Liz Cheney’s staff draws on family roots and Wyoming expertise

By Gregory Nickerson
— July 26, 2013
Liz Cheney looks on at Dick Cheney's first inauguration as vice president of the United States in 2000. (White House Photo)

Liz Cheney looks on at Dick Cheney’s first inauguration as vice president of the United States in 2000. (White House Photo)

Liz Cheney’s announcement of her Wyoming campaign staff on July 25th unveiled the team that will try to help her prevail in the 2014 Republican primary election.

In early polling last week, popular Sen. Mike Enzi had a 34-point lead over Cheney, who moved to Wyoming last year from the beltway suburb of McLean, Va. Enzi is a longtime resident who was first elected to the Senate in 1996.

Liz Cheney’s staff for the campaign is a carefully selected group of old family friends with wealth and a deep knowledge of Wyoming politics.

While Cheney may have limited time as a Wyoming resident, she has a lifetime of experience with her parents, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney. With their help, plus the aid of her advisors, she aims to be well-funded and well-versed in Wyoming issues.

Cheney’s five co-chairs include Dick and Maggie Scarlett of Jackson, Bill and Toni Thomson of Cheyenne, and Byra Kite of Laramie, all either donors or orchestrators of successful campaigns for Wyoming Republicans.

In addition to the co-chairs, Cheney’s advisory group represents a number of Wyoming’s key industries, and a variety of towns including Rock Springs, Jackson, Shoshoni, Gillette, Cheyenne, and Casper.

“I am honored to have the support, advice and counsel of this group of distinguished Wyoming citizens,” Cheney said in a press release. “I look forward to working with them in the coming months as I travel the state talking with Wyoming voters about the issues affecting the future of our state and country.”

The co-chairs and finance chair

Liz Cheney’s selection of Dick and Maggie Scarlett as advisors shows her ability to access long-standing friendships of her parents, relationships that will likely augment her fundraising efforts.

Maggie and Dick Scarlett reside in Jackson Hole, not far from the three homes the Cheneys own in the area. When Dick Cheney was vice-president, his vacations in Jackson Hole included camping with Dick Scarlett.

Dick Scarlett was a successful banker in Jackson. He founded Union Bancorp in 1973, which he owned until its sale to Wells Fargo in January of 2008, just nine months before the stock market crash.

At the time of the sale, Union Bancorp had $1.7 billion in assets, which included Jackson State Bank, Sheridan State Bank, Shoshone First Bank, First State Bank of Pinedale and United Bank of Idaho, as reported by the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Union Bancorp was the third-largest privately held company in Wyoming.

Maggie Scarlett is one of the oldest friends of Liz Cheney’s mother Lynne. According to Lynne Cheney’s book Blue Skies, No Fences, the two met at the Wyoming Girls State conference in the late 1950s. Both were elected officers of Girls State, and had their picture taken with Governor Milward Simpson in Cheyenne.

Today, Dick and Maggie Scarlett are an important part of the Jackson Hole political fundraising circuit. They are regular donors to the Wyoming Republican Party. Dick Scarlett was state finance chairman for the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign. In 2011 they hosted a fundraising event for Mitt Romney. (Dick and Lynne Cheney also hosted a dinner for Romney.)

Dick Scarlett serves as a director for Brandywine Fund, Inc., the company founded by Jackson Hole neighbor and noted political donor Foster Friess, who gave more than $1 million to Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign.

The Scarletts have been close followers of the Cheney family’s political fortunes for decades. When Dick Cheney debated vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman in the lead-up to the 2000 election, Dick and Maggie Scarlett were among the group of friends who came up on stage after the event to congratulate Cheney.

Also on Cheney’s co-chair list are Bill and Toni Thomson, of Cheyenne, who will contribute a lifetime of experience in Wyoming state politics to the campaign.

Bill Thomson has been a lobbyist for more than 30 years in Cheyenne, representing clients like AFLAC, Anheuser Busch Companies, BNSF Railway Co., Chevron Corp., Cigar Association of America, Coca-Cola Bottling of Northern Wyoming, Coca-Cola Co., and General Motors Corp., as reported by the Casper Star-Tribune.

Bill Thomson’s mother was Thyra Thomson, the longtime Secretary of State for Wyoming from 1963 to 1987. Thyra Thomson passed away on June 11, 2013, and Lynn Cheney spoke at her funeral, as reported by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

The last co-chair on Cheney’s list is Byra Kite, one of the most experienced Republican campaign advisors in the state. In 1976, Kite helped Republican candidate Malcolm Wallop defeat three-time incumbent Democrat Sen. Gale McGee.

Following that, Kite was Wallop’s state director for 18 years, and then worked for Sen. Craig Thomas from 1994-1997. Craig Thomas recognized Kite on the floor of the Senate in 1997 saying, “Byra (had) a 20 year career of helping Wyoming Republicans shape their campaigns and win elections. His tireless work, dedication and vision broke new ground in terms of modern campaigning.”

Byra Kite is a member at large of the Wyoming Republican Party Executive Committee. Notably, he is the only member of the state party leadership on Cheney’s staff.

Kite originally came to Wyoming from California and was an All-American football player at the University of Wyoming in the mid-1960s. Byra Kite was previously married to Marilyn Kite, a Holland & Hart attorney who represented energy companies and became one of the Wyoming’s Supreme Court justices. She remarried in 1990 and moved to Jackson Hole.

Cheney’s campaign finance chair is Margaret Parry of Rock Springs. Parry operates Bottom Line Marketing, a promotional products vendor that sells hats, bags, buttons and other branded items to promote corporate messaging.

A breast cancer survivor, Parry is the founder of Cowboys Against Cancer, a charity that raises money for cancer patients in Sweetwater County. She was among the state’s presidential electors in the last election.

The advisory committee

Members of Liz Cheney’s advisory committee come from a wide swath of Wyoming, representing sectors like energy, ranching, law, medicine, and real estate.

The advisory committee members include Kim Brown of Farson, who is owner of Premier Power Plants and Pumps, an oil and gas services contractor. Brown also operates a family foundation.

The committee’s philanthropists also include Jim and Janet Curry of Casper, who have donated to causes like the Montessori School and Catholic Schools in Casper, the Nicolaysen Art Museum. Jim Curry is also past a donor to Wyoming Republicans like U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis.

For advice on controversial state-federal issues, Cheney will have support from Harriet Hageman, a prominent Cheyenne lawyer. Hageman has litigated several notable cases relating to Wyoming’s water rights, the roadless rule, and gray wolf recovery. She is the founder of the Wyoming Resource Alliance, and a critic of federal land management regulations.

In an article in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, Hageman said, “We continue to fight the federal regulatory burden – it is truly becoming unbearable, and in almost everything I do, including water resources, land use, water quality and quantity, we’re seeing an enormous federal overreach into areas traditionally managed and addressed on a state or local level.”

Hageman’s legal experience in federal land issues will be complemented by the practical experience of Lois Herbst of Shoshoni, who has been ranching there since 1958.

Herbst was the first and only woman to be president of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association. In 2012 she unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Rita Campbell (R-Shoshoni) for the seat in House District 34, citing education, water, and federal land management issues as her major interests.

Other members of Cheney’s advisory team include professionals in law and medicine like Rock Springs attorney George Lemich and anesthesiologist John Mansell and DJ Mansell of Gillette.

The final members of the advisory team are Bernie and Sally Seebaum of Douglas. Sally Seebaum comes from a ranching background, and she and her husband worked for 25 years in the real estate business.

In the coming weeks the Cheney campaign will be selecting its county leaders who will coordinate local efforts. Those selections will further delineate which camps within the Republican party are lining up to support Enzi and Cheney.

For more on this race, read these WyoFile stories by Wyoming political reporter Gregory Nickerson:
—   Wyoming, Meet Liz Cheney
—   Liz Cheney and Philip Perry: A prominent couple in Washington D.C.
 
See also these WyoFile columns by opinion writer and veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake:
—   Liz Cheney can win in Wyoming, but she has hurdles in her way
—   And in this corner: Liz Cheney, her dad and a mountain of cash
—   Playing the age card won’t help Liz Cheney
 
Mead Gruver of the Associated Press also covered Cheney’s staff selection.
— Gregory Nickerson is the government and policy reporter for WyoFile. He writes the Capitol Beat blog. Contact him at greg@wyofile.com.
 
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Published on July 26, 2013

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