JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Wilson businessman Gary Trauner announced today his candidacy for US Senator, just a week shy of his 59th birthday.
Trauner has been out of politics for almost a decade after two failed runs for US House of Representatives—challenging Barbara Cubin in 2006, and Cynthia Lummis in 2008.
In a video post, Trauner takes aim at Beltway politics, saying, “The DC playbook doesn’t work anymore. It’s time to put that thing in a shredder and write a new playbook that works for everybody. I’m going to do something different.”
Trauner blasted status quo in Washington, claiming lawmakers didn’t have Wyoming’s real interests at heart and couldn’t find Casper on a map. “In Washington we don’t have leaders with guts, who take responsibility and know how to solve problems,” he added.
In a phone call with Buckrail today, Trauner emphasized what he punningly called “the elephant in the room” with politics at the federal level. “The system is rigged, DC is broken, and regular people aren’t getting ahead,” he said.
Trauner promises to run an unconventional campaign devoid of PAC money and big on shoe leather. He says he will meet every voter and knock on every door—something the Democrat made a name for himself doing in both previous campaigns.
Two narrow defeats
Trauner’s loss to Cubin in the 2006 general election was close, much closer than political pundits had it handicapped. Trauner lost that election by 1,012 votes (0.5% of the vote). Too large a margin to trigger an automatic recall but razor-thin enough to be the closest vote since 1970—the last time a Democrat (Teno Roncalio) won the House seat.
Trauner was outgunned and outspent, but never outworked. Throughout the campaign, media reported story after story of Trauner showing up on doorsteps of virtually every neighborhood in every Wyoming town.
With an endorsement from former governor Dave Freudenthal, Trauner again made it close in 2008, but fell to Lummis, 53%-43%.
While Wyoming voters have a credible track record of accepting moderate Democrats for their governor, it’s different with lawmakers. Only one Wyoming Dem has served in the US House since 1943; none since Dick Cheney held the seat from 1979-1990.
The stranglehold on a Senate seat hasn’t been quite as daunting, but Wyoming has sent GOP-only delegate to Washington since 1977.
After being away from politics for almost a decade, Trauner says the main compulsion to get back in a race could be found in the daily headlines and at his family’s dinner table.
“These are not normal times,” Trauner said. “I spend a lot of time with my wife and two boys. We talk a lot about how these time are not normal, about the way people view politics and view each other these days has just deteriorated. When faced with times like these, we all have to step outside of comfort zones and step up to try and make a difference.”
Trauner vows to put state and country ahead of politics and has a tracj record of doing just that. “George Washington warned the American people against putting party before country,” he said. During 2006 and 2008 campaigns, Trauner often shirked party line, supporting Second Amendment gun ownership rights and opposing universal healthcare.
Trauner said he still backs Second Amendment rights for gun owners to own and carry for personal protection, sport shooting, and hunting. “But we have to be smart about it, as well,” he added, alluding to a recent spike in mass shootings.
Trauner said he expected a difficult road to Washington. He’s got less than a year to raise money and convince voters it’s time for a change.
“It’s a little daunting, yes,” Trauner said. “But democracy [itself] is hard.”
Barrasso’s term ends January 3, 2019. The general election is November 6, 2018. Jackson philanthropist and Republican megadonor Foster Freiss, 77, has made rumblings about challenging Barrasso. Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, is also reportedly considering a run. Barrasso has not officially declared whether he will run for reelection.
Trauner lives in Wilson with his wife, Terry, and their two boys. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University, and an MBA from the Stern School of Business at NYU. After moving to Wyoming about 1990, he worked in business, co-founding OneWest.net, a regional Internet Service Provider. He also worked briefly as COO of St. John’s Medical Center, and has served on numerous boards in Teton County.