CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Four women — two Republicans who’ve already served in Congress and two Democrats with far less political experience — will compete for U.S. Senate and House seats in Wyoming after winning primary contests Tuesday.
Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis beat nine others to win the Republican primary for Senate. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney beat a little-known opponent to claim the Republican nomination for House.
On the Democratic side, University of Wyoming ecology professor and climate activist Merav Ben-David won the nomination for Senate while Northern Arapaho tribal member and indigenous women’s advocate Lynnette Grey Bull won the nomination for Wyoming’s lone seat in the House.
Lummis and Cheney are considered general-election favorites against Ben-David and Grey Bull in GOP-dominated Wyoming.
The 14-month campaign was the longest in Lummis’ political career that has spanned more than 40 years and Lummis said after winning she doesn’t plan to change things up in the final months ahead. Lummis is a former state legislator and two-term state treasurer who served as Wyoming’s lone congresswoman from 2009-2017.
“We had an absolutely superior ground game in every county. We had a strong, strong team. That’s what it took and that’s what it takes, building it through last fall and last winter,” Lummis said. “It’s always reliant on person-to-person, among Wyoming people on the ground.”
Lummis, 65, is running to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, who is retiring after four terms.
Besides being the only Senate candidate with statewide name recognition after decades in political office, Lummis through July raised and spent far more than her opponents. She brought in over $1.8 million for the year, including a nearly $600,000 loan from herself to her campaign, and had about $400,000 left.
Lummis last week received an endorsement from President Donald Trump, who called her “a friend of mine and a great woman.” Lummis said in 2016 she would be “holding her nose” to vote for Trump for president but said she was honored to get the president’s endorsement and said: “Right now, it is more important than ever that we follow President Trump’s lead and put America First!”
Lummis comes from a well-known ranching family in Cheyenne.
Some of the other, better-known Republicans running for Senate included Sheridan energy industry consultant and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan Miller, 54, and business owner and Converse County Commissioner Robert Short, 58, of Douglas.
Cheney faced one obscure opponent, Blake Stanley, of Banner, for the Republican nod to seek a third term. Cheney, 54, won election in 2016 and 2018 with wide majorities after securing a wide plurality in the 2016 Republican primary.
“There is a lot of work to be done, but I know that working with President Trump, we can continue to build on our wide-ranging record of accomplishment and continue to deliver more victories for the people of our state and across the country,” Cheney, the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said in a statement.
Cheney has risen quickly to the third-highest GOP leadership position in the House though some Republican colleagues recently criticized her support of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, which they said was disloyal to Trump.
The five Democrats who actively campaigned for Senate and House were an unusually large field after years of waning Democratic voter registration and serious campaigning in Wyoming.
Ben-David, of Laramie, defeated social justice and environmental activist Yana Ludwig, of Laramie and climate-change think tank vice president Nathan Wendt, of Jackson.
“It’s not going to be an easy path,” Ben-David said of running against Lummis. “But I am super excited to take that path and take that challenge.”
Wyoming voters chose the Democratic candidate who will “take care of the future of Wyoming,” said Ben-David, who has been campaigning on transforming Wyoming’s economy with a greater focus on energy industry innovation.
“We are going to reach out to every Wyomingite we can and we have just in the last week called tens of thousands. We’ve made tens of thousands of phone calls to Democrats but we also made quite a few calls to Republicans,” said Ben-David.
Grey Bull, 43, of Fort Washakie, beat Carl Beach, an educator who has spent years teaching at American schools overseas. Grey Bull is vice president of the Global Indigenous Council, a human rights advocacy organization made up of over 200 tribes. Grey Bull also advocates for reducing violent crime against indigenous women.
Wyoming is known as the Equality State for being first to allow women to vote and first with a female governor but men usually dominate its politics. Only 14 of Wyoming’s 90 legislators are women and the winner of Wyoming’s U.S. Senate race will be the first woman in that job. While four women competing for major office in Wyoming is significant, there’s “so much work that needs to be done” to support women in politics, said Grey Bull.
“Woman leadership is something that is so needed, especially in the policy realm. This is one step,” Grey Bull said.
Grey Bull has called for boosting public transportation, improving access to public lands and establishing a “treatment to works” program for opioid addicts.
Election officials in Wyoming’s two biggest cities, Cheyenne and Casper, reported numerous problems with people getting too close to polling places while gathering signatures to put rapper and producer Kanye West and actor and cryptocurrency advocate Brock Pierce on the presidential ballot in the state. Wyoming law prohibits electioneering within 100 yards (91 meters) of polling places.
Police and sheriff’s deputies were called to five polling places to enforce the distance, Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee said.
The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office otherwise reported no major problems in an election season complicated by the coronavirus. Changes this year included mailing absentee ballot request forms to registered voters in June and allowing county clerks to begin processing absentee ballots the week before the primary.
Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
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