By Times Staff
Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress Gary Trauner of Wilson, Wyoming has launched his campaign with a promise to continue the push for change in Washington, D.C. that began with the election of President Donald Trump. It’s not about party membership, he says – it’s about the right people with the right leadership qualities looking to make the right decisions.
Trauner’s decision to run was at the request of his two sons. Now 24 and 18, they are beginning to question the issues surrounding the current political climate.
Across the States, he continues, the system has polarized and politics is about towing party lines.
“George Washington, in his farewell address in 1796, his biggest concern was how blind allegiance to party would corrupt our system,” he says.
“I think, unfortunately, we’re probably there – on both sides of the fence.”
Trauner visited Crook County as part of his statewide tour.
Along the way, he has found that his views on national politics do not appear to be unique, something he finds encouraging.
“From what I’m hearing, people are pretty fed up with what’s going on in D.C.,” he says. “I hear this from conservatives…Republicans, Democrats, everybody, that maybe [U.S. Representative John Barrasso] has been there a little too long and has kind of forgotten where he’s come from.”
It’s not personal, he stresses. It’s about giving people a choice and showing them there is an alternative candidate who could help to shake things up.
“My views are not party driven. They are people driven and country driven,” he says.
Trauner ran for national office in 2006 and got “within a hair’s breadth” of being elected. Winning this time around will be a challenge, he says, but there’s no reason he can’t pull it off.
He asks simple questions of the people he meets, he says, such as: who in Wyoming wants New York hedge fund managers to pay lower tax rates than Wyoming teachers, ranchers and miners? Who wants to prevent Medicare from negotiating drug prices so that our seniors can pay less for drugs?
“Nobody – except for our federal delegation,” he says.
Trauner believes this state’s citizens voted for President Trump because they knew how dysfunctional things had become in Wyoming and were prepared to vote for someone who perhaps wasn’t perfect but was willing to shake things up.
“Why stop there?” he asks, pointing out that Trump ran on many issues that affect Wyoming, such as raising taxes on the rich, Medicare negotiating drug prices and infrastructure.
“He ran on a bunch of stuff that would have been good for regular, everyday people and Congress is baulking on that stuff,” he says.
“So don’t stop there. If you really want to make that change, it’s not good enough to just go to the top; let’s do the rest and see what happens.”
Trauner believes his listening tour is an important part of his campaign because it’s rare these days to find a candidate or delegate who is willing to answer questions without prior notice. When he answers a question, he says, he doesn’t know the person’s party allegiance or background but is still willing to give them an honest answer.
“And I ask for their opinion,” he adds.
Trauner’s hope to visit as many people as he can during his election bid is not only to introduce himself to possible supporters, he says; the conversations he is having will also guide him in Washington, D.C. if he is elected. He mentions an industrial business in Wheatland where he was told he was only the second national candidate in 16 years who asked for a chance to speak with them.
“How do you make policy if you don’t know what’s going on in your local communities – if you don’t know what works and doesn’t work?” he asks.
There are plenty of changes Trauner thinks are necessary in national politics. He feels, for example, that those in power should adhere to the same rules as the rest of us, referring to such things as a healthcare system and pensions designed specifically for national electeds.
“They’re not in the real world, and when you’re not in the real world you don’t make real decisions,” he comments.
He would also like to see changes in how lobbying works and an end to foreign companies raising money for American candidates.
“I’m not taking any corporate PAC money, because I don’t want to be bought and paid for. It makes my life tougher – you need money to do this – but I don’t want to feel I’m bought and paid for, be bought and paid for or for anybody to think I’m bought and paid for,” he adds.
Trauner also feels the Democratic Party should support the president when his ideas are good for the people and only stand as a check and balance when necessary.
“When he’s got some ideas that are good ideas, let’s make them happen,” he says. “It’s Congress that’s holding up a bunch of those ideas.”
Above all else, Trauner wants to see the right delegates head to the capital.
“We all know D.C. screwed up, so find people with leadership ability and integrity. I don’t care if they’re Democrats, Republicans, independents or they live on the moon, look for them because we don’t have that in D.C. right now,” he says.
“This isn’t about me and my party, it’s about the right people and leadership and integrity.”
An entrepreneur and businessman, Trauner has started a number of small companies across Wyoming, including an internet service provider and a commercial trust company. He most recently served as the COO of St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Jackson and says it was interesting to get a look inside the healthcare industry.
Though a businessman, he says, he has always aimed to do the best he can by the people in his community by, for example, being one of the biggest employers in the area.
He has also been an active participant in his community, having served as chairman of the board of trustees for Teton County School District #1, vice chairman of the Teton County Pathways Task Force and currently as executive director of the Jackson Hole Youth Lacrosse Club, chairman of the board of directors for the Aspens Pines Water and Sewer District and a board member for the Charture Institute, a conservation think tank. He asks for Wyoming’s support to make Washington, D.C. his next career move.
“The one thing my wife and I decided was that, if we were going to do this again, we were going to do it with a smile on our face and we’re going to do it because it’s what we want to do. I’m not a professional politician – I know I’ve run before, but most of my life has been spent working like a real person as opposed to getting paid to do nothing in Congress,” he says.
“If we go in there with the attitude that I’m not a professional politician and it’s not what my goal has been my entire life, and that we’re going to enjoy it as much as we can…we’ll be fine.”
Find out more about Trauner’s priorities and issues at traunerforwy.com.
(Jeff Moberg photo)