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Bebout confirms re-election bid; in line for Senate presidency

Apr 20, 2016 By Christina George, Staff Writer

Wyoming Senate Majority Floor Leader Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, says he will run for office again.

The longtime legislator is the last in the Fremont County delegation to confirm re-election plans.

County delegation

Other members of the Fremont delegation who have confirmed their intention to run again are: State Reps. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander; Jim Allen, R-Lander; David Miller, R-Riverton; and Nathan Winters, R-Thermopolis.

State Rep. Rita Campbell, R-Shoshoni, said she would not seek re-election, nor will State Sen. Gerald Geis, R-Worland, who is retiring after 34 years of service.

Geis and Winters represent legislative districts comprised of portions of several counties including Fremont.

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, rounds out the delegation, but his term doesn't expire until 2018.

'Clean bill of health'

Bebout, a two-time cancer survivor, said he wanted to check with his doctors before committing to another election bid.

"The first thing I had to do was make sure my doctors were good to go, and they gave me a clean bill of health again," the 69-year-old Bebout said Tuesday evening. "I am feeling good. The rehab continues, and I am getting stronger every day and will be ready to work hard."

Bebout announced ahead of the 2016 legislative session he was cancer-free after undergoing six weeks of oncology treatments at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City last fall.

He said he also wanted to make sure his family was on board with his decision before announcing.

"Whenever you run for political office, and especially with what is going on with the state right now, you have to check with family," Bebout said. "We talked about it, and everybody was very supportive."

Democrat Chesie Lee announced at the April 9 Fremont County Democratic caucus that she intends to run for Bebout's Senate District 26 seat. Lee is the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Churches.

Two-plus decades

Bebout is the fifth-longest-serving sitting senator with a combined 22 years in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

He noted a pending void in the 30-member higher chamber due to the departure of at least five senators with decades of experience. This includes Senate President Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, who is stepping down after two decades.

"It's going to be a difficult time," he said. "We need all the experience we can get, and I do have that experience, as a businessman, and I've gone through these times before in the Legislature."

Bebout has worked his way up the leadership chain in both chambers and is primed for the Senate president seat. Historically the Senate majority floor leaders serves two years and then is elected by their peers to serve as president.

"If elected this fall, I will put my name in the nomination for president of the Wyoming Senate," he said. "But my first step will be to make my announcement to run, make a real effort, and continue to serve my constituents.

While in the House from 1987-2000, Bebout served as minority whip, majority floor leader and finally as Speaker of the House.

He was first diagnosed with esophageal cancer not long after he ran for governor in 2002. After losing narrowly to Democrat Dave Freudenthal in the general election, he underwent successful surgery.

He was then appointed to the Senate in 2007 following the death of State Sen. Robert A. Peck of Riverton.

Bebout again started climbing the leadership ranks, serving as Senate Vice President in 2013-14, followed by two years as second in command in the Senate under Nicholas.

Leadership is a 'plus'

Bebout said he believes he's done a good job in leadership, adding he likes the intensity and the feeling of making a difference.

"My philosophy is consistent with my constituency, and in my leadership role, I am able to get things done for constituents. That is a plus," he said.

At the same time, Bebout said what he doesn't like about being in leadership is the intensity.

"There's more responsibility. You are so busy trying to make everything work," he said. "You can't spend as much time on all of the bills. I read every bill this session, but I couldn't participate at the level I used to because I had leadership responsibilities. But because of my experience, it's easy to quickly figure out what bills are about."

County delegation

Other members of the Fremont delegation who have confirmed their intention to run again are: State Reps. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander; Jim Allen, R-Lander; David Miller, R-Riverton; and Nathan Winters, R-Thermopolis.

State Rep. Rita Campbell, R-Shoshoni, said she would not seek re-election, nor will State Sen. Gerald Geis, R-Worland, who is retiring after 34 years of service.

Geis and Winters represent legislative districts comprised of portions of several counties including Fremont.

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, rounds out the delegation, but his term doesn't expire until 2018.

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