CHEYENNE — A California-based political action committee has mounted a national petition drive to draft Liz Cheney to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
The One Nation political action committee’s original goal was to collect 50,000 signatures by June 21, but the deadline has since been extended. The signatures are intended “to present to Liz to show her broad support among conservatives,” the petition on the One Nation website reads.
“Liz is contemplating throwing her hat into the Wyoming Senate race in 2014, and the only thing stopping her is grassroots support. That’s where we come in — we’ll build an army to elect Liz. But first we need to demonstrate this to her,” the petition reads.
“Liz doesn’t know the group and did not sanction the petition,” Cheney spokeswoman Kara Ahern wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune.
The oldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney moved to the Jackson area with her family last year, fueling speculation she might mount a run for the Senate. However, much of the speculation was predicated on the assumption current Sen. Mike Enzi would retire.
Enzi told fellow Wyoming Republicans in April at a party meeting Buffalo that he looked forward to running in 2014. His spokesman, Daniel Head, has since said Enzi would make no further comment and that the senator’s words spoke for themselves.
Head dismissed the petition drive.
“Wyoming and Wyoming people are Senator Enzi’s full-time focus. What a California PR consultant wants for Wyoming is not something the senator is concentrating on,” Head wrote in an email.
Kelly Eustis, the executive director of One Nation, wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune that his group “supports Liz Cheney because she is the only person with the conservative credentials, foreign policy expertise, and leadership experience to save America.”
Eustis added that his group has had no communication with Cheney at this point.
“We do intend to fully support her if she does decide to run,” he wrote.
One Nation’s efforts to spur Liz Cheney into running for Enzi’s seat have drawn mixed responses in the Cowboy State.
Brent Kunz, a Cheyenne attorney and Republican Party activist, said he had heard about the One Nation petition drive. He said Cheney is competent and able and he is glad to have her back in Wyoming. “What her future is, I don’t know,” he added.
Kunz went on to praise Enzi.
“Wyoming is blessed to have Mike Enzi serving in the U.S. Senate. He’s steady, conservative, consistent and gets the job done without fanfare. He’s a workhorse,” Kunz said.
State Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said he hadn’t heard about the petition drive.
It is unusual, he said, for an outside group to intrude on a state’s election.
Enzi, he said, is a “helluva senator and a hard-working guy” but needs to make clear he is a candidate for re-election.
“The sooner everyone knows what Mike wants to do, the better,” Bebout said.
He added that in fairness to Cheney, she would be a good candidate.
State Rep. Marti Halverson, R-Etna, said she was at the April meeting when Enzi said he looked forward to running in 2014. She considered that a clear announcement of his plans.
“We were all thrilled,” she said.
“It’s almost bizarre that an unsolicited California group could think it could insert itself into Wyoming politics,” Halverson added.
Jim King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming, said he has no knowledge One Nation.
“It is kind of unusual for some outside group trying to interfere and it’s hard to imagine it would have much of an impact,” King said. “I can’t see where there would be much response to this.
“Certainly I would think Ms. Cheney wouldn’t want to be associated with what seems to be an outside group that seems to be trying to dictate Wyoming elected officials,” he added.
Tammy Hooper, chairwoman of the Wyoming Republican Party, said she’s heard that Cheney has told others she may run for the Senate, but it’s never been confirmed.
Bill Cubin of Casper, a Republican Party activist, wrote a letter to the editor of the Star-Tribune warning party members against donating to One Nation.
The certified public accountant said he looked into the PAC’s disclosure filings with the Federal Election Commission and discovered that too few dollars found their way into the campaign coffers of Republican candidates.
Cubin also said in an interview that the petition drive could hurt Liz Cheney because of a potential backlash against out-of-state groups interfering in Wyoming politics.
Given her experience in politics, Cubin said he couldn’t believe she would challenge Enzi in the primary election.
Interest in Cheney has heightened because of her numerous appearances and talks at chambers of commerce and other meetings and events around the state.
She was a U.S. Department of State official in the George W. Bush administration, a former foreign policy adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and is a regular contributor on Fox News.
Eustis said One Nation launched in 2009 and is dedicated to the ideals of lower taxes, limited government, strong national defense and family values.
According to sourcewatch.org, Eustis is an American political consultant, Republican politician and conservative activist. He was formerly a staff member of Our Country Deserves Better PAC-Tea Party Express.
In addition to his post with One Nation, he is president of Eusatrix Corp., a strategic public relations and political consulting firm.