Wyoming Governor Picks Surgeon for Senate Seat

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wyoming's governor yesterday appointed John A. Barrasso, a Republican legislator from Casper, to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Craig Thomas (R).

The choice of Barrasso, 54, an orthopedic surgeon who was elected to the Wyoming Senate in 2002, will not change the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. He will bring the same conservative approach to the job that Thomas practiced.

"I believe in limited government, lower taxes, less spending, traditional family values, local control and a strong national defense," he wrote in his application for the Senate seat. "In the State Senate, in addition to receiving an 'A' rating from the [National Rifle Association], I have voted for prayer in schools, against gay marriage and have sponsored legislation to protect the sanctity of life."

Barrasso, who received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Georgetown University, wrote that his goals in the Senate would be to promote rural health care, energy independence and the agriculture industry, among other things.

As state senator, Barrasso chaired the Committee on Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs. He is well known for introducing annual health fairs all over the state. "He runs a very good committee. He's bipartisan. He brings the committee along and provides real leadership," said John C. Schiffer (R), the state Senate president.

Barrasso, whose appointment was effective immediately, plans to come to Washington as early as Monday.

Thomas died earlier this month from leukemia.

Barrasso ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination to the Senate in 1996. He was among three candidates the state Republican Party nominated to Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, who under Wyoming law had to select one of the GOP nominees. Thirty people applied for the job.

Operatives in both parties yesterday started looking to next year's Senate contests, in which Barrasso, who has pledged to run for a six-year term, and Mike Enzi (R), the state's senior senator, are up for election.

There was speculation that Freudenthal, as a member of the opposing party, would try to pick the weakest candidate. But both Republican and Democratic operatives said he did not make that calculation with the selection of Barrasso.

"While I don't intend to indulge the speculation on why I made this decision, I will say that I hope I made the right choice," Freudenthal said.

Among the Democrats eyeing the seat are Paul Hickey, a former gubernatorial candidate; Gary Trauner, who nearly defeated Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) last November; state Sen. Mike Massie; and Patrick Hacker, a Cheyenne lawyer.

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