(OPINION) — The lone Wyoming congressional debate this year featured a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton, with GOP nominee Liz Cheney continually bashing the soon-to-be first woman president and tying her to Democratic opponent Ryan Greene.

I would have loved to hear what Cheney really thinks about her party’s embarrassing standard-bearer, Donald Trump, who has frequently trashed her father — former vice president Dick Cheney — for getting us into war with Iraq under false pretenses. That’s the same Iraq war that Trump actually supported before he was against it when it became convenient for him to pretend that was his position all along.

If I were inclined to feel sorry for hypocritical politicians with whom I totally disagree I might even have some sympathy for Cheney. Imagine having to say nice things about Trump, an off-the-rail disaster who has torn apart the Republican Party like no one could have imagined before he bullied his way to the presidential nomination.

But things seem to be working out fine for Liz Cheney, who has nonetheless stayed 100 percent true to the far-right GOP playbook and raked in a record amount of campaign money from her father’s friends in the Bush-Cheney administration. It’s not difficult to win a Wyoming congressional seat when you raise 10 times more than all of your opponents combined, with the vast majority of it coming from out of state. Liz Cheney doesn’t even need to pretend that she’s not a carpetbagger from Virginia, because now voters either accept it or no longer seem to care.

After Nov. 8, when Cheney wins the election and Trump is trounced, she can assume the role she was born to play as Hillary Clinton’s nemesis on The Hill. Her neocon bloodlines and bloody experience as a non-stop Fox News tormentor of President Barack Obama have already cemented her in the national media’s eyes as a go-to critic of the new administration.

In August, Washington Post writer Paul Kane predicted that Cheney “could become a breakout star for conservatives hungering for a female lawmaker who is ready-made for the combat of 21st-century political news.”

Great — that’s just what Wyoming needs. If we have to be stuck with her as our representative, couldn’t she just hang around in Paul Ryan’s shadow for a few terms?

Ryan Greene has his fans

It doesn’t have to be this way. During last Thursday’s debate at Casper College, Democratic U.S. House nominee Ryan Greene of Rock Springs more than held his own against Cheney. In fact, at least for the in-person crowd at the auditorium, Greene appeared to be the home favorite.

His best moment was when Cheney, of all people, made the mistake of trying to depict him as someone who has just relied on his parents for his livelihood. Greene is a welder and runs operations for his family’s energy company. It’s an honest line of work.

“Now not everybody in our state has the job security of being able to work in their parents’ company their whole career like my opponent,” Cheney said. Greene, quickly speaking over her, managed to make his stinging response heard over the “boo”s she received: “Not everybody was handed a job at the State Department because their dad was vice president.” It earned him a nice round of applause even though the crowd had previously been warned to act like zombies.

Cheney clearly wanted to respond, but the moderator moved on. Later, she charged that Greene is “the candidate in this race who can’t be trusted” because he recently endorsed Clinton and caucused for “socialist” Bernie Sanders.

“Did you caucus here or were you in Virginia?” shot back Greene, referring to the state where Cheney spent most of her adult life until 2012, when she moved to Jackson Hole and briefly challenged U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi before dropping out of that 2014 Senate race after an embarrassing series of miscues.

Cheney appeared rattled, but was also likely patting herself on the back for rejecting Greene’s challenge to meet at five debates instead of the one she agreed to do. Cheney knew that as the front-runner in name recognition and money, she didn’t need to give her opponent any more opportunities to appear on the same stage.

Ticking off their stands on the issues

Cheney’s conservative bag of tricks is older than the hills, but it’s proven effective in Wyoming time and time again. Almost by rote she plunged forward with her attack: Greene will be beholden to Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, two names guaranteed to stir anger and have Cowboy State conservatives racing to the polls.

I wish one of the panelists had brought up Trump’s declaration that he would wait and see how the “rigged” election went before deciding if he would accept the results. It would have been nice to see Cheney defend the validity of her win if the blustery Republican nominee continued his refusal to accept his own inevitable defeat at the top of the ticket.

Cheney’s narrow list of solutions to the state’s problems included repealing Obamacare, reducing federal taxes and stopping “radical environmental groups.” She bashed the EPA for its “overreach” and alleged war on fossil fuels.

After being pressed by Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck to name any environmental regulation she favored, Cheney essentially said the industry does a great job of policing itself. She disparages climate change as “junk science,” while Greene says he “stands with 99 percent of the world’s scientists” who say it’s real and caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

Cheney railed against wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money pushing renewable energy, prompting Greene to note that one of her largest donors is major wind-energy developer Phil Anschutz.

“I don’t think you’re going to stand by our miners when you’re funded by wind,” he pressed.

While Greene pushed for equal pay for equal work, Cheney said the government has “no business getting in the middle by mandating wages.” She said any minimum wage increase would be a disaster, while Greene said $10 an hour should be the starting point for discussing a minimum wage hike.

Third-party congressional candidates included Libertarian Lawrence Struempf and the Constitution Party’s Daniel Cummings. They acquitted themselves well in explaining their minority positions, but I wish the forum had been twice as long to give the two major party candidates a better opportunity to stress the different directions they want to take for our state.

Cheney has a clear path to victory, but I think if Greene had access to the same amount of campaign funds his opponent has available, he could have given voters a welcome alternative to the tired, conservative platform Wyoming Republicans have trotted out since her father was elected to the position in 1978.

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Wyoming has changed a lot in the past 38 years. We could use a representative like Greene who brings more to the plate than ancient anti-federal rhetoric and fear-mongering.

As he said in his closing statement, Greene is only seeking a two-year term in Washington.

“If I don’t make Wyoming proud, vote me out in two years,” he said. “Getting a Democrat out of office in Wyoming, it’s not that hard. But if we elect Ms. Cheney and we don’t like the results we’re getting, we’re never going to budge her.”

All too true.

Greene still has two weeks to make his case. I wish him well.

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. Mr. Greene stopped by Newcastle recently. He spent most of the afternoon down on the corner of Main and Railroad St. pressing the flesh. $1.9 million may be the sticker price on a House seat this year but the smart money is on the fella that hasn’t forgotten that we still do business in this part of the state on a handshake. Go get ’em Ryan……You ‘ve got my vote.

  2. I’ve seen a question asked on a face book post prior to the Congressional debates, ” Why does Ryan Back Hillary if she against coal?”
    The questions asked in the debate at Casper College were a bit lame without ample time to respond to questions like yours. Here is my answer according to MY perceptions after following Ryan throughout this election cycle:
    Ryan understands our state’s coal, oil, natural gas, and wind energy issues and he will do all he can to make sure our fossil fuels industry remains as viable as possible, while at the same time promoting all our energy resources. He also understands that it is the MARKET, not GOVERNMENT that controls the price of coal as well as its uses in our lives. Currently natural gas is much cheaper to use than coal and this is the driving force behind our coal industry downturn. After all he himself is affected by it. He also has a plan to diversify our economy. Liz doesn’t have one, she is too focused on national issues to worry about Wyomingites.
    To answer your question, he stated that he doesn’t agree with everything the democratic party (ie Hillary Clinton) proposes. However he sees the need for Medicaid expansion to help our disaffected energy workers with medical costs, (Liz doesn’t) and a raise in minimum wage, (Liz is against it).
    He understands that Social Security was never the government’s money to use as they wish, it’s ours, it’s money we paid into the system as insurance against old age, money we as citizens banded together collectively, nationwide to provide for us, the people, and the government NEVER contributed one red cent. Issues the Republicans just cant wrap their heads around?
    That is why he endorses Hillary. It’s a matter of principle. He caucused for Bernie Sanders the same as I did, because Bernie Sanders was a one-issue candidate and that issue was people, people, people.
    Not endorsing every Democratic Party stand shows he has the capacity to look at issues and decide himself what the proper course is instead of blindly following party orders. (I was shocked when Cynthia Lummis voted away $1,000,000.00 dollars per year in abandoned mine funds for our state simply because the GOP told her to. She backed it even though it hurt Wyoming. What’s up with that?) In short, he can think for himself, and that is what I seek in a representative. When was the last time you remember one of our congressmen polling the states citizens to ask which direction WE want him to go to support OUR issues?
    That is the representation I expect from Ryan Greene. He understands and agrees, and so stated during the debate, that we are fed up with government by obstruction for the sake of obstruction (not in those words), and vows to do all he can to end the process that has been created over the past 8 years by showing his willingness to work with sitting Republican senators.
    Ryan understands that we need the same program as the eastern coal communities where they are re-training disaffected coal workers to work in good- paying jobs outside the energy industry and at the same time creating jobs (bringing in new business to diversify economy and tax base) for these re-trained workers to work in! Liz Cheney has NO such ambitions. Who cares more for Wyoming citizens?
    Don’t be fooled, Liz Cheney makes an issue about party politics because she HAS to in order win and serve the interest of her out of state donors in this election.
    But THIS congressional race is not so much about party affiliation, it’s about electing a freshman congressman who will vote to protect Wyoming’s interests over national party politics. We must also recognize that we are electing a (freshman) congressman for Wyoming (not a national political office holder. If Cheney wants a national political office, she should be honest about it and run for a national office and leave Wyoming alone.)
    Progress will be hard fought and hard won. I want a candidate focused on Wyoming issues and not one who is using Wyoming as springboard to launch her national political career (last go-around she tried and failed to unseat a long standing Wyoming senator). I’m tired of being used by the Cheney family for that purpose!
    Her father claimed Wyoming citizenship in the presidential race because the president and vice president aren’t allowed to be from the same state, Period! Did Dick Cheney retire here?
    Liz is the temporary inhabitant of a $1,000,000.00 luxury home in the Jackson/ Wilson area of our state where the billionaires have driven out the millionaires and I hardly think that qualifies her to represent Wyoming. She will use her newly-acquired Wyoming citizenship for as long as it suits her political ambitions the same as her daddy did and then we are history.
    Liz has never held a job or paid taxes on income earned in Wyoming and her husband Phil works for a powerful lobby firm in Washington. (Wyoming ties, Liz?) Ryan has a vested interest in a Wyoming company that serves the energy industry in a HANDS ON capacity and his wife is a school teacher in Rock Springs. Who knows the most about how we as Wyomingites live?
    Contrary to Liz Cheney’s argument, Ryan Greene is a hunter and sportsman and supports the Second Amendment. Like myself he thinks that if you’re on a No Fly list you shouldn’t be able to enter our country and buy a gun. Due process works both ways.
    Liz Cheney is in favor of transferring federal lands to state control and if you will take the time to look at states like Utah or Idaho, what has happened is the state is selling our inheritance to the highest bidder.
    These bidders may be the ultra rich, or conservation groups, or animal rights activists, the list goes on and on with the end result being that YOU are denied access. Utah has sold off public lands to private individuals ignoring the fact that they were not the highest bidder and private property signs are up all over these beautiful lands we once enjoyed.
    Lake McCall in Idaho has fencing running right down into the lake to prevent your access and the ultra-rich corporations are drawing in and heating lake water in their private swimming pools.
    This is what Liz Cheney and our GOP representatives have in mind for Wyoming.
    Don’t believe it? Google it?
    We have the Hathaway program to assist our young people to get a college education but our state officials have made it impossible for them to stay in Wyoming to make a living so we have no chance at recouping our investment by our children living here and contributing to our tax base.
    Ryan Greene and such state candidates as Laurie Longtine want to change this. It’s not about partisan politics.
    Liz Cheney has no plan in mind to address these needs because neither she nor her children will ever spend more than a few weeks’ vacation here.
    You see, this election is no longer about who is fit to serve. It has come to the point where it’s about my gullibility and Liz is playing the gullible card as an ace?
    I am so saddened by the residents of our state who don’t bother to look closer at what Liz has in mind for us, If she ever does take the time to even think of us?
    During the primary’s, Liz only received 40% of the vote, meaning 60% of us didn’t want her. 60% saw through the carpetbagger scheme?
    Wyoming has shown in the past that they will elect a Democrat when they see the opposition is wrong for Wyoming, Lets hope people truly are paying attention.
    More than one of our past governors have been Democrats and served us well.

  3. I am voting for Ryan Greene. It is appalling that this seat can be bought in our state. Cheney is counting on name recognition and low-information voters our state is known for. Slap an R behind your name and outspend everyone with out of state funds and the seat is pretty well a given. It is very unfortunate.

  4. If people like the gridlock and hostility that has marked the last 6 years in Washington, then they should vote for Cheney. She made it very clear that she doesn’t want to compromise, and that her biggest issue is to make sure that the wealthy get wealthier. How do either of those positions benefit Wyoming? Her idea of our future is unfettered oil, gas, and coal development on the land we all love to have open to us, with nearly all of the profit going out of state or out of country. She wants us to remain dependent on fossil fuels as our primary industry instead of building other sources of stable income. And she is putting fossil fuel out there as our savior at a time when prices are at record lows. As long as production continues to rise, prices will continue to fall.

    Wyoming people have come to vote Republican no matter what, not even bothering to look at the positions of the candidates. Cheney’s positions are based on a fantasy that life will continue as it was in years past with Wyoming accepting its fate and Fox news deciding what is important. Along with Roger Ailes and fossil fuels prices, that world is gone. Ryan Greene will help us unlock from our colonial past and look for ways to move into the future with a less volatile economy. It just takes breaking the habit of always voting R, not matter what.

  5. Mrs. Cheney has never discussed the future of Wyoming. She has never discussed the roles of a future Generation, She has never seen the future of what Wyoming could become in 50 years from now for our children and grandchildren or the roles government will play within United States.

    Greene discusses Wyoming’s role in the future by the actions with his children, as his family did with him. Wyoming isn’t about us today, it is about the future. Ask yourselves what have you seen, what have you lost and what do you want for your children, and grandchildren to have as you leave a legacy for them.

    I don’t want corporations’ values, I’m voting for Wyoming values for a total state, from the poorest child to richest. I want them to see Wyoming, for this is their future: not behind a fence, or vast open pit of reclaimed earth, by billionaires claiming our un-renewable earth, our state.

  6. There are two ways at looking at this election for Wyoming. First what is truly good for Wyoming’s future or second, looking at the past for Wyoming. Where does Wyoming stand in Congress and the nation or is it the War on Greed for corporations. Who created the subsidized markets: Congress by actions in legislative lobbying from corporations. Liz Cheney is a name nothing more, is she a statesman or stateswoman for Wyoming? What does she bring to better our state to the table in Washington? Federal overreach is corner stone of Wyoming, from the Tea pot Dome to Arch Coal going bust, for that overreach is the pocket books to elect a person for their special agendas..
    Greene has a cracker box war chest and values Wyoming. Maybe if Liz worked on the Ranch and had blistered hands and sweat rolling down her chin, as she welded the tractor, she’d earn respect. Greene earned respect by Wyoming standards for he is Wyoming and just maybe our statesman a leader for our future?
    A statesman doesn’t worry about getting elected, he or she worries about what do we give the next generation to carry forth? Mrs. Cheney what is your plan? I have heard Ryan Greene talk about his children. I have never heard you talk about yours or their future in Wyoming. I’m voting for Greene, for he speaks well of his children and their future is moving beyond fossil fuels…