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CHEYENNE – Republican gubernatorial candidate Sam Galeotos cast himself as a proud Trump supporter in a recent mailer, but some in his party are taking shots at his claim and questioning whether he’s implying an endorsement that hasn’t come.

At issue is the front of a two-sided flier, which prominently features the president’s likeness and his “Make America Great Again” hat under the words “President Trump needs your help again” above “Vote conservative Sam Galeotos for governor.”

Trump’s name also features on the other side under a description of Galeotos’ promise to fight former President Barack Obama’s regulations.

The Cheyenne native isn’t the only candidate to feature Trump in an advertisement. Jackson megadonor Foster Friess called himself a “friend to Trump” in one of his own mailers. But Galeotos’ advertisement may be the most striking so far. 

Sven Larson, a conservative political economist who runs the Wyoming Prosperity project, posted a photo of the advertisement to Facebook last week and demanded the candidate produce an endorsement.

“It is up to Galeotos to produce an official endorsement from our president; until I see that endorsement, Galeotos is off my list for August 21,” he wrote. “This flier raises questions about character and integrity – and about what Galeotos thinks about Wyoming voters.”

Fellow candidate Bill Dahlin, a Sheridan businessman, was less critical, but said he would shy away from it. 

“The way it came across to me when I looked at it was ‘We need to show support for our president,’ but it was under the veil of Sam running for governor,” he said. “It’s probably OK to do that, but I wouldn’t do it myself.”

Galeotos spokeswoman Amy Edmonds dismissed the criticism, saying the mailer was just communicating her boss’ support for the president. 

“Wyoming voters are pretty smart,” Edmonds said. “This is just a weak attempt by Sam’s opponents to attack him for supporting the president.”

She went on to say Galeotos was the only candidate to openly declare himself a Trump supporter, that he supported the president before he was elected, and that, like Trump, Galeotos was a political outsider bringing fresh ideas to the table.

Kristin Walker, a spokeswoman for candidate and current State Treasurer Mark Gordon who led Galeotos in a recent poll of registered Republicans, said she saw no evidence of that, though. 

“Sam was nowhere to be seen at the 2016 Wyoming Republican Party Convention, when the party chose delegates to elect the Republican nominee for president,” she wrote in a statement. “He hasn’t donated, served in an advisory capacity or done anything to support President Trump’s agenda, as far as anyone knows.”

Candidate Harriet Hageman, a Cheyenne attorney who received the third most support in the Wyoming PBS/Wyoming Public Media poll, said the same in fewer words.

“I just think that it was an effort to convince people of something that isn’t there,” she said.

But no one attempted to place themselves or their candidate as more pro-Trump.

Walker, for example, is focusing on Gordon’s record of “upholding and defending the Constitution, saving taxpayers money and fighting back against federal overreach,” and on supporting “Wyoming Republicans and conservative causes.”

And despite representing a candidate who gave $100,000 to the Trump Victory political action committee, Friess spokesman John Spina focused more on the candidate’s Washington connections over any kind of allegiance. 

“I wouldn’t say he’s a full supporter of everything the president’s been doing,” Spina said, “but the message we’re trying to get across is that through the years in Washington, he’s developed relationships with a number of Trump’s cabinet members, specifically (Interior Secretary Ryan) Zinke and (Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo, so he’s hoping to be able to negotiate better deals for Wyo. on things like public lands and energy deregulation.”

Federal Election Commission records show neither Galeotos nor Gordon financially supported the Trump campaign in the last election, though data show both men supported 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney and former Wyoming U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ 2008 campaign for Congress.

Gordon also gave to Lummis that year, and continued his support for her and Wyoming Republican Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi in the next cycles as well.

But he’s faced criticism for supporting Democrats in the 1990s and 2000s, most notably John Kerry for president in 2004 and Gary Trauner against embattled Rep. Barbara Cubin in 2006. 

Galeotos has been seen as one of the frontrunners in the race to succeed Gov. Matt Mead. He finished second in a June 18-20 poll of 596 registered Republican voters, with 14 percent of respondents saying they would choose him in a hypothetical primary. Gordon led the field with 19 percent. A full 35 percent were undecided. 

Galeotos was endorsed by Lummis earlier this year. He’s also picked up endorsements from state Sens. Affie Ellis and Stephan Pappas, both R-Cheyenne, and his campaign is chaired by Matt Micheli, a former Wyoming GOP chairman.

Austin Huguelet is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at ahuguelet@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3182. Follow him on Twitter at @ahuguelet.

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