Liz Cheney, Republican Who Defied Trump, Loses Wyoming Race

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Republican Rep. Liz Cheney called on Americans to unite across party lines to keep Donald Trump from winning the White House again following her crushing defeat on Tuesday to a primary challenger backed by the former U.S. president.

Cheney, who has served three terms in Wyoming’s sole U.S. House seat, lost to conservative lawyer Harriet Hageman in Tuesday’s Republican primary primary, and made a point of conceding to her opponent — something she has long criticized Trump for never doing after the 2020 election.

Speaking to supporters on the grounds of a ranch not far from her own home as the sun set on the nearby Teton Mountain range, Cheney warned that the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection and the refusal of Trump and other Republican leaders to tamp down the rage behind it put the nation at risk.

“Our nation is barreling once again toward a crisis of lawlessness and violence,” she said, putting the blame squarely on Trump. “I have said since Jan. 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office and I mean it.”

Cheney was once a rising Republican star until she stood up to Trump. After she voted to impeach Trump in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters, the political costs for Cheney’s defiance mounted. The Wyoming Republican Party voted to censure her and asked her to resign. Then she was removed as the third ranking House Republican leader by her colleagues, who accused her of abandoning the party.

That culminated in her loss Tuesday to Hageman by a two-to-one margin with half the votes counted. In her concession speech Cheney hinted that she was not stepping away from the political arena but didn’t explicitly say what would come next. She will continue to have a forum until January for her campaign against Trump as vice chair of the committee investigating the former U.S. president’s role in the Capitol insurrection.

Citing Abraham Lincoln, the Republican president who steered the U.S. through the Civil War, Cheney said no office was worth betraying the democratic principles the U.S. was built on.

“Two years ago I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could easily have done the same again,” she said. “But it would’ve required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would’ve required that I enabled his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take.”

In her speech Hageman said, “Wyoming has put the elites on notice — we are no longer going to tolerate representatives who don’t represent us.”

Wyoming is a reliably Republican state, so the winner of the GOP primary is all but assured a general election victory.

Trump called Hageman’s victory a “complete rebuke” of the Jan. 6 committee and a “wonderful result for America” in a posting on his Truth Social website.

 

Republican congressional candidate Harriet Hageman gestures during her primary election night party in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on Tuesday. | REUTERS
Republican congressional candidate Harriet Hageman gestures during her primary election night party in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on Tuesday. | REUTERS

Cheney’s loss is the latest illustration of Trump’s grip on the Republican Party. Just two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the U.S. Capitol insurrection last year survived their primaries to make it to the ballot in November’s general election. Cheney is the fourth to be defeated and four are retiring.

Among those 10, Cheney was the most prominent and persistent in rebutting Trump’s election lies and in making the case that the Republican Party had to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6 2021, Capitol attack and must reject him as a threat to the nation’s democratic order and the Constitution.

“At the heart of the attack on Jan. 6 is a willingness to embrace dangerous conspiracies that attack the very core premise of our nation, that lawful elections reviewed by the court when necessary and certified by the states and electoral college determine who serves as president,” Cheney said.

Cheney, a one-time Trump backer and a conservative on most social and security policy issues, had been openly appealing to Wyoming Democrats to temporarily switch their parties and vote for her in the Republican primary. But the prospect of there being enough Democrats doing that was always a long-shot.

Hageman’s primary victory all but assures her of winning the general election in November in a state where registration data show Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 5-to-1.

There has been some speculation in both Wyoming and Washington that Cheney might be looking at a run for president in 2024. Her spokesperson, Jeremy Adler, said Cheney has repeatedly stressed that she’s made no decision yet about making such a bid.

Most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission at the end of July showed Cheney still had more than $7 million left in her campaign account.

2020 race

James King, a University of Wyoming political scientist, said he doesn’t know whether there’s a path for Cheney to jump into the 2024 GOP presidential nomination race.

Cheney’s policy positions match closely with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party. But he said, “The sin of not supporting former President Trump on issues related to the 2020 election might lead Trump supporters in the electorate to chose a conservative candidate who did support Trump.”

Kathryn Valido, a Democrat in Cheyenne who voted for Cheney, said Cheney had sparked some hope that the country’s partisan gap can be closed.

“Liz represents something our representative government sorely lacks; she has put our country and constitution ahead of politics,” Valido said. She said the fact that she and other Democrats crossed over and joined some Republicans to support Cheney “tells me her brand of leadership is perhaps a map toward bipartisanship.”

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