Liz Cheney OFFICIAL PORTRAIT 2020

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

CHEYENNE – Liz Cheney, Wyoming's sole delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives, announced this morning she won't seek the state's soon-to-be-open U.S. Senate seat in this year's election.

Instead, Cheney will seek reelection in the House. The announcement ends the potential for a primary showdown between Cheney and former Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis, who announced her candidacy in July for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

"I looked at this decision carefully, and ultimately, for me, the important question is where I can have the biggest impact for Wyoming," Cheney said Thursday. "We've got a big fight on our hands to take back the House, and it seems to me that I could have a much bigger impact for Wyoming by staying here, rather than running for the Senate."

While the Senate position being vacated by Enzi offered a chance to join the smaller chamber of Congress, Cheney's decision to stay in the House will likely produce speculation about her position in House leadership. Cheney currently serves as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in GOP House leadership. 

In a conference call with reporters following her announcement Thursday, Cheney did not comment on whether the potential to become Speaker of the House weighed into her decision.

"I'm honored that my colleagues have elected me to be the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, and in that position, I'm going to fight very hard over the course of the next 11 months to make sure we do take back the majority," she said. "That's going to be my focus."

While Cheney offered no clue to her leadership aspirations, Enzi offered a vision of Wyoming's preeminence in Congress in a tweet sent Thursday afternoon.

"@RepLizCheney has quickly risen to third in House leadership," Enzi wrote. "I can see a future where she could be Speaker & @SenJohnBarrasso Majority Leader."

The congresswoman, who was first elected to the House in 2016, has gained national attention for her strident criticisms of Democratic leadership.

“Nancy Pelosi and the Socialist Democrats in the House of Representatives are threatening our freedom and our Wyoming values every day," Cheney said in a statement. "They must be stopped."

During the conference call Thursday, Cheney criticized Democrats' recent actions, including the House's passage of the Iran War Powers resolution, which aims to rein in President Donald Trump's ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval, as signs of national disunity. 

"Clearly, the Democrats in the House are so blinded by their hatred of President Trump that they won't even stand with him when he killed the world's deadliest terrorist," Cheney said in reference to Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. airstrike this month. "I think that's dangerous for the nation, and it's yet one more reason why we have to take the House back this year."

For now, Lummis remains the only Republican candidate for the Senate seat, though other candidates, like Republicans Bob Grady and Foster Friess, could emerge in the coming months. On the Democratic side, community organizer Yana Ludwig is the only candidate to officially announce her candidacy.

Cheney said she spoke with Lummis when the former congresswoman initially decided to run for the Senate seat, but added her decision was made irrespective of anyone else in the race. 

"I thought the most important thing to do was look at where I can have the biggest impact for Wyoming," Cheney said.

Cheney's decision garnered quick reactions, both from national media and members of Congress. U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said Wyoming is fortunate to have Cheney serving in the House of Representatives.

"Liz Cheney’s strong leadership and commitment to advancing Wyoming values are vitally important in our efforts to bring fundamental change to the House of Representatives," Barrasso said in a tweet.

The primary election in the U.S. Senate race will take place Aug. 18, before the general election Nov. 3. 

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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