The second woman to represent Wyoming in Congress, Cynthia Lummis advocated for the rights of ranchers and worked to strengthen the power of the states, especially when it came to federal land policy. Despite breaking barriers at the state level, the longtime Wyoming state senator saw herself as a problem solver at the national level first and foremost. “Wyoming was accustomed to having a woman in that position,” she said referring to her immediate predecessor, Congresswoman Barbara L. Cubin. “So, I didn’t need to break that ground. I simply had to prove myself as worthy of the position.”1
Cynthia Lummis was born on September 10, 1954, to Enid (Bennett) and Doran Lummis. Raised on the family ranch in Laramie County with her three siblings, Lummis attended Cheyenne East High School and then the University of Wyoming, where she earned two degrees: the first in animal science in 1976, and another in biology in 1978. She opened Lummis Livestock, a cattle business, in 1976.
While attending college, Lummis worked as an intern in the Wyoming state senate which sparked a lifelong interest in politics. Just one year after completing her biology degree, Lummis won election to the Wyoming state house of representatives, and served from 1979 to 1983, and again from 1985 to 1993. She had the distinction of being the youngest woman elected to the state legislature. She received a law degree from the University of Wyoming in 1985 and clerked for the Wyoming supreme court from 1985 to 1986. For the next decade, she worked as a lawyer in her family’s private practice. She served in the Wyoming state senate from 1994 to 1995, and won election as Wyoming state treasurer in 1998, where she served until 2006. She married Alvin Wiederspahn in 1983 and had one child, Annaliese. A former Wyoming state legislator, Alvin died in 2014.
In 2008, Representative Barbara Cubin decided to retire from the House, and Lummis filed to run for the open At-Large seat. She won in a close Republican primary against Mark Gordon with 46 percent of the vote. In the general election, Lummis faced Democrat Gary Trauner who struggled against Lummis in the Republican-leaning state. Running as a conservative in favor of cutting taxes, Lummis succeeded in the election with 53 percent of the vote. She easily won each successive contest by more than 68 percent of the vote.2
As a new Member in the 111th Congress (2009–2011), Lummis served on the committees on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Budget. As a sophomore Member in the 112th Congress (2011–2013), she left her other assignments and gained a seat on the coveted Appropriations Committee. A disagreement with Republican leadership over previewing a piece of committee legislation in 2012 led her to leave the Appropriations Committee in the 113th Congress (2013–2015) and return to Natural Resources, where she again had jurisdiction over vital interests to her state.3 She also gained a seat on Oversight & Government Reform as well as Science, Space & Technology, where she served as the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Energy. In her final term, she served as vice chair of the Natural Resources Committee and subcommittee chair of the Oversight and Government Operations Subcommittee on Interior.
In the House, Lummis was known for her independent streak and for speaking up when she disagreed with party leaders. She was occasionally out on a limb by herself. The Republican Conference was overwhelmingly male, and in 2015 she noted that, at times during her career, she was the lone Republican woman serving on the Science Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and in the House Freedom Caucus. “It’s pretty challenging within the conference for women, I’ve got to be honest,” she said.4
In her first term, Lummis introduced a number of bills on a range of issues: Wyoming’s natural resources, firearms, federal workforce reduction, and congressional earmark reform. While she generally opposed the control the federal government had over much of the land in the West, her bill in the 111th Congress, the Heart Mountain Relocation Center Study Act (H.R. 3989), directed the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility of adding the center—where thousands of Japanese Americans were imprisoned against their will during World War II—to the National Park Service (NPS). The bill attracted bipartisan support in the Natural Resources Committee, which reported it favorably. It passed the House by voice vote on July 13, 2010, and later became law. The Heart Mountain Relocation Center is now part of NPS.5
When Republicans recaptured the majority in the 112th Congress, Lummis pursued more and different policies; in the 113th Congress, she steered three bills through the House. Her bill, H.R. 967, Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act, which among other things, tried to streamline research and development sharing between the federal government and the states, passed the House in April 2013.6 Directing her focus to federal land, Lummis’s bill, H.R. 1684, Ranch A Consolidation and Management Improvement Act, ordered the Interior Department to give Wyoming 10 acres of Forest Service land in the far northeastern corner of the state. It passed the House in January 2014.7 And in May 2014 her Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, which required federal officials to report to Congress on the amount of “expenses awarded” in legal cases in which the United States is involved, passed the House by voice vote.8
In the House, Lummis took a hard line against much of the federal land policy pursued by President Barack Obama’s Interior Department. And in 2016 she played a strong role in passing an Interior Department Appropriations bill. “Wyoming, the West, and all of America have scored a major victory with the passage of this Interior bill,” she said, stating that “this legislation marks a renewed effort to reinstate and reinforce state and local stewardship of our land, our water, our energy.”9 Lummis’s anti-regulation stance drove her vote on a number of issues in the House from energy policy to concealed gun permits in National Parks.
In the 114th Congress (2015–2017), Lummis successfully sponsored the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, which became law in November 2016. The law aimed to make it easier for the National Park Service to create partnerships with private groups to improve the National Forest Trail System. “Mr. Speaker, it makes such sense, practically speaking, when we have a huge budget deficit, to maximize the use of volunteers in the national forests to help maintain these trails.” Lummis worked with her former colleagues on Agriculture Committee on the largely bipartisan act.10
After eight years in the House, Lummis decided to not seek re-election to the 115th Congress (2017–2019). “I have not ruled it out,” Lummis said when asked about running for governor. “But I have spent eight years working as hard as I can at this job. I never viewed myself as a long-termer in Washington and chose to exercise some term limits on myself, which I have.” She continued, “This is the right time for me to leave this job. In the future, who knows?”11
Liz Cheney successfully ran for Lummis’s vacant seat in 2016, and became the third successive woman to hold Wyoming’s At-Large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
1Wyoming Public Media and Utah Public Radio, “Women Run the West,” accessed 19 April 2017, http://womenrunthewest.org/.
2Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,” http://history.house.gov/Institution/Election-Statistics/Election-Statistics/; Almanac of American Politics, 2014 (Washington, DC: National Journal Group, 2013): 1860.
3Kyle Roerink, “Wyo [sic] Rep. Lummis Leaves Appropriations, Joins Natural Resources Committee,” Casper Star Tribune, published 10 December 2012, accessed 26 October 2017, http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/wyo-rep-lummis-leaves-appropriations-joins-house-natural-resources-committee/article_ed60f4ee-36f9-55b9-886d-6a8a4d9dfcc5.html; Laura Hancock, “Cynthia Lummis Bucked the Establishment, And Some Wonder How It Will Shape Her Political Future,” Casper Star Tribune, published 15 April 2017, accessed 26 October 2017, http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/cynthia-lummis-bucked-the-establishment-and-some-wonder-how-it/article_aac0347d-2cda-55e3-a242-c8ec6d8e702f.html; Emma Dumain, “Cynthia Lummis: ‘The Only Republican Woman,’” Roll Call, published 30 November 2015, accessed 26 October 2017, http://www.rollcall.com/news/home/cynthia-lummis-republican-woman , accessed 26 October 2017; Tamar Hallerman, “Former Appropriator Decries ‘Arrogant,’ ‘Offensive’ Treatment,” Roll Call, published 31 January 2014, accessed 26 October 2017, https://www.rollcall.com/news/former_appropriator_decries_arrogant_offensive_treatment-230566-1.html?pos=hmp.
4Emma Dumain, “Cynthia Lummis, ‘The Only Republican Woman,’” Roll Call, published 30 November 2015, accessed 26 October 2017, http://www.rollcall.com/news/home/cynthia-lummis-republican-woman.
5Heart Mountain Relocation Center Study Act of 2010, H.R. 3989, 111th Cong. (2010), https://www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/house-bill/3989; House Committee on Natural Resources, Heart Mountain Relocation Center Study Act of 2009, 111th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 111–529 (2010).
6Advancing America's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2013, H.R. 967, 113th Cong. (2013), https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/967.
7Ranch A Consolidation and Management Improvement Act of 2013, H.R. 1684, 113th Cong. (2013), https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/1684.
8Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act H.R. 2919, 113th Cong. (2013), https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/2919.
9“Lummis Helps Secure Passage of the First House-Passed Interior Bill in Seven Years,” accessed 14 July 2016, lummis.house.gov (site discontinued).
10National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, Public Law 114–245, 114th Cong. (2016); Congressional Record, House, 114th Cong., 2nd sess. (26 September 2016): H5877.
11Laura Hancock, “Lummis Not Ruling Out Run For Governor,” Casper Star Tribune, published 27 July 2016, accessed 18 April 2016, http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/lummis-not-ruling-out-run-for-governor/article_3d4fb999-c675-5670-bffa-40d1c9a91f74.html.