SHERIDAN — R. Mark Armstrong — an Albany County-resident running for the U.S. Senate seat Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, plans to vacate after his current term — stopped by Sheridan this week and discussed the principles guiding his grassroots campaign for a seat in Congress.
Armstrong has filed as a Republican and considers himself fundamentally conservative; his big-picture goals as a congressman would center on reducing the size of the federal government, he said.
While most Republican candidates would agree with that ambition in theory, though, Armstrong said he believes entrenched politicians pose obstacles to realizing it in practice.
The United States is facing a myriad of issues, but the central problem U.S. citizens have to contend with, Armstrong said, is that the politicians tasked with solving those issues do not represent their interests.
“I don’t think we get good representation when people who struggle from week-to-week, day-to-day get represented by millionaires and billionaires,” Armstrong said. “…If the general person doesn’t have a voice because they didn’t give $10,000 or $20,000 or $100,000 to a campaign, we lose our representation.”
Armstrong said he supports term limits — if elected, he vows he will not serve more than two terms in Congress — and is in favor of reforming campaign finance laws to limit the influence corporate money can have on politics, including overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Many of the solutions Armstrong is proposing to the nation’s problems stem from that fundamental goal of transforming Congress into a body that represents the interests of “general people.”
He said he would act as a strong advocate for what he believes is a disappearing middle class, particularly in Wyoming. And advocating for the middle class, in his view, would mean scaling back government regulations and practices that skew markets in favor of companies and individuals with the money to buy influence.
“I’m a capitalist — a hard-line capitalist,” Armstrong said. “…When (capitalism) doesn’t work, is when it’s crony capitalism and only the rich and influential have access to government.”
He also said he thinks he could find common ground with some Democrats on addressing climate change concerns, but believes much of the science informing those concerns has been biased by government and grant funding.
“I’m a geologist, I’m an engineer — I want good science to be done,” Armstrong said.
During his career, Armstrong said he worked in the extraction industry, the oil and gas sector and in environmental compliance.
The central goal of Armstrong’s campaign reflects anxieties expressed by voters in both parties about their ability to influence their political representatives.
Addressing those anxieties has sometimes proven to be a difficult path to public office, however. Candidates who denounce big donors, after all, run campaigns on budgets that amount to a fraction of the war-chests big-money candidates can deploy.
But Armstrong said he is confident and thinks a common-sense appeal to voters will prove to be invaluable.
“There are a lot of things that need to be fixed and if we keep electing the same-old, same-old, we’re not going to fix them,” Armstrong said.