1970 United States Senate election in Wyoming

The 1970 United States Senate election in Wyoming took place on November 2, 1970. Incumbent Democratic Senator Gale W. McGee ran for re-election to his third term. In a rematch of the 1964 election, he once again faced Republican John S. Wold, who at this time represented Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives. 1970 proved to be a fairly strong year for Wyoming Republicans; Governor Stanley Hathaway was re-elected in a landslide and the party won all of the other statewide offices. However, McGee proved popular, and managed to increase his margin from 1964, beating Wold by a solid 56-44% margin. As of 2021, this is the last time that a Democratic candidate won a United States Senate election in Wyoming, currently the second-longest winning streak for the Republican Party (tied with Utah), second to Kansas.[1]

1970 United States Senate election in Wyoming

← 1964 November 2, 1970 1976 →
  GaleWMcGeePortrait.jpg John S. Wold.jpg
Nominee Gale W. McGee John S. Wold
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 67,207 53,279
Percentage 55.78% 44.22%

1970 United States Senate election in Wyoming results map by county.svg
County results
McGee:      50–60%      60–70%
Wold:      50–60%      60–70%

U.S. senator before election

Gale W. McGee
Democratic

Elected U.S. Senator

Gale W. McGee
Democratic

Democratic primaryEdit

CandidatesEdit

CampaignEdit

As Senator Gale W. McGee faced a fierce challenge for re-election from Republican Congressman John S. Wold, he faced discontent in the Democratic Party over his continued support for the Vietnam War. In the spring of 1970, State Senator Mike Svilar announced that he could not support McGee for re-election, and noted that he was in conversation with several other anti-war Wyoming Democrats, including attorney John Mackey and mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, about challenging McGee in the Democratic primary.[3] Ernest Wilkerson, a Casper attorney and the 1966 Democratic nominee for Governor, ruled out a challenge to McGee himself, but indicated his support for an anti-war primary challenger and held open the possibility that he could run as an independent candidate.[4] In June, Svilar announced his candidacy, framing the contest as "a choice between war and peace," as he and McGee agreed on virtually all other issues.[2] To support Svilar, a coalition of left-leaning Democrats in the mold of George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, and Ted Kennedy, formed the New Democratic Coalition.[5]

The campaign between McGee and Svilar quickly turned negative, with Svilar repeating his earlier pledge to not support McGee if he won the nomination.[6] McGee threatened legal action against Svilar for claiming that McGee supported staying in Vietnam indefinitely, and Svilar refused to retract his allegation.[7] As the campaign closed out, the state affiliate of the AFL-CIO sent a letter to its members claiming that "Svilar's purpose is not to win, but to stir up anti-McGee feeling that can be used in the general election . . . to spoil the McGee chances,"[8] a charge that Svilar called "completely false and a desperate last-ditch, grasping at straws by Gale McGee's political machine as it sees itself about to collapse."[9] Despite the tenacity of the campaign, however, polling close to the primary election showed the race largely uncompetitive; a Wyoming Stockman Farmer poll taken in early August showed McGee leading Svilar, 39-4%.[10]

Ultimately, McGee defeated Svilar in a landslide, winning 80% of the vote to Svilar's 20%. Attorney Ernest Wilkerson, who had said that he would evaluate the possibility of an independent campaign against McGee depending on Svilar's performance,[11] ultimately declined to do so.[12] However, in the general election, Svilar refused to support McGee over Wold, though he did support the rest of the state Democratic ticket,[13] and Paul Petzoldt, an anti-war opponent of McGee's in the Democratic Party, endorsed Wold over him.[14]

ResultsEdit

Democratic primary[15]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Gale McGee (inc.) 32,956 79.60%
Democratic Mike Svilar 8,448 20.40%
Total votes 41,404 100.00%

Republican PrimaryEdit

CandidatesEdit

ResultsEdit

Republican primary[15]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John S. Wold 40,276 88.03%
Republican Arthur E. Linde 5,479 11.97%
Total votes 45,755 100.00%

General electionEdit

CampaignEdit

The general election campaign between McGee and Wold was fierce, with national Republicans targeting McGee for defeat. A small controversy developed over McGee falsely claiming the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, which prompted a member of the NRA Board of Directors to accuse McGee of "deceiving" voters.[17] However, the Casper Star-Tribune issued a correction to its original reporting, noting that McGee did not claim the endorsement, but instead aloud read a complimentary letter from the NRA at a sportsmen meeting in Rock Springs, which some of the attendees took as an endorsement.[18]

Polling of the race in October suggested a McGee victory, though depending on the source, they disagreed about how sizable; Wold's internal polling put McGee up just 51-48% on October 4,[19] while independent polling from Casper television station KTWO put McGee up 56-44%, projecting an overall turnout of 140,000 votes.[20] By late October, KTWO polling showed McGee widening his lead, beating Wold 57-43%.[21]

In the end, McGee ended up defeating Wold by a wide margin, winning 56% of the vote to Wold's 44%, an increase from the 1964 campaign. McGee won by racking up large margins in the central and southern ancestrally Democratic counties of the state, through which the Union Pacific line ran, while Wold performed better in the more reliably Republican regions in the far north, east, and west.

ResultsEdit

1964 United States Senate election in Wyoming[15]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Gale W. McGee (inc.) 67,207 55.78% +1.79%
Republican John S. Wold 53,279 44.22% -1.79%
Majority 13,928 11.56% +3.58%
Turnout 120,486
Democratic hold

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (March 11, 2021). "Democrats and Republicans Have Record US Senate Winning Streaks in Two-Dozen States". Smart POlitics. University of Minnesota. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Svilar Will Challenge McGee for Nomination". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. June 8, 1970. p. 1.
  3. ^ "Svilar Says McGee Can Be Beaten on War Issue". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. May 21, 1970. p. 1.
  4. ^ "Svilar, Roncalio May Seek Dem Nominations". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. June 5, 1970. p. 1.
  5. ^ "Svilar Launches First Anti-War Campaign". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. August 6, 1970. p. 10.
  6. ^ "Svilar Says He Refuses to Play 'Political Games'". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. May 21, 1970. p. 22.
  7. ^ "Svilar Says He Won't Retract His Statement". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. August 9, 1970. p. 2.
  8. ^ "Union Secretary Says Svilar Is Decoy". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. August 13, 1970. p. 1.
  9. ^ "Svilar Calls It 'False, Desperate'". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. August 13, 1970. p. 1.
  10. ^ "Rural Voters Are Strong for Wold In Stockman Poll". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. August 7, 1970. p. 5.
  11. ^ "Wilkerson to Decide Soon". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. August 21, 1970. p. 1.
  12. ^ "The Wilkerson Withdrawal". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. August 29, 1970. p. 4.
  13. ^ "Anselmi Avers State Payroll Is 'Padded'". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. September 17, 1970. p. 8.
  14. ^ "Petzoldt Joins Wold's Forces". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. September 12, 1970. p. 1.
  15. ^ a b c Thomson, Thyra (1971). 1971 Wyoming Official Directory and 1970 Election Returns. pp. 87–90.
  16. ^ "Roberts First to File Formally". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. May 21, 1970. p. 1.
  17. ^ "Stone Says McGee 'Deceives' Public on NRA Endorsement". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. October 10, 1970. p. 5.
  18. ^ "Rifle Association Commended McGee On .22 Ammo Stand". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. October 11, 1970. p. 22.
  19. ^ McCall, Jr., Richard L. (October 4, 1970). "Democrats Dispute Wold Poll Results". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. p. 1.
  20. ^ "Poll Shows McGee Leading". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. October 6, 1970. p. 1.
  21. ^ "McGee Widens Gap in Later Postcard Poll". Casper Star-Tribune. Casper, Wyo. October 27, 2020. p. 1.