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Just a dozen or so days into her campaign, Liz Cheney is facing an uphill grind in her bid for a congressional seat to represent her “home” state of Wyoming. Therein is the rub. Her authenticity, in light of her familial roots and familiar name, is often called into question.
Much of the trouble is self-inflicted.
• Though Cheney’s campaign began in Gillette, her Facebook page noted a geotag from Alexandria, Virginia, adding grist to the “not from here” label. Campaign officials told The Sheridan Press Feb. 2 it was a campaign glitch and that her family lives in Wilson.
• Two years ago while challenging Sen. Mike Enzi, it was revealed she purchased a resident fishing license though she hadn’t lived in Wyoming for a full year. She paid a $220 bond that covered the fine and court costs.
So why does it matter? Why don’t Wyomingites “let it go?”
Fishing licenses in Wyoming — in state ($24) and out of state ($92) —are a big deal. Citizens and voters have a long memory in this state and have a penchant for playing by the rules and respecting the natural resources. The social media incident amplifies how Wyoming is “one long Main Street with 23 counties,” a somewhat insular, libertarian place where digital clumsiness about one’s hometown is met with skepticism.
In her appearances and interviews so far, she has hit most of the Republican talking points. Federal government overreach — check. Obamacare bad — check. Threats to our constitutional rights — check. But what has she said to separate herself from her 11 Republican opponents?
In her interview with the Press, Cheney emphasized that if elected, she would shut off funding for the Bureau of Land Management in order to prevent overreach if needed. As millennial voters like to say: Really? The BLM manages more than 247 million acres and has roots to the Homestead Act of 1862 and to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. There are 18,000 BLM permits for livestock grazing and many of them (400-plus), in Wyoming. The BLM also manages timberlands, renewable energy programs and national monuments like Devil’s Tower. It’s hard to grasp how a freshman legislator could initiate and nurture into law such a sweeping revision that would have great impact in the West and Wyoming. Wiping out BLM efforts via funding cuts does sound good in a speech, or a sound byte, given the ongoing debate about Western lands. Yet, it also sounds like a politician’s promise and Wyoming likes its politicians to be original and realistic.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who was elected to represent Wyoming in 2008, is retiring. No one has better name recognition than Liz Cheney. No one has more potential or access to big money (in state and outside) for a statewide campaign. Will that be enough?