Liz Cheney overcame criticism about her ties to Wyoming and won the Republican primary for the U.S. House, a seat once held by her father.
With 82 percent of the precincts reporting at press time Tuesday, Cheney had received 40 percent of the vote in the most competitive U.S. primary contest in Wyoming in over 100 years.
Leland Christensen carried 22 percent, followed by Tim Stubson with 17 percent and Darin Smith with 15 percent.
Cheney, speaking from Wilson, where she watched election results with her family, said she was honored and grateful to win.
“I look forward very much to moving forward in the general election, unified and focused on making sure we send the strongest conservative voice to Washington,” she said.
Cheney faces Democrat Ryan Greene in the Nov. 8 general election. She will campaign on a platform of repealing regulation deemed harmful to Wyoming, such as the Clean Power Plan, and in support of a strong national defense.
“It’s hugely important that our next representative be able to hit the ground running to roll back the devastating policies of the Obama years,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican, is not seeking re-election to Congress, opting instead to return to Wyoming. That left the field wide open, as nine Republicans jumped into the race for Wyoming’s only seat in the lower chamber of Congress.
The nine-candidate field was the largest since 1912, said Eric Ostermeier at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, who reviewed 106 Wyoming Democratic and Republican U.S. House primaries covering more than a century.
Much of the attention in the primary focused on Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was Wyoming’s representative from 1979 to 1989. Liz Cheney spent much of her life in the Washington area and owns a home in Fairfax County, Virginia.
In 2012, she purchased a home in Wilson. She launched a challenge to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi the following year. She halted that campaign due to a family health situation. This year Cheney, who spent about three years of her childhood in Casper, is back to bid for federal office. She has the most name recognition among the candidates, thanks to her father, her work as a contributor on Fox News and books she has written with her dad.
She faced intense scrutiny for her relatively brief residency in the state. She was also criticized for the large number of campaign fundraisers she held out of state, with well-heeled GOP donors, including the owners of the Chiago Cubs and the New York Jets. She’s raised $1.5 million, nearly seven times more than the second-highest fundraiser, Stubson.
In the end, her opponents’ attacks didn’t stick much.
“I really think that the voters of Wyoming have always been focused on substance and policy, and I’m really proud of the campaign we ran,” Cheney said. “It was one focused on issues.”
Stubson and Christensen, both state lawmakers, tried to bill themselves as moderate and practical. Cheney, along with Darin Smith, a Cheyenne attorney who does humanitarian work with the Christian Broadcasting Network, were more socially conservative. Both Cheney and Smith said, for instance, that Planned Parenthood trafficked in human body parts, based on a video created by an anti-abortion rights group that has widely been dismissed as creatively edited.
Stubson said it was hard to compete with a smaller budget.
“Certainly the resources play a role in it,” he said, speaking from a vote watch party at FireRock Steakhouse in Casper. “And when you have to get your message out and you have that sort of budget, it makes it difficult. We did work hard and we had great supporters great volunteers across the state. I’m proud of the work they did, knowing they were trying to move the state forward.”
Stubson didn’t seek re-election in the Wyoming Legislature to run for the U.S. House, so he will not be going to Cheyenne in the fall.
“I’m going to hang out with my family and get back to my day job, which isn’t a bad option at all,” he said.
Christensen still has two years remaining in his Wyoming Senate term. He will take some of the ideas he heard on the campaign trail to Cheyenne, he said.
“I think I’m going to leave it with the Wyoming voters who showed up to vote,” he said. “They cast their ballot and by golly, they made a pretty clear choice and I certainly respect it. That’s all we asked for, was the opportunity to get our message out there. I think we did.”