November 2nd, 2010 will be a day to remain glued to mass media in America. Some sources are predicting a sea change in national politics, a bolstering of Republican representation in Congress. Momentum from pseudo-grassroots organizations such as the Tea-Party movement has pushed a new wave of Republicans through the primaries. Pending November’s results, many could find seats in the most powerful offices in the land. Usually, Wyoming politics are far less dramatic than the national scene. Candidates tend to interact in our state with civility. Wyoming voters, while not necessarily the most informed electorate, generally regard civil discourse in state and local matters.
Wyoming’s gubernatorial race is no different, and little or no acrimony exists between the two remaining big-party candidates. The contest for Governor will be won on issues, and Wyoming’s conservative electorate often places Democrats in the Governor’s mansion. At face value, it seems this race could go either way. Of course, a closer look reveals hidden advantages and biases that might lock it up quickly for one candidate.
Democratic candidate for Governor Leslie Petersen has crafted a scrappy campaign. Outspent by her opponent by a wide margin, the ex-Teton County Commissioner admits her chances of victory are narrow. Her website describes her campaign strategy as “shoe leather and personal contact,” acknowledging her funding limitations compared to Republican Matt Mead.
Her campaign’s mantra is “Common Sense, Common Ground.” The appeal is to the moderates of the state, from both parties. Even with her considerable political and executive experience, she is presented as a tough, realistic, hard-working, gun-toting woman… who happens to be a Democrat. Petersen’s campaign for Governor has embraced its own underdog status, as many Wyoming Democrats have done before, to avoid exhausting its resources long before election day.
The website takes some advantage of the medium in order to cover some distance between Petersen and Mead, the affluent attorney favored in the race. A respectably-sized archive of Petersen’s public appearances, interviews, and news profiles make the site a great portal for learning about the candidate. Videos found here show Petersen in various settings, from her convertible during a parade at Flaming Gorge to an informal interview with the editors of the Casper Star-Tribune. Overall, the website is a solid representation of Petersen’s campaign… but it’s best not to compare it to that of her competitor, Matt Mead.
Former federal prosecutor and Cheyenne resident Matt Mead is running on the Republican ticket for Governor in November. He is shaping up to be a formidable opponent. Mead’s official site is brimming with political platforms, and the candidate’s deep pockets are evident in its design and accessibility. Mead is a strong speaker. Where Petersen’s speeches tend to wander conversationally, Mead’s words are more scripted, but powerful and eloquent.
A slogan he repeats again and again is, “Wyoming is all America needs to be.” Mead is fiscally conscious and seems to have a strong grasp of economic issues facing the state; his devotion to and love for Wyoming are evident with every breath. Although I disagree with him on social issues, Mead’s passion for the issues is somewhat infectious, and I found myself caught up in the conviction of his speech to the Wyoming GOP Convention. His confidence is attractive as a candidate for Governor.
While Mead’s multimedia page is far more limited than Petersen’s (only a couple speeches and several high-budget TV advertisements), his “Issues” section is robust and detailed. I chose two issues I felt were important to me with which to compare Mead’s and Petersen’s platforms: Energy and Education.
While Leslie Petersen’s energy strategy, as outlined by the “Issues” section of her official site, involves one brief paragraph of vague, big-picture language, Mead’s strategy is well-defined and thoughtful. Petersen will “encourage new renewable energy development such as wind and solar,” while Mead’s site goes on for about three pages and outlines nearly every talking point when it comes to energy development in Wyoming. He is “unconvinced” that global warming is man-made, though he will embrace alternative energy development and invest in research in these fields. He will support carbon capture but fight cap & trade. He would tax Wyoming wind farms, but carefully so as to avoid burdening the young wind power industry.
Petersen’s stance on education is equally underrepresented on her website, summed up in four sentences. “Education is a top priority,” and PAWS testing is a mistake, she says. Mead’s site, again, goes into further detail. NCLB needs to be assessed. Good teachers should be retained, poor teachers removed. Funding for colleges and the university should be studied and overhauled. Technology and connectivity should be fostered throughout the state. Most importantly, Mead invokes the need for parental involvement in children’s education.
If the election were to be held today, based solely on what was available about the candidates from their websites, I’m afraid Mead would win squarely. This Democrat might even have to vote for him, since he seems to know exactly where he stands on important issues and has a more detailed plan of action for his term in office.
The Laramie Boomerang’s primary forum reveals further priorities of the candidates. Mead’s concern for water rights and Petersen’s desire to rectify gender discrepancies in wages across the state come through as their most important personal issues.