After sustaining a broken neck in a bike accident, retired Sen. Mike Enzi from Wyoming was killed. He was 77.
Enzi died peacefully Monday surrounded by family and friends, former spokesman Max D’Onofrio said. He had been hospitalized with a broken neck and ribs for three days following a bicycle accident near Gillette. He was stabilized before being flown to a hospital in Colorado but remained unconscious, D’Onofrio said.
John Daly, a family friend, said that Enzi fell near his house around 8:30 p.m. on Friday. Gillette police also received reports of a man unresponsive on a nearby road.
According to Lt. Brent Wasson, Gillette News Record, police have not seen any evidence that anyone else was present or involved in the accident.
Enzi, a former shoe salesman, was first elected to the Senate as a senator in 1996. He stressed compromise over grandstanding and confrontation in order to get legislation passed.
His “80-20 rule” called on colleagues to focus on the 80% of an issue where legislators tended to agree and discard the 20% where they didn’t.
“Nothing gets done when we’re just telling each other how wrong we are,” Enzi said in his farewell address to the Senate in 2020. “Just ask yourself: Has anyone ever really changed your opinion by getting in your face and yelling at you or saying to you how wrong you are? Usually that doesn’t change hearts or minds.”
Enzi was reelected by Wyoming voters three times, before he declared in 2019 that he would not be seeking a fifth term. In 2021, Enzi was replaced in the Senate by Cynthia Lummis (Republican and former state treasurer).
“He was a giant and will be really missed by all of us,” Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming’s congresswoman, said Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Enzi’s political career began at 30 when he was elected mayor of Gillette, a city at the heart of Wyoming’s then-booming coal mining industry. He was elected to the Wyoming House in 1986 and state Senate in 1991.
The retirement of Republican Sen. Alan Simpson opened the way for Enzi’s election to the Senate. Enzi beat John Barrasso in a nine-way Republican primary and then Democratic former Wyoming Secretary of State Kathy Karpan in the general election; Barrasso would be appointed to the Senate in 2007 after the death of Sen. Craig Thomas.
Enzi wielded quiet influence as the Senate slipped into partisan gridlock over the second half of his career there.
His more recent accomplishments included advancing legislation to enable sales taxes to be collected on internet sales crossing state lines. He played a major role in reforming the No Child Left Behind law that set performance standards for elementary, middle and high school students.
Enzi served two four-year terms as mayor of Gillette. He served on the U.S. Department of Interior Coal Advisory Committee from 1976 to 1979.
Enzi is survived by his wife; two daughters, Amy and Emily; a son, Brad; and several grandchildren.