Wyoming GOP Gov. Primary: Alan Simpson's Son Vs. Cliff Hansen's Grandson : It's All Politics Tuesday's GOP primary for governor of Wyoming includes the son of former Sen. Alan Simpson and the grandson of former Sen. Cliff Hansen.  The GOP is favored to win the governorship this year as Democratic incumbent Dave Freudenthal is retiring.
NPR logo Wyoming GOP Gov. Primary: Alan Simpson's Son Vs. Cliff Hansen's Grandson

Wyoming GOP Gov. Primary: Alan Simpson's Son Vs. Cliff Hansen's Grandson

There has been endless ink spent on how 2010 has been an anti-incumbent year, a kind of facile description of an election cycle in which 35 states have already held primaries and the number of incumbents who have gone down to defeat is just four in the House (Mollohan/D-W.Va., Griffith/R-Ala., Inglis/R-S.C., Kilpatrick/D-Mich.), two in the Senate (Specter/D-Pa., Bennett/R-Utah) and one governor (Gibbons/R-Nev.).

A better description might be that this is the Year of the Child.  Yes, California's Jerry Brown is 72 years old, not ordinarily thought of as a child.  But he is, after all, the son of a former governor (Pat Brown), and one of a number of children of notable pols (Andrew Cuomo in N.Y., Mike McWherter in Tenn., Rory Reid in Nev., Robin Carnahan in Mo., Rand Paul in Ky.) who are running statewide this year.

It's even more delicious in today's Wyoming Republican primary for governor.  Among the four candidates are Colin Simpson, the speaker of the state House and son of former Sen. Alan Simpson (and grandson of former Gov./Sen. Milward Simpson); and former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead, a first-time candidate whose grandfather was Cliff Hansen, also a former Wyoming governor and senator.  Mead's mother, the late Mary Mead, was the GOP nominee for governor in 1990, when she was clobbered by incumbent Mike Sullivan.  Mead, who was a finalist in the contest for the Senate appointment following the death of Republican Craig Thomas in 2007, is thought to be ahead.

Also running in the primary: state Auditor Rita Meyer and former state Rep. Ron Micheli.

For the longest time, there was an ongoing debate over whether Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, could run again.  Re-elected in 2006 with 70 percent of the vote, Freudenthal maintains strong approval ratings in this very red state.  Here's the rub:  The state legislature passed a bill in the 1980s limiting the governor to two terms.  In 1992, voters weighed in on the issue, deciding that members of the legislature should have term limits too.  The state Supreme Court decided, in 2004, that term limits could only be instituted by a constitutional amendment, not a ballot initiative.  Thus, term limits on legislators were gone, but limits on governors remained.

Freudenthal strongly considered challenging his own term limits, and while many thought he could ultimately prevail, he decided that voters might not warm to the idea.  So in his absence, Republicans are expected to win the governorship.

Still, it should be pointed out that Democrats have had much success in winning the Wyoming governorship, even if it's been 40 years since they last won a Senate race here.  Three of the last four governors have been Democrats.  It's just not likely to continue this year.  Their candidates include former state party chair Leslie Petersen and pilot Pete Gosar, a former star linebacker at the University of Wyoming.