Short’s Big Surprise

Robert Short

Photo by Mike Moore


Robert Short jokes around with family friend Jackson Gilbert after his public announcement to run for US Senate at the Higgins Hotel Feb 17.

Matt Adelman

     Converse County Commissioner Robert Short ended months of whispered rumors Monday afternoon when he formally announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Mike Enzi.

Calling himself an Al Simpson-style centrist who wants to work to better Wyoming, the two-term Republican commissioner held a kick-off rally Monday at Glenrock’s Higgins Hotel, which he and his wife Janella own. The popular businessman grew up in Glenrock but lives in Douglas now, even though the couple’s six companies are based in Glenrock, employ more than 150 people and have operations around the country.

All GOP candidates will face off in the August primary election, and the winner there will face challengers from other political parties, primarily the Democratic nominee, in the November general election.

While his announcement may have caught some political observers off-guard, Short’s plans to run for a statewide office have been rumored for some time as he has worked to build a campaign structure in the 23 counties in the Cowboy State. Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Cheyenne has announced for the GOP nomination (as have Mark Armstrong, Joshua Wheeler and Patrick Dotson), although Jackson billionaire Foster Friess is holding “listening tours” around the state to gauge support should he make a bid for the Senate seat. Friess, a staunch conservative who backed President Donald Trump, used his wealth to run  for Wyoming governor in 2018, barely losing to current Gov. Mark Gordon in the Republican primary. Enzi is not running for re-election.

For his part, Short is no pauper. The Short companies have an estimated value around $35 million, placing the couple in line with Lummis’ estimated wealth a few years ago when she was still in the U.S. House.

“I don’t have any intention  of buying the seat,” he vowed, while conceding the Republican primary race will cost north of $1.5 million. “I believe the people of Wyoming want someone to earn a seat (in the Senate). I don’t believe you can buy that.”

As far as name recognition among rank-and-file Republican voters, the 6”5” Short said he plans to overcome that with “belly to belly” tours in every county and every municipality in the state. He insisted he will listen to what the people want not so he can respond to them but so he can understand their concerns and needs and represent those desires in D.C.

Conceding he may be facing an uphill battle against Lummis’ statewide name recognition and Friess’ wealth, the 57-year-old Short insisted that his is a true Wyomingite story that will resonate with voters, especially workers in the state.  He grew up poor in the small Converse County community, attended Glenrock High School and worked on the Duncan Ranch for $1 an hour to “buy my own shoes, because my parents couldn’t afford to do that,” he said during an interview prior to the announcement.

After graduating in 1978 from GHS, he studied engineering and computer science in Colorado, where he spent the next 20 years in energy, technology and computer science fields before returning to Wyoming to raise his family and start companies which would turn into the Short family’s diverse holdings: Short Powerline Service, TDS Construction, Drone King UAS, S3 Power, SPS Electric and the Higgins Hotel/Paisley restaurant.

Officially, Janella “owns 100%” of all those companies, with Robert listed as CEO of most. He intends to resign from that post if elected.

With that energy and technology background, he explained, he understands the interdependence of oil, gas, coal, uranium and other energy sources to our state and national economies and to national security. He acknowledged some of those sources have by-products which are not environmentally desirable, but added some of that is driven by “extreme forces that are somewhat disconnected to reality.”

Technology can overcome many of those “less than desirable impacts” and must be explored and utilized, he said, citing carbon sequestration from coal-burning power plants coupled with reuse of the CO2 in aging old fields which would not require drilling new holes.

“Oil plays a fundamental role in a vast majority of our lives,” above and beyond transportation needs, Short said during the pre-announcement interview, adding that without it, nearly all aspects of current life would be impacted severely.

While energy and electrical service work have occupied much of his business life, Short is a self-described food connoisseur and remains a world traveler who has a passion for connecting with people of all ages and walks of life.

To that end, he said, he intends to listen to people from all ends of the spectrum in Wyoming to actually hear their concerns. Reaching potential young voters means actually hearing what they are worried about because they will be future leaders and remaining apathetic means the changes they want to see will have a less chance of happening.

On the other end of the spectrum, seniors are often “treated like yesterday’s Snickers wrapper” rather than being sought out for their wisdom and knowledge, Short said. 

For both, his campaign will emphasize that “their voices matter” as much as all others.

He also declined to say how long he would stay in office should he get elected. Federal offices do not have term limits as do Wyoming statewide positions. Instead, Short said, Wyoming voters should decide that at the polls and a leader’s role should be paving the road for his successor.

“That’s what leadership does. It doesn’t grasp at straws to maintain power.”

Following the busy Monday preparing for the announcement, Short spent Tuesday morning back in his county commissioner’s chair at the courthouse in Douglas. Half-way through his second term, the current chairman vowed to not let his duties for the people of Converse County suffer during his campaign.

“I will not neglect my duties to handle this,” he said, before joking that luckily he has boundless energy to multi-task.


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