CHEYENNE -- A political newcomer and a perennial political candidate face off in the Aug. 19 primary election for a six-year U.S. Senate term.
Chris Rothfuss of Laramie, 35, an instructor at the University of Wyoming who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering, is making energy independence the centerpiece of his campaign.
Al Hamburg of Torrington, a 76-year-old sign and house painter who served three stints in the Army, said his main issues are the same ones he ran on last time: drugs and illegal immigration and the “stupid, wasteful war in Iraq.”
The winner of the primary election will challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi in the November election. Enzi is running unopposed for his party's nomination.
Rothfuss said he wants to bring a scientist's perspective to the energy issue.
“We need real leaders in Washington who understand energy with technical expertise who will look to scientists and engineers and experts at the Department of Energy and use them as resources for a long-term plan instead of finding out what's best for your state or your district back home,” Rothfuss said in an interview.
A self-described moderate, Rothfuss did not become a registered Democrat until about two months before he announced his candidacy. Before that he was an independent and worked for three years in the Department of State.
“I believe in the Wyoming Democrat, people who are fiscally conservative and support all the rights of the constitution and favor guns and Second Amendment rights,” Rothfuss said.
He also believes in the core Wyoming values of keeping government out of people's business and as small as possible, he added.
He said he disagrees with the Republican Party's approach to energy issues and on the war in Iraq. He said he would tell the generals to get the troops safely out of Iraq and is confident they could do so.
Hamburg also wants to get U.S. troops out of Iraq, but said it isn't going to happen “because of all that oil.”
He also predicted the war in Afghanistan will never end.
Rothfuss said energy independence is the key to maintaining a strong economy.
“We need a balanced, long-term approach to energy, and that's gong to include everything we have” -- including hydrocarbons, natural gas, wind and nuclear power, he said.
'I'm basically an advocate of every power source, and I know they can all be done in an environmentally sustainable and friendly fashion if you have the foresight and the right regulations,” he added.
Rothfuss said he will release a more specific plan on his Web site over the next couple of weeks.
In the short term, he said, the nation needs to focus on solutions that include a lot more coal, and coal liquefaction.
“If we double domestic coal production and liquefy the additional amount, that's almost the same amount of energy that we get from foreign oil,” Rothfuss said. “It's difficult but is technically feasible.”
The nation, he said, needs to use all its domestic hydrocarbon resources to get off foreign oil as soon as possible. If that happens, it will invigorate the domestic economy because the $1.5 billion a day the nation is shipping overseas for oil can be spent on the U.S. economy instead.
Hamburg, meanwhile, said he advocates conservation and lowering the speed limit to 55 mph to help ease the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
People, he said, should also walk more.
He said he also supports wind and solar energy, but believes the oil companies will maintain a monopoly on energy.
Hamburg said he opposes tax breaks for ethanol plants.
“Turning corn into ethanol is increasing the cost of food,” he said.
Hamburg blames Mexicans and illegal aliens from Mexico for importing drugs into the United States.
“When they arrest these drug gangs, the leaders are always from Mexico,” he said. “Mexico is the rat hole of the world.”
Health care is another issue of concern to citizens.
Rothfuss said Enzi and other members of Congress are taking the wrong approach by focusing on paying health insurance companies to cover the uninsured.
“A federal policy that protects the health insurance companies makes no sense,” he said.
Hamburg said the nation could save money on Medicaid payments for poor people by keeping illegal aliens out of the country, particularly pregnant women who cross the border to deliver their babies here.
He also believes people should take more responsibility for their health.
Neither candidate is planning a big-ticket campaign.
Rothfuss has been hitting the parades and fairs with his wife and two sons. He said he is not independently wealthy and does not expect any political action committee money.
Hamburg said poor people send him a few dollars.
“One guy sent me three $2 bills and a lecture on liberty,” Hamburg said.
Contact Joan Barron at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone at 307-632-1244.