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Wyoming

At a glance

Electoral votes:  3 | Solid McCain

Governor:
D Freudenthal

U.S. Senators:
R Barrasso  R Enzi


U.S. Representatives:

Wyoming State House:

Wyoming State Senate: 

Demographics:
2006:
Population 515,004
88.1% White
6.9% Hispanic/Latino
0.7% Asian
2.5% Native American
0.9% Black
1990:
Population 453,588
90.1% White
5.7% Hispanic/Latino
0.6% Asian
2.5% Native American
0.8% Black

Presidential election history:
  • 1972R
  • 1976R
  • 1980R
  • 1984R
  • 1988R
  • 1992R
  • 1996R
  • 2000R
  • 2004R
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Wyoming will likely shade deep red yet again in the presidential race, as well as in two U.S. Senate races, but its lone U.S. House race may be up for grabs.

Both of Wyoming's U.S. senators -- two-termer Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, who was appointed in 2007 to take the place of the late Craig Thomas -- are running for re-election; both are Republicans, and both will almost certainly hold their seats.

Democrat Gary Trauner, who has an MBA degree and made his nut as an Internet entrepreneur, centers his Wyoming congressional race on energy policy. Trauner says that if voters send him to the U.S. House, he'll increase federal support for development of wind power and other clean energy sources, while requiring gas and oil drillers to be more sensitive to the environment. At a glance, Trauner looks formidable: He came within a fraction of a percentage point of beating hard-line Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin in 2006. But this year, Cubin isn't running, and instead, Trauner faces an amorphous Republican, Cynthia Lummis. Lummis, who has served as a legislator and as state treasurer , at least gives lip service to encouraging responsible drilling and increased wind power. Trauner, who moved from New York to the Jackson area 18 years ago, may get caught in Wyoming's red tendencies; though the state has a moderate Democratic governor, voters haven't sent a Democrat to Congress since 1978. And Lummis herself is formidable: She beat a wealthy moderate Republican, Mark Gordon -- a rancher and former board member of both High Country News and the Sierra Club -- in the primary, even though Gordon's campaign spending ($1.1 million) greatly exceeded hers ($261,000).

Republicans have controlled both chambers of the Wyoming Legislature for 41 of the last 42 years, and that won't change in November. But the Democrats expect to pick up a few seats to improve their abysmal current standing (they hold only seven of 30 seats in the state Senate and 17 of 60 seats in the House). In heady moments, the Democrats even talk of gaining four additional House seats, which would provide them just enough leverage to support any veto by Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal. But even if that's a long shot, Dems can take some heart in the political survival of John Schiffer, the Republican president of the Wyoming Senate. Schiffer, who makes his living as a rancher near Kaycee, has often joined Democrats in pro-environmentalist stands on bills, in his 15 years in the Legislature. Schiffer also believes "abortion should always be legal," supports physician-assisted suicide, and wants higher salaries for teachers, according to his responses on a Project Vote Smart questionnaire. A Republican anti-tax candidate challenged Schiffer in the primary, saying Schiffer is too fond of gouging taxpayers, but the primary voters overwhelmingly preferred Schiffer, and he faces no opposition from Democrats in the general election.

In highly rural Wyoming, it's difficult to rally voters directly to change Wyoming laws. Petitioners must gather signatures from 15 percent of the active voters in at least 16 of the 23 counties. That's one reason why no citizen initiative has qualified for the Wyoming ballot since 1996. If voters approve Constitutional Amendment B, which the Legislature placed on this November's ballot, the process will get even more complicated: Future petitioners would need to gather signatures from 15 percent of the active voters in at least 20 of Wyoming's 36 state Senate districts. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, "Supporters say the change is needed to make the process constitutional and in accord with the 'one man, one vote' rule. … Critics say (the amendment) will make it even harder to get a ballot question before the voters."

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