Politics

The Return of Liz Cheney

Former vice president's daughter expected to easily win GOP primary for open seat

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, talks with Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who she ran against in 2014, at the unveiling of the bust of her father in the Capitol Visitor Center late last year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Liz Cheney is about to do what she couldn't do in 2014: return to Washington, D.C. 

Three years ago, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney angered the Wyoming political establishment by trying to defeat senior Sen. Michael B. Enzi in a primary. 

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, a longtime friend of the Cheney family, stuck with Enzi, prompting Lynne Cheney, the wife of the former vice president, to tell Simpson to "Shut up."

“How could you forget the little eight-year-old girl (Liz) who campaigned with us and for you in 1978? How could you not support her?” Lynne Cheney asked of Simpson.

Simpson responded, “You don’t understand. I’ve known Mike Enzi for over 35 years."

Cheney ended up dropping that primary bid six months after it began, citing health concerns in her family.

[Why It Didn't Work for Liz Cheney]

Now that the vice president's daughter is running for the state's open House seat, Simpson is back in Liz Cheney's corner and has donated to her campaign.

Back in her corner

"There may be some hard feelings among some," said GOP consultant Ron Bonjean, who has ties to Wyoming's political class. "But most believe she’s doing the right thing now in running for the House seat instead of trying to take on incumbent senators that people really love in the state." 

In large part because of her name recognition, Cheney is expected to win next Tuesday's eight-way primary for the at-large seat. Current GOP Rep. Cynthia Lummis is retiring at the end of the term. 

In the one public poll of the race, Cheney led with 21 percent. House Speaker Pro Tempore Tim Stubson was in second with 9 percent and state Sen. Leland Christensen was in third with 4 percent.

Notably, 52 percent of registered Republicans were undecided in the poll commissioned by the Casper Tribune and Wyoming PBS. Pulse Research conducted the poll during the second week of July.

But Cheney's campaign is playing up her name recognition — not just as an electoral advantage — but as an example of the profile she'd bring the Cowboy State.

"The contributions she has received from individuals around the country prove that she has the ability to bring a national spotlight to Wyoming's issues," campaign manager Bill Novotny told the Billings Gazette.

Cheney's campaign has over 15 times the amount of money as her closest competitors. She ended the pre-primary reporting period with $543,000, Stubson had $35,000, and Christen had $21,000

[Cheney Would Have to Overcome Hard Feelings for 2016 Run]

Outsiders

There's still lingering resentment toward Cheney, who moved from Virginia to Wyoming in 2012 before launching her Senate bid. 

Lummis summed up the feeling in 2013.

“It is a unique strategy to live your entire life elsewhere and then come to a state a year before you’re going to announce you’re going to run for that state’s highest office," the congresswoman told reporters shortly after Cheney announced her run for Senate that summer.

But for a woman who's assumed to have higher political aspirations, there's the sense that unlike last cycle, Cheney is paying her dues this time around.

[Liz Cheney 'Taking Nothing for Granted' in Second Campaign

Mounting a successful campaign in the Equality State requires visiting every diner and every social club.

"Wyoming is the largest small town you'll ever find," Bonjean said. "When she ran for Senate, she hadn’t done any of those things. Now she’s busy checking those boxes." 

The donor list on Cheney's FEC reports reads like a who's who of the Bush-Cheney White House. Liz Cheney served in the State Department during the George W. Bush administration.

Besides donations from both former Bush presidents, she's received contributions from, among others, GOP establishment heavyweights like former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, former George W. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, former national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott and Texas Rep. Pete Sessions. 

If she wins the primary, Cheney is almost guaranteed to be the next member of Congress from this Safe Republican district. And she'll likely be one of the few new Republican women coming to Congress next year.

The number of GOP women in Congress is dwindling with the departure of Lummis, the only woman in the House Freedom Caucus.

Cheney hasn't ruled out joining the Freedom Caucus when she comes to Washington, and she's received a contribution from one of the Caucus' favorite congressional candidates this year, Jim Banks of Indiana

[Cynthia Lummis Will Not Seek Fifth Term in House]

Lummis is staying neutral in the race but her daughter is the campaign chair for Christensen's campaign.

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