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Casper Star-Tribune - Rothfuss Takes it One Voter at a Time in U.S. Senate Race

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Location: Cheyenne, WY


Chris Rothfuss spent three years in the heartland of the world of diplomacy and foreign affairs, the U.S. Department of State.

The Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate recently shared some of his experiences in the agency with University of Wyoming students in Jean Garrison's international studies class.

He spoke of the art of nuanced memo writing and negotiations.

For example, one phrase banned by the department was "responsible development," Rothfuss said.

The agency people who worked on the controversy in the European Union over genetically modified food in the 1980s and 1990s, he said, believed it was a loaded phrase.

"It was a hard phrase not to use," Rothfuss said.

Dressed casually in an open-neck blue shirt, brown sports coat and khakis, Rothfuss, 35, easily could have been one of the better-dressed students in the classroom.

His talk touched on nanotechnology, fission, climate change and the Kyoto treaty.

At the State Department, he served two years as a science and technology fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a foreign affairs officer in his third year.

The Kyoto protocol was fundamentally flawed, he said, because the department knew the U.S. Senate wouldn't endorse it"on the grounds the treaty did little about"air pollution in China and India.

"Since then, there's not been progress on advancing a policy for climate change," Rothfuss said.

In the U.S. Senate race, Rothfuss is a classic underdog with little money and little name recognition. His opponent is two-term"Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, who has loads of money -- about $1.5 million -- and loads of name recognition.

So far, Rothfuss has collected $20,000 for his first campaign. He doesn't accept political action committee money. He travels the state in the family car. Both he and his wife, Heather, have doctorate degrees in chemical engineering. They have two sons, Connor, 4, and Zane, 2.

Heather is a"research scientist at UW.

Rothfuss, who is from Casper, is a UW instructor in diplomacy and negotiations and the future of nanotechnology but hasn't drawn a paycheck in the six months he has been campaigning.

He is passionate about the need to have someone in the Senate with a scientific approach like his to deal with energy issues.

After the mid-afternoon class, Rothfuss had some extra time. A UW Democratic student beer fest he had planned to attend in the student union was canceled.

Instead, he met Nick Carter for an early dinner at a Laramie restaurant. Carter, of Gillette, is a fellow Democrat running against Republican Sen. John Barrasso.

Carter was in Laramie for a candidates' forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

They chatted about campaign travel and previous debates.

Rothfuss ordered the lamb shank and a wheat beer. Carter's choice was seared tuna and a cola.

Rothfuss said later in an interview that, overall, the people he has met while campaigning have been positive, even when they say they won't vote for him.

There was, however, a man in an office in the city council building in Douglas, who first off asked for Rothfuss' political affiliation.

"I said I'm a Democrat," Rothfuss said. "He kicked me right out."

"That was quite rare. Even so, he is entitled to his opinion and his own office," he added.

At a candidates' forum in Cheyenne before the primary election, Rothfuss met a man who said he knew"Mike and Diana Enzi and intended to vote for"Enzi.

The Vietnam veteran approached Rothfuss 30 to 45 minutes later and said he had read the candidate's flyer and would vote for the Democrat after all.

He also said he intended to call Enzi and tell him why.

Rothfuss said the veteran liked his position on the Iraq war.

The flyer said Rothfuss' position is "to get out of Iraq. It is time for the Iraqi people to take charge of their destiny."

"If I can get in the door and talk to somebody, usually by the end it goes pretty well," Rothfuss said.

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