CHEYENNE — Foster Friess made it official that he won’t launch a write-in campaign, a major win for state Republicans looking to keep control of the governorship.
Friess, a Republican multimillionaire, made the announcement at the state Republican unity breakfast Thursday at Little America Hotel and Resort in Cheyenne, signing a pledge to back the entire slate of statewide GOP candidates. He said he heard from supporters they wanted him to run a write-in bid.
But Friess decided he wouldn’t heed their calls and instead would back State Treasurer Mark Gordon in the general election.
“I have abandoned any ideas (of a write-in),” Friess said. “I feel very comfortable in the fact that both Kristi (Racines, running for auditor) and Mark (Gordon) have committed to transparency.”
Friess wouldn’t say Thursday when he made the final decision not to launch an independent bid for governor, saying he had been moving in that direction for some time. He pointed to state Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, as a major influence in pushing him in the direction of not running a write-in campaign.
Just before Friess made the announcement, his campaign manager, Jon Parker, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle he’d been getting messages every day from people asking for his boss or someone like him to take another run.
And while Parker couldn’t speak for his boss, he noted there was precedent for the move: when Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary for her seat in 2010, she mounted a write-in campaign and won the general election anyway.
The unified front Friess and the other Republican candidates put forward Thursday wasn’t a guarantee, given how the primary campaign ended. The day after Friess finished second to Gordon by 7 percentage points, Friess sent an email to state Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne and his fellow Republican gubernatorial candidates, except Gordon, about the “chances of getting a conservative elected as governor four years from now.”
Friess’ email called into question the state’s electoral system that allows voters to switch party affiliation up to and on the day of the primary and blamed the election results on Democrats swinging the election toward Gordon.
“It seems like the Democrats have figured out this party switch deal to their advantage,” Friess wrote in the email. “I guess there’s 114,000 registered Republicans and 17,000 registered Democrats. No way is that the actual mix, and with Trump getting 70 percent of the vote, it shows how the Democrats have been able to control our elections with putting on a Republican coat.”
But on Thursday, Friess said the heated primary race and the attacks from his opponents were water under the bridge. After the press conference announcing the pledge, Friess and Gordon were slapping one another on the back and smiling with each other.
“There’s a lot of people in the press and in the campaign who said things about me which some people could call uncharitable,” Friess said. “I completely forgive all of those statements.”
Gordon praised the slate of candidates that were on the ballot in the primary, including Friess, and called this year’s process “a very cleansing primary.”
“We did have a very hard-fought and very strong campaign, reflecting the views of people who have Wyoming’s best interests at heart. We’re thinking about what are the ways that we can solve our problems,” Gordon said. “We have pledged to work together to find those solutions and take forward a great vision for Wyoming.”
Friess’ decision not to run an insurgency camping for governor is a major boost for Gordon’s chances in the general election. Gordon now faces Democrat Mary Throne of Cheyenne, the former state representative for House District 11 and House minority leader, without the prospect of having a well-funded conservative candidate siphoning off votes.