FRIDAY FOCUS: Casper Businessman’s Longshot Bid for U.S. Senate (Part 1)

Reid Rasner is challenging Sen. John Barrasso for Wyoming’s GOP Senate nomination

  • Published In: Columns
  • Last Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Casper businessman Reid Rasner formally launched a longshot bid for the 2024 GOP Senate nomination this week, seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. John Barrasso. (Photo via Facebook / ReidRasnerWy)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Amid the renewed focus on U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) health, Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-Wyo.) name has been top-of-the-list as a possible replacement should McConnell — the longest-serving senate leader in American history — retire.

But before the 71-year-old dean of Wyoming’s congressional delegation can further ascend the senate ranks, Barrasso must first win reelection to a third term in office in 2024. First appointed to the senate in 2007, the orthopedic surgeon known as “Wyoming’s doctor” has never struggled in any of his previous GOP campaigns — running unopposed in 2008, easily besting Republican opponents in 2012 with 90% of the vote and knocking back a well-funded challenger in 2018 without much fanfare.

This week, however, Casper businessman Reid Rasner formally kicked off a campaign to unseat him, claiming Barrasso, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, has been too liberal on economic and energy policy matters and not sufficiently supportive of former President Donald Trump.

Rasner, 39, has deep roots in the Equality State. Born and raised in Casper, he’s followed a “nontraditional” career path: At 18, Rasner started work running a glass construction company, which he sold in 2009 to pursue a theater degree at Casper College. Eventually, he graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in English language and literature, and worked in real estate before getting into finance. Today, Rasner is CEO of Omnivest Financial, a wealth planning firm.

But apart from a failed Las Vegas city council bid in 2017, Rasner has lived in Wyoming his whole life and has no experience in government. He has sought to frame his political novice status as an asset rather than a liability.

“I can represent Wyoming from the people’s perspective,” Rasner argued. He’s made enacting term limits on elected office a central pillar of his candidacy at a time when the fitness of America’s gerontocratic political establishment is coming under national scrutiny. With many senate leaders serving well into their 80s and beyond, Rasner’s central argument is that it’s time for new blood.

Ahead of his campaign launch on Tuesday, the Wyoming Truth caught up with Rasner for a wide-ranging discussion about his background, his policy positions and why he thinks he’d be a better senator than Barrasso.

Below are excerpts from part one of the conversation, focusing on how Rasner views Wyoming’s current representation on Capitol Hill and what he’d do differently. Part two digs into his positions on key policy and political issues.

What motivated you to run for Senate?

Rasner: The reason I’m running for the United States Senate is to hopefully better represent Wyoming and our core values in Washington.

I don’t think that John Barrasso is doing a good job. He talks a big game, but when it comes to actually taking action, and the actions that he’s taken, his record is less than impressive. And I always say in my videos that ‘weak men create hard times.’ And right now we’re facing some pretty hard times, especially economically — when we look at inflation, when we look at everything happening in this country, a lot of that is due especially in Wyoming to John’s weak leadership. . . . .

John is in a leadership position on the Finance Committee, which has led this nation in the $32 trillion in debt with no ceiling. . . .  And [working in] leadership on the Energy Committee, has led to the green New Deal, Bidenomics and the Inflation Reduction Act which just completely decimated the Wyoming oil and gas and coal industries. I truly believe that John, like many others that we’ve seen in the news recently, are the exact reason we need term limits.

Most folks seeking federal office, especially the U.S. Senate, have some prior political experience. You do not. What makes you think you have the right experience to represent Wyoming in Washington?

Rasner: I have built great businesses in Wyoming. I know Wyoming inside and out. And I can represent Wyoming from the people’s perspective. We need true leadership and strength. And we need someone to get us through these hard times. We’ve got to balance the budget, and we need someone who will stand firm and pass term limit legislation.

We’ve got to get term limits, [which require] a constitutional amendment, and John Barrasso has failed to do that for two decades. We’ve got to balance the budget, and John Barrasso with a leadership position on these committees has failed to do that. And we’ve got to protect Wyoming’s interest in the oil, the gas and coal industries, which is truly the heartbeat of Wyoming. And it’s being underrepresented and given away. So I can better serve in the United States Senate than John Barrasso, absolutely.

Former President Donald Trump has been critical of Senator Barrasso’s close relationship with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. What would your relationship with McConnell and other senate leaders be like should you win?

Rasner: In this position, I will have a great relationship with everyone and all of my colleagues. I represent the people of Wyoming, though, and it will be known that I represent the people of Wyoming and I don’t work for McConnell and I don’t work for [Sen. Majority Leader] Schumer and I don’t work for anyone on Capitol Hill.

John Barrasso, for 20 years, it’s been one step behind and two steps to the left of Mitch McConnell. And it’s time for our representation from Wyoming and in Washington, D.C., to take a leadership stance and stand strong, not only for our country, but for our state.

Serving in Congress is a whole-family affair. What’s your family life like, and what do they think about your decision to pursue this race?

Rasner: I have a very supportive family. We’re a very tight knit family and we’re very small family. Everyone supports me, and everyone’s helping me the most they can. I’m proud of my family. And I’ve got a great brother and sister and mother who support me 100%. We’re making really great things happen here in Wyoming and we’re excited for the year or the year ahead.

Check back for part two, coming soon.

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