Cheney loses Wyoming GOP primary to Trump-backed challenger

Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and a leading figure in Republican efforts to hold former President Trump accountable, was arrested in the Defeated GOP congressional primary in Wyoming District she’s represented since 2017.

The three-year congresswoman lost to Harriet Hageman, an attorney who has worked to block federal rules in Wyoming and who was backed by Trump.

Surrounded by family and supporters near Jackson, Wyo., Cheney said Tuesday night she conceded to Hageman, who was more than 25 percentage points ahead in early returns.

Noting that she easily won the last election for her seat in Congress, she acknowledged that this primary might have gone the same way if she hadn’t been vocal about Trump’s efforts to undermine trust in the US electoral system .

“I could easily have done it again: the way was clear,” Cheney said. “But it would have required me to go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It should have required me to facilitate his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the very foundations of our republic. That was a path that I could not and did not want to go.”

The race was a top priority for the former president and his allies, many of whom had worked with, donated to, or supported Hageman’s campaign. In May, Trump held a rally in Casper, the state’s second largest city.

In a post on his Truth Social network, Trump congratulated Hageman “on their amazing and very important WIN in Wyoming.”

“This is a wonderful result for America and a complete rebuke from the Unselect Committee of Political Hacks and Thugs,” Trump wrote. “Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself, her behavior and her hateful, hypocritical words and actions towards others. Now she can finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion, where I am sure she will be much happier than she is now.”

Cheney’s loss is another reminder for Republicans of the risk of taking action against the former president. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, couldn’t weather the wrath of the Trump wing even with national notoriety and a massive fundraising benefit. Cheney raised more than $15 million, compared to Hageman’s $4 million, in one of the most expensive primaries in the country.

A staunch conservative Laser who focused on national security issues, Cheney was first elected to Congress in 2016. Her father held the seat in the 1980s.

Cheney began her congressional career as one of Trump’s toughest defenders — and one of the Democrats’ toughest critics — in the House of Representatives. She supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election after the Washington Post published a clip from Access Hollywood in which Trump boasted about grabbing women by their genitals. She called efforts to impeach Trump in February 2020 a “sham” and voted with him more than 90% of the time while he was in office.

At the end of her first term, she was elected chair of the GOP conference, number three in the party leadership, fueling speculation that she could one day be the first Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

Then the Capitol was attacked. Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted with Democrats on Jan. 13, 2021 to impeach Trump on mob incitement. She was soon reprimanded by the Wyoming Republican Party, which later voted to no longer recognize her as a member. By May 2021, House Republicans voted her out of the leadership, replacing her with Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a self-proclaimed MAGA Republican.

In July 2021, Cheney was elected to the House of Representatives’ January 6 Committee by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and later promoted to vice chairman of the panel. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) declined to allow his Republican nominees to join the committee after Pelosi said two of his picks voted to block certification of some of the 2020 election results — the Republican ones Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana – could not join.

Despite the lack of support for the committee within her party, Cheney has taken a leading role in the hearings, frequently criticizing Trump and members of her party who have refused to condemn him for his actions related to the Capitol riot.

“I say this to my fellow Republicans who defend the untenable,” Cheney said in her opening remarks at the first hearing. “The day will come when Donald Trump will be gone, but your shame will remain.”

At home, Cheney attempted to portray her role on the committee as defending the Constitution consistent with core Wyoming values. She also reached out to Democratic voters to urge them to change their party registration to support her.

Hageman, a fourth-generation rancher, said Cheney is out of touch, is allied with the Democrats, and hasn’t focused enough on issues like inflation and rising gas costs.

Hageman, who once worked as an advisor on Cheney’s 2014 Senate bid, is heavily favored to win the general election. Wyoming has not had a Democratic congressman for more than 40 years.

Cheney’s political future is less certain. Her efforts to lead the Republican opposition to Trump have sparked speculation that she could run for president in 2024, continuing to serve as the former president’s likeness. Cheney has said in interviews that she has not yet made up her mind about running for president.

In the near term, the January 6 committee is expected to resume hearings and issue an initial report next month, with a fuller assessment later this year.

“Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam is starting to break,” Cheney said at the last hearing in July.

With Cheney’s loss, few Republicans remain in the House of Representatives willing to publicly oppose Trump and his congressional allies, including McCarthy.

Cheney is the last of the Republicans to vote to impeach the former president to face voters and the fourth to lose to a Trump-backed opponent. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler from Washington and Peter Meijer
of Michigan lost their primary on Aug. 2, while Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina was defeated in June.

Four others dropped out and only two — Representatives Dan Newhouse of Washington and David Valadao of California — advanced to the general election.

Multiple polls in the weeks leading up to the race suggested Hageman would easily win in the state that has backed Trump 70% in the last two presidential elections.

Cheney has long seemed willing to accept defeat if that is the price of her work on the committee. In one of her campaign’s closing ads, her father called Trump a “coward” and praised her efforts in investigating Trump.

“There is nothing more important she will ever do than lead efforts to ensure Donald Trump never comes near the Oval Office again,” he said. “And she will succeed.” Cheney loses Wyoming GOP primary to Trump-backed challenger

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