WY-Gov: Conservative megadonor Foster Friess took everyone, including state GOP politicos, completely by surprise on Friday when he announced he was joining the August primary for governor of Wyoming. The Casper Star-Tribune's Arno Rosenfeld was at the state convention where Friess made his plans known, and his report gave us all a taste for what kind of campaign Friess will run.
Friess used a state party convention luncheon to call for a return to "civility" in American politics. He then suggested that Barack Obama had funneled money intended to mitigate global warming to cousins in a foreign country Friess didn't know how to pronounce, adding, "Zoowanatou ... it’s some little country I’ve never been."
Friess also addressed the importance of arming the Kurdish military force in Iraq, or as he called them, "my Pershmerga pals." Friess' best buddies are actually called the "Peshmerga", but it's not exactly a surprise he messed up their name: This is the guy who sent an email to the Casper Star-Tribune where he simultaneously praised Sen. John Barrasso, said he was thinking about running against Sen. John Barrasso, and repeatedly misspelled his idol/would-be opponent's name as "Barrosso." And unlike "Zoowanatou," the Peshmerga actually do exist, though the governor of Wyoming has very little say in whether the United States arms them or not.
But Friess didn't seem to have much of an opinion about some of the things the governor of Wyoming actually does have a say in. Friess said he didn't have a clear position on addressing the deficit that state public schools were facing, though he said it was possible that the state should spend less on administrators and more on teachers, and added Wyoming should consider emulating Finland and paying instructors more.
But Friess explained that he still needed to learn a lot more about the issues facing the state because his hometown paper, the Jackson Hole News&Guide, had not done a good job informing its readers. Friess argues the paper "is very left-wing so they give a perspective on what some of the issues are — but we hear about the grizzlies, we hear about the coal issue." But know that Friess is making a big sacrifice by getting involved in state politics: He said the campaign would have "some unpleasantness — I love my golf."
While Friess brings a lot of money to the table, as well as a good deal of national press, he doesn't exactly seem prepared to run a serious campaign. Rosenfeld writes that Friess has not been active in state GOP politics, and he also doesn't seem to have a campaign put together. When Friess was asked at the state party convention on Friday if he'd hired a campaign staff, he said he had assistants and a scheduler to help with his philanthropic and political activities. And when a reporter went on to ask if he'd hired a campaign manager, Friess offered the reporter the job. We assume he was joking, but can't be sure.
Friess also notably did not show up at the convention the next day along with his primary rivals. And while he said he'd launch a listening tour soon, Rosenfeld writes that he "has otherwise shown little appetite for the retail politics -- door knocking, working county contacts, etc. -- that typically undermine victorious candidates in the Cowboy State." This is going to be a very strange primary.
Of course, with several other Republicans running in August, it's always possible a strange candidate could secure enough support to win with a small portion of the vote. And of course, we haven't forgotten what happened the last time a golf-happy —Obama-conspiracy spouting —media-bashing rich guy baffled the party establishment and ran for major office.