Former Rep. Mary Throne talks with visitors during Throne's gubernatorial candidacy for the state of Wyoming at the Cheyenne-Kiwanis Community House in Lions Park on Saturday, August 26, 2017 in Cheyenne. Jacob Byk/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Cheyenne’s Mary Throne officially returned to public life Saturday when she told supporters she intends to be Wyoming’s next governor.

“I have a deep love of Wyoming, and I really feel like I have something to offer the state at this point,” Throne said during an interview before making the announcement in the evening at the Kiwanis Community House in Lions Park.

Throne, a Democrat, served five terms in the Wyoming Legislature in House District 11. Voters ousted Throne, the House minority leader, by a slim margin of 63 votes in November, giving Republican Jared Olsen the seat.

Now, less than nine months after leaving her office in the Wyoming House of Representatives, Throne said she plans to hit the campaign trail before voters will be asked to select the replacement for Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, who took office in January 2011. Throne is the first Democrat and second to announce plans to seek the office. Republican Bill Dahlin of Sheridan announced his intention to run in June.

While she said she’s not in the race to attack the policies of Mead or her former colleagues in the Wyoming Legislature, Throne looks to offer a different perspective to the Cowboy State. Wyoming is currently in an economic downtown tied to its energy commodities that account for around 70 percent of the state’s revenue. It is the most recent downturn in a seemingly endless cycle of booms and busts that depend on the state of energy markets. Throne said she thinks she could help lead Wyoming to reaching the long-elusive goal of diversifying its economic base.

“I’m incredibly tired of boom and bust cycles,” she said. “I think with new leadership, with strong leadership, we can do something about it. Wyoming needs to take control of its own destiny, and today’s problems really deserve something more than yesterday’s thinking.”

Mead’s Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) Initiative took off this summer, with elected officials and Wyoming businessmen and women looking at ways to diversify the state’s economy. Ideas for how to accomplish that have included fostering Wyoming’s technology and manufacturing sectors, while also investing in areas such as education and amenities to entice a workforce to the state.

Throne said she expects minerals will continue to be Wyoming’s economic backbone, but wants to see an immediate and bold push for economic diversification.

“I don’t think we should reject anything,” she said. “Government can’t make all those things happen, but government can hinder them. If you don’t have good internet, if you don’t have decent roads and schools, a well-educated workforce – the basics that a business needs to come to a community – then none of those things are going to happen.”

Her experience as an attorney in the natural resources field and time as a state lawmaker qualify her for the candidacy, Throne said.

“I understand the regulatory pressures and economic pressures that our major industries face and how to make government work better,” she said. “I have 10 years experience in the legislature, and I have a proven record of getting things done.” 

With Election Day 2018 still more than a year out, Throne said she plans to hit the road to visit with voters around the state. In what is sure to be a hotly-contested and expensive race, Throne said she’s been overwhelmed with support from Democrats and some Republicans.

Throne also said it appears Democrats are uniting in support of her candidacy. Some speculated Rock Springs resident Ryan Greene, who unsuccessfully challenged Republican Liz Cheney in 2016 for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House, might seek the Democratic nomination in the governor’s race. Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, the minority leader in that chamber, was another some thought might look to run. But both Greene and Rothfuss said Saturday they are behind Throne.  

Though Wyoming is an overwhelmingly red state, three of its last five governors were Democrats. If she’s successful in her gubernatorial bid, Throne would be the second woman elected to the office. Nellie Tayloe Ross, who won a special election after her husband, Gov. William Ross, died in office, famously became the first woman governor in the U.S. in 1925. Nellie Tayloe Ross, who died in 1977, was also a Democrat.

Throne made her announcement to a sizable crowd next to a portrait of Nellie Tayloe Ross that she said was in her family’s living room for the past several months to inspire her decision to seek the office.

“From what I’ve learned about Nellie’s life in the 1920s, I always find myself inspired and relating to her circumstances,” Throne said. “In fact, when Nellie was deciding whether to run for governor, some of the people closest to her told her not to do it. They said Wyoming was a Republican state, and probably always would be. They said they viewed the governor’s office as, you guessed it, a man’s job. But Nellie knew better. She knew there was hard work to be done.”

Joel Funk is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at jfunk@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @jmacfunk.

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