CHEYENNE — The first statewide debate in Wyoming’s U.S. House race took a testy turn Monday, with a candidate who has lived in Wyoming only a few years criticizing Liz Cheney’s frequent proclamations about how her family has deep, multi-generation ties to the state.
Cheney always glosses over the fact she lived in Virginia for decades, Rex Rammell said.
“You’ve got to quit with the lies, Liz. You are pure establishment. You have been all your life and it needs to stop,” Rammell said to a mix of boos and cheers.
The debate in Laramie was subdued — touching on everything from Social Security to commodities prices — until Rammell piped up in his closing remarks.
Rammell is a Gillette veterinarian who ran unsuccessfully for governor and U.S. Senate in Idaho before moving to Wyoming in 2012, the same year Cheney moved to Wyoming from Virginia. Cheney, a former State Department official and Fox News commentator, is the elder daughter former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Liz Cheney briefly ran for U.S. Senate in Wyoming in 2013. This time around, she leads all challengers in fund-raising by far, bringing in $740,000 in just the first couple months of her campaign.
Her powerful financial position makes her a popular target. State Rep. Tim Stubson opened the door to criticizing Cheney in his closing remarks.
“If you think Washington is working well, then I think it’s a logical decision to send somebody who has made their whole career in the Washington bureaucracy, like Liz Cheney,” Stubson said.
Cheney said in her final statement she was a fourth-generation Wyomingite who was proud to be raising a fifth generation here.
“When my relatives came here first in 1907, they were among the folks who came because they cared deeply about freedom, because they understood what it meant to live in a place that self-determination was honored,” she said.
Those values now are under attack from regulatory overreach by the federal government, she said.
Moments later, Rammell skipped any summary of his campaign, launching straight into attack.
“Liz, you need to stop feeding us a line that you’re a fourth-generation Wyoming person. Everybody in Wyoming knows that you spent 30 years in Virginia. You can stop with that line that you know anything about Wyoming,” he said.
Cheney retorted, chuckling: “When did you come to Wyoming, Rex? I’m trying to remember. Was it last year?”
Rammell’s family comes from far eastern Idaho. He has said his family has longstanding ties to communities in far western Wyoming.
Nine of the 10 Republican candidates running for seat took part in the debate hosted by Republican students at the University of Wyoming.
“Who knew that closing arguments would be so much fun?” debate moderator Bob Beck of Wyoming Public Radio said in closing out the event.