Shortly after Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming was elected to the U.S. Senate last November, a New York Times headline described Lummis as a “bull-coaxing conservative,” with a “libertarian streak”
The bull was Romeo, a resident of Lummis’ ranch, and Romeo was displaying a libertarian streak of his own.
Romeo needed to go to the vet for foot rot, but the aggressive, 2,000-pound bull had no intention of meekly walking into the waiting trailer. The Times reporter further indicated that Romeo was not in a good mood that day.
“A bull is too powerful to be forced to do anything,” the New York Times admiringly explained, “but he can be persuaded. So, Ms. Lummis approached Romeo, spoke to him very kindly and pulled the giant beast gently by the ear until he had boarded the trailer and was off to treatment.”
It’s the values and work ethic of a hands-on, third-generation Wyoming rancher and former state legislator that Lummis, 66, brings to her new job in the U. S. Senate—this is Lummis’ second tenure in Washington. She served as Congressman (she prefers this term) for Wyoming’s at-large district from 2009-2017.
Lummis is the first member of the House Freedom Caucus to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Lummis was part of the GOP’s unprecedentedly large class of females elected to Congress last year, and the only GOP woman to be elected to a first term in the Senate. Lummis fills the seat of former Republican Senator Mike Enzi, who did not run for reelection. She defeated nine Republican challengers in the primary.
The Romeo incident occurred when Lummis was in Congress. An admiring aide was quoted recalling that Lummis accomplished the feat “just by being nice.” Lummis is nice, a pleasant and easy interview, as you would expect of a former “Miss Frontier” (title of high honor at the annual “Cheyenne Frontier Days” rodeo and western celebration), but niceness does not prevent her from being outspoken. Lummis was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, which her website characterizes as “a group consisting of the most unflinching conservative Members of the House of Representatives.”
Unflinching is an apt term. Most recently, she urged that the Senate vote against the confirmation of Deb Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior, calling Haaland, who was confirmed, “more radical than Biden” on the environment. Throughout her career, Lummis has been an unwavering advocate for a free-market approach to the state’s energy industry. She received a lifetime achievement award from the Washington Coal Club and describes herself as “the proud godmother” of the ANSAC Wyoming, a commercial shipping vessel used to transport trona (Wyoming-mined soda ash used in industrial manufacturing) from the U.S. to Southeast Asia.
“I was approached by the soda ash producers in Wyoming, who own that ship to be its godmother,” Lummis recalls. “So, I got to go to Portland and break the bottle of champagne over the bow, and as the godmother of the ANSAC Wyoming, I pray regularly for the crew of that ship that they may be safe at sea.”
One of her causes is keeping public lands open to multiple uses.
Lummis is also an outspoken supporter of blockchain technology, including bitcoin. “My daughter and my son-in-law introduced me to Bitcoin,” Lummis tells IWF. “I invested out of curiosity, and then the more I paid attention to it, the more I came to view it as a great store of value because there will only be 21 million Bitcoin ever mined, ever produced, and scarcity, I think, helps create value. At the same time, the U.S. dollar has inflation baked into it. It is the policy of the Federal Reserve to have our currency inflate.
A picture of Lummis, looking rodeo-ready, with golden braids and a jaunty cowboy hat, documents Lummis’ reign as Miss Frontier, 1976. Roy Rogers crowned her.
“And so, every dollar I make is going to be worth less in the future. So, it is nice to know that there is something out there that is stable, that is finite, and that the government cannot control by bad public policy. And that is Bitcoin. So, I have become an advocate, and more so since our national debt has grown and grown and grown. We, as the Congress of the United States, have shown no appetite to stop spending, or at least spend within our means. We continue to spend outside of our means, even in non-emergency situations.
“And, because of that, I think we’ve got to look at alternatives because there may be a point at which we have reached the end of our rope and the full faith and credit of the U.S. dollar is so completely undermined by the extent of our debt, that the dollar fades as the world reserve currency.”
Lummis was born and grew up in Cheyenne. She has described herself as a “Wyoming girl.” “My dad was a cowboy,” Lummis says. “He served in World War II. He was just a private and a draftee, and he came back to Wyoming and had a large family, as most returnees from World War II did. We were all working on the ranch from the minute we could depress the clutch on a tractor and shift the gears, we were in the hayfield. He had three girls and one boy. The boy had hay fever really bad. So, it really was the girls who were putting up the hay and I loved it.”
Cynthia’s father, Doran Lummis, was a rancher and civic leader, descended from a prominent Wyoming ranching family. The Senator’s mother, Enid Lummis, was also a civic leader, a tireless leader in her Lutheran church and in 4H youth activities. Doran Lummis’ family had come to Wyoming before it was a state.
“My great grandfather, “the Senator explains, “came to Wyoming and got in the hardware business. It was his hardware partner whom he bought out that had the ranch. And so, my grandfather Lummis learned to be a rancher by keeping a diary that his ranching friend helped him prepare. So, his ranching friend would tell him what he was doing during different times of year. My grandfather would write it down and do the same thing. And that’s how he learned how to be a rancher. So, I am now, I guess that makes me a third-generation rancher. Although I’m fourth-generation Wyoming.”
Doran Lummis’ obituary in the news section of the Wyoming News lauded him as an upholder of cowboy values. “People often believe the grand days of honor-bound cowboys, working the land and building up towns, passed long ago,” the obituary writer noted. “But in some towns, these cowboys still exist, upholding the values of their youth: truth, honor, hard work, friendship, family and respect. Doran Lummis exemplified those cowboys.”
The Lummis family continues to own considerable ranching property. “At this point we buy steers and sell them in the fall,” Senator Lummis says. “So, we feed them hay through the winter, and then they graze on the grass all summer, and then we sell them grass-fed in the fall. And we usually sell them in October. We used to calve out cows, but when my brother and sister and I looked at each other and we were all in our 60s, we decided we were getting too old for that and we switched to a steer operation. You have to get up all hours of the night with calves.”
Cynthia graduated from Cheyenne East School and then went off to the University of Wyoming, where she studied animal science and biology, good subjects for a rancher. She later earned a law degree from the University of Wyoming. A picture of Lummis, looking rodeo-ready, with golden braids and a jaunty cowboy hat documents Cynthia’s reign as Miss Frontier, 1976. She was crowned by a distinguished movie cowboy, Roy Rogers.
“I had dinner with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans,” the Senator reminisces. “Roy Rogers was like being with a lifelong friend. He was the loveliest man that you could ever want to meet. And Dale Evans was all business. She was the one that kept him on schedule, that was the business-person. Roy was just a truly exceptional, lovely American.”
What got Lummis into politics?
“When I was a senior studying animal science at the University of Wyoming,” she says, “I needed some humanities credits to graduate. And so, I took an internship at the Wyoming legislature, and I had never spent time around the Wyoming Legislature, but I absolutely fell in love with it. And two years after I graduated from college, I ran and won a seat in the Legislature, and I’ve never looked back. I have found public service to be challenging, rewarding, frustrating, maddening, essential, and important.”
Throughout her career, Lummis has been an unwavering advocate for a free-market approach to the state’s energy industry.
Lummis was first elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives, where she served from 1979 until 1983 and from 1983 until 1993. She was a member of the state Senate from 1993 until 1995, when she became general counsel to then-Republican governor Jim Geringer. She was state treasurer from 2009 to 2017. She is credited with improving state finances by revising investment strategies.
For much of her political career, Lummis was married to one of Wyoming’s most popular Democratic politicians, Alvin Wiederspahn, with whom she served in the state house and senate. He was a preservationist leader, who was once described as a man who “never met an old building he didn’t want to fix up.” He served on the board of advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Mid-career, Alvin switched parties without even talking about it beforehand. “He just one day said, ‘hey, do I look different to you?’ And I said no, and he said, ‘well, I’m a Republican now.’ And like most converts he became, unabashedly Republican. He was a very well-read, scholarly, smart person and he, I think, saw his party drift away from his core values and he saw his core values be embraced by the Republican Party because the Republicans have really become the party of working-class Americans.”
Alvin Wiederspahn suffered a heart attack and died in 2014. Lummis lives in the house her father built on the original ranch in Cheyenne. “It’s an old-style ranch house,” says the Senator. “It is made of cement. My dad took a really old cinderblock ranch house and added on over the years as his family grew. It’s really old. And since I moved in after my dad died, I have had to remove seven snakes from inside the house and the two most recently that I had to remove were the day before yesterday.” Lummis has one daughter, Annaliese, who is married and has two small sons, Gus and Al.
Lummis took a brief respite from elected office, upsetting and ultimately losing the 2017 governor’s race, in which she had been widely considered the favorite. Afterward, she said she was enjoying private life, but would likely seek public office in the future. With the 2020 presidential race looming, Lummis felt that she had much to offer on the national stage. Adding to that, her old friend from the House, Senator Rand Paul, began calling Wyoming media outlets and touting Lummis as the right person to represent Wyoming in the upper house. When Lummis won her race, she became the first member of the House Freedom Caucus to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Lummis expects to have to fight for Wyoming’s industry and worries about the left’s narrow approach to the energy issues that are so crucial for Wyoming. She vows to fight a fracking ban with all she has.
“What I’d like people to realize is that there is such a thing as clean coal insofar as we are now learning how to prevent the carbon from staying in the air,” she says. It can be captured and stored in the ground. So, it shouldn’t matter what source is used to create electricity or create heat. What should matter is whether that source keeps the air clean. And the good news is we can have clean air and continue to use coal, oil, and gas.
In sending a cow girl to Washington, the state of Wyoming has selected somebody who will not be afraid to join the fray to protect the interests of the state and embodies Wyoming’s wide-open spirit of freedom.