House Candidates Blast Frontrunner Hageman as a “Coward” for Skipping Debate

Despite the debate snub, Hageman is still expected to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 8

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Constitution Party candidate Marissa Joy Selvig, Libertarian Richard Brubaker and Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull participated in a general election debate for Wyoming's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. Republican nominee Harriet Hageman declined the invitation. (Photo via YouTube / Wyoming PBS).

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Candidates seeking to represent Wyoming in the U.S. House of Representatives next year met at Central Wyoming College in Riverton on Thursday night for a general election debate, but the focus was squarely on the one candidate not present: Harriet Hageman.

Hageman, who with the support of former President Donald Trump handily won the GOP primary race ousting incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), opted not to participate in the debate organized by WyomingPBS.

“There’s no law requiring a candidate to debate; it’s up to them,” said Steve Peck, public affairs producer with WyomingPBS and one of the questioners in Thursday’s debate. “But this development tonight is unusual.”

Candidates who did attend the debate were united in their criticism of Hageman’s absence. “It’s very unfortunate that the other candidate is not here,” said Constitution Party’s Marissa Joy Selvig.

Hageman “feels so confident that everybody will vote for the big ‘R,’ that she does not need to communicate with ‘We the People,’” echoed Libertarian candidate Richard Brubaker.

Lynnette Grey Bull, Hageman’s Democratic opponent, took the strongest position against her: “I believe that not only is it a disservice to Wyoming, but it’s a coward[ly] move,” Grey Bull said. “Wyoming doesn’t need a coward. Wyoming needs a leader.”

Though Hageman initially said her absence was due to a scheduling conflict, organizers confirmed that they offered multiple possible debate dates in October. After declining those invitations, the Hageman campaign pointed to the candidate’s travels throughout Wyoming as a “much more effective way of communicating with Wyomingites.”

“We thank you for your invitation, but respectfully decline,” the Hageman campaign said in a statement.

Once they dispensed with talk of Hageman, candidates were asked about their thoughts on policy issues ranging from climate change and abortion to the war in Ukraine.

Selvig and Brubaker were mostly in lockstep, sharing conservative beliefs that the federal government should do less to regulate climate emissions and withdraw support for Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. Though Selvig said abortion was “immoral” and she backed efforts to ban it, Brubaker was less clear, describing total bans as “harsh” and pointing to the need for religious freedom for groups that allowed abortion in their practice.

Grey Bull, conversely, pushed for progressive responses to each question. She said the government should more aggressively respond to climate change, enshrine abortion rights and continue supporting the Ukranian people under siege. She was the only candidate on stage to defend President Joe Biden’s recent announcement of student loan forgiveness for some people with educational debt. “We have the means, we have the mind, we have the knowledge to make the free debt school loans work for Americans,” she said.

Beyond policy matters, candidates were asked to weigh in on Cheney and the Jan. 6 investigation into Trump’s role in the Capitol insurrection. Just hours before the debate took place, Cheney led the committee to issue a subpoena for documents and testimony from the former president.

Selvig and Brubaker decried the committee’s investigation as “political theater” and a “waste of time.” Of Cheney specifically, Selvig said that “she has stood up for what she thinks she believes in and that did not match with Wyoming voters, which is why she is not on this stage tonight.”

Grey Bull noted she had a “history” with Cheney — the two faced off in the general election for U.S. House two years ago — and added she was “glad” Cheney “at least showed up at the debate” last cycle. She said anyone who doesn’t support the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation “doesn’t believe in our democracy or Constitution.”

Despite her absence, Hageman is expected to easily win Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She took the GOP primary with two-thirds of the vote and faces few hurdles to victory in the overwhelmingly Republican state. Early voting began Sept. 23, with the general election set for Nov. 8.

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