By Jim Ellis
Aug. 18, 2016 — Liz Cheney, daughter of former vice president, US defense secretary, and five-term Wyoming congressman, Dick Cheney, successfully captured Wyoming’s open seat Republican congressional nomination Tuesday night. The first-place finish, though nowhere close to garnering a majority of the votes cast, is enough to earn her the primary victory. Becoming the GOP nominee is tantamount to winning the seat in November since Wyoming will undoubtedly vote Republican once again this year.
Cheney scored 40 percent of the vote, far ahead of second-place finisher Leland Christensen’s 22 percent. The latter is a veteran state senator. Placing third was state Rep. Tim Stubson (17 percent), followed closely by attorney Darin Smith (15 percent). Five minor candidates came after Smith with college professor Mike Konsmo, obtaining under two percent of the vote, being the largest vote-getter within the also-ran group.
In 2014, Cheney aborted a challenge to veteran Republican US Sen. Mike Enzi and controversy arose that the candidate, who has lived in Virginia most of her life, was not a true Wyoming resident, nor was she and her family committed to living there. Cheney’s regular presence in the state and actually residing there after the 2014 election cycle put her in strong position to run for the at-large US House seat once incumbent Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Cheyenne) decided not to seek a fifth term.
Energy contractor Ryan Greene won the Democratic nomination, easily out-distancing educator Charlie Hardy. Greene will be little in the way of competition for Cheney in the fall, however. Libertarian Party nominee Larry Struempf will also be on the November ballot.
The at-large House seat is Wyoming’s only 2016 federal election as neither Enzi nor Sen. John Barrasso (R) are on the ballot this year.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) was easily re-nominated Tuesday night, capturing 72 percent of the Republican vote and erasing the ghosts of her shocking primary defeat in 2010. You may remember that after losing the Republican primary to Tea Party activist Joe Miller six years ago, Murkowski returned in the general election to run a successful write-in campaign and won a hard fought re-election victory.
This year, the 14-year Senate veteran will have little trouble securing a third full term in office. She will face former state Rep. Ray Metcalfe (D) in the fall. Metcalfe overcame former state Commerce Department commissioner and Seward Mayor Edgar Blatchford last night to win the Democratic statewide nomination. The general election now becomes a pro forma affair.
In the House, at-large Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon) seeks a 24th term, and easily defeated three Republican opponents to capture re-nomination. He exceeded the 71 percent vote mark. His general election opponent, as expected, will be former Alaska Public Media CEO Steve Lindbeck who turned back two under-funded Democratic contenders with 56 percent of the vote.
Lindbeck raised over $500,000 for the primary and will be in position to organize a competitive general election campaign, but remains a decided underdog to Young.