When I first met with the Wyoming Democratic Party, we initially talked about me running for the state legislature.
In 2011, I had spoken with the executive director of the state party about running. I never heard back from him. By the time 2012 rolled around, he was no longer with the party.
I had met Lela Graham, the state party’s new field director, that winter at a Natrona County Democratic Party bash at the Casper YMCA. My son even brought his best friend. It felt like missionary work as we brought our young Republican with us to the activity.
When I went to meet with Lela at the state headquarters (at the time) in Casper, I knew that they were interested in me running for the state legislature. I was open to that, but I was also interested (obviously) in running for the U.S. House.
It made more sense to run for the state legislature. I had no money and no name recognition.
Our one logistical problem with running for the state legislature was that we planned on moving during the summer of 2012. We were staying in Casper, but we were going to buy a house and we know that it most likely was not going to be on our side of town. The neighborhoods and corners of town that we liked most where elsewhere. We did not know where for sure…but it was likely that we would be leaving either the senate or house district that we lived in.
Had Bob Brechtel, the incumbent in my house district, been running for re-election, I think that way have been the natural choice. He was an extremist, even for Casper, and he didn’t do anything productive while in session. However, it was clear that Brechtel was going to challenge Charlie Scott, the sitting state senator. Scott is a moderate Republican, who is downright liberal on a number of issues.I was more interested in supporting Charlie Scott than running against him. Luckily, Scott defeated Brechtel in the primary.
My other primary reason of running for the U.S. House rather than the state legislature had nothing to do with location. It had to do with my strengths.
I taught American government. I was well versed on the U.S. Constitution. I understood the issues related the healthcare on the national-level. I also understood Congress as an institution much better than I did the state institutions in Cheyenne. Now, it is quite clear that not understanding the legislature is not something that deters many of the folks who run for the state legislature.
Running for the state legislature would have made more sense given our resources and lack of name recognition. However, it was not were my heart was.
As I talked with Lela at her desk at the state headquarters, we looked at the legislative maps. We talked about my moving situation. We talked about the other districts in Casper.
When I asked who the party had lined up to run against Cynthia Lummis, Lela told me that nobody was expected to and that the state was focusing on the state legislative races. This was a wise strategy, even if it didn’t succeed.
I continued to ask questions about the U.S House race. Lela knew a lot about that contest as she had managed the campaign of David Wendt who had run against Lummis in 2010.
Lela quickly realized that I really wanted to run for Congress.
When Robin Van Ausdall entered the office, Lela said to her, “This is Chris Henrichsen. He teaches political science at Casper College. He wants to run against Cynthia Lummis.”
I think they both thought I was crazy. I was!
Robin made it clear that the party could not do much to help me. After all, I would not be the party’s nominee until after the primary in August. I expected this. I knew quite well that fundraising and campaigning was something that fell to the candidate, not the party.
It was already late in the season. But I was getting close to doing it. If I was, I had to get jumping.