CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Republican Ray Hunkins have handily defeated their primary challengers to win their parties' nominations for governor, The Associated Press has projected based on early returns.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Freudenthal had received 89 percent of the vote to 11 percent for Hamburg. Freudenthal had received 28,661 votes to just 3,443 for Al Hamburg, a retired painter from Torrington.
On the Republican side, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Hunkins, a rancher and attorney from Wheatland, led 52,659 to 17,996 for John Self of Sheridan. That's 75 percent to 25 percent.
In a telephone interview Tuesday evening, Freudenthal said he's pleased the voters have seen fit to send him on to the general election, "and that they share our view that Wyoming's headed in the right direction."
Freudenthal said he's looking forward to the general election.
"I hope to have a discussion with the voters about our record to date, and what we can do together building Wyoming and going forward," Freudenthal said.
"I remain hopeful that the opportunity will exist in the general election for a better discussion with the voters than what we've had from the Drake and Ray show so far," Freudenthal said.
Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Drake Hill has taken out advertisements criticizing Freudenthal's spending on state-owned aircraft. Both Hill and Hunkins have said that Hunkins' campaign has had nothing to do with the negative ads.
"I look forward to hearing more from them about their vision for the future of the state," Freudenthal said of Hunkins and Hill.
Freudenthal said his main commitment over the coming months will remain doing his job as governor and said he won't have as much time for campaigning as he did four years ago. However, he said he enjoys campaigning and looks forward to getting out on the trail.
Hunkins said Tuesday evening that he was gratified that tens of thousands of Republican voters across the state had affirmed his candidacy.
"I look forward to moving onto the fall campaign, and engaging in a discussion with Governor Freudenthal and the people of Wyoming about the future of our state," Hunkins said.
"I will be talking about what we can do better, managing the risks and taking advantage of the opportunities that this mineral boom have brought to us," Hunkins said. "I'll be talking about how we can better distribute income to local units of government so that they can provide constituent services. I'll be talking more about what we can do to get a handle on this meth crisis. And we'll be talking about diversifying the Wyoming economy."
Hunkins said he expects to address the issue of the Republican Party's negative ads on Freudenthal in the near future.
Several Freudenthal supporters said Tuesday they were happy with his performance over his first term.
Steve Wuerth, a worker at the Frontier Refinery, voted for Freudenthal at the Kiwanis Community House in Cheyenne.
"I think he's doing a good job," Wuerth said of Freudenthal. "The state's doing well. I'm impressed."
Pam Bechtholdt, who cast her ballot at the Cheyenne-Laramie County government building, said "of course" she voted for Freudenthal. "Al Hamburg has a long history that isn't very appealing to me as a voter," she said.
Ron Anderson, who also voted at the city-county building, voted for Freudenthal.
"I think he's been a good governor," Anderson said of Freudenthal. "Republicans have got a strangle lock on Wyoming politics so it's kind nice to have a Democratic governor, sort of split things up a little bit."
At First Baptist Church in Cheyenne, Sheila Bush said she had no trouble deciding between Hunkins and Self. "Ray, he was a clear choice in the Republican side," she said.
"I think the general will be a really interesting race to watch," Bush said. "I think when it's all said and done, the current, sitting governor will pull through. I think he has a lot of name recognition and I think that he hasn't done anything to upset the Republican vote that he acquired the first time."
Nan Fowler of Cheyenne voted at the city library. She said she voted for Hunkins. "Probably with governor, I went party," said Fowler, an employee at a Cheyenne law office. "I know Mr. Hunkins. I'm familiar with his law background and I just felt very comfortable with that."