CHEYENNE, Wyo. — When former President Donald Trump announced in September 2021 that he was supporting Harriet Hageman in challenging Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in the Aug. 16, 2022 Republican primary for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat, the three-term incumbent defiantly shot back: “Bring it.”
Cheney fell into disfavor with the Republican party and her constituents—70 percent of whom voted for Trump in 2020—for being among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, serving as co-chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, and being among the former president’s most unrelenting antagonists.
In a May rally for Hageman, the former president implored Wyoming voters to give him the honor of saying, “Liz, you’re fired.”
According to a projection by Decision Desk HQ, Cheney has been fired by her constituents with Hageman rolling to a convincing win in the primary and to near-certain victory in November in deep red Wyoming.
With 6 percent of the votes counted at 9:53 p.m., Hageman, a natural resources attorney from Fort Laramie, garnered 60 percent of the vote, according to AP. Cheney drew 35 percent.
Hageman, raised on a ranch on the high plains of eastern Wyoming, owns a Cheyenne law firm and has a background in water rights and public lands litigation. She is senior counsel for Washington, D.C-based New Civil Liberties Alliance, focusing on litigation related to environmental regulations.
During her 11-month campaign, she emphasized her Wyoming roots, her background in natural resources policy, and Trump’s endorsement while traveling 40,000 miles in visiting all 23 of the state’s counties.
Although her campaign collected more than $15 million in contributions, three times more than Hageman garnered, Cheney’s high-profile participation in Jan. 6 proceedings during the summer kept her in Washington, D.C., and in the national spotlight, but not on the campaign trail. This has irked many in Wyoming and was exploited by Hageman in meets-and-greets with voters.
Cheney was coined “the Virginian” by constituents who mocked her for not qualifying as a state resident to get a fishing license. The Hageman campaign produced a mock ‘Liz For Virginia’ campaign website.
Hageman 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.”
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, D.C.
Her message and Trump’s endorsement resonated with prospective voters in polls that indicated a blowout was brewing.
Cheney’s campaign appeared more orientated to down-the-road national political ambitions than to winning reelection to Wyoming’s House seat. She did few public events, preferring to meet with supporters in small gatherings often in private homes.
If there was any uncertainty in the outcome, it was how Wyoming’s long tradition of “crossover” voting could affect results. It is one of six states where primaries are “partially open,” meaning voters in one party can vote in another party’s primary by registering 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, openly encouraged “crossover voting” and Cheney had a tab on her campaign website explaining how to “crossover vote” on primary Election Day.
Nevertheless, unless Cheney had a stealth reservoir of GOP support—about 40,000 “quiet Republicans,” she called them—just by scratching out figures with pencil and paper, there simply aren’t enough Democrats or, for that matter, enough non-Republicans, to have much efficacy in Wyoming elections unless the election is contested among GOP voters.
Hageman was 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.
Trump-backed state superintendent of public instruction candidate Brian Schroeder and state treasurer candidate Curt Meier are incumbents who did not face primary challengers.
State Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper), who visited with Trump as a possible Cheney challenger in the summer of 2021, secured the former president’s nod in his three-way Republican secretary of state battle against Centennial businessman 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.
With 4 percent of the vote tallied, Gray is leading Nethercott in a race too close to call.
Cheney is the fourth of the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment to have their reelection bids foiled in Republican primaries by candidates endorsed by the former president.
Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) was defeated by Trump-backed John Gibbs; Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) was trounced by more than 25 percentage points by Trump-endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry; and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) lost a narrow election to Joe Kent, who was supported by Trump.
Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Rep. John Katko (R-NY) retired rather than seek reelection.
The only two to advance to the general election in primary battles are Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.).