CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Aaron Appelhans is among a rare few in Wyoming: A Democrat who won in Tuesday’s midterm election in this ever-redder state.
After being appointed as Wyoming’s first Black sheriff almost a year ago, he is now the state’s first elected Black sheriff. He beat a 20-year Republican police veteran with 52% of the vote.
"Albany County's kind of purple politically, so I was able to run on my record, the things that I've done," Appelhans said Thursday.
Yet across Wyoming, Democrats suffered another dismal election even as their party defied expectations and did reasonably well nationwide.
Democrats didn't even field candidates for three of Wyoming's six statewide races, those for secretary of state, state treasurer and state auditor. They got just 25%, 17% and 23% in the other three, the contests for U.S. House, governor and superintendent of public instruction, respectively.
The party will keep its two seats in the 31-member state Senate. But Democrats lost two of their seven seats in the 62-member state House, pushing their share of the Legislature under 8%.
Wyoming had a centrist Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, from 2003-2011. But in a state that cherishes gun ownership, is often suspicious of LGBTQ+ advocacy and stands up for its all-important coal mining industry amid efforts to limit climate change, the party has been on the decline here since the 1990s.
“We’ve had election cycle after election cycle now, dating back to 1994, when Republicans have been very effective at characterizing any Wyoming Democrat as representing the national party," University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King said. “Whether they do doesn’t really matter. In these low-information races, the charge sticks, and Democrats then find themselves at a...