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Eight days to the primary election

Aug 11, 2014 - By Randy Tucker

Three statewide races stand out this year, all on the Republican side.

Thomas Jefferson is considered the great "Renaissance Man" to occupy the White House. In many ways Jefferson was an atypical politician. He once made a statement you would never hear in the world of targeted, heated, winner-take-all, hate tactics that passes for politics these days.

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend," Jefferson said.

That wouldn't sell with the high-priced, bloviating windbags thrust on the American public by mainstream media.

Politics do make strange bedfellows, and with barely a week remaining until the 2014 primary it's time for a quick review of the statewide campaigns.

There are three interesting races at the statewide level this summer. The governor's race is the most intriguing, while the secretary of state race is the most mysterious. The final race, the battle for state superintendent of public instruction, offers a dichotomy of ideas between the two female candidates and has voters wondering why the two men in the race are running at all.

Incumbent Gov. Matt Mead is far from popular within his own Republican Party, an unusual position in the history of Wyoming. Mead once was sure of his chances for re-election but his attitude seems to have changed a bit. Perhaps that's the reason Mead is reported to have ended his campaign contract with Warehouse 21, a Cheyenne-based advertising agency last week with less than three weeks remaining until the primary.

With signs everywhere, radio and television ads playing constantly and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent you'd think the campaign was running well, but evidently that's not the case if he's changing course this late in the game.

Apparently the Mead campaign went "all in" by hiring Local Focus, a major player in Washington political advertising, to take over the campaign. Look for some major changes in Mead's approach in the final days until the primary. With Mead's wealth, money is not much of an object when it comes to re-election. His campaign has a hard time finding positives to claim from his first term.

The Secretary of State race once featured five candidates, with four remaining. Cheyenne real estate businessman Ed Murray leads in campaign advertising, with Pete Illoway, Ed Buchanan and Clark Stith all hitting the trail in traditional door-to-door style across the state. A close race is predicted with the primary winner possibly carrying less than 30 percent of the popular vote.

The final race, for state superintendent of public instruction, also features four candidates. Mike Ceballos, a retired Qwest executive enters the race with little educational experience of any kind. He is working on a doctorate in education but has spent much of his career working as a lobbyist for Qwest. His campaign is centered on how to pronounce his name, using children's voices as they attempt to say it correctly.

Bill Winney has run for office and lost several times, and he isn't campaigning much. He is in danger of becoming the Al Hamburg of the western half of Wyoming. His 15 minutes of fame came when he claimed Cindy Hill tried to blackmail him into not running.

That leaves 40-plus-year teaching and administrative veteran Sheryl Lain against Jillian Balow of the Wyoming Department of Education, the governor's office and Wyoming Department of Health.

Fremont County residents may remember Lain as a teacher at Morton (later Wind River) in the late 1960s and later at Riverton High School. Lain worked as an assistant to Cindy Hill and is the prime force in the successful Wyoming Read WYR and Teacher to Teacher training programs. Both programs worked incredibly well in schools across Wyoming, so well that Gov. Mead's office had them shut down as a threat to the Common Core program he is trying to implement.

Lain is talented, experienced and not afraid of the institutionalized power of the "good ol' boys." She is also an ardent supporter of local control and believes Wyoming knows what's best for its students.

Balow worked briefly as a teacher, then was hired at the Wyoming Department of Education by her father's friend, Jim McBride. Balow's father, Larry McGarvin a Gillette dentist, served with McBride on the Wyoming State Board of Education, and Balow was hired in 2006 by McBride. She left the WDE when Hill was elected and worked in the governor's office under Mead.

She later moved to the Wyoming Department of Health, again working with McBride, who was appointed by Mead. Much of her work is dedicated to early childhood education.

Balow has stated several times,"I just love state government," and she worked diligently for Mead in developing a failed $50 million federal grant for the implementation of Common Core. The grant failed when Mead signed it but Hill refused. The hoopla surrounding SF104 and Hill's removal from office soon followed.

Look for lots of federal dollars and associated attachments if Balow wins the primary. Common Core will take care of K-12 education, and the WDE will increase mandates and monitoring at your local pre-school.

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Editor's note: Staff writer Randy tucker is a retired public school educator.

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