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Arizona man joins Wyoming congressional race to protest no-show by Democrats

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - An openly gay former college professor who lives in Arizona said on Friday he is running as the Democratic candidate for the lone U.S. House of Representatives seat in Wyoming to protest the absence of other Democrats seeking the office in the conservative state.

    Richard Grayson, 63, said the fact he is a liberal activist who strongly supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights makes him a long-shot to win a general election contest against incumbent Republican Cynthia Lummis, who first won the seat in 2008.

    "My winning is not within the realm of possibility, but I would rather see a hopeless campaign by a Democrat than none at all," Grayson said.

    He said it would be too dispiriting to watch Lummis or her Republican primary opponent Jason Senteney, a former U.S. Marine who calls himself a "blue-collar conservative," run unopposed in November.

    Grayson has previously made unsuccessful congressional bids in Florida and Arizona after Democratic candidates failed to materialize. "It’s a sad state of affairs when someone like me has to run for office because no one else will," he said.

The U.S. Constitution requires candidates for the House to be an inhabitant of the state in which he is seeking office at the time of the election. Grayson said he intends to rent a room or an apartment in Wyoming before the general election on Nov. 4.

The Wyoming Democratic Party said it failed to find a viable challenger to the Republican nominee this year, but is cultivating 2016 candidates.

    "There are major political hurdles in Wyoming that almost make it ‘act of God’ territory for a Democrat to win," said the Wyoming Democratic Party's executive director, Robin Van Ausdall.

    It has been nearly three decades since a Democrat was elected to the U.S. House in Wyoming. "Our potential candidates are working people who can’t afford to take off the time needed for a serious campaign," said Van Ausdall.

    Senteney, who challenges Lummis in an Aug. 19 primary, said Grayson’s chances are slim because "different states have different mindsets and him being from Arizona means he’s not in touch with Wyoming." Lummis did not respond to requests for comment.

Grayson is one of two Democrats from outside Wyoming seeking election to Congress in the Cowboy State. William Bryk of New York is vying for the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Will Dunham)

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