Petroff takes District 16
Republican wrests control of seat held by Democrats for past eight years.
Ruth Ann Petroff speaks with Bobbie Whalen at Sidewinders on Tuesday night after winning the election for House District 16. Republican Petroff defeated Democrat Len Carlman to win the seat, garnering 56 percent of the vote. PRICE CHAMBERS / NEWS&GUIDEView our entire photo gallery >>
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
November 3, 2010
Republican Ruth Ann Petroff will succeed retiring lawmaker Pete Jorgensen as the representative for House District 16.
Petroff’s win against Democrat Len Carlman marks the first time a Republican has had control of this seat since it was created in 2002.
“I think people are looking for balanced representation,” she said Tuesday night. “I look forward to representing the county’s interests in Cheyenne.”
Petroff received 2,150, or approximately 56 percent of the votes cast. Carlman took in roughly 1,687 votes, or approximately 44 percent, according to unofficial results released by the Teton County clerk’s office on Tuesday.
In keeping with her mantra of providing voters with a balanced approach, Petroff said she would represent valley voters in Cheyenne regardless of their party affiliation.
Petroff, a local businesswoman who owns Snake River Roasting Company, had to deflect questions about her party loyalty during the run-up to the primary election. She pointed to her defense — that a candidate’s beliefs matter more than party affiliation — as proof that she will represent the district fairly.
“I already made it clear that I consider myself a representative of the people here and not just a party,” she said.
Carlman, an attorney, said that although he was disappointed in the results, he has faith in Petroff’s ability to represent the district.
“I have trusted Teton County voters for much of my life to make good decisions, and they made another one today in the race for House District 16,” Carlman said Tuesday. “Ruth Ann will be a strong representative for Teton County. We should ask a lot of her and when we do, she’ll answer.”
Petroff succeeds Pete Jorgensen, a Democrat, in representing House District 16, which covers most of Teton County and portions of Teton Village.
Jorgensen, who worked as Carlman’s campaign manager, handily defeated challengers from the time the seat was created in 2002.
Having no political experience, Petroff said she plans to draw on the experience of other local legislators, both past and present.
“I’m going to look to [Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson] and [former representative Clarene Law] as mentors,” she said.
In the primary election, Petroff defeated Republican candidate Joe Schloss by more than 400 votes.
During her race against Schloss, Petroff came under fire for contributing to the campaign of Democratic candidate Gary Trauner, who ran against Republican Cynthia Lummis for a seat in the U.S. House in 2008, and allowing Democratic events to be held at her former cafe.
She responded by saying that the actual candidates and what they stand for is more important than what letter comes after their name.
Through the entire election — both the primary and general — Petroff campaigned heavily on the issue of consolidation, saying she would lobby state lawmakers to approve legislation that would allow the town and county to merge into one entity.
She stressed the importance of trying to diversify the state’s economy by taking proactive steps to attract new industries in fields such as alternative energy.
In previous interviews, Petroff said she supports trophy game status for wolves in the northwest corner of the state and predator status elsewhere in the state, raising the state fuel tax and redistricting the legislative districts in the area.
Despite running under the Republican moniker, Petroff, a longtime Jackson resident who moved to town in 1988 to open a Domino’s Pizza franchise, also said she would support legislation that allows people to “marry whomever they choose.” Petroff also said she would “strongly consider” legislation decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana if it came before the state legislature and considers herself to be pro-choice.
Carlman, however, challenged her on several occasions for being overly vague in explaining her position on various issues.
In several campaign advertisements, Carlman asked voters whether they knew where Petroff actually stood.
“I liked that it was a challenging race,” she said. “I’m glad we were able to participate in as many forums as we were. It made it a very issues-oriented race. And, because it was a challenging race, I think it made more people pay attention and created more interest.”
Carlman said he was appreciative of the vast network of support that helped propel his campaign. Following the election on Tuesday, he thanked his wife and children and campaign managers for their support.
“We had great grassroots support,” Carlman said. “We had a lot of support from the Teton County Democrats. We had a great team and were a force to be reckoned with, but we just came up short this time.”
Evidence of that grassroots support could be seen in Carlman’s fundraising efforts.
He raised a total of $20,674 in campaign contributions, of which none totaled more than $250. He also turned down money from political action committees.
Petroff raised more than $24,000 in campaign contributions, taking in donations from a wide array of individuals as well as from several state political action committees.
Petroff received small contributions from the Wyoming Mining Association PAC, the Chevron Employees PAC, the Wyoming Lodging and Retail Association PAC, the Trucking Industry PAC, the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural PAC and Arch Coal PAC.