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Friday, July 13, 2007

WY-Sen II - Does Freudenthal Plan to Take on Sen-Select Barrasso?

According to the AP, Wyoming Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal is expressing disappointment with the newest US Senator, Tom Barrasso (R-WY). The Billings Gazette ran the story with the headline "Gov: Barrasso "tepid" on Thomas issues."

The Governor, you may recall, selected Barrasso from a roster of three Republicans last month to fill the vacancy created by Sen. Craig Thomas' death in early June. Unlike in most states, Wyoming law requires the governor to fill a vacancy with a member of the same party as the deceased. The choice of Barrasso, a medical doctor, was viewed by many on both sides of the aisle as the candidate who could wage the strongest campaign in 2008, when he goes before the voters to fill the remaining four years of this term.

Does this AP report mean the governor holds a different view? Might he be considering a challenge to the man he selected less than a month ago?

When Freudenthal made his selection, some bloggers speculated on whether he would make a strategic selection. Could he select the weakest candidate, hoping a Wyoming Democrat could run a successful campaign to "steal" a Senate seat for the Dems in one of the most scarlet red states in the country?

While the governor acknowledges it's early in the new senator's tenure, he isn't hesitating to call him out on some key environmental legislation state voters closely identify with Sen. Thomas.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal says Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has been tepid so far in his support of two landmark pieces of environmental legislation that Sen. Craig Thomas was pushing before his death last month.
But Freudenthal also said it's too early to start pressuring Barrasso, who has been in office less than a month. "I think in fairness, we should give the guy a break here," Freudenthal said. "But it ain't going to be a very long break, but we ought to give him a little one."

-- snip --

Shortly before his death, Thomas had introduced legislation to protect more than 400 miles of the Snake River and its headwaters under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Thomas had also said he intended to introduce legislation to prevent further energy development in the Wyoming Range.Since succeeding Thomas, however, Barrasso has been noncommittal on whether he will continue to carry Thomas' environmental measures in the Senate.

Can Democrats win on environmental and land-use issues in the Interior West? David Sirota believes the conflict over energy and the environment provides progressives an unprecedented opportunity in the region.

Is Gov. Freudenthal positioning himself to win a Wyoming senate seat if Barrasso fails to understand this new political reality?

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and An Enduring Democratic Majority.

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