CHEYENNE — Liz Cheney announced a core group of state leaders and advisers for her U.S. Senate campaign Thursday that draws from all corners of Wyoming and includes well-known Republican campaign organizers and fundraisers, but no prominent elected officials.
The list shows political lines being drawn among Wyoming Republicans ahead of what could turn out to be the longest, toughest and most expensive political battle the state has seen.
The elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney announced last week she’s running against three-term Sen. Mike Enzi next year. Enzi almost immediately announced his re-election campaign, and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and the state’s lone U.S. representative, Cynthia Lummis, immediately gave him their support.
Cheney’s team offers the first substantial look at who in Wyoming is on her side.
Her statewide campaign co-chairmen include Dick and Maggie Scarlett, who in 2011 hosted a fundraiser for Mitt Romney at their Jackson Hole home.
Other co-chairmen include Bill and Toni Thomson, who earlier this month held a get-to-know-Liz event that drew about 35 people to their Cheyenne home.
Bill Thomson is an attorney, lobbyist and longtime Republican organizer. He was chairman of the inaugurations for Govs. Jim Geringer and Matt Mead. “I believe she’d step out front and that she would directly challenge actions of the president and his liberal allies that want to change America in a way that makes me very uncomfortable,” Thomson said. “I think she has the ability and experience to really be a leader in the national debate.”
Bill Thomson said he has known Cheney since she was a young girl campaigning with her father in Wyoming.
“She has an intention to run a campaign city by city, town by town, door by door and person by person,” he said.
Margaret Parry of Rock Springs will be the campaign finance chairman.
Parry is known throughout the state for her work with Cowboys Against Cancer, a nonprofit with a network of 100 volunteers and more than 800 donors. She was also a delegate to the Republican National Committee in Tampa, Fla., for the party’s convention in 2012.
She said she met Liz Cheney more than two years ago. Sweetwater County Republicans were broke, Parry said, and wanted to have Dick Cheney speak at a fundraiser. The elder Cheney was ill. Liz called and said she would take his place.
Parry said more than
300 people attended the event, and the Sweetwater County GOP raised $40,000 that night.
Many speculate Cheney will need to run a negative campaign against Enzi. Thomson passed on an opportunity to criticize Enzi, but Harriet Hageman, listed among Cheney’s advisers, said Enzi has been too willing to compromise with Democrats.
“If we’re going to change the trajectory of the country, we have to change our leaders as well,” said Hageman, a Cheyenne water and natural resources attorney known for taking up conservative causes.
The Scarletts, Thomsons and Hagemans — Harriet Hageman said her father, a state legislator, was a Young Republican with Dick Cheney — all are old friends of the Cheney family.
An Enzi spokesman said the senator is backed by some of the most conservative Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and gets things done for Wyoming’s people every day.
“There is no compromise on that for him. It’s called being effective,” spokesman Coy Knobel said by email.
Cheney said in a statement she was honored to have “support, advice and counsel” from the group of 16 “distinguished Wyoming citizens.” In addition to Hageman, Cheney’s advisers include John and DJ Mansell of Enzi’s hometown of Gillette, where John Mansell is an anesthesiologist; Lois Herbst, a rancher in Fremont County; Kim Brown of Farson; Jim and Janet Curry of Casper; George Lemich of Rock Springs; and Bernie and Sally Seebaum of Douglas.
No current state lawmakers or current or former statewide elected officials are on the list, though Cheney has the support of at least one Republican legislator.
“I agree with everything I have heard her say so far,” state Rep. Sue Wallis said by email.
Wallis called herself a “big fan” of Wyoming’s congressional delegation but said lack of new blood in Washington, especially in the Senate, is a problem.
Another legislator is skeptical Cheney will get much support among Wyoming legislators. Enzi was a state representative and senator from 1988-1996.
State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, described Enzi as a “salt of the earth” fellow who had “paid his dues.”
“I just think this effort, to be successful, it’s virtually impossible. Truly,” Case said of Cheney’s challenge.
Mead has endorsed neither Cheney nor Enzi. The Mead family also is a well-known political name in Wyoming. His grandfather, Clifford Hansen, was governor and U.S. senator. Mead has said in declining to endorse that he’s friends with both the Cheneys and Enzis.
Associated Press writer Ben Neary and Star-Tribune staff writer Kyle Roerink contributed to this report.