Harriet Hageman’s First 100 Days on Capitol Hill (Part 3)

The congresswoman talks presidential politics, border security and political future

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: May 04, 2023

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) is known on Capitol Hill for her bold style of black dresses and turquoise jewelry. She says the green gem "is something that just makes people smile." (Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA via AP Images)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

As Wyoming’s new congresswoman, Rep. Harriet Hageman, celebrated her 100th day in office, the Wyoming Truth sat down for an exclusive, in-person interview with the representative to discuss her transition to Washington, her time in Congress so far and what’s on the horizon. Excerpts and insights from that conversation will run in a three-part series. Check out parts one and two.

WASHINGTON — Towards the end of my hour-long, exclusive sit down with Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) late last month — after I’d asked about her transition to Washington, her policy priorities and her thoughts on contemporary political debates — there was one question I knew I couldn’t leave without addressing.

Where does her unique fashion sense come from?

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Conference helped force changes to the GOP’s newly-released border security bill. (Photo via C-SPAN)

Capitol Hill may be known for its many quirks, but eye-catching attire and accessories typically are not among them. Most men stick with boring blue or gray suits, while women mostly go for solid-color dresses or slacks and blazers.

But Hageman, with her long black dresses, round spectacles and prominent turquoise jewelry — attire which once earned her the nickname the “Wicked Witch of the West” — clearly stands out from the pack.

“I get asked a lot about it, and it’s kind of surprising to me. I guess it’s just my style,” Hageman told me.

“A lot of my jewelry is purchased by my husband [John Sundahl]” she added, noting she and the Cheyenne-based trial attorney have been together 26 years. “I guess he has a pretty good idea of what I like, and I think it is beautiful.”

By donning the distinctive adornments for public appearances, she helps to showcase the skills of the artisans who make the jewelry, she said. Hageman noted that Wyoming’s tribes are known more for intricate beadwork than gemstones, but “turquoise is something that just makes people smile.”

“It is a color, it is a stone that just seems to have energy and it’s just a very positive thing to wear for me,” she added.

Focus on border security

It’s not just the jewelry of the American Southwest that’s drawn Hageman’s attention. Despite representing a state some 800 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, Hageman was directly involved in the development of Republicans’ “Secure the Border Act,” released in full on Tuesday.

The congresswoman described the measure as “very comprehensive [and] very positive,” pointing to provisions which restart construction on former President Donald Trump’s border wall, beef up border enforcement and impose severe restrictions on asylum seekers.

But though unauthorized migration across the border has been a key Republican priority for decades, the party conference is not yet unified in support for the new bill.

During its development, some members of the GOP-led Congressional Hispanic Conference raised concerns about the asylum process overhaul, as well as new authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally close border crossings in situations “necessary” to “achieve operational control.”

Shortly before Hageman and the House Judiciary Committee began marking up a section of the border bill, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) threatened that in a Congress with such tight margins, “five votes is 100.”

“I am confident leadership will not bring anything to the floor that does not have the votes to pass,” he posed in an April 18 Hispanic Conference press conference.

Leadership, in turn, tweaked the text to win the Hispanic Conference holdouts’ support. But the trouble is not yet over. Already, some additional Republicans have raised concerns about provisions impacting undocumented agricultural workers. Others still feel the legislation falls short on tackling drug cartels.

“It’s not good right now,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) told the Washington Examiner about the package. “I cannot take a border bill seriously that doesn’t address the cartels.”

Hageman, for her part, projected optimism about the prospects of the bill’s passage — despite the incredibly tight margins Republicans face.

Though Hageman joked to the Wyoming Truth that she intended to run for president, she clarified that she’s “very much focused on representing the state of Wyoming.” (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

“This is something that wasn’t just cobbled together in the last 100 days,” Hageman explained. “These provisions have been worked on for years by those members who are very affected by the invasion and very affected by illegal immigration.”

All in for Trump… and following in his footsteps?

In doubling-down on immigration issues, Hageman is taking a page from the man seen as instrumental to her primary victory over Liz Cheney: Donald Trump.

Amid a litany of legal challenges and ongoing questions about his political viability, Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso have each started to distance themselves from the former president. Lummis has said she hopes there are “multiple options on the Republican side” in 2024, pointing to her closeness to presumed candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. Barrasso, meanwhile, has said only that he intends to support the eventual GOP nominee.

But Hageman has held firm in her support of Trump, becoming one of the first sitting lawmakers to endorse his 2024 campaign earlier this year.

“He won Wyoming by over 70% of the vote, and I represent Wyoming,” Hageman told me. “He was very, very good for Wyoming.”

Despite some Republicans’ concerns about his probability of success in the general election, Hageman said she sees Trump as a “known commodity.”

“He said what he was going to do when he ran in 2015 and 2016, and he attempted to carry out what he said he was going to do. He was under absolutely relentless attack for four solid years from the press”— she paused to look me directly in the eyes — “from the Democrats [and] from his own ‘deep state.’”

“I think that he will be able to go in and address some of those issues, as he was more subjected to that corruption than any president in our history. So those are just some of the reasons [I support him],” Hageman concluded.

Amid all our talk of presidential politics, I asked Hageman about how she views her current standing. She has only been a congresswoman for 100 days, sure, but clearly she is seen in the party as a rising star. Does she have greater political ambitions?

“I think we’re gonna run for president,” Hageman declared bluntly.

As her communications director Chris Berardi and I began to chuckle, her chief of staff, Carly Miller, let out an exasperated sigh.

“So, 2028 then?” I posed.

“You’re too young, you’ll be too young at that point,” Miller chimed in, finally in on the fun.

“Right now I am very, very, very, very, very much focused on representing the state of Wyoming,” Hageman clarified.

“I really have not thought about moving on to something else,” she added. “I’ve just been here for four months. I’m enjoying it. I appreciate the opportunity and the honor to represent Wyoming. That’s really where I’d like to stay.”

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