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Follow Wyoming Public Radio as we cover the Equality State and U.S. elections online and on-air.

Lesser Known GOP Candidates Hope To Make A Big Splash

When U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis announced that she would not seek re-election this year, some big names in the state stepped forward, but so did a number of others, especially in the Republican Party. But their lack of cash and name recognition has made it difficult to get the same attention as two current office holders and another candidate with a famous last name. 

Despite all of this Cheyenne Representative Darin Smith is preparing to shock the state. Smith placed 4th in a recent media poll which he says is great news since nobody had heard of him in March. Smith is an attorney and a fundraising executive with the Christian Broadcast Network. And he’s convinced he’s going to win.

“I really believe that as I look at the numbers I’m seeing that there’s only two people who can win this race, I believe it’s either myself or Liz Cheney that can win. I know there was an editor who said I’d be lucky to get 5 thousand votes in the election and if that’s the case I’ve met all 5 thousand of the people who are going to vote for me.”

One of those is Rex Rammell who was also running for the seat, but he canceled his campaign to support Smith and his conservative values. Smith has made a big deal about cutting spending and has said that if Donald Trump wins the presidency, “he will have a best friend in Darin Smith.” Smith said he’s had a chance to explain his positions, and he’s worked hard to meet as many people as possible. He’s very religious and notes that has resulted in lots of support from the faith community in particular. But the media is a different story. 

“In terms of media attention, yeah sure, there is an establishment in this state and they certainly to some degree want to pick the candidate they want to represent the state. But I believe this is the people’s seat and I believe that democracy is not for sale in America and I don’t care how much money you spend, I still believe the people of Wyoming are smart enough to pick the people who are right on the issues and I believe that’s me.”

Being a working class candidate, somebody who's been there in the trenches of life with people, I understand where most of these people are coming from living from paycheck to paycheck and wondering sometimes if they are going to put groceries in the fridge or pay a medical bill."

Yoder Republican Jason Senteney is a Corrections Officer and former Marine who attempted to unseat Representative Lummis the last go round. He calls himself a blue collar conservative who wants to change the culture in Washington. He recently made headlines by suggesting that military service should be mandatory.  Senteney admits that money limitations make it difficult to reach as many people as he would like.

“Well social media wise, internet wise I am doing a great job. When it comes to the media, I understand some of these newspapers in this state have basically gone for the Liz Cheney show, that’s what I’ve been calling it lately. And the reason they are going for that is they see that advertising money.”

Senteney said that shouldn’t impact the news coverage, but he said it has.

“Some of our in-state media need to remember, they need to cover everyone equally and let the voters choose.”

But Senteney added that he’s been able to go head to head with the other candidates at a number of forums and he believes that voters see him as a strong candidate, because people are tired of business as usual.

“Being a working class candidate, somebody who’s been there in the trenches of life with people, I understand where most of these people are coming from living from paycheck to paycheck and wondering sometimes if they are going to put groceries in the fridge or pay a medical bill.”

Northwest College English Professor Mike Konsmo admits it will be tough to win, but he said it’s clear he is making an impact. Konsmo said that when he presents his ideas during debates, other candidates have paid attention. 

“Those ideas have found their way into debates and into the messages of other candidates. And so I’m confident that the types of ideas that I’m talking about are out there.”

Those ideas have ranged from investing in Wyoming and diversifying the economy to refusing to accept pay increases while in office. Konsmo said there is no question that he’s gotten a fair shake during the campaign.

“If I needed more attention, or I wanted more attention that’s up to me. I have not paid attention to their campaigns at all. I’m running the campaign I want to run and my focus is interacting with constituents and voters and people in this state. And that has worked really well. “

Konsmo said he entered the race to improve the job situation for his students. He adds that if his campaign helps bring about change, then it’s been a success. All three hope voters learn about all the candidates and make the best choice.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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