Wyoming incumbents face long-shot challengers as voters head to polls

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Tuesday's general election in Wyoming pits several entrenched, well-funded Republican incumbents against long-shot challengers.

At the top of the fight card, Gov. Matt Mead faces Pete Gosar, a former state Democratic Party chairman who entered the race after no other candidate from his party stepped forward.

Despite a late start and long odds, Gosar, a pilot for the state jet fleet, has campaigned hard. He's traveled the state shaking hands and doing his best to hammer Mead on social issues, including the governor's refusal thus far to seek to expand Wyoming's Medicaid program.

Mead agreed to only two debates with Gosar. He scaled back his campaigning significantly after beating Dr. Taylor Haynes and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill in the August GOP primary.

Mead's clearly counting on Republican dominance in Wyoming — more than 176,000 registered Republicans versus some 52,000 registered Democrats.

But registration figures don't tell the whole story.

Many Wyoming Republicans are dissatisfied with Mead, particularly over his approval of legislation last year that stripped Hill of her office's authority to administer the Department of Education. The Wyoming Supreme Court sided with Hill and restored her authority. Mead came close to getting stung with a censure resolution over the issue at the GOP's convention in Evanston this summer.

Mead for the most part has ignored his critics, campaigning on the state's good economic condition and his efforts to stand up to the federal government.

Mead has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly over regulations he says would hurt the state's coal industry. He is pushing for access to ports in the Northwest to allow coal exports to Asia. Mead also points to his administration's push to improve Internet service around the state.

Libertarian Dee Cozzens of Lovell and Independent Don Wills of Pine Bluffs are long-shot candidates. Haynes entered at the last minute as a write-in.

Hill's defeat in the gubernatorial primary left the superintendent job open. Republican Jillian Balow faces Democrat Mike Ceballos, both of Cheyenne.

Ceballos, a former telephone company executive, has done his best to paint Balow as a Hill protege. Balow has worked as a teacher and policy adviser for Mead and has emphasized her classroom experience.

The political action arm of the Wyoming Education Association — which represents several thousand teachers — recently backtracked on its endorsement of Balow. The group threw its weight behind Ceballos, saying it disagreed with attempts by the Balow campaign to brand Ceballos as a union sympathizer with ties to Washington insiders.

With Secretary of State Max Maxfield stepping down, Republican businessman Ed Murray of Cheyenne won a hotly contested primary to run for the job. There's no Democrat in the race, and Murray faces Libertarian Kit Carson and Jennifer Young of the Constitution Party.

State Treasurer Mark Gordon and State Auditor Cynthia Cloud, both Republicans, face no opposition in their respective re-election bids.

In the congressional races, Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi is expected to easily win a fourth term against Democrat Charlie Hardy, a former Roman Catholic priest. Libertarian Joseph S. Porambo of Casper and Independent Curt Gottshall of Laramie are also on the ballot.

Republican U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis likewise faces little chance of defeat as she seeks a fourth term in Washington. Lummis faces Democrat Richard Grayson of Arizona, Libertarian Richard Brubaker and Daniel Clyde Cummings of the Constitution Party.

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