CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Liz Cheney announced a core group of state leaders and advisers for her U.S. Senate campaign Thursday that draws from all corners of Wyoming and includes well-known Republican campaign organizers and fundraisers, but no prominent elected officials.
The list shows political lines being drawn among Wyoming Republicans ahead of what could turn out to be the longest, toughest and most expensive political battle the state has ever seen.
The elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney announced last week she's running against three-term Sen. Mike Enzi next year. Enzi almost immediately announced his re-election campaign, and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and the state's lone U.S. representative, Cynthia Lummis, immediately gave him their support.
Cheney's team offers the first substantial look at who in Wyoming is on her side.
Her statewide campaign co-chairs include Dick and Maggie Scarlett, who in 2011 hosted a fundraiser for Mitt Romney at their Jackson Hole home.
Also co-chairing are Bill and Toni Thomson, who earlier this month held a get-to-know-Liz event that drew about 35 people to their Cheyenne home. Thomson is an attorney, lobbyist and longtime Republican organizer.
"I believe she'd step out front and that she would directly challenge actions of the president and his liberal allies that want to change America in a way that makes me very uncomfortable," Thomson said. "I think she has the ability and experience to really be a leader in the national debate."
Many speculate Cheney will need to run a negative campaign against Enzi. Thomson passed on an opportunity to criticize Enzi, but Harriet Hageman, listed among Cheney's advisers, said Enzi has been too willing to compromise with Democrats.
"If we're going to change the trajectory of the country, we have to change our leaders as well," said Hageman, a Cheyenne water and natural resources attorney known for taking up conservative causes.
The Scarletts, Thomsons and Hagemans – Harriet Hageman said her father, a state legislator, was a Young Republican with Dick Cheney – all are old friends of the Cheney family.
An Enzi spokesman said the senator is backed by some of the most conservative Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and gets things done for Wyoming's people every day.
"There is no compromise on that for him. It's called being effective," spokesman Coy Knobel said by email.
Cheney said in a statement she was honored to have "support, advice and counsel" from the group of 16 "distinguished Wyoming citizens." Other advisers include John and DJ Mansell, of Enzi's hometown of Gillette, where John Mansell is an anesthesiologist, and Lois Herbst, a rancher in Fremont County in central Wyoming.
No current state lawmakers or current or former statewide elected officials are on the list, though Cheney has the support of at least one Republican legislator.
"I agree with everything I have heard her say so far," state Rep. Sue Wallis said by email.
Wallis called herself a "big fan" of Wyoming's congressional delegation but said lack of new blood in Washington, especially in the Senate, is a problem.
Another legislator is skeptical Cheney will get much support among Wyoming legislators. Enzi was a state representative and senator from 1988-1996.
State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, described Enzi as a "salt of the earth" fellow who had "paid his dues."
"I just think this effort, to be successful, it's virtually impossible. Truly," Case said of Cheney's challenge.
Gov. Matt Mead has endorsed neither Cheney nor Enzi. The Mead family also is a well-known political name in Wyoming. His grandfather, Clifford Hansen, was governor and U.S. senator. Mead has said in declining to endorse that he's friends with both the Cheneys and Enzis.
Associated Press writer Ben Neary contributed to this report.
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