Oil, Gas and Coal Industry, Rising Gas Prices Seen as Most Crucial Issues in Wyoming Among Many Donald Trump Rally Goers

Rally attendees called for the removal of Rep. Liz Cheney, expressed support for Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: May 30, 2022

Former President Donald Trump hosts a rally at the Ford Wyoming Center Saturday to promote his endorsed candidate, Harriet Hageman, for the state's lone U.S. House seat and to raise funds for her campaign. Trump is trying to unseat incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney. Hageman is an attorney from Cheyenne and a former gubernatorial candidate. (Wyoming Truth photos by Shen Wu Tan)

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Casper, Wyo. – For Joey Thompson, the most pressing issue for Wyoming voters in the upcoming midterm election is the struggling oil, gas and coal industry – a common sentiment expressed by other Donald Trump supporters at the Save America rally on Saturday.   

The 39-year-old Casper resident, sporting a “Trump 2024” baseball cap and a sweater that featured a cartoon of the former president urinating on the name “Biden,” recalled how he was forced to leave his job as an oil field hand in 2016 when rigs around the state started to shut down. He exited the industry altogether as a result, switching to a job removing trash for a small sanitation company. 

Joey Thompson, a 39-year-old Casper resident, attends his first Trump rally Saturday with his family. Thompson, a former oil field hand who was forced to leave the industry, says the struggling oil, gas and coal industry is one of the most pressing issues for Wyoming voters. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

But his current employer, Shirks Sanitation, is now hurting from the higher prices for diesel. Thompson said it costs about $400 to fill up a trash truck, and with three trucks to fill, the sanitation company paid about $7,700 for diesel in April. Due to the higher operational costs, he said he has had to forego annual raises since 2020. 

“It’s triple the price to fill my work truck every day, and we’re really feeling that pinch at work,” Thompson said, while waiting for Trump to take the stage as arena speakers blasted Barbra Streisand’s rendition of the song “Memory.” He attended the Trump rally, which was his first, with his sisters, niece and nephew.  

“We just don’t feel like things in America are really right right now,” Thompson added. “We feel like there’s a lot of turmoil.”  

The Wyoming native said he will support Harriet Hageman, the Trump-endorsed candidate for the state’s lone U.S. House seat and former gubernatorial candidate, because he agrees with her policies. Hageman, an attorney from Cheyenne who was raised on a ranch near Fort Laramie, has advocated for an “energy independent” America that doesn’t have to rely on other countries for oil and gas supplies.  

“I think it’s time for [Liz] Cheney to go,” Thompson added. “I don’t think she’s done much while she’s been in office. I don’t think she’s represented Wyoming very well, and I believe it’s time we get somebody to do that.”  

Rally Goers: It’s Time to Give Cheney the Boot 

That was a recurring message at the Trump rally hosted at the Ford Wyoming Center, a seven-hour event that attracted a crowd of around 8,000 and featured speeches by notable Republicans, including Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. The Casper rally was the latest stop on Trump’s cross-country tour to promote his slate of endorsed candidates that ranged from Rep. Jody Hice for Georgia’s Secretary of State to Dr. Mehmet Oz for Pennsylvania’s seat in the U.S. Senate and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin for Idaho governor. 

Harriet Hageman enters the Ford Wyoming Center, the venue of the Trump rally, shortly after clearing security. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

“Over the next six months, the people of Wyoming are going to vote to dump your RINO [Republican In Name Only] congresswoman Liz Cheney,” Trump told the cheering crowd at the rally, referring to Wyoming as a majestic state and MAGA [Make America Great Again] country. “This August, we’re going to vote out this atrocious RINO, and we’re going to replace her with a conservative warrior from a place called Wyoming. Harriet Hageman will be a true champion for the people of this state.”  

Trump also took the opportunity onstage to criticize Democrats, including President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  

“But in many ways, worse than the terrible Democrats, are the backstabbing RINO Republicans who are helping them with their act,” Trump added. “And there is no RINO in America who has thrown in her lot with the radical left more than Liz Cheney.”  

Trump held the rally to raise funds for Hageman, who lags behind in millions in campaign financing, in an effort to unseat Rep. Cheney. The former president first announced his endorsement of Hageman last year.  

“I know Wyoming, I love Wyoming, I am Wyoming,” Hageman said onstage during her Trump rally speech. “I have fought for Wyoming, and I will fight for you in Washington, D.C. And I will be taking that fight to D.C. just as soon as I defeat Liz Cheney.” 

By Shen Wu Tan

Harriet Hageman’s Trump rally speech intro

“I am going to reclaim Wyoming’s lone congressional seat from that Virginian who currently holds it,” Hageman assured the hooting, cheering and applauding crowd. “We’re fed up with those types of Republicans who work harder to deflect attention from the failures of the current administration than they work to protect us from it, and we’re fed up with Liz Cheney.”  

A vehicle promoting former President Donald Trump for office in 2024 sits near the media parking lot during the Save America rally. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

Cheney, a vocal critic of Trump who voted to impeach him and who serves on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, has become a target of the former president. In addition to Hageman, Cheney also faces competition for her seat from three other Republican candidates: state Sen. Anthony Bouchard; veteran Denton Knapp; and paralegal Robyn Belinskey, according to a final primary election candidate roster from the Wyoming Elections Division.  

On the Democratic side, three candidates have thrown their names into the race for the House seat: Fort Washakie resident Lynnette Grey Bull who previously ran for the position in 2020; Rock Springs resident Meghan R. Jensen; and Casper resident Steve Helling.  

The general election is Nov. 8.  

Political analysts have labeled Hageman as Cheney’s most serious challenger. A recent poll from the WPA Intelligence on behalf of the Club for Growth PAC gave Hageman a 30-point lead over Cheney among Wyoming Republican primary voters. The poll, conducted May 24-25, found that 56% of primary voters would support Hageman compared to 26% who would support Cheney.  

“The primary isn’t until August 16, but a 30-point gap will be a lot for the incumbent to make up,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political newsletter of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “The reality is that Trump is likely still very popular with Wyoming Republicans, and Cheney is just on the wrong side of her party…Cheney has been one of his harshest critics in Congress, and she represents the state that gave him his best showing in both the 2016 and 2020 general elections.” 

Cheney Says She Puts the Constitution First  

Rep. Liz Cheney faces challenges from four other Republican candidates who are vying for her seat, including Trump-backed Harriet Hageman. Multiple Trump rally attendees say Cheney needs to be removed from office. Cheney has defended her actions against Trump as protecting the Constitution. (Courtesy photo)

Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, won her first term in Congress in 2016 with 62% of the vote. In 2018, she was elected with nearly 64%. And in 2020, she won the general election with 69% of the votes.  

“I do wonder how far along in electoral politics she’d have gotten if she had a different last name — this isn’t to take away from her own accomplishments, but many of her father’s allies have also supported her,” Coleman told the Wyoming Truth. “Also, in retrospect, she may have been better off running for the open Senate seat in 2020. If she had been elected, she wouldn’t face another election for six years — perhaps some of the Trump-inspired opposition to her would have died down by 2026.”  

Cheney, who serves as the vice chair of the select committee to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, was removed from a top leadership role in Congress for her criticism of Trump and censured by the Wyoming GOP in February 2021 for her vote to impeach him. The state party also voted in November to no longer recognize Cheney as a Republican.  

“I know I don’t want Liz,” said Colt Rauterkus, a 29-year-old Laramie resident who left his home at 4:30 a.m. for the rally and waited in line from 7 a.m. until the doors opened around 11 a.m. “She doesn’t represent Wyoming. She doesn’t represent us. She really doesn’t represent the United States of America, but that’s just one man’s opinion.”  

Colt Rauterkus, a 29-year-old Laramie resident, arrives at the Ford Wyoming Center around 7 a.m. to attend the Trump rally, which opens its doors to the public around 11 a.m. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

Cheney’s campaign did not reply to numerous requests for comment. At an event in Jackson in March, Cheney defended her vote to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6 riot as a way to protect the Constitution, arguing that the former president went to war with the rule of law and provoked the mob that attacked the Capitol.  

“The stakes of this race could not be higher,” said an emailed update from Cheney’s campaign sent May 26. “We’re at a perilous moment and are forced to confront some key questions: In this time of testing, will we do our duty and elect leaders who are serious and willing to tell the truth? Or will we look away from the danger, ignore the threats, and embrace the lies? We are here to ask for your support as we kick off this campaign so that Liz may continue to represent the great people of Wyoming in a principled and responsible way, and ensure that we have a voice in Washington who will always put Wyoming values and allegiance to the Constitution first.” 

Dean Ferguson, a spokesman for the Wyoming Democratic Party, described it as “pretty appalling” that every Republican in Washington, D.C., hasn’t endorsed the work of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. “Cheney is behaving with a basic kind of decency that would not even be remarkable if she weren’t surrounded by those who can’t muster that ordinary level of moral courage,” he said.  

While Ferguson noted he respects Cheney for standing up to Trump, he said Democrats think Cheney is too conservative and that he is glad there will be a Democratic primary for the state’s lone U.S. House seat this election season.  

“It gives people a reason to pay attention to races like the same dynamic you’re seeing in the Cheney-Hageman race,” Ferguson said. “People now have a good reason to watch the race and go to candidate events and try to pick who the best one is to run against the Republican.” 

He added, “The thing about the electorate is you see that really strong support for Republicans in recent years, but it’s also not that many years out that they were also voting for a Democratic governor. The electorate really hasn’t changed that much. So every year marks an opportunity for a candidate to break out and get in front of an electorate that isn’t so hardened to partisanship that they won’t consider voting for a Democrat or an Independent over Republicans.”  

Republicans make up about 70% of registered voters in Wyoming as of May 2022, data from the Wyoming Secretary of State show. In the 2020 presidential election, Trump received 69.5% of the votes in the state, according to Ballotpedia.   

Trump Takes Shots at Cheney, Media and Democrats 

Since leaving office, Trump has continually claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from him and asserted that some politicians are out to get him, including Cheney.  

Micki Larson-Olson travels 15 hours from Abilene, Texas to attend the Trump rally in Casper. Larson-Olson previously has attended several other Trump rallies. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

“Liz Cheney hates the voters of the Republican Party, and she has longer than you would know,” Trump said during his rally speech.  “Our greatest danger is not from outside of our country. Our greatest danger is these sick people from within.” 

“Wyoming deserves a congresswoman who stands up for you and your values,” he added. “And you’re going to send the incredible Harriet Hageman to Congress.” 

Trump made his usual, occasional jabs at media organizations, referring to them as “fake news” and eliciting some boos from the crowd for the journalists who sat near the back of the stadium. Some rally goers even paraded around in shirts that read “Fake media is the virus.”  

Rally attendees occasionally interrupted Trump’s speech with thunderous chants of “USA, USA, USA” and awarded him multiple standing ovations. Toward the end of his 90-minute speech, Trump pronounced the 2022 election as the “most important midterm election in the history of our country” and again took aim at the Biden administration and Democrats.  

“Biden and the radical left have turned calm into chaos, competence into incompetence, prosperity into poverty and security into a total catastrophe,” Trump said. “Now our country is being destroyed, and our country is paying the biggest price imaginable.” He also claimed Democrats and the Biden administration are against the “liquid gold” right under the feet of Wyoming residents, warning they will rapidly turn Wyoming into a “very poor state.” 

Thompson, the former oil field hand, couldn’t agree more about the need to harness Wyoming’s energy resources—and to turn the country around starting with the midterm election.  

“I would like to see us using our minerals and resources that we have,” Thompson said. “I feel like we’re not doing that very much. I feel like we have a poor economy because we’re a smaller state and we need to use what we have… And I feel like we need the right person to be in office.” 

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