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Gordon beats Throne to keep GOP in Wyoming governor’s office

November 7, 2018
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Mark Gordon addresses those in attendance at his campaign party at the Little America in Cheyenne, Wyo., after he was projected to win the Wyoming gubernatorial race, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Josh Galemore/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — State Treasurer Mark Gordon defeated energy industry attorney Mary Throne to keep the office of Wyoming governor in Republican hands for the longest stretch in over a generation.

Gordon’s win means Wyoming state government will continue much as it has under outgoing Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who after two terms is term-limited.

Democrats and Republicans switched off in the governor’s office every eight years for three decades. Despite promising a fiscally cautious state government friendly to the fossil-fuels industries, Throne failed to overcome steadily eroding Democratic voter registration to keep the back-and-forth going.

Like Mead, Gordon hasn’t advocated major changes to Wyoming system of taxes and revenue despite a recent downturn in coal, oil and natural gas industries that supply 70 percent of the state’s revenue.

A recent state revenue report lent support to that approach, showing that rising revenue from oil and gas should alleviate the threat of deficits in Wyoming in the months ahead.

“Voters across the state expressed a lot of concerns but most of them have a great view for the future of Wyoming. They want to be able to grow businesses. They want to have a governor in charge who has good, strong conservative values,” Gordon said after winning.

Unlike Mead, Gordon doesn’t support expanding the federal Medicaid program in Wyoming, putting him in line with the Republicans who control the Wyoming Legislature and who’ve kept it from happening. Throne argued for Medicaid expansion, saying doing so would have provided health coverage for 20,000 Wyomingites at no cost to the state.

Still, Gordon and Throne were similar in many ways, Cheyenne voter Trudy Soland said. Gordon got the edge on issues important to her.

“Growth. And keeping kids in the state of Wyoming, you know, when they graduate from UW,” Soland said.

Gordon, 61, was a businessman, rancher and Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City board member before being appointed treasurer by Mead after the death of Joe Meyer 2012.

He beat five others, including nationally known Republican mega-donor Foster Friess, to win the Republican nomination in August. Gordon got 33 percent of the vote to runner-up Friess’ 26 percent in the primary.

Voter registration figures showed especially tough odds for Democrats in Wyoming this year, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats by well over 4-1 heading into the election. Democratic registration is down to just 16 percent compared to 26 percent a decade ago.

Widespread support for low-tax, reduced-regulation and fossil-fuel-friendly policies, meanwhile, left Democrats including Throne with little room to make a case for significant change.

“You can’t run if you’re not willing to risk losing. You go into these things knowing you might not win, but you go in because you’re passionate about what you believe,” Throne said. “And I’m proud of presenting the voters with a choice.”

Throne, 58, served as a state representative from Cheyenne from 2007-2017, including two years as minority leader of the Wyoming House. The Democratic caucus dwindled from 19 to 9 while during her time in the 60-member chamber.

The last Democrat to hold the governor’s office was Dave Freudenthal, who served from 2003-2011. Republican Jim Geringer served from 1995-2003 and Democrat Mike Sullivan from 1987-1995.

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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