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  • Joe Marquette Associated Press file, 2001 Liz Cheney, a Fox News commentator, moved to Wyoming last year and has made it clear she wants to run for the Senate seat now held by Republican Mike Enzi.

  • Associated Press file, 2003 Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., 69, says he is not ready to retire, and many Republicans say he has done nothing to deserve being turned out. He won election to the Senate in 1996.

Liz Cheney stirs up GOP with her interest in incumbent's Senate seat

Published: Sunday, Jul. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 15A
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 8, 2013 - 9:20 am

LUSK, Wyo. – A young Dick Cheney began his first campaign for the House in this tiny village – population 1,600 – after the state's sole congressional seat finally opened up. But nowadays his daughter Liz does not seem inclined to wait patiently for such an opening.

Liz Cheney, 46, is showing up everywhere in the state, from chicken dinners to cattle growers' meetings, sometimes with her parents in tow. She has made it clear that she wants to run for the Senate seat now held by Mike Enzi, a soft-spoken Republican and one-time fly-fishing partner of her father's.

But Cheney's move threatens to start a civil war within the state's Republican establishment, despite the reverence many hold for her family.

Enzi, 69, says he is not ready to retire, and many Republicans say he has done nothing to deserve being turned out.

It would bring about "the destruction of the Republican Party of Wyoming if she decides to run and he runs, too," Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from the state, said in an interview last week.

The developments underscore the complicated relationship between the Beltway-centered Cheneys and the state that provided their political base. Dick and Lynne Cheney, who divide their time between McLean, Va., a home in Maryland and a house near Jackson Hole, Wyo., are widely admired in Wyoming.

Liz Cheney, who grew up in McLean and moved her family to the Jackson Hole area just last year, is eager to establish her Cowboy State credentials, peppering social media sites with photos of her children's horse-riding competitions and descriptions of Wyoming as "God's Country." Liz Cheney's ambitions reflect a greater tension within the Republican Party as a younger generation feels less reluctance to challenge incumbents.

Unlike former Republican colleagues who were felled in recent elections because they lost touch with home or cast votes that angered Republicans, Enzi has a reliably conservative record and has not offered critics much fodder. And during his town meetings, even as his constituents flashed anger at Washington, none showed any ill will toward Enzi.

"I know of no one who doesn't want Mike Enzi to run for the Senate again," said Douglas Chamberlain, a former Wyoming House speaker.

Enzi noted with a soft chuckle, "There's at least one person out there who wants me to retire."

Liz Cheney declined to comment.

What has startled some people is not just the fact that Cheney is seemingly trying to nudge Enzi into retirement, but that she appears to be doing so with a hand from her father. The former vice president and Enzi have been friends since the 1970s, when Dick Cheney was Wyoming's at-large congressman and Enzi was the mayor of Gillette, in the state's coal country.

But Enzi said he had not recently heard from the man he calls his "good friend." "I would expect that he'd call before she declares," Enzi said of Dick Cheney.

Wyoming residents say they have seen more of Dick Cheney since his daughter moved to the state and his health rebounded after a heart transplant. But his schedule is nothing compared with his daughter's.

Liz Cheney, a Fox News commentator and the mother of five school-age children, has become ubiquitous, appearing many times in communities over 300 miles from home. If she feels the need to blend in with the locals, it may be because of the carpetbagging charges her father faced when he moved back from Washington in 1977 after working for President Gerald Ford.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jonathan Martin



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