Affie Ellis, Wyoming's First Native Woman Legislator, Won't Run For Reelection

Affie Ellis, a Cheyenne Republican and first Native American woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature, has announced she won't run for reelection in the fall.

Leo Wolfson

March 21, 20245 min read

Affie Ellis 3 20 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Another Wyoming incumbent state legislator has announced they are not running for reelection this fall.

State Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, confirmed to Cowboy State Daily that she will not run for a third term to represent Senate District 8.

Ellis said she is stepping down to spend more time with her family, and that her decision has nothing to do with the infighting that has drastically increased in the Wyoming Senate, especially at the recently completed 2024 session.

“I am forever grateful for this opportunity to work hard for my district and Wyoming, which I dearly love,” she said. “It is my beloved kids and time with them that drive my decision.”

Ellis’ departure is another hit for establishment Republicans in the upcoming election. Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, announced first he will step down, followed by Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, on Tuesday.

Who Is Ellis?

Ellis had served in the Legislature since 2017, when she became the first Native American to serve in the Wyoming Senate and the first female Native American to serve in the Legislature. A member of the Navajo Nation, Ellis is chairman of the Select Committee on Tribal Relations.

She’s also a member of the Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee; Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee; and Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation Technology.

In 2004, she was appointed to serve as director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the National Indian Gaming Commission. Six years later in 2010, Ellis was appointed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to serve on the Tribal Law and Order Commission after receiving a recommendation from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, a role she held until 2014.

Both U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis commented on Ellis’ departure.

“True to her roots and faithful to her cause, she is Wyoming through and through. There is surely more Affie will be offering in the years ahead to her community, her state, and her country,” Barrasso said in a press release announcing Ellis’ decision. “I will always be a fan and forever thankful as she continues working to make Wyoming an even better place to live and work.”

Lummis asked Ellis to testify before the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in 2021.

“Senator Ellis has been a tremendous advocate for Wyoming, leading efforts to improve and expand educational opportunities for children and adults alike and advocating to improve public safety on the Wind River Reservation,” Lummis said in the press release. “There is perhaps no better way to influence and inspire change in the Cowboy State than serving in the Wyoming Legislature.”

State Sen. Affie Ellis with a quilt she made with individualized squares for each of the 31 members of the Wyoming Senate.
State Sen. Affie Ellis with a quilt she made with individualized squares for each of the 31 members of the Wyoming Senate. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

What Did She Pass?

During the 2023 legislative session, Ellis sponsored legislation codifying the federal Indian Child Welfare Act as Wyoming state law. This 45-year-old federal law is designed to keep American Indian families together by keeping Indian foster and adoptive children out of non-native homes.

She also enacted legislation aimed at addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous people, a law to protect Native American graves located on state and private lands, legislation to address domestic violence against women and a bill to protect evidence collected in sexual assault investigations.

In 2023, she also helped craft legislation establishing the Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which is designed to help local communities better manage increased visitation. On this committee, she also sponsored a law allowing hunters to wear neon pink in addition to fluorescent orange.

“I can’t tell you how many pictures people have sent me of their young daughters or wives wearing bright pink hunting gear while kneeling next to an animal they’ve just harvested,” Ellis said in the press release.

In the past, Ellis served on the Senate Education Committee where she supported legislation modernizing Wyoming’s curriculum to include computer science instruction for all K-12 students.

On this committee, she said she brokered compromise between the Senate and House members, which she credits as contributing to the enactment of charter school legislation, the creation of the Wyoming’s Tomorrow Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to adult learners to pursue a degree or certification, as evidence of this effort.

The Last Stitch

On the last day of the 2024 legislative session, Ellis surprised her fellow senators with a handmade quilt. There was a personalized patch for all 31 senators.

“I was just thinking about the good thoughts I have of my colleagues, and I just wanted this quilt to represent those good feelings,” Ellis said.

Without any hesitation, Ellis recited to Cowboy State Daily the backstory of every patch and how it related to the individual senator, for the project she had been working on since the previous summer.

What’s Next?

Ellis will continue to serve in her seat until the end of the year.

No candidates have yet announced for her Senate 8 district seat, which encompasses downtown and south Cheyenne.

Prior to Ellis’ first 2016 election, her seat was held by Democrat Floyd Esquibel.

She is the third legislator to announce they aren’t running for reelection in the last month, and the second from the Senate.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter