(Riverton, Wyo.) – U. S. Senator Mike Enzi rolled into Riverton Thursday for a debate at Wyoming PBS but warmed up for the event with an ice cream social, at the Central Wyoming College Intertribal Center. Greeting well wishers and college students, Enzi also pressed the flesh with local politicians.
Before the debate, Enzi defended his appearance at a Big Horn Basin Tea Party event that featured guest speaker Ted Nugent, an avowed right wing radical. Enzi’s appearance at the event, with Junior U.S. Senator John Barrasso along with the campaign manager for Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis, and others, all Republicans, drew howls of protest from Wyoming Democrats and a sharp rebuke from Wyoming Senate District #25 candidate, Democrat Sergio Maldonado. “The recent comments from Ted Nugent, an avowed racist and an individual who lacks a soul, is unfortunate. As a member of the Northern Arapaho tribe and candidate for Senate District 25 representing all the citizens I denounce his lunatic antics and philosophy. Any individual with a modicum of integrity and self worth will distance themselves from him. Sadly, too many will jump on the bandwagon of racism simply to be seen and heard, hopefully the voters will remember their poor judgment at election time,” Maldonado said after the picnic.
Enzi, however, said he didn’t attend the event to see or hear Nugent. “I’ve been going to that picnic for years, it’s a chance to meet and shake hands with folks. They’ve had other radical speakers there, too, but that’s not why I was there.” The senator also noted that he attended the first ever Tea Party event when a mobile caravan came through Gillette years ago. “I heard about it and wanted to see what it was all about, so I attended. I think I was the most liberal person there,” he laughed.
This story was updated to note that the campaign manager for Cynthia Lummis attended the event, not the congresswoman.