What this one Wyoming race tells us about the future of the Republican Party
“I think it’s going to be the most important House race in the country in 2022,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said of her primary.
The two factions of the post-Jan. 6 Republican Party are facing off next summer in a Wyoming primary that promises to test the limits of former President Donald Trump’s influence over the party.
As revenge for Rep. Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach him earlier this year, Trump has backed a challenger to her reelection, attorney Harriet Hageman. Cheney, who is seeking a fourth term, said her primary is “going to be the most important House race in the country in 2022.”
“It will be one where people do have the opportunity to say, ‘We want to stand for the Constitution,’” Cheney said during an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday.
While fealty to Trump has been a recurring theme in many early Republican primaries, that’s mostly meant Republican candidates chasing after Trump’s endorsement and voters. In the campaign for Arizona governor, for example, Republicans have been vocal about supporting “election integrity.” Most don’t go so far as to echo Trump and inaccurately say there’s been any evidence of widespread voter fraud, but they at least pay lip service to the cause.
Wyoming will be one of the rare races to pit Republicans with diverging views of Trump and the Jan. 6 Capitol building riot against each other, as other candidates might not make it to Election Day.
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for incitement to insurrection in January, there’s already one — Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio — who has decided to not seek reelection. Gonzalez made the announcement earlier this month, and he faced a Trump-backed challenger, former Trump aide Max Miller. Two others who voted for impeachment, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, already have primary challengers endorsed by Trump as well, as does Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the only one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump up for reelection next year.
And it’s not just primaries that could fell these Republicans. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who who sits on the House Select Committee investigating Jan. 6 along with Cheney, could potentially find himself redistricted out of a job. New congressional districts redrawn this year by Illinois Democrats could force Kinzinger to run in a tougher district or against a fellow incumbent.
Other Republicans who voted for impeachment could face their own challenges related to redistricting, and six of the 10 who voted for impeachment are from states losing a House seat next year because of population declines in the 2020 Census.
In Wyoming, a state where Trump won nearly 70% of the vote last year, the former president’s endorsement partially cleared the field, with three Republican hopefuls dropping out of the House race after he backed Hageman.
Hageman was a former adviser to Cheney and she hasn’t always been a Trump supporter, previously calling him “racist and xenophobic.” At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Hageman worked as part of an effort to unbind delegates to prevent Trump from taking the nomination, according to The New York Times, but she described her opposition to Trump as “ancient history.”
“He was the greatest president of my lifetime, and I am proud to have been able to renominate him in 2020,” Hageman told the Times.
Cheney has the backing of former President George W. Bush, who’s headlining a fundraiser for her next month in Dallas. Tickets start at $1,000 a person. Trump appeared to react to news of Bush’s support by sending out an email showing a photoshopped image of Bush’s face on Cheney’s head. On Sunday, Cheney trolled Trump back with a tweet of an image of Bush, writing, “I like Republican presidents who win re-election.”
Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served under Bush, talks with his daughter daily, she said. Both are concerned with the state of the Republican Party.
On Monday, Rep. Cheney will be in Salt Lake City, where she’s holding a fundraiser for Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah. Moore, who took office in January, voted against removing Cheney from her post as House Republican Conference chair in May.
Wyoming’s Republican primary is scheduled for Aug. 16, 2022. Democratic candidates have yet to announce. Cheney characterized the race to “60 Minutes” as her versus someone who puts loyalty to Trump above loyalty to the Constitution.
“A vote against me in this race, a vote for whomever Donald Trump has endorsed, is a vote for somebody who’s willing to perpetuate the big lie, somebody who’s willing to put allegiance to Trump above allegiance to the Constitution, absolutely,” she said.