Raymond Breedlove Hunkins, known as Ray Hunkins (born March 19, 1939), is lawyer and rancher who was the Republican nominee for governor of Wyoming in the general election held on November 7, 2006. Known for his fiscal and social conservatism, Hunkins resides in Wheatland, a small town in his adopted Platte County north of the capital city of Cheyenne.
Wyoming as "a state of mind, an endless reservoir of qualities that made this nation great. Self-reliance and skepticism toward big, centralized government are as much a part of Wyoming as our majestic mountains and open spaces. ... - Ray Hunkins (2006)
The oldest of three children, Hunkins was born of Cornish descent in Culver City near Los Angeles California, to Charles Franklin Hunkins (1918-2008) and the former Louise Breedlove (1915-1997). His father graduated from the University of California with a degree in petroleum engineering. He was a construction engineer in California for his father-in-law until he entered the United States Army during World War II, with two years service in the Aleutian Islands. The Hunkinses thereafter moved to Billings, Montana, where Charles took an engineering job with the oil development department of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He led a spin-off company, Milestone Development, of which he became senior vice president. He retired in 1983. Louise Hunkins, a native of Beverly Hills, California, suffered from multiple sclerosis; her husband tended to her personally in her later years. Charles Hunkins later died of Alzheimer's disease. The senior Hunkinses are interred at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Billings.
Ray Hunkins was reared on a ranch near Billings in Yellowstone County, Montana, and graduated from Billings Senior High School, where he played football and engaged in track and field. For one semester, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and for two years the University of Montana at Missoula, at which he studied political science and economics. He graduated in January 1967 from the University of Wyoming and in 1968 from the University of Wyoming College of Law, both institutions in Laramie. He completed his bachelor's degree while also enrolled in law school.
A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Hunkins is a former law enforcement officer and a graduate of the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas in Converse County, Wyoming, at which he was thereafter a visiting instructor for fifteen years. His wife, the former Debby McBride (born c. 1946) of Buffalo in Johnson County, Wyoming, a former teacher, is also a UW graduate. The Hunkinses have three children, Amanda, a Cheyenne lawyer, who is married to a school principal; Blake McBride Hunkins, a principal in Laramie, and Ashley Hunkins, a nurse employed in Casper, Wyoming, by the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. His siblings are Ronald Hunkins, who is married to the former Bonnie Negaard, and Kathryn Dobbels (born c. 1948), who lresides with her husband, Mark, in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.
Hunkins has long been involved in the affairs of his alma mater as a member of the board of directors of the University of Wyoming Foundation and the American Heritage Center, the depository of manuscripts, rare books, and university archives. He is a former counsel to the UW trustees. In 1973, he was elected president of the UW Alumni Association. He is a member of the advisory board of the University of Wyoming College of Law and formerly served as well on the advisory board for the College of Agriculture. In the fall of 2005, Hunkins was named a UW "Distinguished Alumnus".
In 2013, Hunkins questioned policies of UW president Robert Sternberg which led to the dismissal or resignation of eight key administrators of the university or the law school. "I think there’s chaos in the university," Hunkins said. Sternberg left the UW presidency after five months at the helm.
Hunkins has been affiliated with the law firms Jones, Jones, Vines & Hunkins of Wheatland and Newton Hunkins in Cheyenne. He holds agricultural and livestock interests in Albany and Platte counties. He is active in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. In 2003, the University of Wyoming Cowboy Joe Club presented awards to Ray and Debby Hunkins of the Thunderhead Ranch west of Wheatland for "the heaviest steer" in the state.
In 2012, Hunkins' Thunderhead Ranch, which he had purchased in 1979, was surrounded on three sides by a monster fire. Hunkins described conditions as the driest that he had seen since he obtained the ranch and indeed for the then seventy-three years in which he had lived in the American West. Hunkins explained:
The creeks and springs are drying up. There is no grass and lots of dead and drought- stressed timber. We are all waiting for a spark to set this whole mountain range — from Cheyenne to Casper — ablaze. There have already been two project fires, one just north of us and another west of Glenrock (in Converse County) that is burning as I write this. There will be more to come. Our son [Blake Hunkins] works for the U.S. Forest Service (Black Hills National Forest) in the summer on their fire crew. He [was] sent to the High Park fire west of Fort Collins [which began from a lightning strike].The cattle trucks are streaming out of eastern Wyoming filled with cattle. Thank goodness the prices have held pretty good, but the extreme drought has disrupted a lot of operations. Had an old Indian firefighter friend of mine tell me that it is going to start raining in this country on July 9. Bring on that hope and change!”
Hunkins is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the West, Who's Who in American Law, and Best Lawyers in America. He is vice chairman of the board of directors of BH, Inc., a manufacturing firm based in Weatland. He is a past president of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association.
Hunkins is a former special assistant state attorney general, a former member of the Governor's Commission on Criminal Administration, and a past member of the Wyoming State Aeronautical Commission.
In 2000, Hunkins was the appointed attorney when a state judge, Nicholas Kalokathis, declared the Wyoming funding formula for school construction and maintenance projects is unconstitutional because the system gave priority to wealthier school districts. The case dragged on for years.
Hunkins first sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2002 but was defeated in the primary by Eli Bebout, a former Democrat who subsequently won election to the Wyoming State Senate. At the time, Bebout was the former Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives. He represented Riverton and Fremont County in central Wyoming. Bebout secured the backing of Moderate Republican former U. S. Senator Alan Simpson of Cody, who issued harsh attacks on Hunkins during the campaign over questionable but minor legal infractions years earlier. Simpson was known for his maxim: "Politics is a contact sport." Wyoming voters repudiated the mudslinging between the Bebout and Hunkins factions and turned instead in November to the Democrat, Dave Freudenthal, a former United States Attorney.
Through advertising, Simpson accused Hunkins and a third candidate, journalist Bill Sniffin of Lander, of having lied about Bebout's record on nuclear waste dumping and water rights: "These gents running for governor - I mean Ray Hunkins and Bill Sniffin - wouldn't seem to know the truth if it bit 'em on the fanny." Simpson later apologized to Hunkins.
Hunkins’ appeal in the primary was directed towards the "little guy"; Bebout emphasized his connections within Republican circles. One Bebout advertisement stressed, "Forty nine members of the state legislature endorse Eli Bebout for Governor."
With his name identification and party connections, Bebout polled 44,417 votes (49 percent), a plurality, Hunkins' 25,363 (28 percent). Three other candidates, including Bill Sniffin, John H. Self of Sheridan, and State Representative Stephen Watt of Rock Springs, held the remaining 23 percent of the ballots cast. A majority is not required for nominations in Wyoming. Hunkins endorsed Bebout in the general election. Freudenthal narrowly defeated Bebout in the general election. Had all 3,924 voters who backed Dave Dawson, the Libertarian Party candidate, instead supported Bebout, the Republican would have won statewide by 135 votes.
In 2006, Hunkins defeated another 2002 candidate, John Self, in the Republican gubernatorial primary, 51,803 (74.6 percent) to 17,598 (25.4 percent). In the unsuccessful 2006 general election campaign to unseat Freudenthal, Hunkins referred to Wyoming as "a state of mind, an endless reservoir of qualities that made this nation great. Self-reliance and skepticism toward big, centralized government are as much a part of Wyoming as our majestic mountains and open spaces. I'm inspired by the independent spirit of Wyoming. Protecting that spirit will be my top priority as governor." Hunkins launched his campaign with a 23-county tour to meet with voters. Cynthia Lummis, the Wyoming state treasurer and later the state's at-large member of the United States House of Representatives was the Hunkins campaign chairman. Former Senators Cliff Hansen and Alan Simpson, who had attacked Hunkins in 2002 before apologizing, were named campaign co-chairmen. Lummis called Hunkins "the real deal. He won't speak as a Republican but govern as a liberal. Ray is a real Republican in thought, in spirit, and in action."
The Roman Catholic Hunkins ran as a staunchly pro-life candidate who stressed the absolute, inherent value of life from conception to natural death. He called for a minimum 25-year sentence to anyone convicted of battery on a pregnant woman that causes the death of the child that she is carrying. Hunkins called for those convicted of a sexual offense with a child to face a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty-five years to life. Freudenthal questioned why Hunkins did not testify in 2006 before two legislative committees considering such laws regarding sexual offenders. Prior to Obergefell v. Hodges, which nationalized same-sex marriages in 2015, Hunkins endorsed another state proposal to permit Wyoming not to recognize such unions performed in other states or nations.
Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2006 six years before he was his party's presidential nominee against Barack H. Obama, endorsed Hunkins, whom he called "a fresh alternative for governor. His commitment to business development, limited government, and a strong education system are why he will be successful once elected."
Freudenthal took office in 2003 amid a surge in energy prices, particularly natural gas, which stimulated the Wyoming economy. In a pre-election story, The New York Times, noted that Hunkins faced the difficult challenge that nearly anyone in Wyoming then seeking employment during the Freudenthal administraton could find a job. Even environmentalists displeased with the rapid growth swung to Freudenthal too because he called for the balancing of economic growth and environmental protections. Hunkins called himself "fiscally, socially and philosophically conservative." He proposed rolling back property taxes and raising energy taxes to make up for lost revenues.
Hunkins told a gathering in Pinedale that he was "not running for governor because I'm interested in a political career. I'm running for governor to go down to Cheyenne and get some things done for this state before I go home to my ranch to play with my grandkids. I'm not interested in running for governor so I can go on to Washington later on down the road. ... I'm running as a REAL Republican, and that means keeping our government small and right next door."
When Freudenthal obtained the backing of the National Rifle Association and fought to classify wolves as predators which can be shot on sight in many areas, Hunkins accused his rival of having "clothed himself in Republican garb in order to gain re-election in an overwhelming Republican state. Let's not be fooled, though ..."
Hunkins actually led Freudenthal in fundraising toward the end of the campaign, with $78,000 to Freudenthal's $61,000. Overall, however, Freuudenthal raised $644,000 to Hunkins' $274,000. Hunkins called his opponent "awash in special-interest money" from organized labor and industry.
Freudenthal handily prevailed in his quest for a second term, 135,516 (70 percent) to Hunkins' 58,100 (30 percent). Hunkins polled only 6,297 more votes in the general election than he had in his primary. Freudenthal attributed his large victory to his "positive campaign" to convince voters that he deserved a second term in office. Hunkins called his rival "one of the most skilled politicians in the Rocky Mountain West."
2007 Senate contest
In 2007, Hunkins unsuccessfully sought appointment for the U. S. Senate seat created by the death of Republican Craig Thomas of Casper. Hunkins said that were he selected he would hold the position only on an interim basis and would serve "with fidelity to Wyoming conservative values" until voters could select a candidate in the subsequent special election in 2008, in which Hunkins would not be listed on the ballot. Among numerous applicants, Hunkins was not recommended by the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee. Under Wyoming law Governor Freudenthal was required to choose a successor of the same party affiliation as Senator Thomas. Freudenthal hence had to chose another Republican, not one of his own Democrats, and he settled on the physician John Barrasso of Casper, who still holds the seat.
Still involved in politics, Hunkins supported U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Cruz swept the Wyoming state convention but continued to trail Donald Trump of New York City, the eventual winner in the delegate count.
- wyomingnews. com/articles/2007/06/15/local_news_updates/18local_06-15-07. txt Brief bios of candidates for the open U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. wyomingnews.com (June 15, 2007). Retrieved on April 19, 2016.
- About Ray Hunkins. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved on April 19, 2016.
- Hunkins Family Crest, Coat of Arms, and Name History. houseofnames.com. Retrieved on April 21, 2016.
- Charles Franklin Hunkins. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Anthony Sacco (October 12, 2006). The Truth about Ray Hunkins. High Plains Sentinel. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Laura Hancock (November 9, 2013). Chaos in the college': University of Wyoming law school meeting with president gets testy. Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved on April 19, 2016.
- Embattled UW President Sternberg resigns. Wyoming Tribune Eagle (November 14, 2013).
- Dr. Sternberg Done with UW. basinsradio.com (November 14, 2013).
- Raymond B. Hunkins (Ray) Cheyenne WY, State and Federal Civ Lawyer. You Tube (September 20, 2011). Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Cowboy Joe Club's Steer-A-Year Program Continues to Grow: Donations benefit Wyoming in-state athletes & UW Rodeo Team. gowyo.com (November 10, 2003). Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Bill Sniffin (July 6, 2012). Wyoming folks worried about next 100 days of heat and fire. Uinta County Herald. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Past Presidents Board. Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association. Retrieved on April 21, 2016.
- Adrienne D. Coles (January 12, 2000). Wyo. Finance Case Nearing Final Decision. Education Week. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Bill Croke (November 10, 2002). What Happened in Al Simpson’s Wyoming? The most Republican state of all -- in a Republican year -- elected a Democrat governor last week. The American Spectator. Retrieved on April 19, 2016.
- Simpson apologizes to Hunkins. Billings Gazette (August 27, 2002). Retrieved on April 19, 2016.
- Christopher G. Adamo (November 17, 2002). The Anatomy of a Failed Campaign. conservativetruth.org. Retrieved on April 19, 2016.
- Statewide Candidates' Abstract -- Official Primary Election Results. Wyoming Secretary of State (August 20, 2002). Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
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- Republican Statewide Candidates Official Summary, Wyoming Primary Election. Wyoming Secretary of State (August 22, 2006). Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Joan Barron (March 26, 2006). Hunkins, Freudenthal get ready for race. Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved on April 19, 2016.
- Kevin Wingert (October 18, 2006). Contrast exists in faith, family values - Hunkins: The Republican candidate for governor has proposed three legislative initiatives. Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
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- Bob Rule (April 2, 2006). Candidate Ray Hunkins. Pinedaleonline.com. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Hunkins struggles for traction. Casper Star-Tribune (October 20, 2006). Retrieved on April 21, 2016.
- Kevin Wingert (September 7, 2006). Hunkins gains in fundraising: Challenger Ray Hunkins outraised Gov. Dave Freudenthal in August, but the governor retains the bigger war chest. Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Statewide Candidates Official Summary, Wyoming General Election. Wyoming Secretary of State (November 7, 2006). Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Freudenthal credits positive campaign for overwhelming victory. USA Today. Retrieved on April 20, 2016.
- Governor appoints Barrasso to the U.S. Senate. Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (June 22, 2007). Retrieved on April 20, 2016.