Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan (D) 1987-95
Mike Sullivan was an unlikely choice to become Governor of Wyoming in 1986. A Democrat in a heavily Republican state he faced an adversary whose very name, Simpson, would drive away even the most courageous of Cowboys. It was an uphill fight from the start and he recalled how hectic the schedule became, as the polls began to tip in his favor.
“I remember getting on a plane in Thermopolis. We had a friend of our daughter’s in college who was working with us for a couple of months. As we got off the plane, he handed me a note and I opened it up and it said ‘Your name is Mike Sullivan. It’s August such-and-such. You’re leaving Thermopolis and you’re a candidate for governor and don’t you forget it.’ Things were almost that bad, it was so intense. You needed somebody around you to remind you of what you were doing.”
He often reminded himself that Wyoming is just a big town with very long streets, but even in a state with less than half a million people, Sullivan discovered he was an unknown commodity.
“I never wanted to give up. I don’t think it ever got to that point. But one particular time, I remember, during the primary, going to Buffalo, it was probably one of the first times out. And I didn’t have staff, I didn’t have anything. I had some cards. I was trying to introduce myself to people. And I was at the Busy Bee Café and I introduced myself to the owners, and there were people sitting all around, old farmers. And I didn’t have any ads out, any billboards up. So it was a clearly cold call when I would introduce myself to someone. And I thought ‘This is really hard and it’s not likely to generate any results, either.’ But you got encouragement from people who knew you were running who would say hello - that kept you going. Some of the most difficult times are when you’re by yourself with nothing to do. And you’d say ‘I’ve got to be doing something. There’s got to be somebody out there I can talk to.’ And yet, nobody’s told you what you can do, so you feel like you’re not doing anything. And that’s part of a problem with a campaign. You’re always supposed to be doing something. You’re not supposed to be standing still. There’s a lot of loneliness associated with it.”
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