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Gordon announces in Buffalo he will seek second term

Alpine Mayor Kennis Lutz, Gov. Mark Gordon and Town Councilman Jeremy Larsen. The governor stopped at town hall Aug. 11, 2021 for visit.  (SVI Photo)

By Victoria Eavis
Casper Star-Tribune
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

CASPER — Gov. Mark Gordon announced his reelection bid Monday, offering an upbeat message after a first term dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic challenges.

“I do believe that Wyoming is the best place on the Earth bar none, and I believe Wyoming’s best days are ahead of it,” said Gordon, a moderate Republican. “And that’s because of you: the people of Wyoming.”

Gordon’s time in office has been challenging, and he’s faced criticism from his party’s right wing.

He angered many Wyomingites with a statewide mask mandate enacted during a COVID spike in December 2020. He lifted it four months later.

Midway through 2021, as COVID was surging in the state, Gordon said Wyoming would not implement another statewide mask order or require vaccines. That promise held true.

Despite criticism from Gordon’s right flank, there is not a well-known, hard-line conservative challenging him. Challenging an incumbent is already tough, but time is starting to run out for a formidable candidate to raise money and spread awareness about his or her candidacy.

“It’s way too late,” said Bill Novotny, a county commissioner and political consultant. The primary is in August.

Scott Madsen, a Buffalo City Council member and Gordon supporter who attended Monday’s announcement, said opinions of Gordon in the northern Wyoming town are “fairly positive.” Politicians often have strong support in their hometowns (Gordon grew up on a ranch near Kaycee), but the measures the governor’s office took to combat COVID-19 angered people across the board.

“He wasn’t very well liked during the state of emergency and the mandates,” Madsen said. “He wasn’t fully responsible. I think he was getting bad advice.”

Most recently, Gordon successfully pushed for pay raises for state workers because state agencies are experiencing difficulty hiring and retaining workers.

Gordon’s 2018 primary race was crowded with candidates, and he came out on top with 33.4% of the vote. He beat out five other Republican candidates including the late GOP megadonor Foster Friess and natural resources lawyer Harriet Hageman.

Hageman is now the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate running against Rep. Liz Cheney for Wyoming’s lone House seat.

Gordon coasted to victory in the general election, defeating Democrat Mary Throne.

The 2018 gubernatorial primary sparked calls for changes in Wyoming’s electoral system. Some on the far right pushed for a runoff system so that candidates would need majority support to win, though that effort was ultimately unsuccessful.

Friess also blamed his loss on what’s called “crossover voting,” the practice of Democrats and independents changing their affiliation on primary day, typically to vote for more moderate Republicans. The data does not back up Friess’ claim, but the issue has remained a concern for some with the upcoming midterms.

While Wyoming is a deeply red state with the most Republican legislature in the nation, three of the last six governors were Democrats.

The state Democratic Party has not yet announced a candidate.

Gordon was appointed to serve as Wyoming’s treasurer in 2012 after the death of then-treasurer Joseph Meyer. Two years later, Gordon was elected to the post. He’s also a small businessman and rancher.

The governor was born in New York City and attended college in Vermont. Since moving to Wyoming early in his life, he has predominantly lived in Johnson County.

Most of the crowd in attendance at Gordon’s campaign announcement were supporters and longtime friends of the Gordon family. The entrance to the event was surrounded by Gordon yard signs that read, “Wyoming Right.”

The slogan can be interpreted a number of ways, but it’s meant to send a positive message about the state.

“It’s just Wyoming gets everything right. We do,” said Tom Wiblemo, Gordon’s campaign coordinator.

The slogan matches the message the incumbent delivered Monday. It was positive, hopeful and complimentary of the state’s residents.

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