Monday, May 31, 2010

Who's running on the side of the Democrats?

On Friday, Wyoming Democrats' Chair Leslie Peterson filed to run for governor.

Tuesday afternoon, she'll announce her candidacy in the Wyoming Capitol Rotunda in Cheyenne.

Friday's news surprised me. I haven't met Ms. Peterson but have followed her press releases and policy statements for the past year. Feisty and well-written, possibly with the help of Party HQ. That's what PR people are for (I know -- I've been one).

As far as I can call tell, she has several strikes going into the primary. One, she's from Teton County, land of second-home Coasters, retired Republicans of dubious ethics (Dick Cheney et. al.) trust-fund babies, spectacular scenery, artists, writers, more Democrats (including Gary Trauner and Ted Ladd) than is usually permitted in this one-party state, and more tourists than residents from now until Labor Day.

Two, she's a woman. Wyoming is The Equality State, you might say. Surely it's had at least one woman gov. Yes it has -- and don't call me Shirley. Nellie Tayloe Ross (D) served as governor of Wyoming from 1925-27.

Since then, it's been a long dry spell for women governors. Kathy Karpan ran on the Dem ticket in 1994 but lost. I'm not sure if women have waged campaigns (Dem or Repub or other) since then, but none have come close to being elected.

At the same time, we've had six-term U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin and current U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis. Both are diehard Repubs. So, Wyoming is not allergic to voting for women in Congress, but they don't like women running for Gov.

That's the bad news. The good news is that Ms. Peterson is a Wyoming native. She was born in Lovell, a conservative farming community on the northeast side of the Big Horn Basin. She graduated from University of Wyoming. Here's part of her bio:

"Like a lot of us in Wyoming, I've had broad experience and done a lot of different things to get along" she said. Petersen was born in Lovell, grew up in Dubois and graduated from Dubois High in a class of six. She attended the University of Wyoming in the 1958-59 school year and was on the rodeo team and was selected for the Spurs honor society. She grew up on the CM Ranch, one of the oldest dude ranches in Wyoming and also worked in the family hunting business in the fall. Her father, Les Shoemaker was the first President of the Wyoming Outfitters' Association. Petersen moved to Jackson in 1975 and her husband of 34 years is Henry (Hank) Phibbs, a Jackson attorney, who grew up in Casper and is currently serving as a Teton County Commissioner. They have two grown sons, Travis Petersen and daughter-in-law Kristi, of Wilson, and Monte Petersen of Pagosa Springs, CO.

Pretty good credentials. Wyoming likes its natives, even its Democrats such as Dave Freudenthal and Mike Sullivan. And they're both lawyers! Go figure.

More possible good news -- there are four strong candidates running for Gov on the Repub side. They might beat themselves up this summer and the right-wing candidate Ron Micheli might end up as the candidate. Wyoming tends to be more moderate than other mid-American red states such as Idaho and Utah and even Oklahoma. Once Micheli's wacko Tea Party credentials come to light, a "Freudenthal Democrat" might sneak in and win the governor's race.

Welcome to the fight, Ms. Peterson. We may yet dare to hope for victory in November.

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Anonymous said...

You may want to check your info regarding whether or not she 'graduated' from UW. Unless she accomplished a bachelors in only one year, 1958-1959, I don't think she has a degree. Just an alum status as being on the rodeo team. Correct me if I'm wrong, pls!

Michael Shay said...

I'll have to look that up. Pretty tough to graduate in one year. Even if UW degree is not part of her resume, her Wyoming creds are pretty solid. I don't care if a gubernatorial candidate has a UW degree. I may care if he/she has a degree from somewhere, but it isn't a prerequisite for good governing skills.