3 vie for Larsonís regional Senate post
Primary challenge on GOP side for district 17.
By Cara Rank, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
July 14, 2010
For the past 16 years, Teton County voters have sent Jackson resident Grant Larson to the state Senate.
This year, with Larson retiring, three valley men are vying to take his place. Only the Republican primary election will be contested, as only one Democrat is running.
On Aug. 17, voters will determine whether Republicans Leland Christensen or Samuel Harrell will face Democrat Tom Frisbie in the November general election for Larson’s seat in Senate District 17, which covers part of Teton and Fremont counties.
Christensen, 51, said he wants to carry on Larson’s legacy of public service. Top issues for him include creation of jobs, fiscal responsibility and protecting the state’s scenic lands.
“For this district and for our community, jobs are right there at the top,” Christensen said.
Job creation and retention is integral to turning the economy around, he said.
“I believe that in order for job growth to be sustainable that small business growth must fuel overall economic and job growth,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state will continue to face deeper budget cuts with declining revenues from the oil and gas industry, Christensen said.
The government must “live within its means,” he said.
“We need to make the hard choices to bring our state government spending in line with declining energy revenues and the current lower revenue rates that this current economy is providing,” he said.
Finally, Christensen said, he wants to work to protect ranchlands, open spaces and other “unique sites and special places” for tourism and enjoyment.
“Locally, I think we’ve been doing a pretty fair job at that,” he said. “A lot of credit goes back to the large landowners and ranchers really sticking with ranching.”
At that state level, Christensen said he would work to make sure ranchers can continue with that tradition instead of being forced to sell off land. His experience as a county commissioner can benefit people statewide, he said.
His record shows a willingness and ability to communicate with residents, he said.
“I put in the time to reach out and be available and respond to questions, ideas and concerns,” he said.
Christensen has been a Teton County resident for 40 years. He has been married to his wife, Anita, for 29 years and worked for the Teton County Sheriff’s office before he was elected in 2004 to the Teton County Board of Commissioners.
Reached by phone, Harrell said he would respond to questions via e-mail. He wrote that his top issues include being a fiscal conservative, managing a balance between maintaining environmental interests and promoting commercial investments and protecting individuals’ legal, Constitutional rights.
Harrell, 79, has 30 years of experience as chief executive officer of a private international grain processing, trading and marketing company with European joint ventures. He’s lived in the valley full time for a decade.
Frisbie, 62, said his campaign likely will ramp up after August. Now, he has two main focuses, health care and education, but will develop positions on other issues as the campaign season progresses.
His main concern, in particular, is how the state will deal with health care reform.
With 30 years in the insurance industry, Frisbie said he understands both sides of the health care debate.
“When I was in the insurance business, I knew the issues were coming down the road,” he said.
Another area of interest is education spending and standardized testing, he said.
“Forty-five percent of our expenditures in the state go to education,” he said.
Frisbie moved to Jackson in 1977 as an employee of Jackson State Bank’s insurance department. He later purchased that insurance business and operated it under the name of T.J. Frisbie Agency, serving clients in Teton County and western Fremont County. He later sold that business. He and his wife, Becky, also are partners in Aspens Properties, which leases space to health-related and wellness-related businesses.