This news actually broke over the weekend, but it drew so little media attention that a lot of people might have missed it. After more than four decades in public service, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi (R) will retire when his term is up next year. He provided plenty of notice of his resignation to allow the party to begin the process of finding the next person to run for the seat. (Gillette News Record)
At a small gathering Saturday morning at Gillette City Hall with family, friends, current and former staff members and a small group of the press, Enzi announced that he will retire when his fourth term in the Senate is up in 2020.
“I am an advocate for Gillette and Campbell County and Wyoming,” he said during his announcement speech. “I never intended to get into politics. But I was mayor for eight years during the first Gillette boom. I got to work with some amazing people who didn’t know what couldn’t be done, so we did it. We laid down a foundation for the future.”
When it’s all said and done, Enzi, 75, will have held an elected office for 42 years: eight as mayor of Gillette, 10 as a Wyoming state legislator and 24 as a U.S. Senator.
So why wasn’t there the same feeding frenzy around Enzi’s pending retirement that we frequently see when any of his colleagues call it a day? Because this is Wyoming we’re talking about. Enzi has won every one of his elections there with more than 70% of the vote except for his first run in 1996. (And he still won that one by 12 points.) No matter how woke the rest of the nation starts acting, Wyoming is not up for grabs. The GOP primary is essentially the general election.
Speaking of which, who is going to replace him? Obviously, all eyes will immediately swivel to Liz Cheney. She’s had her sights set on that seat for a while, having attempted to oust Enzi himself once in the primary. That race (and Enzi’s sometimes rocky relationship with Dick Cheney) makes Congresswoman Cheney’s positioning here a little awkward. But as soon as the announcement came out, she was clearly ready to declare all of the unpleasantness to be water under the bridge and penned a very nice statement about the retiring Senator.
“During his 20 years in Washington, he brought our state’s values to the nation’s capital, fighting for a smaller, less obstructive, and more efficient federal government that would allow people to grow and thrive. He recognized that empowering people, not politicians, was the best way to expand opportunity, and he worked tirelessly towards that goal.
“I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside him for the people of Wyoming and am proud to call him a friend. He, his wife Diana, three children and all his grandchildren deserve thanks from a state and nation that is indebted to him for his lifetime of service.”
The question is whether Liz Cheney still wants the job. As the Washington Post pointed out over the weekend, in a relatively short time she has risen through the ranks of Congressional Republicans. She’s in the number 3 leadership position, holds choice committee assignments and there’s even some buzz about her possibly trying for the Speaker’s gavel if and when the GOP takes back the majority.
She’s got plenty of time to decide. There are obviously some advantages to staying put, but much like the great white whale, once you have your heart set on a particular prize, it can be hard to give up the chase.