THE ROAD TO THE CAPITOL: Wyoming Residents from Cheyenne to Sheridan Voice Their Opinions About the U.S. House Race

Frontrunner candidate Harriet Hageman seen as more in touch with Wyoming

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Aug 02, 2022

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – With just two weeks until the primary, voters across Wyoming are speaking out about what matters most to them as they prepare to select the Republican and Democrat nominees for the state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

On the Republican side, four candidates seek to oust incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney: Trump-backed Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman; state Sen. Anthony Bouchard; veteran Denton Knapp; and paralegal Robyn Belinskey.  

Three Democratic candidates are also vying for their party’s nomination: Fort Washakie resident Lynnette Grey Bull who ran for the office in 2020; Rock Springs resident Meghan R. Jensen; and Casper resident Steve Helling. 

Fourteen days out, political analysts agree that Cheney seems poised to lose the GOP nomination to Hageman.

“Cheney is the clear underdog, and a Hageman win seems in the cards,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the nonpartisan newsletter of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Hageman carries every county in the state, though I could potentially see Teton or Albany, the state’s two Joe Biden-won counties, going for Cheney.”

If Cheney receives more than 40% of the vote on Aug. 16, Coleman said that would be considered a good showing for her at this point. Numerous polls project a decisive Hageman victory, as she currently leads Cheney by about 20 percentage points.  

“The consistency in these polls leads to confidence in their findings,” noted Jim King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming.

Tina and Dick Willis, Wheatland residents, sell Native American jewelry during Cheyenne Frontier Days at the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Tina says she will support Harriet Hageman for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

And analysts say whoever wins the Republican nomination during the primary Aug. 16 will be elected to Wyoming’s House seat in November.

“No Democrat has been elected to Congress from Wyoming since 1976, and in only a couple of elections has the Democratic candidate been truly competitive,” King added.

But where do Wyoming residents—Republicans, Democrats and Independents—stand on the issues and candidates? Across nearly 900 miles from Cheyenne to Sheridan, the Wyoming Truth spoke with voters in nine towns to find out what’s on their minds—and what factors will drive their votes.

Our first stop: Cheyenne Frontier Days.

CFD vendors focused on the economy 

Tina Willis, a 68-year-old Wheatland resident, has been a Cheyenne Frontier Days vendor for the last 15 years, selling jewelry from the Navajo tribes in New Mexico and Arizona.

A registered Republican, Willis considers Wyoming residents independent by nature and wants the state to retain that independence.

“I would just really like to see more grassroots decisions and less federal interference,” said Willis, owner of Bootique West, sitting behind a display of jewelry adorned with brightly colorful beads and deer skin, silver and turquoise, amethyst and shells at the Cheyenne Depot Museum.

She also wants legislators to focus on fixing matters related to the agricultural industry, such as regulatory issues and fuel prices, and wants problems to be addressed on a “common sense level,” something she thinks Hageman can offer.

“I just feel like Harriet Hageman has a better comprehension and understanding,” said Willis, whose family has owned a medium-sized cattle ranch southwest of Casper since 1914. “…Again, I ask and believe that my representative needs to have a common-sense approach, and I feel that Harriet Hageman does that.”

Willis voted for Cheney in 2020, but she now feels that Cheney has displayed arrogance toward Wyoming.

“We are humble people,” Willis said of Wyomingites. “We are not arrogant.”

As for the select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, on which Cheney serves as vice chair, Willis dismissed it as political and irrelevant to her life.

Willis voted for Donald Trump in 2020 and described him as a good president. But his endorsement of Hageman is not influencing her vote for Hageman, and she is not ready to commit to support Trump in 2024 should he decide to run again. Willis wants to evaluate the next slate of presidential candidates and make an informed decision then.  

Meanwhile over near the rodeo fairgrounds, Gabriel Poch, a 30-year-old leather goods vendor, was less certain about whom he would support.

Gabriel Poch, of Cheyenne, sews a moccasin at a leather goods exhibit during Cheyenne Frontier Days. Poch hasn’t made a final decision, but he is leaning toward supporting  Harriet Hageman in the upcoming GOP primary. (Wyoming Truth photo by Shen Wu Tan)

Poch, a Cheyenne resident and registered Republican, did not vote in 2020. He doesn’t feel strongly about either Hageman or Cheney, but he might support Hageman, as he feels she is more in touch with Wyoming residents than Cheney. Poch, owner of Poch Leather and Craft, usually writes in most of his votes for public offices. 

“I tend to be a little picky, so I support whoever I like, not necessarily along party lines,” said Poch, sporting a cowboy hat with a black feather tucked in on the side. “I don’t really strongly identify with any side, one or the other.”

“I vote for people I like, which is generally nobody, but eh, you know,” he added, chuckling. 

Regarding issues in the state, Poch would like Wyoming to become less dependent on federal funding and on the oil, gas and coal industry.

“Our economy is very singular in its focus,” he said. “Personally, I would like to avoid a Wyoming state income tax if we could. Hey, you know, who likes paying taxes, right? I understand the arguments for it. I own a business. I understand finances. If we could avoid that one, it would be nice, though.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Poch hopes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will run for president, describing him as a candidate who could help unite Republicans.

Poch also has been actively avoiding the televised Jan. 6 hearings.   

“I have more important things to do in my life and with my business than worry about ‘he said, she said’ and everything going on there,” said Poch, an apprentice to Michael J. Guli, who owns a custom leather house in Bellvue, Colo.

“My feeling is that for the average person here in Wyoming, they would be better off taking care of their own backyard and what’s going on in their town than worrying about the Jan. 6 committee hearings … There’s a whole lot of good to be done right here in your own state, and you need to get busy doing good here.”

Our next stop: Laramie.

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