Eli Bebout

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Eli Bebout
Member of the Wyoming Senate
from the 26th district
Assumed office
January 2007
Preceded by Bob Peck
55th Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives
In office
January 1999 – January 2001
Preceded by Bruce Hinchey
Succeeded by Rick Tempest
Personal details
Born (1946-10-14) October 14, 1946 (age 70)
Rawlins, Wyoming, U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 1994)
Republican (1994–present)
Spouse(s) Lorraine Bebout
Children Jordan Joseph
Reagen Marie
Taggert Hugh
Alma mater United States Air Force Academy
University of Wyoming
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Unit Air Force Reserve Command

Eli Daniel Bebout (born October 14, 1946) is a veteran Wyoming politician and a member of the Wyoming State Senate. He represents District 26 from Riverton, in Fremont County in the central portion of the state. A Republican, Bebout is a former member of the Wyoming House of Representatives, Speaker of the House, and his party's nominee for governor in the 2002 general election. He was chosen state senator on a 4-0 vote by the Fremont County Commission to succeed Senator Robert A. "Bob" Peck (October 7, 1924 – March 6, 2007).

Early years, education, business[edit]

Bebout graduated from Shoshoni High School in Fremont County and entered the United States Air Force Academy in June 1964. He left the academy in 1967 without graduating. He resigned after complaints surfaced that he had violated the honor code by covering for the presence of some absent cadets and by allowing questionable tutoring practices. Thereafter, he obtained a bachelor of science degree in engineering from the University of Wyoming at Laramie, his state's only four-year degree-granting institution. He served in the Air Force Reserve but was not called to active duty during the Vietnam War.

Bebout owns a water, oil and natural gas drilling company, a construction company, and a farm and ranch operation. He is president of Nucor Oil and Gas, Inc., in Riverton. He is chairman of the Wyoming Business Alliance and the Wyoming Heritage Foundation, and he is affiliated with the trade association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America. He is also a member of the National Republican Legislators Association.

Republican for Governor[edit]

Bebout was not originally Republican, having been first elected to the state House in 1986 as a Democrat. He switched parties early in the 1990s to express his opposition to U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was thereafter groomed for state leadership by the GOP hierarchy.

He became the House Republican Leader in 1997 and Speaker in 1999–2000. In 2002, he challenged the conservative Raymond Breedlove "Ray" Hunkins of Wheatland, the seat of Platte County for the Republican nomination for governor. Also in the primary were businessman Bill Sniffin of Lander, former State Representative Steve Watt, and John Self of Sheridan. Bebout ran an advertisement to show that he had strong party support, compared to the maverick rancher and attorney Hunkins. Sniffin attacked Bebout about his employment practices. "Forty-nine state legislators support Eli Bebout for Governor" said one of his commercials. He also won the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business, a small business advocacy group.

In what shaped up as a close primary, Bebout gained the support of the party's popular former U.S. Senator Alan Kooi Simpson, a lawyer from Cody and the leader of GOP "moderates". Simpson was particularly vitriolic in attacks on Hunkins. Bebout received 44,417 votes (49 percent) to Hunkins' 25,363 (28 percent). Sniffin, Watt, and Self split the remaining 23 percent. An outright majority is not required for a party nomination in Wyoming. There has been speculation that the intraparty strife doomed Bebout in the general election.

As soon as he had defeated Hunkins, Bebout launched a strong campaign against the Democratic nominee, David Duane "Dave" Freudenthal, formerly of Thermopolis, a former United States Attorney in Cheyenne appointed by President Clinton. Until the last days of the campaign, Bebout was considered the favorite. One highly inaccurate poll right after the primary had even shown Bebout with an 80-15 percent lead. Freudenthal pulled an upset, 92,662 votes (50 percent) to Bebout's 88,873 ballots (47.9 percent). Bebout won fifteen counties to Freudenthal's eight. The other 1.9 percent went to Libertarian Dave Dawson. Some in the media questioned if Bebout's defeat was a slap at Vice President of the United States Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney, who came to Wyoming to campaign for Bebout the Sunday before the Tuesday election.

The Wyoming State Senate[edit]

Bebout said that his gubernatorial aspirations were behind him as he began a new political stint as the lowest-tenured state senator. He was named to the Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee and the Minerals Committee. As of 2012, Bebout remains in the Senate.

Peck had served in the Senate since 1991 and was chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee and a member of the Senate Education Committee.

Traditionally, House speakers retire from the House, and few have run for the Senate. Former Speaker Bruce Hinchey, a Casper Republican, served one term in the Senate, 1999-2003. He did not seek re-election in 2002, after he accepted a position as president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. Hinchey served on the Senate Appropriations Committee for his four-year Senate term.

The Bebout family[edit]

Bebout and his wife, Lorraine Joyce Bebout, reside in Riverton. The Bebout children include Jordan Joseph Bebout (born ca. 1978), Jentry Janee Bebout (born 1980), Reagen Marie Bebout (born ca. 1982), and Taggert Hugh Bebout (born ca. 1984).

Eli Bebout is a survivor of esophageal cancer


Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce Hinchey
Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Rick Tempest
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jim Geringer
Republican nominee for Governor of Wyoming
Succeeded by
Ray Hunkins
Wyoming Senate
Preceded by
Bob Peck
Member of the Wyoming Senate