CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on Tuesday criticized his Republican primary opponent, Thomas Bleming, following news reports that Bleming posted pro-Nazi material online.
In recent weeks, Bleming, a former soldier of fortune from Lusk, posted numerous comments and videos on his Facebook profile degrading Jews, calling the Holocaust the "hoax-o-caust," and appearing to favor Adolf Hitler and other prominent Nazis.
"I think that some of the things that I read, the people in Wyoming are going to find disturbing and wrong," Barrasso said in response to a reporter's question following a State Capitol news conference formally announcing his re-election campaign.
Bleming has denied that he's anti-Semitic, though he has said that as a youth he held "extreme right-wing" views that were "very close" to fascism and Nazism.
The Bleming question aside, Barrasso tried to strike a positive message during his official re-election announcement Tuesday.
Speaking in the Capitol Rotunda before a large crowd that included his wife, Bobbi, Senate colleague Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and nearly every Wyoming statewide official, Barrasso pledged to continue to fight for smaller government, push to lower the $14 trillion federal debt and work to overturn President Barack Obama's federal health care law.
Barrasso said in talking with Wyoming residents about Washington, he's heard a common theme: Leave us alone.
"That's what I'm hearing all around the place; people want government to be smaller, not larger; taxes to be lower, not higher," Barrasso said. "People want real accountability."
An orthopedic surgeon from Casper, Barrasso is seeking his first full term in office. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2007 by then-Gov. Dave Freudenthal after U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas died in office. Barrasso was then elected easily in 2008 to fill out the rest of Thomas' term.
During his time in office, Barrasso has quickly risen to become the fourth-highest-ranking Senate Republican. He's also been a prominent figure in the health care reform debate and a leading critic of President Obama and congressional Democrats.
The only other senate candidate besides Bleming to enter the race so far is perennial office-seeker Al Hamburg, a retired painter from Torrington who's running as a Democrat.
Though so far he's the odds-on favorite to win, Barrasso said he plans to campaign around the state during the next few months.
"Today I filed, which is like putting in an application for the job," he said. "And I'm going to be traveling around the state interviewing with people - asking them for their help and their support and their vote, and listening to what folks have to say."