Wyoming Democrats Need To Overcome Obstacles

Sep 5, 2014

It’s been 8 years since Wyoming has elected a Democrat to statewide office. This year candidate for Governor Pete Gosar and Superintendent Candidate Mike Ceballos are hoping to break through. But it won’t be easy. The Executive Director of the Wyoming Democratic Party is Robin Van Ausdall. She’s worked on several campaigns in Colorado and she says Ceballos and Gosar and great candidates. 

"If people are willing to consider these candidates individually on their merits at least if not one will be elected."

But there is more to it than that. The biggest problem is that in Wyoming, there are a lot more Republicans than Democrats. 

"By registration we are outnumbered three to one. They are going to be outspent really significantly. Actually I’m not sure about Mike, but Pete’s gonna be outspent quite a bit. And money matters."

Van Ausdall says you use money for voter contact.  Whether that’s traveling, paying for a staff, or purchasing advertising…including yard signs.  Finding money for Democrats is difficult. Candidates say it’s because organizations or large groups want to get favor from those in charge and contributing to someone who loses an election might hurt them. Since Republicans outnumber Democrats, that R next to a candidates’ name is important. But despite all this, Van Ausdall says they have a chance. The Governor’s support of the legislation the removed powers from Superintendent Hill and the issues that led to the legislation is something Democrats will try and pounce on. They will also focus on the governor’s refusal to veto a controversial science standards amendment and last year’s opposition to Medicaid expansion.   

"I think that results in terms in policy and governance and some of the rifts that we’ve seen over the last few years, have left a lot of people not happy with what’s been going on."

But how you capitalize on that is tricky. The temptation is to go negative and attack the governor. UW Political Scientist and Historian Phil Roberts says negative campaigns are not viewed positively in Wyoming. He says you have to stick to the basics.

"I think you do it entirely through issues and you compare your position on an issue with the governor’s position on an issue."

Roberts says that bipartisan issues like Medicaid expansion is something Pete Gosar can focus on and Mike Ceballos really needs to show that his background as the President of Qwest would bring stability to the administration of education.

"I think Mike’s chances are in many respects based on how well he can tie all of the troubles that have been facing the state department of education over the last four years to the Republican Party generally, I think that’s his best shot."

U-W Political Scientist Jim King says both candidates have to hope that some disagreements within the Republican Party can be taken advantage of. He says this is especially true in the race for Governor. 

"I think a lot of Gosar’s chances have to do with how well the Republicans can come together after the primary and unite behind a candidate, rather than being angry and have that anger carry into the fall campaign."

But King says polls show that generally Mead is popular…so Gosar has his work cut out for him. Historian Phil Roberts agrees that both candidates have to win either Laramie County or Natrona County to have a chance. But Roberts says there is another part of the state that is a concern.

"I think the toughest place for Democrats has traditionally been the Big Horn Basin, but I think even harder now is Campbell County and I think a lot of that depends on turnout. If Campbell County turns out in force I think it’s going to be really difficult for Gosar."

Van Ausdall says if voters pay attention, the Democrats have a chance. But she admits, it’s going to be a challenge.