Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was defeated by Harriet Hageman in her Republican primary Tuesday, handing Donald Trump his most prized trophy yet in his long campaign to purge the Republican Party of his critics.
Hageman, a lawyer in Cheyenne, was lifted by Trump’s endorsement in her race against Cheney, daughter of a former vice president and former member of the House Republican leadership. Cheney conceded defeat just as The Associated Press called the race.
“Harriet Hageman has received the most votes in this primary — she won,” Cheney told supporters gathered outdoors on a ranch here, before vowing: “This primary race is over, but now the real work begins.”
Cheney’s loss was as anticipated as it was consequential. The leading Republican voice against Trump, and vice chair of the committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack, next year will no longer have her perch in Congress from which to battle a figure she believes poses a grave threat to US democracy.
The repudiation of Cheney also makes it clear that Republican primary voters will reject officeholders who openly confront Trump, even as the former president remains embroiled in multiple investigations. Just two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year will advance to the general election this fall.
FINAL: The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump
Cheney — LOST PRIMARY
Herrera Beutler — LOST PRIMARY
Meijer — LOST PRIMARY
Rice — LOST PRIMARY
Newhouse — WON PRIMARY
Valadao — WON PRIMARY
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 17, 2022
None of those 10, however, had the stature of Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Her loss, two months after George P Bush’s landslide defeat in a bid for attorney general in Texas, represents the full and perhaps final transition of the GOP from the traditional conservatism of the Bush-Cheney era to the grievance-oriented populism of Trump.
Other contests held Tuesday would reveal the extent of that transformation. In Alaska, Sen Lisa Murkowski, another daughter of local political royalty and one of seven Republicans to vote to convict Trump of incitement of insurrection, is in a reelection fight against a field led by Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican and former state official whom Trump endorsed.
Alaskans were also deciding whether to embrace a comeback for former Gov Sarah Palin, the onetime vice presidential nominee whose slashing attacks on the media presaged Trump’s rise. Palin is running both in a special election runoff for a House seat and in a primary for a full term of her own. The state’s system of ranked-choice voting allows the top four finishers in the primaries to move on to the general election ballot in November. Results in those races were not expected Tuesday night.
File photo of Sarah Palin (AP)
Cheney has vowed to continue her fight against the former president, casting the primary as only one front in a longer political war in which she is determined to prevail.
Focused almost entirely on the January 6 panel, and reluctant to campaign publicly while facing death threats and venomous criticism, Cheney has long been resigned to her political demise in the state that elevated her father 44 years ago to the seat she now holds. She has set her sights beyond Wyoming, arguing that blocking Trump’s return to the White House is her most important task, a mission that has fueled speculation that she’s considering a presidential bid.
Speaking to reporters outside a polling place in Jackson on Tuesday afternoon, her father by her side, Cheney cast the primary as “the beginning of a battle that is going to continue” because, she said, “democracy really is under attack.”
It is unclear, however, whether she would even be competitive in a 2024 GOP primary, a prospect Cheney seemed to acknowledge this month when she said her “very sick” party might take “several cycles” to change.
Where Cheney saw illness, however, Hageman spotted opportunity.
She featured Trump in her campaign literature and her television advertising and echoed his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, and she was rewarded for it in a state that had handed the former president 70% of the vote two years ago, his largest percentage in any state.
The strategy completed Hageman’s evolution from Trump critic to vehicle for his political revenge. In 2016, she called Trump “racist and xenophobic” and tried to block his path to the GOP presidential nomination. But like many Republicans, Hageman has since fallen in line and declared Trump “the greatest president of my lifetime.”
Cheney, too, has dramatically shifted her views on Trump, from a reliable ally on policy to the antagonist in the aftermath of his refusal to accept defeat.
After a number of Wyoming Republicans vied for Trump’s support, and with some of his supporters nervous that the anti-Cheney vote would fragment, the former president got behind Hageman nearly a year ago. The daughter of a ranch owner, she has long been active in Republican politics and came in third in the 2018 GOP primary for governor.
As a trial lawyer, Hageman has been a fierce advocate on issues important to the state’s powerful ranching, mining and energy interests, fighting environmentalists in court over land use and federal regulations. She and Cheney were once political allies. Hageman served as an adviser to Cheney’s short-lived 2014 Senate campaign and endorsed when she claimed the House seat in 2016.
The women debated just once, in June, and Cheney used the forum to urge Wyomingites to “vote for somebody else” if they wanted a politician who would violate the oath of office.
In the closing weeks of the primary, Cheney aired an ad featuring her 81-year-old father calling Trump “a coward,” making it even clearer that she was using the primary as a stage for her crusade against Trump rather than trying to fend off Hageman. Just as notable, Cheney held back millions from her campaign fund, over $7.4 million as of last month.
Her approach was starkly different from those of other Republicans who tangled with Trump in the aftermath of his defeat in 2020 only to subsequently mute their criticism. That roster included figures like Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Reps. David Valadao of California and Daniel Newhouse of Washington, the two House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump but managed to reach the general election.
Cheney, however, was defiant, insisting that Trump must be confronted and condemned. Her language resonated with the dwindling ranks of anti-Trump Republicans and with even more independents and Democrats, whom she sought to nudge into voting in the GOP primary in the final months of the race.
It was far from enough to change the outcome of the race, but such crossover voters were easy to find in upscale Teton County, home to Cheney and her parents. The county, which includes Jackson and the surrounding resort communities, is the most liberal in the state, a blue dot in the corner of the reddest of states.
With Cheney openly appealing for votes from Democrats and independents, many here responded to that call — even if they couldn’t quite believe they were momentarily registering as Republicans to back a Cheney.
Showing up at the town hall in Jackson to cast a ballot Monday, the last day of early voting, Maggie Shipley, who works for a local nonprofit organisation, said she was switching her registration to Republican to participate in the primary and vote for Cheney.
“The election lies are terrifying to me, and preserving democracy is really important, and at least she has that going,” Shipley said.