Wyoming Primary Pits Felon Against Democratic Governor

Both the Republican and Democratic primary elections for governor on Tuesday pit a well-financed candidate with a professional campaign staff against a quirky, self-sponsored maverick trying to play Goliath.

In the Democratic Party, Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a popular incumbent and former U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, faces Al Hamburg of Torrington, a retired sign painter and convicted felon who's barred from holding public office.

In the Republican Party, Wheatland attorney and rancher Ray Hunkins, who enjoys considerable support in his party, faces John Self of Sheridan. Self is a retired worker in the mobile home service field who says he's raised just $1,600 — all his own money — for his campaign.

Freudenthal has held himself somewhat above the fray in the gubernatorial campaign so far. He's emphasized that he needs to concentrate on the job of serving as governor and hasn't yet started to campaign in earnest.

Hamburg said last week that he expected to lose to Freudenthal, but predicted optimistically that he would draw 30 percent of the vote.

Hamburg, 74, was convicted of election fraud in 1989, but his voting rights were restored in 2003. He is eligible to run for public office, but would be ineligible to hold public office if actually elected. In a recent interview, Hamburg said that if he beats Freudenthal in the primary, he intends to launch a civil rights lawsuit seeking to be declared eligible to hold office.

On the Republican side, Hunkins has mounted an aggressive campaign against Freudenthal in the past several months while essentially ignoring Self, his primary opponent.

In particular, Hunkins, 67, has criticized the Freudenthal administration's handling of Wyoming's methamphetamine crisis.

Hunkins has said that if elected, he intends to appoint a single state employee to coordinate the state's anti-drug efforts and has said he intends to rely on the private sector to construct four regional meth-treatment centers around the state.

Hunkins reported recently that he has raised nearly $200,000 — about one quarter of Freudenthal's total — for his campaign. He's tried to distance himself from controversial records requests filed this summer by the Wyoming Republican Party. The party has sought information from Freudenthal's administration regarding his use of state aircraft and other spending and the party has used some of the information for attack ads against the governor.

In an interview last week Self, 72, said that if elected, he intends to roll back taxes and offer free college education to young people in the state.