307 Politics: ‘No, Mark’s fine’ — Why Gordon’s past donations may not matter.

Mark and Jennie Gordon
Mark Gordon and his wife Jennie have donated nearly $80,000 to Republican candidates, but a handful of contributions to Democrats dating back to the 1990s has raised some eyebrows.

Happy Monday! Welcome to all you 307 Politicsers. Is that the right term? Here’s a fun story about demonyms, the word for what you call people from a certain place, or affiliated with a certain group. When I was covering local government from the Star-Tribune, the City of Casper — home of Casperites — hired a new city manager from Gillette. What word, I wondered, should I use to refer to people from that city. A call to city hall was little help, with the friendly woman who answered the phone suggesting “Gillette resident,” which wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I ended up going with “Gilletter,” which my editor ended up vetoing. I checked again last week with the Campbell County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which didn’t have an answer either. If any readers know the right demonym please let me know at arno.rosenfeld@trib.com. In the meantime, feel free to use my creation.

Mark Gordon’s political contributions

According to most of the folks I spoke with for Sunday’s story on the Wyoming governor’s race, State Treasurer Mark Gordon leads the field. That makes sense insofar as he is the only statewide elected official in the race and generally respected and popular around the state. But party primaries are notoriously partisan affairs. Not only do only Republicans vote in the GOP primaries, but it’s usually the most committed, conservative voters who turn out.

Some states that are dominated by a single party, like California and its Democratic supermajority, use a so-called “top two” primary system where candidates from both parties appear on the primary ballot and two advance to the general election. Often that means two Democrats run against each other in the general election, but proponents say that makes far more sense than a Democrat who received 100,000 votes in the primary facing a Republican who received 5,000.

But Wyoming hasn’t gone that route and there are reasons to think it won’t (the system weakens party control, among other things). So we’re left with primaries dominated by party stalwarts and Gordon has not always been faithful to the party line. His donations to Democrats, including Gary Trauner in a Wyoming U.S. House seat and John Kerry for president, became an issue in his own House race against Cynthia Lummis 10 years ago.

Let’s clear up a couple of things up front. Gordon is, obviously, a Republican. He’s also donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and causes — far more than he has to Democrats. That said, it seemed counterintuitive that anyone who had donated to John Kerry would not be significantly handicapped in a statewide Wyoming race.

A PDF of Gordon’s past political contributions since the 1990s — made to both Republicans and Democrats — is apparently circulating in some GOP circles, but the people I spoke with for Sunday’s article were split on whether or not the donations to Democrats would pose a problem for Gordon.

“In the primary in Wyoming you’re dealing with a very solid conservative Republican base and I’m sure some of this stuff will come…

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