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Picking some winners in an entertaining '14 primary

Aug 19, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

You might think that after about 50 previous election-day prognostication columns that the 2014 picture would come into clarity pretty quickly.

Nope. There are some races this year that are real stumpers.

But that's never stopped me before. So here are some predictions -- repeat, predictions, not necessarily endorsements -- for the primary election.

- Riverton mayor -- This is a primary, so both Rich Gard and Lars Baker will meet again in November. Both have been successful with voters before, and it's going to be a good contest. For the primary, Gard announced first and got out earlier with his campaigning. I'll give him the lead in the first round of voting.

- Lander mayor -- In another race where both candidates will advance, I pick Del McOmie over Dan Hahn in round one.

- Pavillion mayor -- Both Gary Hamlin and Tex Frazier will advance. I bet on Hamlin in the primary.

- City councils -- There aren't many races in an area where write-in candidacies are commonplace. In Riverton, I'll pick Lee Martinez to win the primary over Sarah Kalbach, but both of these former council members will advance. Two of three will survive in Dubois. I'll pick Alexander and Thompson, but not with a lot of confidence. Shoshoni has a council contest. Bet on Marcus and Delay to advance, although I've called it wrong on one of these candidates before.

- Fremont County Commission District 1: The race is on the GOP side. I don't know if Valaira Whiteman-Cardenas's confusing two-offices/two-names situation will hurt her in this one, but I'll bet on Mark Lambert in any case.

- Fremont County Commission District 4 -- Ray Price wasn't an elected official in his longtime capacity as county planner, but he was just as well known. I say name recognition wins out. Price to be nominated, setting up a most interesting fall contest against incumbent Steph Kessler.

- Fremont County coroner -- Stratmoen over Weigel.

- Fremont County sheriff -- Mark Stone is a strong candidate, but voters have refused decade after decade to elect a sheriff who wasn't already in the sheriff's department. If three-term incumbent Skip Hornecker weren't running, this could be very different. As it stands, through, I'l pick Skip.

- Fremont County attorney -- My impression is that the complaints against Michael Bennett have alienated enough voters that his former deputy Patrick LeBrun will win the primary. Both men have worked hard and made their points, but I nod toward LeBrun.

- House District 34 -- Anyone who bet against Rita Campbell in her first two runs for the Wyoming House were proved wrong. One difference this year is the redrawn boundaries of the district to include Dubois, which is a high-turnout area with two of its own candidates on the ballot against Campbell, whose home base is the Shoshoni area.

If Dubois would unite behind either Pat Moore or Tim Salazar, either could win. But I think we know that the east side of the district will be strong for Rita. I'll give her the edge, with Salazar the closest.

- House District 33 (Republican) -- Local election watchers remember the strong run Daniel Cardenas had against Patrick Goggles in the general election four years ago. This time Cardenas has a tough Republican primary with Jim Allen in which Riverton-area vs. Lander-area loyalties could come into play. With Goggles, a Democrat, retiring, the GOP is thinking hard about reclaiming this seat. I'll bet they decide Allen gives them the best chance. This should be a tight one.

- House District 33 (Democrat) -- There's no one in the field with the stature of Patrick Goggles who won the seat and held it for 10 years. But there is a connected blood line in Andi Clifford, who is his niece. Clifford nominated.

- Senate District 25 (Republicans) -- Many people are whispering in my ear that longtime legislator Cale Case will be defeated. I don't buy it, at least not wholesale. Case is experienced and has worked hard this summer. He doesn't have the Senate File 104 ball and chain to drag him down, which I think is going to make a lot of legislative races closer than many incumbents think.

Case has three opponents, not just one, and that could be crucial. This race is my pick for the closest on the ballot, but I'll wager a buck on Cale to make it through.

- Senate District 25 (Democrats) -- Two strong candidates in Travis Brockie and Sergio Maldonado. I'm picking Brockie in a close race.

- Secretary of state -- There hasn't been a fight like this one for the secretary of state's chair in half a century. I got to participate as a questioner in the televised debate featuring the four Republican candidates, and this is an impressive group of men. That's the impression our news staff got as well in covering the race over the past couple of months.

If there's an edge, some say it's Ed Murray's money. He has outspent Clark Stith, Ed Buchanan and Pete Illoway combined. He'll need it to match the name recognition longtime legislator Illoway enjoys in Cheyenne, the state's largest city, and Buchanan, who served a solid term in the House that ended as Speaker before Buchanan voluntarily limited his own term of service. In my opinion Buchanan has outperformed the others in the debates.

Murray is from Cheyenne as well, and that could dilute both his and Illoway's votes there, leaving some room for Stith, who is from high-population Sweetwater County and has helped turn that county from Democrat to Republican.

I'm picking a close race between Buchanan and Murray, with Buchanan having the edge. Let it be known that this is my lowest-confidence prediction.

- State superintendent of public instruction -- There is no question that Sheryl Lain is the best-qualified candidate, and she fared well in her debates against the over-rehearsed Jillian Balow and taciturn Bill Winney.

Opinions are all over the place on this race, but I think Lain will win it.

- Governor -- Matt Mead never should have let himself get into the position he is in, namely, facing the real prospect of getting less than 50 percent of the vote in his own primary in his re-election year. He carries enormous baggage from Senate File 104, made heavier by the presence of the bill's victim, Cindy Hill, opposite him on the primary ballot for governor. I still don't think the pushers of SF104 realize how bad this has made them all look.

What probably will save him Tuesday night is Taylor Haynes. Had Haynes not entered the race, Hill might have been able to cast a one-on-one race with Mead as Darth Vader vs. Snow White and done some real damage. As it happened, Haynes outperformed both of them in the several debates and provides a second alternative to Mead.

I pick Mead to survive, but with a poor percentage for an incumbent Republican governor.

I'll tally up and fess up as needed after the election. Remember, it's voters, not columnists, who decide elections. Cast your ballot.

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