CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A wealthy national Republican donor has decided not to run a write-in campaign for Wyoming governor after waging a hard-fought primary battle and finishing runner-up to a candidate with deeper roots in state politics.
Top state Republicans, including one who once lost a governor's race to a Democrat, talked him out of the idea, Foster Friess said after a GOP unity breakfast Thursday.
"I was kind of moving in that direction, but I think they kind of sealed the bid," Friess said.
In an email to state Republican officials the day after losing to State Treasurer Mark Gordon on Aug. 21, Friess complained that Democrats registering as Republicans influenced the outcome of the Republican gubernatorial primary. Friess copied in four of the five other Republican candidates but not Gordon, suggesting whom he thought benefited from Democratic crossover.
Voters may register at the polls in Wyoming, an allowance that encourages Democrats to register at the last minute as Republicans when a GOP primary is more hotly contested than the Democratic one. That was very much the case in the primary, when four of the six GOP candidates were serious contenders, but just one of four candidates in the Democratic primary, Mary Throne, ran a statewide campaign.
A write-in campaign by Friess would have siphoned votes away from Gordon and boosted Throne's chances in the November general election. As was the case in the primary, money would have been no object for Friess, a multimillionaire investor who over the years has backed dozens of GOP candidates including Rick Santorum for president.
Friess and Gordon appeared to have made amends Thursday, embracing and chatting amiably in front of reporters.
Throne, an energy industry attorney and former Wyoming House minority leader, faces tough odds in one of the reddest states, but Democrats have held Wyoming's top office more often than not over the past 60 years.
In 2002, Republican Eli Bebout lost to Democrat Dave Freudenthal, who went on to serve two terms as governor. Friess said Bebout, who is now president of the Wyoming Senate, was among those who talked him out of a write-in campaign.