The U.S. Senate has a new member. Republican John Barrasso was appointed Friday morning by Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Craig Thomas earlier this month.
A state senator and surgeon, Barrasso was seen as the most conservative of the three candidates which a GOP committee put before the Wyoming governor. Since Barrasso, like Thomas, is a Republican, the appointment will have no effect on the balance of power in the Senate.
Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon from Casper, will serve until the beginning of 2009. A special election in November 2008 will decide who will finish Thomas' term through 2012.
Thomas died June 4 while being treated for leukemia. State Republican Party officials offered the governor three nominees from which he could choose Thomas' temporary replacement.
"There are many factors that went into this decision, and it was the sum of these factors that led me to this choice," Freudenthal said. "While I don't intend to indulge the speculation on why I made this decision, I will say that I hope I made the right choice."
The selection of Barrasso will likely please anti-abortion groups: They particularly appreciate his many attempts to get a so-called Laci Peterson bill into state law.
That legislation would make the murder of a pregnant woman count as two murders - one for the woman, and one for the unborn fetus.
Barrasso has also said that Wyoming's coal industry will be a big part of the answer to American energy independence. And he says he does not think climate change is a real threat.
Like his predecessor, Barrasso supports President Bush's approach to the war in Iraq. His appointment to the Senate is effective Friday.
From Wyoming Public Radio's Elsa Heidorn and The Associated Press.