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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — This time around, Liz Cheney's the one to beat.
Accusations of carpet-bagging, a ticket for illegal fishing and a family spat over gay marriage led up to Cheney abandoning her bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, a fellow Republican, last election cycle.
Now, Cheney's got credibility, money and momentum after a focused and far less dramatic primary campaign for Wyoming's lone House seat. Eight seek Tuesday's Republican nomination to replace retiring Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
"Everything's a learning experience," said Tammy Hooper, Wyoming's Republican Party director from 2011 to 2015 and a Cheney backer. "You hone your message. You think about what works and what doesn't."
Former Sen. Alan Simpson also is among Cheney's supporters for the job her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, first won 40 years ago. Hardly anybody of note in Wyoming backed her against Enzi a year after she moved to Jackson Hole from Virginia, where she lived for decades.
Dick Cheney has kept a low profile but is a top donor, along with the likes of former President George W. Bush, Bush adviser Karl Rove and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. As of July 27, Liz Cheney had raised almost $1.5 million. She still had about $540,000, or almost 10 times more than the next three candidates combined.
"With an eight-way split in the vote, I think she pretty much is in the driver's seat," said Jim King, a University of Wyoming political science professor.
Liz Cheney has kept tightly focused on national security, saying federal regulations distract the government from protecting the U.S. from threats from abroad.
"The federal government is involved in so many things it shouldn't be involved in," she said. "It's unable and unwilling to do the things we need it to do."
Cheney's opponents often present themselves as alternatives to the former Fox News commentator and State Department official. They include:
— State Sen. Leland Christensen, of Alta, a former sheriff, county commissioner and U.S. Army special operations forces soldier who accused Cheney on Facebook on Thursday of "using millions of out-of-state dollars and her Dad's last name to try to buy the election."
— State Rep. Tim Stubson, a Casper attorney who said in May: "If you think Washington is working well, then I think it's a logical decision to send somebody that's made their whole career within the Washington bureaucracy, like Liz Cheney."
— Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith, a Christian Broadcasting Network executive who described himself Monday as "Wyoming born, Wyoming raised, Wyoming bred" and said: "If you vote for anybody but Darin Smith in this race, you are voting for Liz Cheney. I'm the only one that can beat her."
More than anything else, the Republican candidates have focused on Wyoming's down-in-the-dumps coal industry, railing against the Obama administration's federal coal-leasing moratorium and pollution controls sought for coal-fired power plants.
Cheney has avoided distractions like her 2013 public kerfuffle with her gay sister, Mary Cheney, over gay marriage, which Liz Cheney opposed, and the $220 ticket she got for fishing with a resident Wyoming license for which she didn't qualify yet.
Nowadays, she spins her years outside Wyoming as an asset. They "give me the ability to bring a national focus to our issues," she said.
An oilfield services executive and retired Roman Catholic priest seek the Democratic nomination but the Republican race likely will decide who succeeds Lummis. A Democrat hasn't held the job since Dick Cheney's first election.
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