Democrat Gary Trauner, a Teton County businessman and entrepreneur, said Wednesday he is running against Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, because he thinks Washington, D.C., is “dysfunctional” and “broken,” with politicians who are more beholden to special interests than the people they represent.
“Frankly, the system itself is rigged against regular people, and regular people aren’t getting ahead,” he said.
To date, Barrasso and Trauner are the only major party candidates who have officially declared they will run for the senatorial seat, though Blackwater founder Erik Prince and businessman and GOP donor Foster Friess have said they might challenge Barrasso in the Republican primary.
Trauner supports expanding health care access, “safety net” programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, reducing the cost of higher education, net neutrality and sustainable energy development.
“Opportunity and inequality are what I would say are my two main issues,” Trauner said. “I think opportunity is a Wyoming value. You make your own opportunities, but I also think the government should be at the forefront of making sure that people have the opportunity to be successful in their lives and to take chances and take risks.”
Without certain protections, average people are not truly free, Trauner said.
“To me, one of the things freedom means — among others — is you’re free to pursue your life without the risk and knowledge that if you get sick or one of your children gets hurt, you might lose your house and your job. You might lose everything you’ve ever fought for because we’re the only country in the Western world where people go bankrupt due to health care costs,” he said.
Trauner moved to Wyoming in 1990 and has served as chief operating officer at St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson. He founded the Mulligan Stew Pet Food company and serves as chair of the Charture Institute, a conservation think tank.
He is married to Terry Trauner and has two sons, aged 18 and 24, all of whom encouraged him to run for office, he said.
“We’re sort of regular folks who have worked hard all of our lives, who think that the things going on in D.C. aren’t working for us and our kids and the future,” Trauner said. “So, I wanted to step up and give people a fair choice.”
Trauner served as an elected official on the Teton County School District No. 1 Board and currently as the chair of the Aspens Pines Water and Sewer District.
He previously ran for Wyoming’s sole U.S. House of Representatives seat, narrowly losing to former Rep. Barbara Cubin in 2006 and losing to former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, in an open race in 2008.
Trauner said being an outsider will allow him to better represent the people of Wyoming.
“We need folks with integrity, who are willing to actually show up and are willing to give people straight answers whether they think everyone’s going to agree with them or not,” he said. “Those things are in short supply in D.C. these days.”