One of the marquee races of the coming political year is the GOP primary fight between Liz Cheney and Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, which is rapidly becoming less a political contest than a kind of sagebrush soap opera, "As the Cowboy State Turns."
To recap, there has been the flap over Cheney’s improper acquisition of an in-state fishing license; the sisterly feud sparked by her condemnation of same-sex marriage; and a dust-up between the state’s voluble ex-GOP senator, Alan Simpson -- who is backing Enzi -- and the candidate’s mother, Lynne Cheney, who either did, or did not, tell him to “shut [his] mouth.”
The latest controversy involves Liz Cheney’s husband, Phil Perry, and the matter of his voter registration.
Apparently when Perry registered in Wyoming earlier this year, he remained on the voter roll in his former home state of Virginia. As part of Wyoming’s registration process, Perry had to sign an oath swearing he was not registered to vote elsewhere. He did.
A spokeswoman for the Cheney campaign said the dual registration was an innocent mistake that Perry discovered this week and immediately corrected, by asking his name be removed from the roll in Virginia.
But having spilled into the press, the matter won’t be resolved quite that easily. The Casper Star-Tribune reported Thursday that Perry, an attorney, could face a felony charge, with a penalty of up to five years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine, if prosecutors pursue the matter.
That seems unlikely. But it doesn’t mitigate the political problem for Cheney -- daughter of former Wyoming congressman and Vice President Dick Cheney -- whose greatest political liability has been a perception that she moved to his home state simply to run for office. (Liz Cheney attended elementary and junior high school in Casper, and graduated from high school in northern Virginia, college in Colorado and law school in Chicago. Until moving back recently, she and her family lived in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.)
With scant difference between Enzi and Cheney on most issues, small things have taken on outsized import. Cheney paid $220 to settle the fish-license mishap. But the political cost of the twin controversies could prove much steeper.