CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Republican former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis was elected to an open U.S. Senate seat while Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney won a third term in Wyoming's first election with women as the major party congressional candidates.
Lummis was heavily favored in GOP-dominated Wyoming after raising and spending far more money than her opponent, Democratic University of Wyoming ecology professor and climate activist Merav Ben-David.
The 18-month campaign was the longest of her career but also the most enjoyable, Lummis said.
"It was so different from any campaign I've ever done. I have to credit a lot of hard work by people around the state. We were extremely well organized. We had the best volunteers Wyoming could put forward," Lummis added.
Putting the needs of Wyoming residents "first and foremost on the agenda" and reducing the national debt will be her top priorities once in office, Lummis said.
Lummis will succeed Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, who is retiring after four terms. Lummis comes from a prominent Cheyenne ranching family and has been well-known in Wyoming politics for over 30 years.
Lummis was Wyoming's lone congresswoman from 2009-2017, when she stepped down to attend to family business matters following her husband's death.
She served as state treasurer from 1999-2007 and served for 14 years in the Wyoming House and Senate in the 1980s and 1990s.
Wyoming hasn't had a U.S. Senate vacancy since Republican Craig Thomas died in 2007. Appointed to finish Thomas' term, Republican Sen. John Barrasso has easily won reelection ever since.
Ben-David campaigned as an outsider who could counter "endless gridlock" in Washington, D.C.
"We have run an amazing campaign. We have put together a campaign that Wyoming has not seen in decades," Ben-David said. "I'm very proud of what we've done. We've definitely raised awareness in Wyoming of different viewpoints, not just talking points of the Republican Party."
Lummis campaigned on her past experience and ongoing contacts in Washington, D.C., saying in an Oct. 8 debate with Ben-David her previous experience in the House would open up committee assignments otherwise unavailable to a freshman senator.
Lummis' experience in office helped win her over with at least a couple Cheyenne voters. Debra Harris, 65, said Lummis got her vote because Lummis previously served in Congress and yet is "not a lifelong, deep-state politician."
"I felt like she would know the ropes if she gets back to Washington," Harris said while walking with her husband, Andy Harris, 65, at a park Monday in Cheyenne.
The Harrises said they also voted for Cheney because they wanted Wyoming's lone congressperson to support President Donald Trump.
"I feel like at the heart of it, she's got Wyoming's interests in mind," Debra Harris said. "We want to see somebody who's going to support the president."
The Harrises praised Trump's economic record, especially on ensuring U.S. energy independence, and his willingness to confront China.
"With everybody yelling 'Russia, Russia, Russia,' it's China. Anybody with common sense can see that. Russia doesn't have the GDP than even Texas has," Andy Harris said.
Trump prevailed in Wyoming over former Vice President Joe Biden to claim the state's three electoral votes. Wyoming hasn't chosen a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
A woman who described herself as a lifelong registered Democrat said she voted for Republicans in Wyoming's top races out of unhappiness over the tenor of national politics.
"This year I felt so disgusted with what's going on with everybody that I opted to go with Trump," said Melinda Brazzale, 70, a retired spokeswoman for the Laramie County Library System. "I just feel like people are being so mean hearted, so at each other's throats."
Brazzale said she didn't like Trump "as a person" but saw him as preferable to Biden and other national-level Democratic figures.
Cheney defeated Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull, a Northern Arapaho tribal member and Global Indigenous Council vice president.
Cheney ran on her record as one of the higher-profile Republicans in the House, saying in her Oct. 8 debate against Grey Bull she would "fight against the very dangerous policies" of Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cheney said she was honored to win.
"We have so many important challenges ahead of us and I look forward to standing up for Wyoming's interests and values," Cheney said in a statement.
Grey Bull described herself in her campaign as a member of the working class who understood working-class issues.
"I am proud to be the first Indigenous person nominated for federal office in Wyoming and look forward to continuing to work hard for my community and my fellow Wyomingites," Grey Bull said in a statement conceding the race.