Foster Friess, the wealthy GOP donor from Wyoming, said Tuesday that he would be willing to give up his cushy lifestyle to bring political civility to the Senate.
Friess, a 77-year-old businessman and philanthropist, confirmed in an email exchange that he is mulling a challenge to John Barrasso of Wyoming, even though he described the fourth-ranking Senate Republican as "an extremely civil guy and one of my heroes." Indeed, Barrasso and Friess are described by knowledgable GOP insiders as having a warm relationship and being in agreement on key issues, leaving some befuddled as to why Friess might consider ousting the incumbent.
"I'd be willing to contemplate giving up a very pleasant lifestyle in order to try to move the divisiveness back to a greater sense of civility. John Barrasso is an extremely civil guy and one of my heroes. As Chairman of the [Republican National Committee's] Platform Committee he created perhaps one of the greatest God-fearing platforms in history," Friess said in an email exchange with the Washington Examiner.
Friess' interest in the race, a product of a recruiting effort by Steve Bannon, President Trump's former White House chief strategist, was first reported by the Washington Post. Bannon is trying to recruit challengers to Republican incumbents who are safe in the general election but might be susceptible to ouster in a primary. He claims Trump needs more loyal soldiers, although Barrasso votes with the president nearly 100 percent of the time, according to some analyses.
Barrasso, 65, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said last week that he is running for re-election, and that he was prepared for any intraparty fights that might come his way.
"The filing deadline isn't until next May; I'll file at that time. I'm not being coy about it," Barrasso told the Washington Examiner in an interview. "I go home every weekend, travel the state, I was in four communities this past weekend, I'll be home again this coming weekend and will continue to visit with people all around the state of Wyoming and they'll have a chance to decide — elections are about the future, not the past, and I'm going to continue to listen to the folks at home."
Friess did not directly address the question about whether he would be willing to run in a Republican primary in 2018 if Barrasso was also a candidate, as the senator said he would be. In his comments, the socially conservative minded Republican, who backed former Sen. Rick Santorum's presidential bid, focused on political and racial reconciliation.
"Some of my consideration for contemplating a possible run would be the ability to bring Democrats and Republicans together," Friess continued. "As a seventeen year old I confronted motel owners in my home town as to why they didn't accept blacks and Jews. Also as president of my fraternity I orchestrated the admittance of our first Jewish fraternity brother. Democrats would like many of my positions and my attempts to be civil in our discussions. I would love to turn America into a Philippians 4:8 sort of country."