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Wyoming primary a referendum on Gov. Mead

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 19, 2014 at 5:41 pm •  Published: August 19, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Republican voters went to the polls Tuesday to answer the question of whether widespread dissatisfaction with the federal government gives them any reason to vote out incumbent Gov. Matt Mead.

Challengers Dr. Taylor Haynes and Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill both campaigned on the idea that they can move Wyoming farther away from federal control.

Haynes, a retired urologist turned rancher, is the most outspoken. If elected, he has said he would work to have Wyoming take over the millions of acres of federal lands within its borders. Despite criticism from legal scholars, Haynes says the Constitution is on his side in his desire to drive federal employees from the state or face jail time.

Cheyenne resident Lane Klungness said Haynes, a former University of Wyoming board member, won his vote because of his stance on education.

"He's more constitutionally based than what we have in the governor's chair," Klungness said.

Hill, meanwhile, has claimed Mead and senior Wyoming legislators are far too willing to accept federal education standards. She has said she's running for office to end the existing status quo in state government, which she maintains is operated mainly for the benefit of a political elite that tried to oust her from office for alleged mismanagement of the education department.

Mead says he's proud of his record of standing up for the state against federal efforts to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants that he says would harm the state's coal industry. He has opposed the federal Affordable Care Act and continues to resist expansion of the Medicaid program as he pushed a fairly conservative social agenda.

But Mead, a former federal prosecutor, also says any governor must deal with the reality of the federal government's large footprint in the state and not spin wheels fantasizing about impractical solutions.

Mead won considerable backing from Wyoming's energy industry for his unfailing support of the state's beleaguered coal industry. His administration has filed numerous legal challenges to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's push to tighten air quality standards on coal-fired power plants.

Haynes campaigned on a dual-pronged message that apparently achieved traction among some voters. He says he wants to restore an emphasis on following the Bible and the U.S. Constitution in state government.

Cheyenne voter Bruce Koerwitz described himself as a moderate Republican. He said he found Haynes and Hill too radical and voted for Mead.

"I vote Democrat or Republican, whoever's the best candidate," Koerwitz said. "Miss Hill, her conduct as superintendent of public instruction is ridiculous, and Haynes is way too conservative."

Democrat Pete Gosar, a state pilot, faced no opposition in Tuesday's primary. He stepped down as Wyoming Democratic Party chairman to run.

In other primary contests, Democrats didn't field a single candidate for treasurer, auditor or secretary of state.

— Cheyenne businessman Ed Murray, Torrington lawyer and former House speaker Ed Buchanan, former state Rep. Pete Illoway of Cheyenne and Rock Springs City Councilman Clark Stith battled in the GOP primary for secretary of state.

— Jillian Balow, a former teacher and education official, Sheryl Lain, a top Cindy Hill deputy, and Bill Winney ran in the Republican primary for superintendent of public instruction. Democrat Mike Ceballos, a retired telephone company executive, was unopposed.

Secretary of State Max Maxfield said that more than 19,000 voters had voted by absentee ballot. That represented 7.4 percent of all registered voters.


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