SHERIDAN — Casper-resident Josh Wheeler has never held public office and said he is pursuing the U.S. Senate seat Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, plans to vacate in 2020 for precisely that reason.

Wheeler, who is running as a Republican, said he believes “career politicians” have prioritized their personal agendas at the expense of their constituents’ interests, resulting in a Congress that no longer reflects the values of the citizens its supposed to represent.

“For my last 20 years of voting, I’m not too happy with what I’ve gotten,” Wheeler said. “So it either leaves you to want to fix it and make a change, or continue to do the same thing.”

Wheeler, a disabled Wyoming National Guard veteran, said he became increasingly frustrated by his — and his fellow veterans’ — experiences with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Efforts to seek treatment through the VA are often impeded by bureaucratic processes, Wheeler said, and the services the department offers to veterans are often limited, prescribing one-size-fits-all treatments to patients with varied needs.

When he reached out to Wyoming’s congressional delegation about addressing those shortcomings, though, Wheeler said he struggled to get a response. The difficulties he had getting his concerns heard, much less addressed, convinced Wheeler that the status quo was not working, he said.

“We definitely need a change — these representatives are starting to think that they’re leaders and, I’m sorry we don’t elect leaders, we elect representatives,” Wheeler said. “They’re supposed to represent us, talk to us and be with us.”

Wheeler is running on familiar Republican commitments — he signed a pledge vowing to adhere to 100% of the Wyoming Republican Party’s platform and has promised he will not vote for new or increased taxes if elected. If elected to Congress, Wheeler said he would also support efforts to cut federal spending. While established Republican politicians have campaigned on similar platforms, Wheeler said he does not believe they have stuck to them once elected.

“Nothing irritates me more than someone who says they’re going to do one thing, and when they get there, they don’t,” Wheeler said.

He added that he intends to demonstrate his commitment to conservative fiscal practices by running his campaign on a tight budget.

“Needless spending is what’s killing the country,” Wheeler said. “Needless spending in the campaign shows that you’re not responsible with the money in the first place.”

Wheeler also said he would fight for active military personnel in addition to veterans by advocating for a diplomacy-first foreign policy only deploy U.S. troops as a last resort.

“I’m very much against the ‘forever-wars,’” Wheeler said. “…If we have to put our men and women into combat, we need to make sure we have a goal of what that combat is going to end up as and we’re ready to take care of them when they come home, and their families.”

Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Albany County-resident Mark Armstrong have also announced they will contend for the Republican nomination for the seat in the party’s 2020 primary election. Laramie-resident Yana Ludwig is the only Democratic candidate that has announced a run so far.