Liz Cheney Ousted by Trump-Backed Challenger Harriet Hageman

“Wyoming has spoken,” Hageman says in claiming victory, while Cheney hints “now, the real work begins”

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Aug 17, 2022

Harriet Hageman claims victory as the GOP nominee for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, saying Wyoming deserves a representative who understands and loves the Cowboy State. (Courtesy photo via Harriet Hageman’s campaign Twitter account)

By Jacob Gardenswartz and Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Harriet Hageman, backed by former President Donald Trump in a bruising election with national implications, easily defeated incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney in the race for the GOP nomination to represent Wyoming’s sole seat in the U.S. House.

News networks called the race shortly after 8:15 p.m. MT, approximately 75 minutes after polls closed late Tuesday. With over 99 percent of precincts reporting, Hageman, a natural resources attorney and former Republican National Committee member, won a resounding 66 percent of the vote. Cheney badly trailed with 29 percent, while two other candidates grabbed 4 percent combined.

“Today, Wyoming has spoken,” Hageman told supporters at a watch party event in Cheyenne. “Wyoming has made clear that we are done being governed by the Washington, D.C., uniparty.”

In remarks to supporters outside Jackson, Rep. Liz Cheney concedes to Harriet Hageman, but hints at what may come next: “This primary election is over, but now the real work begins.” (Wyoming Truth photo via YouTube / Liz Cheney for Wyoming)

Tuesday’s results marked a stunning — if not unexpected — turn for Cheney, who has represented Wyoming since 2017, served in top posts in GOP leadership, and at one point was even floated as a possible house speaker. In a speech to supporters in Jackson, Cheney said she had conceded to Hageman, but emphasized that her “work is far from over.” 

“Our republic relies upon the goodwill of all candidates for office to accept honorably the outcome of elections,” Cheney said. “Tonight, Harriet Hageman has received the most votes in this primary. She won.”

The GOP primary race in Wyoming, the nation’s least populated state, garnered a once-in-a-generation spotlight as it came to represent a referendum on former President Trump’s role in the Republican party.

Though Cheney voted with Trump’s policies 93 percent of the time while he was in office, she emerged in recent months as one of his foremost critics, using her post as vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection to repeatedly argue that he abused his office.

In turn, Trump, playing the role of kingmaker, endorsed Hageman and rallied on her behalf. “The people of Wyoming are going to vote to dump your RINO [Republican In Name Only] congresswoman Liz Cheney,” Trump said during a May event in Casper. “There is no RINO in America who has thrown in her lot with the radical left more than Liz Cheney.”

In a Tuesday statement on his social media platform “Truth Social,” Trump congratulated Hageman on a “great and very decisive WIN,” adding that Cheney “should be ashamed of herself” and can “finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion.” 

Indeed, Cheney’s opposition towards Trump likely precipitated her downfall. Trump took Wyoming with nearly 70 percent of the vote in 2020, a greater margin than he won in any other state in the country. In interviews across Wyoming, voters repeatedly highlighted Cheney’s opposition towards Trump and her vote to impeach him as a reason for supporting Hageman.

“Liz made a mistake,” Robert Mussyal, a retired police officer, said outside a polling place in Cheyenne after casting his ballot for Hageman.

“She wants to hurt Trump. That’s what bothers me,” echoed Vincent Krolikowski, 74, who attended Hageman’s victory event. “I don’t mind somebody having differences and challenging somebody, but I think there’s hate there.”

Pictured above is Andrea Harrington, who switched parties to vote for Rep. Liz Cheney in the GOP primary. “Somehow Liz Cheney has become considered a moderate, which I wouldn’t have agreed with in years past, but here we are,” she said. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

Cross-over voters unable to stop Hageman’s ascent to Washington

Hageman’s victory in the GOP race means she is likely to become Wyoming’s next congressional representative. In November’s general election, she’ll face Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull, who unsuccessfully ran against Cheney in 2020 and again won the Democratic nomination. If elected, Grey Bull would become the first person of indigenous descent to represent Wyoming, a point central to her campaign.

With nearly 75 percent of Wyoming voters registered as Republicans, Hageman’s ascent to Congress is all but assured. No Democrat has represented Wyoming in Washington since 1978.

In recent months, the Cheney campaign sent mailers to registered Democrats, explaining how to switch parties and support her in the Republican primary. Data from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office indicate Democratic registration across the state fell by 19 percent since May, while GOP registration grew by 9 percent. 

Speaking to supporters shortly after Cheney conceded, Hageman did not mince her words: “Wyoming has sent the message — if you are going to claim to live in Wyoming, you better damn well live in Wyoming.”

Hageman also thanked Trump in her remarks: “His clear and unwavering support from the very beginning propelled us to victory tonight.”

Vincent Krolikowski attends Harriet Hageman’s victory event in Cheyenne with his wife Jackie. “We like what she wants to do for Cheyenne and what she has done,” he said. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

What’s next for Liz Cheney?

Though Cheney’s ouster became official on Tuesday, the results came as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the race over the last several months. Polls had shown Cheney trailing Hageman by over 20 points, and GOP candidates taking on Trump elsewhere nationwide have mostly seen their political careers end.

Of the 10 Republican members of Congress who voted to support Trump’s second impeachment, only six competed in the 2022 GOP primaries, with the other four opting to retire. Now most have lost their seats: Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Cheney.

“Two years ago, I won this primary with 73 percent of the vote. I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear, but it required that I going along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election,” Cheney said in her concession speech. “That was a path I could not and would not take.”

Still, Tuesday’s results do not necessarily mean the end of public service for Cheney. She has spoken about the possibility of pursuing a 2024 presidential bid, especially if Trump again emerges as the GOP nominee.

“She’s very determined, very dogged, and she will chase Donald Trump to the gates of hell,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Trump critic who opted not to seek reelection this year, said Tuesday on MSNBC. The two serve together as the only Republicans on the House Jan. 6 select committee.

Despite insisting that her focus has been on her primary race, Cheney has already taken moves that could position her for a presidential run. After an ad in which her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, called Trump a “coward” went viral online, her campaign began airing the spot nationally on Fox News.

J. Miles Coleman, political analyst and associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said Cheney may be “trying to set the stage for something down the road.” 

Speaking to supporters from a picturesque cattle ranch outside Jackson, Cheney hinted where she may be headed.

“This primary election is over,” she said, “but now the real work begins.”

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