As Wyoming prepared to mourn the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R.-WY), who died last week at 74, the state’s unique succession process was quietly beginning to take effect.
Under the state law, when a Senate vacancy occurs, the governor must appoint a sucessor from the same party as the previous holder of the seat. Accordingly, the 71-member Republican state committee will meet on June 15th and submit three names. Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal will choose the new senator from the three and a special election will be held in November of 2008 to fill the remainder of the term won by Thomas last fall.
No one in Wyoming I spoke to takes seriously the media speculation that Second Lady Lynn Cheney would be one of the three Republicans. As one veteran GOP operative told me, "We really haven’t seen much of the Cheneys since Dick left the Pentagon in ’93 and they moved to Texas." Rep. Barbara Cubin, the state’s lone House Member, today ruled herself out of the Senate race.
Sources told me that the three Republicans likely to reach the governor’s desk are State Sen. John Barrasso of Casper, an orthopedic surgeon; State House Majority Leader Colin Simpson of Cody, son of former Sen. (1978-96) Alan Simpson and grandson of the late Sen(1962-66). Milward Simpson; and former Assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Environment Tom Sansonetti of Cheyenne, a past Republican National Committeeman and top aide to Thomas in his House days.
Barasso and Simpson are considered moderates, while Sansonetti is a strong conservative.