Wilson Democrat Gary Trauner got his lone shot last week to debate frontrunner and incumbent U.S. Sen. John Barrasso before Tuesday’s election.
A third-time contestant for one of Wyoming’s three congressional seats, Trauner tried to differentiate himself from the 11-year veteran Republican senator and retired Casper surgeon by arguing he was not beholden to special interests or either major political party.
“We all know that if you’ve been in Washington too long, you become one of ‘them’ — bought and paid for,” Trauner said in the closing remarks of the Oct. 25 debate in Sheridan. “Not me. I never will be. Fear mongering, blind allegiance to party and fostering division don’t solve a darn thing.”
Trauner had urged Barrasso to take part in three to five debates, but the sitting senator agreed to sparring only once.
In his own closing statements, Barrasso reiterated his ties to President Donald Trump, and he challenged the audience to assess if they were better off now than two years ago, when the Republicans took power.
“For Wyoming and the country, we are much better off,” Barrasso said. “We are because we have cut taxes. People have more money in their own pockets. We’ve gutted regulations, so it makes it a lot easier and people have freedom. We brought jobs back to Wyoming.”
Trauner had a different assessment of Wyoming residents’ wellbeing.
“We must be traveling around in different states,” Trauner said. “When I go into Wyoming’s communities, some of them are thriving and some of them are not. But for regular working people, it’s not getting done. Nothing’s changed for them.”
Trauner criticized the latest tax cut, saying, “we gave the wealthiest corporations in the world and wealthy heirs permanent tax cuts who didn’t need it. And we blew a $2 billion hole in our debt.”
Barrasso and Trauner also tussled over health care, education, the tax code, federal debt, immigration policy and more. Watch the entire one-hour WyomingPBS debate online at Tinyurl.com/yb29xrrf.
Barrasso was first appointed to U.S. Senate in 2007 to replace Sen. Craig Thomas, who died while in office. He then won a special election in 2008, and was re-elected in 2012 for a six-year term.
He won both those elections by a landslide, with 73 percent and 76 percent of the vote, respectively. With by far the most campaign contributions and, as the incumbent, Barrasso is favored. He has been endorsed by President Trump.
Polls suggest Barrasso is again the overwhelming favorite. Barrasso is working to revamp the Endangered Species Act to give states more authority to manage endangered species. He has been helping lead his party’s yearslong effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
Trauner is a 29-year Jackson Hole resident and former chief operating officer of St. John’s Medical Center. He also was the chairman of Teton County School District No. 1’s Board of Trustees, the Aspens Pines Water and Sewer District and directed the Jackson Hole Lacrosse Club.
The Senate race against Barrasso is Trauner’s third campaign for Congress.
In 2006, vying for a U.S. House of Representatives seat, he lost to incumbent Rep. Barbara Cubin by just 1,000 votes. But his next bid for the House, up against a more-popular Cynthia Lummis, produced a much wider defeat: Trauner took 43 percent of the vote, to Lummis’ 53 percent.
Libertarian Joseph Porambo is also running but did not attend the debate.