The New York Times reported today that Erik Prince, the brother of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is seriously considering challenging U.S. Sen. John Barrasso in the Republican primary next year.

Prince, the founder of private security contractor Blackwater, has been urged by Stephen Bannon to run for Barrasso's seat according to people who recently spoke to him, the New York Times reported.

Barrasso became Wyoming's Junior Senator after the death of Sen. Craig Thomas in 2007, is now one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the Senate.

Astrid Riecken, Getty Images

Bannon, who resigned from President Donald Trump's administration in August, has been working to challenge Republican leadership, the newspaper reported.

This weekend, Prince traveled to Wyoming with his family to explore ways to establish residency there, said one person who had spoken to him, the newspaper reported.

Public records show Prince, who has never held political office, had an address in Wapiti in Park County in the the late 1990s and early 2000s, the newspaper reported.

He also has told DeVos that he would like to run against Barrasso, a person with knowledge of the conversation said, the newspaper reported. DeVos launched her national "rethink school" campaign in Casper last month when she visited Woods Learning Center.

While his ties to Wyoming are thin, the state has none of the personal political entanglements he would face in his home state of Michigan, the newspaper reported.

Prince, 48, has been a controversial figure for years. He founded Blackwater, now known as Academi, which has faced ethical and legal problems because of its private contracting work for the military. In 2007, the company's employees killed 17 civilians in Baghdad, the newspaper reported.

Despite this baggage and the slim Wyoming connections, Republicans have privately said that a primary challenge against Barrasso is not about his conservative credentials but his association with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and other establishment party leaders, according to the New York Times.

The conservative National Review agreed with that analysis in story Sunday.




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