By now, Mark Gordon has managed to do a perfect eye roll, shoulder shrug, wry smile and deliberate head shake when other Wyoming gubernatorial candidates accuse him of all sorts of omissions including being a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Gordon, a rancher from Buffalo and the current State Treasurer, is the Republican nominee and is a lead pipe cinch to be our next governor.
Although just about everyone calls Gordon a moderate, he relentlessly calls himself a conservative. And it must be noted that Gordon is a gentleman and has run a first-rate campaign.
These kinds of accusations against Gordon came out often in the most expensive and craziest primary election in Wyoming history. It ended on Aug. 21, with Gordon topping Foster Friess, Harriet Hageman, Sam Galeotos, Taylor Haynes, and Bill Dahlin.
A recent disclosure by the Secretary of State’s office showed that more than 10,000 voters in the GOP primary changed their affiliation from Democrat or Independent over to Republican. This confirmed what a lot of conservatives had suspected. They believed there was an organized effort by non-Republicans to cross over and vote for Gordon and against Friess. Gordon was viewed as more moderate on abortion than Friess. Also Friess was endorsed by President Donald Trump, which brought out Anti-Trumpers.
In the general election, Gordon is dealing with Democrat Mary Throne of Cheyenne (a former legislator), Rex “T-Rex” Rammell of the Constitution Party, and Libertarian Lawrence Struempf.
Rammell took one look at the crowded Republican primary and wisely decided to run as an independent for an obscure party. He has the best or worst nickname for a candidate since Hugh “Bigfoot” Binford ran back in 1978 against U. S Senator Al Simpson.
As for all those crossover votes in the primary, Rammell got off one of the nastiest jabs of the campaign during a PBS debate filmed in Casper. He answered a lightning round question on supporting a law preventing election day crossovers when he looked over at Gordon and said: “You should not be here. Foster Friess won the majority of the Republican votes!” Gordon just rolled his eyes.
Throne has been aggressive and has support among the liberals and moderates in the state. She has worked hard and likes to tout her childhood in Gillette as giving her the chops to be a pro-energy governor.
Her biggest issue is Medicaid expansion, which she says would bring millions of dollars into Wyoming, help rural hospitals and provide health care to thousands of people. Wyoming conservatives in the legislature have never supported it because they fear federal over-reach. This means that it might work well at first but pretty soon the feds start cutting their contribution and the state ends up paying a lot more money than they originally bargained for.
Medicaid expansion program was supported by just about everybody a couple of years ago, including Gov. Matt Mead, but the vote was not even close in the Legislature.
Meanwhile Wyoming Republican conservatives are still grousing about how that gubernatorial primary turned out. Rather than vote for Gordon, many may write in the names of their favorite candidates or vote T-Rex. He is a conservative but many of his ideas are off-the-wall.
On Oct. 23, I tuned in to a town hall meeting hosted by Gordon and State Auditor candidate Kristi Racines. Both talked a lot about transparency, which was a big issue during the primary.
Gordon and Racines have appointed a four-member committee to work on transparency, which includes John Masters of Cheyenne, Sen. Cale Case of Lander, State Rep. Tom Walters of Casper, and Gail Symons of Sheridan. Gordon and Racines are serving as co-chairs of the working group.
According to their campaigns, “the working group will identify and develop specific solutions to improve transparency and accessibility to state financial data that can be implemented efficiently and expediently.” That is a mouthful of gobbledygook. Hope these good folks really take this seriously.
I also hope they also get OpentheBooks.com involved. This outfit has done a magnificent job of opening the books all across the country. Wyoming is one of only three states that has yet to open its books completely.
To their credit, Gordon and Gov. Mead have opened the books in their offices.
Budget shortfalls may still be a big problem for parts of Wyoming state government when the Legislature meets next year. A healthy dose of transparency would show where all the money that the state is already collecting is being spent.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.