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Rod Miller, a Republican who lives near Buford, says he will run a campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. Miller was photographed Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, near his home in rural Albany County. Jacob Byk/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – A Buford man says he plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in this year’s Republican primary.

Rod Miller is not a conventional candidate for Congress. He would certainly have the longest hair and beard of any delegate elected to serve in the House of Representatives.

Miller said he expects to have an unconventional campaign. But he said his campaign is not a protest run just to make noise.

“I wouldn’t enter if I didn’t intend to win,” Miller said Saturday in Laramie. “It’s not going to be a landslide, I don’t think, but I like my chances. There’s enough disenchantment in Wyoming. Liz has a great name … but she had to move here from Virginia to be a congressman. I think that does not work in her favor.”

Cheney moved to Wilson in 2012. After briefly staging a run in 2014 against U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., she ran again in 2016 for the seat left vacant by Cynthia Lummis.

In that primary, Cheney was one of nine candidates. Though many of her opponents went after Cheney with the carpetbagger jab, she easily defeated all eight, with Wyoming Sen. Leland Christiansen, R-Alta, coming in second with 19,330 votes, compared to Cheney’s 35,043.

Born and raised on a cattle ranch in northern Carbon County, Miller considers himself a genuine Wyomingite. He touts his family’s 150-year history in the state as part of his thorough connection to Wyoming and its people.

After working on the family ranch into his mid-30s, Miller went to work for Democratic Gov. Ed Herschler on natural resource and federal lands planning. Miller has worked on campaigns, but never served in office.

Miller doesn’t consider himself a Republican of the contemporary mainstream ilk that he associates with Cheney. Instead, Miller said he sees himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.”

“The core values of Republicanism are a fundamental mistrust of large organizations, a reliance on the individual, his intelligence and his ability to determine what’s best for him,” Miller said. “Now, the Republicans are supporting the Goldman Sachs and the huge corporations and hedge fund managers. Monolithic institutions are their base now, instead of individuals. And Teddy Roosevelt would not agree with that.”

While Miller expects he and Cheney would find common ground on matters such as fiscal conservatism, he differs “dramatically” with her positions on public lands, he said. In December, Cheney introduced a bill to increase the number of days that heli-skiing would be allowed in wilderness-quality land south of Teton Pass, according to the Associated Press. The Jackson Hole News and Guide reported that some conservationists saw the move as Cheney attempting to manage Teton County wilderness issues from Washington, D.C.

That’s something Miller said he takes issue with.

“(It’s) thwarting the work of local people and imposing on them a decision from Congress, and that’s wrong,” he said.

The move to allow more days for heli-skiing appears to be a step in the direction of turning over public lands to private interests, Miller said.

“You can manage public lands – oil, gas, coal, recreation, whatever – but to sell to private interests, where it gets fenced off, is wrong,” he said. “My gut tells me that Cheney’s bill to helicopter skiers to the Palisades for huge amounts of money is like the camel’s nose in the door to privatize public lands.”

When it comes to supporting President Donald Trump, Cheney’s been stalwart. Miller said he is not a big fan of Trump and believes he’s “annoying as many Republicans as he has Democrats” in Wyoming. Polls in late 2017 showed support for the president wavering in some rural Republican states. However, Wyoming’s support for Trump was still among the highest in the nation.

The legislative track record for the GOP’s first year in control of Congress and the White House wasn’t good, Miller said.

The GOP’s largest achievement of 2017, tax reform, was misdirected in its biggest cuts for corporations and the wealthy, Miller said. While GOP leaders and Cheney expect economic growth as a result of the cuts that will translate into benefits for the middle class, Miller said the concept of trickledown economics doesn’t work.

“When somebody tells you that if corporations are making money that everybody is going to be making money, don’t believe them,” he said.

It’s an uphill battle for Miller to take on a political powerhouse like Cheney. But Miller said he’s optimistic that he’ll put up a good fight.

“Liz is going to throw money at me, so I’m going to have to go with hard work, smarts and charm,” he said.

Joel Funk is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at jfunk@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @jmacfunk.

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