Time to adopt California solution to general elections


Like most Wyomingites, I wish our general elections were more exciting than our primary elections. To figure out how we can make the general election more interesting, we just need to look west — way west to California.

I know, I know, most Wyoming folks think that is the land of crazies and nuts, but when it comes to general elections they have a really good idea.

The two California candidates who get the most votes in the primary move on to the general. This does not mean the two members of different parties. If the two highest vote-getters are from the same party, then they move on to the general for a run-off. 

This year our Wyoming primary was a horse race. Our general election was a blowout. 

The two top GOP vote-getters, Mark Gordon and Foster Friess, would have put on one heck of a general election campaign had Wyoming been using a system like that in California.

Other states use a similar system, although Louisiana has a system where, if a candidate gets more than 50 percent of all the votes in the primary, there is no need for a general election. 

I’m not sure in Wyoming if such a change requires an amendment to the constitution, but it sure would make our general election races more interesting and it would make the process more democratic. Yes, the two top vote-getters advancing is a great idea. 

It would seem to me that Republicans in Wyoming would favor this idea. General election voters avoided Democrat Mary Throne in droves this year, even though she was one of the best candidates we have seen in years. She lost soundly.

Final tally showed 205,255 votes in the general election. Of this total, Mark Gordon got 136,399 or 66.5 percent.

Throne got just 55,961 votes or 27.2 percent.

It was never even close. The New York Times called the election for Gordon about noon on Election Day before a single vote was counted. 

Compare that result to a possible Gordon-Friess race. Wow, what an exciting contest that would have been.

Wyoming is supposed to be a conservative state and it seems to be getting even more conservative. If so, you would think these conservatives could get the momentum for such a new approach.

In the GOP primary, Gordon was the only moderate plus he had thousands of Democrats and Independents crossing over on Election Day to give him the win.

Look at the conservative candidates who lost in that primary race — Friess, Harriet Hageman, Sam Galeotos, Taylor Haynes and Bill Dahlin. Add all their votes up and they soundly trounced any one else.

Parker Jackson is an astute political watcher from Lyman with sterling conservative credentials. He calls our GOP primary the “traditional Wyoming conservative firing squad. The candidates all stand in a circle facing each other and shoot each other.”

Since this is my traditional post-election column, I always try to thank all the candidates for running. It is something they will never forget. Although it hurts to lose, those defeated candidates will look back on their campaigns as some of the most exciting times of their lives. 

There are no losers here, just winners all around. I know it is disappointing to the non-victors, as they have spent a lot of money, devoted a tremendous amount of time, worked really hard, spent time away from jobs and family, and sincerely tried to present a winning view in their campaigns. 

I have been there, so I know how frustrating this can be.

Back in 2002 fellow Republicans Ray Hunkins of Wheatland, Steve Watt of Rock Springs, and John Self of Sheridan joined me along with Democrats Ken Casner of Elk Mountain, Toby Simpson of Greybull, and Paul Hickey of Cheyenne in retiring to the sidelines after the primary and watching Eli Bebout and Dave Freudenthal have all the fun in the general. This year a whole new crowd of candidates joined us.

Back to the 2018 elections:

For our national races, U. S. Sen. John Barrasso and U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney breezed to easy wins. Republicans won all around with Kristi Racines winning State Auditor and Ed Buchanan winning Secretary of State. Jillian Balow was unopposed for State Supt. of Public Instruction. 

But with the U. S. House turning Democratic it is easy to predict a new period of total gridlock in Congress. I am afraid not much is going to get done in the next two years. 

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.

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