The Taylor Haynes camp held their election night party at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission building in Casper, where they waited for Wyoming primary election results. About 50 people were in attendance at 9 p.m., and they understood by then that Haynes’ bid was lost. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile — click to enlarge)
The Taylor Haynes camp held their election night party at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission building in Casper, where they waited for Wyoming primary election results. About 50 people were in attendance at 9 p.m., and they understood by then that Haynes’ bid was lost. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

Mead, Murray, and Balow win contested primary races

By Gregory Nickerson and Dustin Bleizeffer
— August 20, 2014

It was clear, as early as 8 p.m last night, that incumbent Gov. Matt Mead had defeated his challengers Taylor Haynes and Superintendent Cindy Hill to become the 2014 GOP nominee for Wyoming Governor.

“I’m glad this night came and, obviously, I’m glad it came with this result,” Mead told WyoFile.

University of Wyoming student Tate Anderson feeds his ballot into a counting machine after voting in the primary at Lincoln Community Center in Laramie. Election judge Jack Gadlin looks on. (Gregory Nickerson/WyoFile — click to enlarge)
University of Wyoming student Tate Anderson feeds his ballot into a counting machine after voting in the primary at Lincoln Community Center in Laramie. Election judge Jack Gadlin looks on. (Gregory Nickerson/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

“My hat is off to Dr. Haynes. He has always treated myself and my family with great courtesy,” Mead said. “With regard to Superintendent Hill, obviously it has been a challenged relationship over the last couple of years. Our campaign was always focused on a positive message and we think that will carry the day.”

Across many counties Mead led with 50 percent or more of the vote, while Haynes garnered roughly 30 percent of the vote, and Hill pulled in 15 percent or less.

At least one county favored Hill over Haynes. In Uinta County, in the far southwest corner of the state, Hill got 33 percent of the vote to Haynes’ 23 percent, while Mead took the lead with 40 percent.

Though Mead won handily, and Hill came in last, there were many voters who came to the polls unhappy with the fact that Mead had signed Senate File 104, the 2013 bill that transferred many of Hill’s duties to an appointed director. The state Supreme Court struck it down in January 2014.

“Senate File 104 really chapped me,” said Keith Jackson, a truck driver in Laramie who voted in Tuesday’s primary. “The governor going out and hiring a couple of people to take over the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and dumping out a half a million dollars doing it — that really ticked me off. I didn’t appreciate that at all. The last thing our state needs is more appointed bureaucrats.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes visits with a supporter Tuesday night at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission building in Casper. Haynes said he’ll support any GOP candidate in the primary who adheres to the Wyoming GOP platform. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile — click to enlarge)
GOP gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes visits with a supporter Tuesday night at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission building in Casper. Haynes said he’ll support any GOP candidate in the primary who adheres to the Wyoming GOP platform. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

By 9 p.m. at the Taylor Haynes camp, supporters were already dealing with the realization of a loss. Haynes told WyoFile that he’ll support the GOP gubernatorial nominee in the general election. He added that he’ll support every GOP nominee who abides by the GOP platform.

Bill Ackerley, who operates a ranch 40 miles east of Sheridan, said he attributes Mead’s win to having more money to spend on radio and television ads.

“I do know that true conservatives and grassroots people were behind Taylor Haynes,” said Ackerley, who wore a big black cowboy hat with a U.S.-and-Wyoming-flag pin in the front center.

“I own a ranch, so when Matt Mead … he raised the gasoline tax. That affects me, personally, a lot, because gasoline is my biggest expense as a rancher,” Ackerley told WyoFile. “When the gas tax went up, it cost us a lot. If it keeps getting higher, we’ll have to go back to using horses,” he said with a chuckle.

Ackerley added that he won’t vote for Mead in the general election.

Looking forward to the November election, Mead will face Democrat Pete Gosar, a pilot from Laramie who has made Medicaid expansion a major plank in his platform. Mead has opposed Medicaid expansion throughout his tenure as governor. In fact, his first act as governor was to join a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act — a lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down.

“I don’t think Medicaid is a vulnerability. We think we handled that right,” Mead said of his opposition to Medicaid expansion. “Some have ignored the work we’ve done since last session trying to find a solution, going forward with solution that works for Wyoming,” he added. Yet Mead has admitted that he and the Wyoming legislature, so far, have offered no alternatives.

Preliminary results showed Gosar tallied nearly 14,000 votes statewide, while Mead received more than 48,000.

Secretary of State

Left to right: Election judges Susan Simpson, Vivian Vigil, and CJ Palmer share a laugh during voting at Lincoln Community Center in Laramie. Volunteer judges staffed 482 precincts around the state. (Gregory Nickerson/WyoFile — click to enlarge)
Left to right: Election judges Susan Simpson, Vivian Vigil, and CJ Palmer share a laugh during voting at Lincoln Community Center in Laramie. Volunteer judges staffed 482 precincts around the state. (Gregory Nickerson/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

The GOP Secretary of State contest was the closest of the evening, with former Speaker of the House Ed Buchanan leading Cheyenne developer Ed Murray by just a few points with 70 percent of statewide precincts reporting. As the night wore on, Murray narrowed Buchanan’s lead, but slow reporting in in Laramie County stalled out returns with 93 percent of precincts reporting.

Laramie County finalized results by 10:50 pm, showing Murray had won the county by 47 percent to Buchanan’s 23 percent. Statewide, Murray came in 1,619 votes over Buchanan.

Buchanan’s strong showing surprised some, who expected Murray’s large lead in campaign fundraising would help him pull ahead. Murray’s primary campaign amassed $405,000 (the highest ever for a Secretary of State race) — $361,000 of the money coming from his own pocket, according to campaign finance records.

Coming in third and fourth in the Secretary of State race were Pete Illoway and Clark Stith, who received 18.5 percent and 9.5 percent of the vote, respectively.

The polling place at Lincoln Community Center in Laramie. (Gregory Nickerson/WyoFile — click to enlarge)

Superintendent of Public Instruction

In the GOP primary for Superintendent for Public Instruction, Jillian Balow won with nearly 42 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. Challengers Sheryl Lain tallied 31 percent of the votes, while Bill Winney brought in 27 percent.

Voters are hoping this year’s Superintendent election will start a new chapter for education in Wyoming.

“I’m hoping they can straighten out the mess we had the past four years,” said Karen Voigt, a school librarian who voted in Laramie. “It’s been pretty awful.”

“I think we have too much testing,” Voigt added. “I know (testing is) a priority for the governor and the legislature, but I don’t think it has the kids’ interests at heart. … I worry they are thinking too much about scores and not enough about the child’s education.”

Other voters in Laramie would like to see less federal involvement in Wyoming’s education system.

“Government agencies don’t have any business telling Wyoming or any other state how to teach their children,” said Keith Jackson. “That’s really up to the local communities, that’s where the decisions ought to be made.”

Incumbents have advantage

State Auditor Cynthia Cloud won re-nomination in her uncontested primary with 76,789 votes. Treasurer Mark Gordon received 69,569 votes, giving him a significant margin over the 10,583 votes cast for challenger Ron Redo of Cheyenne.

Republican incumbents for Senate, U.S. House, and governor all dominated their opponents. According to analysis by the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog, Cynthia Lummis’ primary victory marks the 19th consecutive re-nomination of Wyoming’s incumbent representative in the U.S. House. Senator Mike Enzi’s win marks the 28th election in a row in which a sitting Wyoming senator won re-nomination. Mead extended a streak of re-nominating sitting governors that goes back to 1954.

For specific vote counts for statewide offices and legislative seats, visit the Secretary of State’s elections website.

Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile. He writes the Capitol Beat blog. Contact him at greg@wyofile.com or follow him on twitter @GregNickersonWY.

Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. He has covered energy and natural resource issues in Wyoming for 15 years. You can reach him at (307) 267-3327 or email dustin@wyofile.com. Follow Dustin on Twitter at @DBleizeffer

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Gregory Nickerson

Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on www.facebook.com/GregoryNickersonWriter/

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