CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Women are all but guaranteed to claim a majority of Wyoming’s congressional delegation for the first time after voters picked four — two Republicans and two Democrats — to compete for U.S. Senate and House seats in November.
It’s another milestone for women in the Equality State, which got its nickname for being first to give women the vote. However, some would argue that the state gave up that claim to fame long ago.
Wyoming has the highest male-female earnings gap of any state, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, and the third-lowest share of women in its Legislature, the Center for American Women and Politics says.
Yet Tuesday's primaries in Wyoming show that simply being a woman is no longer an automatic impediment even in a conservative state, University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King said Wednesday.
“The discussion doesn’t focus so much on the woman who won but the Republican or Democrat,” King said. “That’s a significant shift generally in American politics, but we see it also in Wyoming.”
Wyoming gave women the vote in 1869 in an effort to draw settlers, especially women. The state also had the first female justice of the peace (Esther Hobart Morris, 1870) and governor (Nellie Tayloe Ross, 1925).
On Tuesday, the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women nationwide the right to vote, Republicans Cynthia Lummis and Liz Cheney, and Democrats Merav Ben-David and Lynnette Grey Bull, all beat men in Wyoming's primaries.
In November, Lummis will challenge Merav Ben-David to succeed Sen. Mike Enzi, who is retiring. Cheney, an incumbent, will face Grey Bull, a Native American, for a House seat. The winners will serve with Republican Sen. John Barrasso in Wyoming’s next congressional delegation.
Becoming the first woman to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Wyoming on the suffrage centennial was “particularly special,” said Lummis, who beat eight men and two women for the GOP nomination.
Lummis, 65, is a former congresswoman, state treasurer and legislator who got President Donald Trump's endorsement.
Being a woman is far from the most insurgent aspect of 61-year-old Ben-David’s campaign for Senate. An ecology professor at the University of Wyoming whose research includes how climate change could affect polar bears, she wants to shift Wyoming’s economy from fossil fuels by investing in carbon-free energy technology.
Wyoming is the top coal-producing state and a major producer of oil and natural gas — industries that brought billions of dollars to the state in boom times but lately have gone bust.
“There’s not going to be another boom. We need to come up with another plan,” Ben-David has said. “Wyoming is in trouble and the problem is not going to go away.”
In GOP-dominated Wyoming, Lummis and Cheney are the heavy favorites to serve alongside Barrasso.
Wyoming is sure to get its first female senator with two women running. Three Republican women have held Wyoming's U.S. House seat nonstop since Barbara Cubin became the state's first female congresswoman in 1995.
Cheney, 54, the oldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a former State Department official, is seeking a third term since succeeding Lummis as Wyoming’s lone U.S. representative in 2017.
Cheney has risen quickly to the No. 3 House GOP leadership post though she recently came under attack from fellow Republicans for speaking out in support of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, which they said was disloyal to Trump.
Cheney has enormous advantages in funding and name recognition but Grey Bull vowed in a Facebook post Wednesday: “It's time to go knock some pants off!” She posted artwork of a buffalo with bluejeans on one of its horns.
Grey Bull, 43, is vice president of the Global Indigenous Council, a human rights advocacy organization made up of over 200 tribes. A member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who lives on central Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, Grey Bull advocates for reducing violent crime against Indigenous women.
Grey Bull is the first woman and first Native American in decades, if ever, to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. House in Wyoming.
“It's kind of noteworthy to see not only women lead, and run, and have the guts to run, but also to win,” Grey Bull said Tuesday. "Woman leadership is something that is so needed in this country in the policy realm. So this is one step.”
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