Wyo. Surgeon Nation's Newest Senator

The Associated Press
Friday, June 22, 2007; 9:50 PM

CASPER, Wyo. -- Surgeon and Republican legislator John Barrasso, who became the nation's newest U.S. senator on Friday, has left little doubt that he will be a conservative voice in this traditionally conservative state. "I believe in limited government, lower taxes, less spending, traditional family values, local control and a strong national defense," Republican John Barrasso said in his application for the seat fellow Republican Craig Thomas held until he died June 4.

"In the state Senate, in addition to receiving an 'A' rating from the NRA, I have voted for prayer in schools, against gay marriage and have sponsored legislation to protect the sanctity of life."

Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon and state senator from Casper, was appointed Friday morning by Gov. Dave Freudenthal. The Democratic governor had to choose one of three nominees state GOP officials had given him.

He will serve until the beginning of 2009. A special election in November 2008 will decide who will finish Thomas' term, which runs to January 2013.

On Friday, Barrasso said he planned to fly to Washington on Sunday, but would make it back to Wyoming enough to visit all 23 counties by Labor Day.

"I can work hard for Wyoming people, work on quality of life issues for Wyoming's people, quality of education for our kids, quality jobs for our communities and health care," Barrasso said.

Freudenthal chose Barrasso over Cheyenne attorney Tom Sansonetti and former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis.

"There are many factors that went into this decision, and it was the sum of these factors that led me to this choice," the governor said. "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."

"I'm very grateful to the Central Committee, and I'm very grateful to the governor," Barrasso said. "No one's going to be able to fill Craig Thomas' shoes. He has a terrific legacy. He's done remarkable things for the state of Wyoming."

Barrasso, a state senator since 2003, rose quickly in the Legislature and became chairman of the Senate Transportation, Highway and Military Affairs Committee.

He ran for the U.S. Senate in the 1990s, but lost the 1996 Republican primary to Mike Enzi, now the state's senior senator.

University of Wyoming political science professor James King said the state won't see much change in its political representation in Congress, though Barrasso's medical background will bring some practical knowledge to issues like heath care reform.

Rep. Barbara Cubin, also from Casper, said she looked forward to working with Barrasso in Washington.

"John has served Natrona County well in the state Senate and will take that excellent work ethic to the floor of the U.S. Senate," Cubin said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he spoke with Barrasso by telephone shortly after the announcement and hopes to have him in the Senate as early as Monday.

"His energy, combined with the excellent staff that served Sen. Thomas so well over many years, will allow him to get started right away in what will be a busy legislative year," McConnell said.

© 2007 The Associated Press