A Laramie Republican who sees the nation and world in crisis is looking to replace U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., as he vacates his long-held seat in Washington, D.C.

John Holtz is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran, attorney, judge and current Albany County GOP member living in Laramie. As an attorney in the Hughes Aircraft Company Contracts Department, Holtz set a high bar by obtaining its first double-digit firm fixed price contract in the company’s history.

He was one of the youngest judges in Wyoming history at 31 and helped establish the circuit court system currently in the state.

As a full-time judge in Wyoming counties from 1981-92, then in a part-time capacity for several years after, Holtz was prohibited from participating in political activities. But he took an active role in conservative causes around 2007 when he said he played a significant part in setting the Wyoming GOP on its current course.

Holtz most recently challenged U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., in 2018, the first one to file in the Republican field. He came up short with 2,981 votes compared to Barrasso’s commanding 74,292 vote victory. Jackson businessman Dave Dodson’s aggressive campaign saw him as the runner-up in that race with 32,647 — Holtz was third of five challengers to Barrasso.

Given today’s unique circumstances, Holtz said he thinks he’s the right candidate for the job.

“I think we’re in a crisis situation,” he said. “We need someone with unique experience like designing weapons and working with them in the Air Force. We need someone with international experience.”

The year began with U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., deciding against a run for the Senate seat she once desired, dashing speculation she’d seek a spot in the other chamber. The Republican race is currently consumed with the candidacy of former Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis whose nine challengers have a long road ahead in combating her name recognition, experience and endorsements that make her seem the obvious successor to Enzi in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to represent it in Washington, D.C., since 1977.

Enzi has done admirable work on Capitol Hill, Holtz said, and would like to continue advocating for conservative approaches to the nation’s budget. When it comes to Republican President Donald Trump, Holtz said he thinks Trump has done “great work,” but expects the GOP will face increasingly difficult challenges going forward. Those challenges, he said, come from a hostile media and other circumstances outside of the administration’s control.

“I think the Republican administration has been confronted with unique challenges,” Holtz said. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to take a multifaceted approach to handle a myriad of problems in this political climate, where it seems people are increasingly more hostile toward one another.”

The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 18. In addition to Holtz and Lummis, the Republican primary field also consists of Bryan Miller of Sheridan; Devon Cade of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Donna Rice of Casper; Josh Wheeler of Casper; Michael Kelmer of Lander; R. Mark Armstrong of Centennial; Robert Short of Douglas; and Star Roselli of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Democrats shift strategiesBoth of the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate out of Laramie have seen their campaign strategies shift somewhat since the COVID-19 pandemic changed daily life for most Gem City residents.

Merav Ben-David, a University of Wyoming ecology professor for the past 20 years, said she initially planned on hitting every county in the state at least twice. But given the circumstances, she said those plans have disappeared, instead connecting with voters through virtual means, as well as a postcard campaign that she indicated was successful.

“We are doing everything that is possible despite the limitations we are facing with COVID-19 and the economic meltdown,” Ben-David said.

Activist and community organizer Yana Ludwig said she’s also been communicating remotely with voters, hosting online sessions and phone banking to talk about issues. As far as she’s concerned, Ludwig said the unusual circumstances are OK with her.

“I’m fine with burning less fossil fuels,” she said.

Ludwig said her policy positions haven’t changed much, save that she would advocate rent and mortgage forgiveness at the top of her policies related to the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. Additionally, she wants to make sure workers forced back on the job regardless of their social distancing concerns have protections.

Ben-David said her policy on health care has shifted to the left since the pandemic descended, now advocating for universal health care from birth to death, regardless of employment status. Ludwig maintained she has been the more progressive candidate from the start, with Ben-David making the case that she is still the one with positions that are specifically applicable to Wyoming constituents.

In addition to Ben-David and Ludwig, the Democratic primary field consists of James Kirk DeBrine of Evansville; Kenneth Casner of Elk Mountain; Nathan Wendt of Jackson; and Rex Wilde of Cheyenne.

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