Is Wyoming in good shape? Senate candidates disagree
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Sen. John Barrasso and opponent Gary Trauner disagreed in a debate Thursday on everything from health care to tax cuts, and even whether Wyoming’s economy is in good shape.
Optimism is high, people are confident, businesses are hiring, workers are making more money and keeping more of their earnings, and things are looking up in Wyoming, Barrasso said.
“We must be traveling around in different states,” Trauner said. “People are sort of cautiously thinking that things might be getting better. But for the average worker, nothing’s changed.”
Recent federal income tax cuts are putting money in taxpayers’ pockets and boosting the economy, Barrasso said.
Average wages since the tax cuts have gone down, not up, while the tax cuts threaten to add trillions to the national debt, Trauner said.
The debate in Sheridan was the only one scheduled between them this election season.
Barrasso is a Republican orthopedic surgeon from Casper seeking a second full term. Gov. Dave Freudenthal appointed Barrasso to the job in 2007 following the death of Sen. Craig Thomas.
Trauner is a Democratic businessman from Jackson who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. House in 2006 and 2008. The positions he has held since include chief operating officer of St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Jackson.
The candidates agreed that the tenor and tone of national politics needs to improve, but they didn’t shy away from sparring over issues including drug costs.
Barrasso said he co-sponsored a bill just signed by President Donald Trump to help consumers be more knowledgeable about prescription drug costs, including those of drugs advertised on television.
Trauner called for helping to get generic drugs into the marketplace and for Medicare to be able to negotiate for drug prices with big pharmaceutical companies.
“When you’ve taken money from 34 big pharma PACs this election cycle, you’re not going to try to lower drug costs for seniors or anybody else,” Trauner said, referring to donations to Barrasso.
Trauner has a record of criticizing Medicare Part D — which provides prescription drug coverage — but many seniors would disagree, Barrasso said.
“People contribute to campaigns, campaigns are very expensive. I will tell you, I vote the Constitution, I vote my conscience, I vote my constituents, and that’s always the way it’s been for me,” Barrasso said.
Trump’s record after almost two years in office closed out the debate.
“My opponent will tell you he’s with the president, but let me tell you what the president actually ran on. He ran on lower drug prices, a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, better health care for everyone, the wealthy paying their fair share, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and draining the swamp including term limits. I’m for every single one of those things,” Trauner said, adding that Barrasso doesn’t support any of them.
Trauner led protests in Wyoming against Trump, Barrasso said.
“And he’s actually been to New York with the hedge fund managers, taking money from them,” Barrasso said.
Wyoming and the country are better off with Trump in office, Barrasso said.
Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver