First Democrat enters U.S. House race -- but doesn’t expect to advance his name on the ballot
But Richard Grayson, whose campaign committee is called Deport Republicans Elect Grayson, said he will likely not request the Wyoming Secretary of State print his name on the ballot. He expects the Wyoming Democratic Party will recruit a candidate who lives in the state and has a chance of winning after U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, announced she will not seek re-election in 2016.
If a Democrat does run, it will free him to drop out of the race. He is running to pressure the state party to find a viable candidate, he said Tuesday.
Grayson is the first Democrat to enter the race.
The executive director of the state party said more Democrats will enter the race. The party is working to increase the number of candidates in state legislative races, too. Wyoming has some of the lowest numbers of contested races nationally.
Among Republicans, Casper pizzeria owner Charlie Tyrrel, state Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, and Yoder resident Jason Senteney have announced they are seeking Wyoming’s single U.S. House seat. Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said she is seriously considering running.
Grayson challenged Lummis in 2014 with the expectation that he would not win. Back then, he also thought his candidacy would encourage the Wyoming Democratic Party to find an in-state candidate, he said.
However, he ended up being the only Democrat on the ticket. He sailed through the primary and lost to Lummis, receiving 22.9 percent of the vote, with the exception of Teton County, where he won.
This year, Grayson filed paperwork with the FEC on Sept. 21, with the same intention to spur Democrats to find a Wyoming candidate. Then Lummis announced she wasn’t seeking re-election.
Grayson -- who describes his occupations as being semi-retired, a writer, a manager of his investments and caregiver of elderly parents -- said it’s important to have candidates from more than one party in a race.
“It allows the people in the minority party in any district to vote for someone who agrees with their views,” he said. “I believe so strongly in this I have tried to get friends who are Republicans to run for Congress in safe Democratic districts. I’m in New York right now. There were nine congressional districts where there were no Republican candidates.”
In 2014, Grayson appeared in Wyoming just once, on election night. The U.S. Constitution states U.S. representatives must be inhabitants in the state in which they are elected. Grayson was in Jackson at the time.
“I was staying with my cousin’s brother-in-law, who was a hedge fund manager, and they’re Republicans,” he said. “But hey, it’s family.”
Grayson said he spent no money on advertising in 2014. He attended no debates. But he still received nearly 23 percent of the vote because Wyomingites want a choice at the voting booth, he said.
“If I proved anything, it’s that a no-name Democrat or anybody running on the Democratic ticket can get a certain number of votes,” he said.
In 2014, Wyoming tied with Arkansas as the third lowest nationally in the percent of contested races. Only 36 percent of the state’s legislative races offered a choice of more than one party, according to an analysis by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
That’s not news to Aimee Van Cleave, executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party.
In 2012 and 2010, about 60 percent of state legislative races were unopposed. In 2008, 55 percent were unopposed, Van Cleave said.
Van Cleave, who became executive director in February, said she’s working to reverse that trend with the help of an all-new staff at the Wyoming Democratic Party.
“The best way to combat that is to have a really intensive candidate recruitment program, which is what we have at the state party,” she said.
Van Cleave closed the party offices in Cheyenne to save the party money, she said. She’s working remotely -- traveling the state, meeting potential candidates and donors.
Currently there are nine legislative candidates interested in running, in addition to the Democratic incumbents, she said.
From May 12-27, candidates will file with the Secretary of State’s Office to be placed on the 2016 ballot. Grayson will not file if there is an in-state Democratic candidate, he said.
There will be Democratic candidates in the U.S. House race, Van Cleave said.
“We’re expecting to have a contested primary of people who live in Wyoming, and who are really viable candidates,” she said. “At this point, I would say Richard Grayson will be a footnote in the 2016 election.”
Follow political reporter Laura Hancock on Twitter @laurahancock.