By Jim EllisJan. 21, 2020 — When Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R) decided to retire last May, it had been assumed that at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/ Jackson), the daughter of former vice president and at-large Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney, would run for the seat. That is not the case, however. Late last week, Rep. Cheney announced that she will seek re-election later this year instead of entering the open Senate race.
When Cheney first ventured into elective politics she looked to run for the Senate, beginning with a Republican primary challenge to Sen. Enzi in 2014 that would later end before going to the ballot. She was then elected to the House two years later when at-large Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) decided to retire after four terms.
Now with Lummis attempting to return to elective politics with her own Senate campaign, the statewide situation may significantly change. Many were waiting on the sidelines to see what Rep. Cheney would do in order to decide whether to run for the House or the Senate. Now, we may begin to see some serious candidate action, but much time remains for individuals to decide. The Wyoming candidate filing deadline is May 29 for the Aug. 18 primary.
In addition to former Congresswoman Lummis, the only two announced Republican Senate candidates are retiree Patrick Dotson and disabled veteran Josh Wheeler. Though Democrats will be severe underdogs here in the general election, three candidates have announced: college professor Merav Ben-David, actor Chuck Jagoda, and non-profit group executive Yana Ludwig.
Rep. Cheney released an official statement saying that she, “believe[s] I can have the biggest impact for the people of Wyoming by remaining in leadership in the House of Representatives and working [to] take back our Republican majority.” Currently, Cheney is the House Republican Conference chair, the number three position in minority leadership.
The move is apparently not a signal that she would challenge current House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for the conference’s top spot. In fact, part of her statement to the Republican conference members as reported in Politico was quoted as saying, “I will be staying right here with all of you in this incredible House that I love. Let’s go get our majority back and make Kevin McCarthy the next speaker of the House.”
It is clear that in a presidential year with Donald Trump on the Wyoming ballot, that the open Senate race will be decided in the Republican primary. And, with Cheney’s announcement and a subsequent endorsement from the Club for Growth conservative support organization, Lummis has certainly enjoyed a strong week.
Though she is the clear front runner now, it is unlikely that Lummis will remain unopposed. Billionaire mutual fund founder Foster Friess, who placed second in the open 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary that current incumbent Mark Gordon won, had not ruled out running for the Senate even before Rep. Cheney made known her decision to remain in the House.
Former governor, Matt Mead (R), who was ineligible to seek a third term in the last election, previously ruled himself out of the Senate race, but it remains unclear if the Cheney decision will lead him to change his mind.
Republicans hold the secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, and superintendent of Public Instruction statewide positions. Additionally, with 27 GOP state senators and 50 state representatives, not to mention a host of local officials, it is difficult to see a situation where the open Senate race does not become a crowded affair.