JACKSON, Wyo. — In a defeat that many of her supporters acknowledged was inevitable, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of former President Donald Trump’s fiercest GOP antagonists, lost her Republican primary on Tuesday to a Trump-endorsed opponent, attorney Harriet Hageman.
Cheney, a three-term congresswoman representing the nation’s reddest state, crossed the GOP base — as well as her Republican colleagues — when she voted with Democrats to impeach Trump for instigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The vote cost Cheney her spot as the No. 3 Republican in the U.S. House, and the speakership she was thought at one time to be eyeing.
“I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump is never anywhere near the Oval Office, and I mean it,” Cheney said Tuesday night as she conceded the election, adding: “I love my country more.”
Cheney also served as the top Republican on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, a role that earned her an unprecedented rebuke from the Republican National Committee.
Rep. Liz Cheney’s critics complained she was too wrapped up in the Jan. 6 House select committee hearings.
The Washington Post via Getty Images
Ted Kimmel, a 72-year-old Hageman voter from Wilson, a tiny town in the state’s liberal Teton County, said that Democrats, motivated by animosity toward Trump, stepped up to help Cheney.
“Democrats are coming in to vote Republican in order to keep Liz in because they hate Donald [Trump] so much, and on it goes,” he said. “The only thing I don’t like about this situation is Jan. 6. It’s not a fair deal. It’s a kangaroo court.”
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for spurring the deadly mob, Cheney was the last to face a primary and the fourth to lose against a Trump-backed opponent. Four of the other pro-impeachment Republicans opted to retire, while two managed to hang on in GOP primaries.
Within that group, Cheney, a staunchly conservative Republican, has made the case against Trump with the sharpest moral clarity and has signaled she may continue that fight as a presidential candidate in 2024.
First elected in 2016, Cheney, 56, is the lone congressional representative for the country’s least populated state, where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains in a region dominated by mining, agriculture and tourism. Trump won 70% of the vote here against Joe Biden in 2020.
For Hageman, a 59-year-old natural resources attorney with a record that alarms some conservationists, the general election in November is merely a formality to officially claiming the seat.
This is Hageman’s first time running for statewide office. As a political activist, she was reportedly involved with Cheney’s previous political campaigns. In the 2016 presidential primary, Hageman was critical of Trump and served as a delegate for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Trump endorsed Hageman just days after she entered the race against Cheney in 2021. In a tele-rally on primary eve, Trump said he’s gotten to know Hageman and called her a friend.
He also blasted Cheney, telling supporters that “few members of Congress in history [have] personally caused more damage to our republic than Liz Cheney.”
By rejecting Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Republican voters also effectively ended a significant era of her family’s political dynasty.
Before Democrats were crossing over to help Cheney in the primary, they loathed Dick Cheney as the interventionist hawk who engineered the war in Iraq and supported controversial CIA interrogation tactics. As a Republican member of Congress, Liz Cheney voted with Trump 93% of the time in her first two terms, except when it came to foreign policy. She sharply diverged with Trump on pulling U.S. troops out of Syria in 2019, calling it a “catastrophic mistake.”
Harriet Hageman is endorsed by Donald Trump.
In interviews with Wyoming voters this week, it’s clear that Cheney was boosted by Democrats who voted in the Republican primary, something her campaign encouraged in a state where the political action is mostly one-sided, and where Chaney’s anti-Trump stance resonated with Democrats.
“I like her values,” said Rosemary Benson, an 86-year-old Democrat from Sublette County, a sparsely populated area along western Wyoming’s Green River. Benson said she registered as a Republican so she could vote for Cheney. “As most Democrats say, I don’t like the realities of it. But I think she’s remarkable.”
While Cheney’s campaign was viewed as a local expression of a national battle, Cheney was running as factions warred within the Wyoming Republican Party, led since 2019 by a chairman with ties to the extremist Oath Keepers. Cheney’s election prospects dimmed after the party censured her for impeaching Trump and then endorsed Hageman, painting Cheney as more concerned with opposing Trump than representing her own state.
“The conflict and split in the party occurred before the Liz Cheney issue came about,” said Joe McGinley, a physician and state GOP committeeman from Casper, where the local GOP is feuding with the state party over its direction. “The state party I think saw this as an opportunity to get attention, and so they capitalized on it.”
McGinley, a Cheney ally, said without Trump she probably wouldn’t have faced political headwinds in her reelection.
“Her voting record is outstanding. I think she would have been untouchable had it not been for the Trump issue here in Wyoming,” he said. “They may not have liked her but they wouldn’t have dared to try and attack her. They wouldn’t have been successful in any way.”
Homes in downtown Jackson, Wyoming, a blue part of the state, displayed signs in support of Cheney, signaling crossover support for her primary.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Cheney kept a low profile in the state throughout the campaign, which her team attributed to security concerns and her demanding schedule for the Jan. 6 committee.
But even Cheney’s supporters found her lack of engagement frustrating.
“Cheney has not come back to the state much,” said Earl DeGroot, a Republican conservation advocate from Cheyenne supporting Cheney. “And when she does come back to the state, she has private meetings in different locations. So she hasn’t made herself accessible to the people of Wyoming, probably for good reason.”
Cheney’s actions signal she’s anything but done with politics. She is thought to be weighing a presidential campaign in 2024 — potentially pitting her against Trump — although Cheney has downplayed the speculation. After raising a staggering $13 million, mostly from out-of-state donors, Cheney closed her campaign last week with a message aimed more at the national GOP than base voters.
“Here’s my pledge to you: I will work every day to ensure that our exceptional nation long endures,” Cheney says in her final ad. “My children and your children must grow up in an America where we have honorable and peaceful transitions of power, not violent confrontations, intimidation and thuggery. Where we are governed by laws and not by men. Where we are led by people who love this country more than themselves.”
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