In the aftermath of the selection last week of new Sen. John Barrasso, ambitious Wyoming Republicans are refusing to rule out challenging either him or Rep. Barbara Cubin in next year’s GOP primaries.
Some Republicans who unsuccessfully sought the Senate appointment after the recent death of Sen. Craig Thomas confirmed this week that they are considering a run for Wyoming’s at-large House seat, Barrasso’s Senate seat — or both. Barrasso already has revealed his intention to seek the final four years of Thomas’ term in a November 2008 special election.
“I haven’t ruled anything out yet,” said Matt Mead (R), the recently resigned U.S. attorney for Wyoming whose grandfather, Clifford Hansen, served the state as governor and Senator. Mead resigned just days after Thomas’ death so he could apply for the Senate vacancy.
State Rep. Colin Simpson (R), the Majority Floor Leader of the Wyoming House of Representatives and the son former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), also declined on Tuesday to rule out running for federal office in 2008, even if that means challenging Barrasso or Cubin in a primary.
On June 19, the Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee recommended three candidates to replace Thomas. Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D), in accordance with state law, appointed orthopedic surgeon and then-state Sen. Barrasso over former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis (R) and one-time Thomas Chief of Staff Tom Sansonetti, a former state GOP chairman.
Mead and Simpson also were among the 30 applicants vying to replace Thomas, with Mead finishing in the top five in three rounds of voting by the 71-member state GOP Central Committee and Simpson finishing in the top 10. Mead and Simpson were both known to be considering a run for the House — even if that meant challenging Cubin in the GOP primary — before the Thomas seat opened up.
Lummis, meanwhile, said in an interview this week that she will not run against Cubin in a primary, citing her status as a sitting Republican officeholder. But Lummis did say she is contemplating a bid against Barrasso because she doesn’t view him as a traditional incumbent.
“That is an interim appointment, so that is a different circumstance,” she said.
Sansonetti said he does not differentiate. He sees Barrasso as the incumbent — and figuring the newly appointed Senator sticks to his pledge to seek the remainder of Thomas’ term next year, Sansonetti said he will not run for Senate in the primary.
Similarly, he has no interest in challenging Cubin in a primary — although he is considering a run for the House if the Congresswoman retires. Cubin said in a recent statement that she does not plan to announce whether she will seek an eighth term until early next year — as is her custom.
“It’s party over self,” Sansonetti said. “The Republican Party here in Wyoming does not need some huge primary, as we’re sometimes wont to do.”
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) is up for a third term next year. No mainstream Wyoming Republican is planning to challenge him in the August 2008 primary, and he isn’t likely to have any trouble holding his seat against the eventual Democratic nominee.