- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead says he condemns Donald Trump’s statement that a federal judge shouldn’t preside over a case against him because of the judge’s Mexican heritage.

But Mead, a Republican, says he still supports Trump for president over presumptive Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton. Mead says Trump’s policies would be better for Wyoming and the West.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has drawn fire from top national Republicans over his recent criticism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

Trump has said he believes Curiel can’t be fair in handling a case involving Trump University because the judge is of Mexican heritage while Trump has called for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

“I’m building a wall,” Trump has said. “It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”

Trump has denied his comments about Curiel were racist.

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Mead said he regards Trump’s comments as clearly inappropriate. Mead is a former U.S. Attorney for Wyoming and has worked as a state and federal prosecutor.

“Anytime you’re saying that a person will be thinking one way or another or biased one way or another just based upon race, I just think it’s certainly going to be subject to that criticism of racism,” Mead said. “Clearly inappropriate.”

Nonetheless, Mead said he supports Trump over Clinton.

“This isn’t the first, and may not be the last thing he has said that I have disagreed with and wish he would not say it,” Mead said of Trump. “But I am still comparing him to Secretary Clinton and who will be the best leader for the country, and who will be the best in terms of addressing western issues and Wyoming issues. And I still think that clearly would be Mr. Trump over Secretary Clinton.”

As governor of Wyoming - the nation’s leading coal-producing state - Mead has seen state revenues fall sharply in recent years. He has blamed recent federal restrictions on mining and increasing restrictions on power plant emissions, all enacted by the Barack Obama administration.

Mead has been pushing to open ports in the Northwest that could allow exports of Wyoming coal to Asia, but has been stymied so far by opposition there. His administration has filed repeated lawsuits against the federal regulations he says target the coal industry.

Trump, meanwhile, has garnered support in coal country by promising to roll back regulations and restore coal industry jobs.

Wyoming Democrats said Thursday that regardless of energy policy, they disagree with Mead’s continued support of Trump.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, serves as minority floor leader in the state senate. He’s one of only four Democrats versus 26 Republicans.

“He is overtly racist, sexist,” Rothfuss said of Trump. “He has offended various religions and in no way represents the character of the people of Wyoming. And the expectation that somehow a few of his policies related to natural resource management might somehow make up for his glaring shortfalls in every other aspect of the presidency is unreasonable.”

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