they have faces, and they have names, and I care about them,” Dodson said.

Barrasso faces Wilson businessman Gary Trauner in the general election. Trauner ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Incumbent Liz Cheney won the Republican nomination for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House.

Cheney beat two other Republicans, Blake Stanley of Cheyenne and Rod Miller of Buford. Stanley and Miller both characterized themselves as blue-collar conservatives and ran low-key campaigns.

Cheney will run against Laramie businessman Greg Hunter, who beat attorney Travis Helm for the Democratic nomination for U.S. House.