SHERIDAN — Gary Trauner, a Democratic candidate from Wilson who is challenging U.S. Sen. John Barrasso in the 2018 Senate race, answered questions from voters on a range of topics at The Hub on Smith Wednesday as part of his statewide Open-Door Tour.

Trauner is making his third run for a congressional seat in Wyoming after unsuccessful bids in 2006 and 2008. In 2006, he ran for Wyoming’s U.S. House of Representatives seat and lost narrowly to Barbara Cubin. He made a second attempt at the House seat in 2008 and was defeated by Cynthia Lummis.

Trauner said he considered retiring from politics after his 2008 defeat, but observing continued government dysfunction and worrying about the future it was creating motivated him to try again.

“Things aren’t working in D.C. Partisan politics has taken over; people are putting party before country,” Trauner said. “I joke, but I’m really only half-joking, that my two boys guilted me into running again because they’re young and they’re looking out in the world and saying, ‘Dad, this doesn’t seem like this is working the way it should.’”

Trauner began his talk by highlighting how inequality has grown in the United States. Education and affordable health care, Trauner said, will be key to creating opportunities that can begin to reduce inequality.

“America’s income gap is an educational gap,” Trauner said. “And I think we need to talk about vocational and community colleges along with four-year schools. We need to make education more affordable and more attainable for young folks.”

He added that the cuts to education state lawmakers are weighing as part of the next biennial budget are concerning.

“I can’t fix the state-level decision to try and change the constitution. What [the state legislators] are trying to decide right now, that’s their call,” Trauner said. “But I think it’s really short-sighted, their lack of willingness to have the government spend get in the way of an investment in our kids.”

Trauner said health care also needed to be distributed more equitably to address issues with inequality and providing access to consistent health care that allows for preventative care would save money in the long run.

“Waiting until someone has to go to the emergency room is not health care. That’s emergency triage that costs us all more than it should,” Trauner said. “Because if you give away free care, which you have to when that happens, you have to find a way to pay for it somehow.”

As Trauner took questions from the audience, the conversation returned several times to frustrations with the influence corporations have on politics and the stagnant policies enacted as a result of that influence.

“Members of congress have abdicated their responsibility,” Trauner said. “To me, this goes back to leadership. And I can’t tell you I’m going to go there and fix everything. But if you are frustrated by the way things are going, why wouldn’t you want to change things? Why wouldn’t you want to get new people in there who aren’t part of the broken system?”

Trauner also weighed in on the ongoing national debate over gun control.

“My family owns guns. We in Wyoming are very responsible gun owners. But I’m looking at this as a public health and safety issue,” Trauner said. “I’m not going to take your guns away. My point is, there has to be some common sense in there somewhere. Supreme Court, not too long ago (in the District of Columbia v. Heller decision), said the government has the right to do background checks, and the government has the right to ban dangerous and unusual weapon — you can’t own a tank. So we need to find a common sense middle ground that promotes responsible gun ownership.”

Trauner will host conversations in Sheridan for the rest of the week. A full schedule is available on his website,