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Primary Preview: Wyoming

Statewide primaries are winding down across the nation, with just 9 states yet to hold their initial elections. Over the next few weeks, I’ll go over these statewide primaries and give my thoughts, concerns, and predictions on each of the 9 elections. 4 days from today on August 18th, the next batch of primaries will occur in 3 states, these being Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming. Today I’ll cover the state of Wyoming’s heavily right-leaning political environment.

U.S. Senate

Arguably the most important race of the upcoming primary is the United States Senate election that will decide who will represent Wyoming in the Congress’s Upper House. The race will almost certainly go to whoever the Republicans nominate; however, bigger upsets have occurred in politics. Wyoming is considered to be the most right-wing state in the union, with a Partisan Voting Index score of +25R. Because of this fact, the real race is the Republican primary. 

The 4 frontrunners in the Republican primary are former Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis, business executive Devon Cade, attorney John Holtz, and county commissioner Robert Short. Lummis is the clear favorite in the race, having received endorsements from both sitting Wyoming Senators, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, the National Rifle Association, and Students for Trump. She previously served as the sole Representative for the state of Wyoming, giving her much more name recognition than her opponents. In the one poll released for this primary, Lummis won 34% of the vote compared to 56% of the vote for Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney. Cheney then decided to run for re-election for the US House, instead of challenging Lummis.

The frontrunners on the Democratic side include activist Yana Ludwig, activist James DeBrine, businessman Nathan Wendt, Democratic governor candidate Kenneth Casner, and Democratic governor candidate Rex Wilde. Wendt picked up an endorsement from Jackson mayor Pete Muldoon, which should help him to win a good percentage of votes from the county. Ludwig has been endorsed by multiple progressive organizations including the Democratic Socialists of America, and Our Revolution. It’s difficult to predict who will take the primary due to lack of polling; however, Casner and Wilde have run for office before, giving them an advantage in name recognition. Progressive candidate Yana Ludwig has picked up the most major endorsements. Vice president Biden won the Presidential primary in the state, showing a reluctance to elect progressives, which could mean good news for more the moderate candidates. Wendt should have an advantage with local endorsements and should have access to more funds for his campaign. I personally think that it’ll be a close race, but the lack of polling data doesn’t give me much supporting evidence.

Republican Primary Prediction: Cynthia Lunnis

Democratic Primary Prediction: Yana Ludwig

U.S. House

The other United States Congressional election is for the United States House of Representatives, the Lower House. Like the Senate election, the result will almost certainly go in the favor of the Republican party. Wyoming is the least-populated state in the United States, meaning that it has just one congressional district, representing the entire state. The district hasn’t elected a Democrat in 42 years when Teno Roncalio lost his reelection bid to future vice president Dick Cheney. The current Congresswoman occupying the seat is Liz Cheney, eldest daughter of Dick Cheney.

Incumbent Congresswoman Liz Cheney will face challenger Blake Stanley as her sole competitor in the primary. Stanley is a Wyoming rancher running a campaign targeting blue-collar workers, a juxtaposition to Cheney’s background in law. Stanley previously ran in the 2018 Republican primary for the same position, winning 12% of the vote and a third-place position. In the same election, Cheney won just 63% of the vote as an incumbent, demonstrating that Wyomingites are willing to vote her out in exchange for a new representative. As the Republican opposition to Cheney is now unified, they have a greater chance of pulling off an upset; however, this remains unlikely, as Cheney remains loyal to President Trump, the main factor that conservative voters seem to look for.

Cheney’s opposition comes from all sides, including the left. The candidates running to face Cheney are educator Carl Beach, native activist Lynnette Grey Bull, and progressive activist Carol Hafner. Beach seems to be leading the race currently, although there is no polling data to reflect this position. Beach runs a left-of-center campaign focused on protecting liberty for his constituents while also passing left-wing reforms. Grey Bull is a Native American woman, whose campaign’s core values include socio-economic equality and native rights. Carol Hafner is running a campaign centered on passing a Green New Deal, Medicare For All, and abolishing ICE. None of the candidates have much name recognition, but Grey Bull seems to have a narrow audience in Native Americans, and Hafner may alienate some moderate voters with her far-left policy. Beach seems to be a happy medium.

Republican Primary Prediction: Liz Cheney

Democratic Primary Prediction: Carl Beach

Wyoming Senate (15 Seats)

The Wyoming State Senate has 30 seats in total, 15 of which are up for election this year. 10 out of 15 of these seats have no competition, meaning that the party in charge will retain the seat for the next term. Of the 5 that are up this year, only 1 had a Democratic incumbent, one of 3 Democrats in the Wyoming State Senate. Only 1 of these seats is expected to be competitive (this being District 8). Former Democratic State House Minority Leader James Byrd will be running against incumbent Affie Ellis in a suburban district outside of Cheyenne. Ellis was the first Native American to serve in the Wyoming State Senate, winning her initial election in 2016 over a Democratic incumbent by 20% of the vote. While Ellis is a one-term Senator, Byrd served in the State House for decades, giving him more name recognition and popularity as the House Minority Leader. This will likely be a close race, but other factors may weigh down Ellis including the Presidential race.

Predicted Republican Districts: 2, 4, 6, 10, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30

Predicted Democratic Districts: 8, 12

Wyoming House

The Wyoming State House will have all 60 seats open for election this year, with the 11 open seats being the highlight of the race. 8 Republicans and 3 Democrats are not running for reelection this cycle, leaving their seats open to challengers from both sides. Before any elections occur this year, the Republican Party controls 42 seats, the Democratic Party controls 6 seats, and 1 seat is occupied by an independent. In some of the open districts, only one party will run a candidate. This is true for 7 of the open seats, leaving 4 truly competitive races. Almost no information is available about the candidates for these positions, but we can deduce by looking at the history of the seat how it will vote in upcoming elections. Only 1 district is looking like it will flip from its previous result, that being district 60 going from Democrat to Republican.

Predicted Republican Districts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60

Predicted Independent Districts: 22

Predicted Democratic Districts: 13, 16, 17, 23, 33, 39, 44, 45

Final Predictions

U.S. Senate – Cynthia Lunnis

U.S. House – Liz Cheney

WY Senate – 26R, 4D

WY House – 51R, 8D, 1I

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