CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney will run against Wyoming’s senior U.S. senator in next year’s Republican primary, her campaign said Tuesday.
Liz Cheney, 46, is the elder of Dick Cheney’s two daughters. Her announcement is a political challenge unlike anything Wyoming has seen for years, maybe decades.
Republicans in the state rarely challenge incumbents of their own party in national office. All three members of the state’s congressional delegation and all statewide elected officials are Republican.
Liz Cheney is married and has five children. She hasn’t been a longtime Wyoming resident but she and her husband bought a home in the posh northwest Wyoming community of Jackson Hole last year.
“I am running because I know, as a mother and a patriot, we can no longer afford simply to go along to get along. We can’t continue business as usual in Washington,” Cheney said in a statement.
Meanwhile, apparently aware that Cheney’s announcement was imminent, Sen. Mike Enzi announced his bid for a fourth term. He made the announcement more than six months earlier in the political cycle than he has in the past.
Enzi said he would continue to “do the job I was already elected to do.”
“Working behind the scenes – this is what I have been doing since I was elected and this is what needs to be done,” he said by email through his spokesman.
The race promises to be hard-fought. Enzi has had few serious Democratic opponents – much less Republican ones – and remains well-liked as an affable former shoe salesman and mayor of the coal-mining city of Gillette.
Enzi takes pride in keeping a lower profile and remaining much less partisan than most of his colleagues. He often refers to his “80-20″ rule – that opposing parties usually can agree on 80 percent of the details of any given issue – as a model for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
Enzi handily won re-election in 2008 with more than 75 percent of the vote.
Cheney’s interest in the seat has been an open secret for months, dating back at least to last year’s purchase of a Wilson home listed for $1.9 million.
She appeared onstage with her father at last year’s state Republican Party convention. It was Dick Cheney’s first public appearance since he underwent a heart transplant, and father and daughter have been working on a book together.
Since then, Liz Cheney has made frequent appearances at county-level Republican events in virtually every corner of the state.
The Cheneys are well-established as a family with Wyoming roots – an important qualification for anybody seeking major office in the state. Her announcement release pointed out that the Cheney family goes back more than 100 years in Wyoming. Liz Cheney was born in Madison, Wis.
Liz Cheney has been in the national public eye in recent years as a Fox News political commentator.
“Anybody can get in the race that wants to get in the race. There’s at least one person that’s trying to get me to retire,” Enzi said earlier this month at a constituent meeting in Pine Bluffs. He declined to say who he was referring to. “No, people can judge who they think that is themselves,” he said.
Alan K. Simpson, a former U.S. Senator from Wyoming and a longtime observer of state politics, said Tuesday he couldn’t comment on what the race would mean for the Wyoming Republican Party.
“Right now, I have nothing to say at all except one thing, I deeply care about both of them, and that’s all I have to say,” Simpson said of Enzi and Cheney.
Cheney holds a law degree from the University of Chicago and has worked as a lawyer for the State Department and the Agency for International Development.