Erik Prince, Blackwater Founder, Weighs Primary Challenge to Wyoming Republican

Though Mr. Prince carries some baggage, Republicans have privately said that a primary challenge against a lawmaker like Mr. Barrasso is the kind they fear most: an out-of-the-blue run by a renegade from the right against a senator whose sin is not a lack of conservative credentials, but an association with Mr. McConnell and other party leaders.


Mr. Barrasso is a popular and genial but low-profile senator who will have the full backing of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, right.

Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Those anxieties became all the more serious late last month when Roy Moore, a conservative firebrand, defeated Senator Luther Strange, a McConnell ally, in an Alabama Republican primary. Allies of Mr. McConnell spent tens of millions of dollars defending Mr. Strange, but Mr. Moore won by nine percentage points.

Mr. Prince, 48, has strong ties to the Trump administration. He served as an informal adviser during the transition, and he is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary. He has told his sister that he would like to run against Mr. Barrasso, a person with knowledge of the conversation said.

In 1997, Mr. Prince founded Blackwater as a private, for-profit force to aid the military, and he is wealthy enough to self-finance his race. For months this year, Mr. Prince — with Mr. Bannon’s support — pushed a plan to replace soldiers with contractors in Afghanistan. The proposal, which would have radically changed the way the fight in that country is conducted, was vehemently opposed by the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, and the defense secretary, Jim Mattis.

Beyond his support of the use of contractors in war zones, Mr. Prince’s views on political issues are less widely known. He has been described as a libertarian. In 1992, he supported Pat Buchanan’s run for president.

Mr. Prince is emblematic of the type of parallel government apparatus that Mr. Bannon built inside the administration during his time as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist. Mr. Bannon, with help from the Mercer family, is now trying to build the same kind of parallel structure inside the Republican Party. And Mr. Prince is not the only candidate on his wish list.

Mr. Bannon is expected to throw his support behind Chris McDaniel, a conservative state senator from Mississippi who is considering a primary challenge to United States Senator Roger Wicker, who has served since 2007 and is close to Republican leaders.

Mr. Bannon is also hoping to persuade Ann LePage, the wife of Maine’s outspoken governor, Paul LePage, to run for the Republican nomination to challenge Senator Angus King, an independent who is up for re-election in 2018.

Continue reading the main story