CASPER, Wyo.—Aug. 16, 2022, has been circled in bright red on former president Donald Trump’s calendar for nearly two years now.
It’s the day he’s been waiting for—the day when Wyoming Republicans tell Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) what he told her during a May Casper rally: “Liz, you’re fired.”
Despite a massive fundraising advantage in the most expensive congressional campaign in Wyoming history, family name recognition, and a conservative voting record that aligned with Trump’s policies 93 percent of the time, Cheney is projected to lose her bid for a fourth term as the state’s lone congressional representative in the Aug. 16 GOP primary with Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman.
Cheney has incurred the wrath of her constituents—70 percent of whom voted for Trump in 2020—for being among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, serving as co-chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, and being among his most severe, unrelenting antagonists.
In February 2021, the Wyoming Republican Party voted to censure her, and in May 2021, she was a deposed as Republican Conference chair by her House GOP colleagues. On Aug. 16, Trump is pushing voters to oust her completely from Congress.
Hageman, raised on a ranch near Fort Laramie on the high plains of eastern Wyoming, is a Cheyenne natural resources attorney with a background in water rights and public lands litigation.
She is currently a senior counsel for Washington-based New Civil Liberties Alliance, focusing on litigation related to environmental regulations.
Hageman finished third in 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary, behind now-Gov. Mark Gordon and Trump-endorsed investor Foster Friess. In 2020, she was named Wyoming’s representative on the Republican National Committee.
In August 2021, Hageman met with Trump at his Bedminster, N.J., golf resort. She was one of at least five potential Cheney challengers who visited with the former president in 2021, including state Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper).
The next month, Hageman announced she was running for congress against Cheney with Trump’s hearty backing.
‘Make It Count’
“I strongly endorse Republican House of Representatives Candidate Harriet Hageman from Wyoming who is running against warmonger and disloyal Republican, Liz Cheney,” Trump said in a Sept. 9, 2021, statement.
“Harriet is a fourth-generation daughter of Wyoming, a very successful attorney, and has the support and respect of a truly great U.S. Senator, Wyoming’s own Cynthia Lummis.”
To which Cheney responded on Twitter: “Here’s a sound bite for you: Bring it.”
And Trump did, coming to Casper for a Memorial Day weekend rally on Hageman’s behalf.
“Liz, you’re fired,” Trump said to raucous cheers. “Wyoming deserves a congresswoman who stands up for you and your values, not one who spends all of her time putting you down and going after your president in the most vicious way possible.”
Hageman has emphasized her Wyoming roots, her background in natural resources, water rights, and public lands policy, and Trump’s endorsement in a near-year campaign that has seen her travel 40,000 miles in visiting all 23 of the state’s counties repeatedly.
“Wyoming has one [congressional] representative and we need to make it count” but has been hamstrung by an “absentee representative literally for over six years,” she told about 200 people in Lusk on Aug. 9.
Cheney has been coined “the Virginian” by constituents who mock her for not qualifying as a state resident to get a fishing license. The Hageman campaign has produced a mock “Liz For Virginia” campaign website.
Hageman has pledged to visit all 23 counties at least once a year if elected and to be “a representative who will champion Wyoming ideals. [Cheney] doesn’t know us. She never has. But I do.”
Gap Is Widening
Among her policy initiatives is a proposed “pilot program” to allot up to 1.5 million of the 30-million acres now under federal control in Wyoming “to the state so we could do a better job of managing” without the weighty regulations imposed by a matrix of agencies in Washington.
In the past two weeks before the Aug. 16 vote, Cheney did not stump in public forums, choosing instead to campaign in small, private gatherings.
Although her campaign collected more than $15 million in contributions, three times more than Hageman, Cheney’s high-profile participation in Jan. 6 proceedings during the summer, which kept her in Washington and in the national spotlight but not on the campaign trail, irked many in Wyoming and was exploited by Hageman in meets-and-greets with voters.
A June 15 Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy/Casper Star-Tribune survey found Hageman leading Cheney by more than 22 points.
That gap appears to be widening. According to a University of Wyoming July 25-Aug. 6 poll of 562 likely primary voters released Aug. 11, Hageman leads Cheney by nearly 30 percentage points—57 percent to 28 percent—with 41 percent saying that they’re voting more against Cheney than for Hageman.
“A lot of people feel she’s not standing up for us, for our rights,” Republican state Senate candidate Stacy Jones told The Epoch Times in Rock Springs on Aug. 11, noting when Cheney voted for the compromise gun control bill in June, “that was the second nail in her coffin.”
While being excoriated by a vocal—and apparent overwhelming majority—of Wyoming Republicans, Cheney has gained a degree of bipartisan popularity for her unabashed criticism of Trump outside of Wyoming.
Cheney’s campaign appears more orientated to down-the-road national ambitions than to winning reelection to Wyoming’s House seat. She has done few public events, preferring to meet with supporters in small gatherings often in private homes.
Her campaign’s Facebook page has only posted links to endorsements by local newspapers across the state. Her last public statement on her campaign sites, on Aug. 11, was not Wyoming-centric.
“Millions of Americans across our nation—Republicans, Democrats, Independents—stand united in the cause of freedom. We are stronger, more dedicated, and more determined than those trying to destroy our Republic,” she said.
“This is our great task and we will prevail.”
Among Cheney’s last campaign TV ads was the Aug. 4 release of her father, former vice president Dick Cheney and a former five-term Wyoming congressional representative, calling Trump “a coward” for “trying to steal” the 2020 election.
Considering 70 percent of Wyoming voters cast ballots for Trump in 2020 and the former president may be even more popular in the Equality State now, the ad did not appear designed to endear the incumbent to her constituents.
If there is any doubt in the outcome, it is how the state’s long tradition of “crossover” voting could affect results.
Wyoming is one of six states where primaries are “partially open,” meaning that voters in one party can vote in another party’s primary if they register with the party before casting a ballot.
Of 284,557 registered voters on Aug. 1, the Wyoming Secretary of State reported 207,674 were Republicans, 39,753 were Democrats and 33,769 were unaffiliated, with about 4,000 registered with third parties.
Many Democrats, including former Gov. Mike Sullivan, are openly “crossover voting” and encouraging others to do so. Cheney has a tab on her campaign website that explains how to “crossover vote” on primary Election Day.
Nevertheless, unless Cheney has a stealth reservoir of GOP support—about 40,000 “quiet Republicans,” she called them recently—there simply aren’t enough Democrats or, for that matter, enough non-Republicans, to have much efficacy in the state.
Hageman is not the only candidate on Wyoming’s Aug. 16 Republican primary backed by the former president. Trump in early August endorsed three candidates for statewide office.
After visiting with the former president in the summer of 2021, Gray opted not to run against Cheney but instead entered the GOP Aug. 16 secretary of state primary to succeed the retiring incumbent Ed Buchanan.
Gray faces what is projected to be a tight three-way race with Centennial business man Mark Armstrong and state Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne), who has the backing of the state’s Republican establishment , including state senate president and speaker of the house.
Trump-backed state superintendent of public instruction candidate Brian Schroeder and state treasurer candidate Curt Meier are incumbents who do not face primary challengers.