Wyoming voters ended Rep. Liz Cheney’s congressional career on Tuesday night, nominating Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman instead for the at-large seat in the deep-red state this November.
Cheney, a three-term incumbent, lost after the congresswoman was overwhelmingly kicked from her number three role in House leadership as chair of the Republican conference. The Wyoming lawmaker traded her influential perch in GOP leadership for a lead act spearheading the Democrats’ latest anti-Trump crusade in the form of the Select Committee on Jan. 6, on which Cheney is vice chair.
Days after the 2021 Capitol riot, Cheney embarked on a futile campaign to recruit Republican colleagues for the Democrats’ snap impeachment of outgoing President Donald Trump.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement at the time. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
In all, only nine GOP lawmakers joined the effort, some of whom had already announced their intent before Cheney’s announcement, calling into question Cheney’s real influence. The ensuing months would see Cheney stripped of her title in House leadership as the congresswoman embarked on a never-ending feud with Trump as a hallmark of her time in the lower chamber.
By September, Hageman announced a primary campaign to unseat Cheney with Trump’s endorsement.
“Liz Cheney has burned all of her bridges with Republicans,” Hageman told supporters at a campaign kickoff in the southwest capital of Cheyenne, blasting the state’s sole representative as wasting the entire year on “nothing less than a vengeance tour.”
Cheney welcomed the challenge with a tweet that didn’t age well.
“Here’s a sound bite for you,” Cheney wrote. “Bring it.”
Despite more than $15 million raised to protect her seat, however, Cheney failed to triumph in the state, which voted for Trump in 2020 by a wider margin than anywhere else in the country. Of the nine other members who supported Trump’s second impeachment, four retired, three lost their primaries, and only two prevailed. Now Cheney, the final member of the GOP impeachment caucus to face primary voters at the ballot box, will become the eighth to leave office. Her time as leader of the congressional neoconservatives who embrace an aggressive interventionist foreign policy has also come to an end.
While Cheney relied almost entirely on out-of-state support to fund her desperate re-election campaign among voters she rarely visited, Hageman spent the prior 11 months traveling the state to build a grassroots coalition for a fraction of the cost. Hageman raised less than a third of Cheney’s overall receipts, according to public campaign finance data, much of which did not come until after the rare endorsement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in February.
Members of House leadership do not typically back primary efforts against incumbent lawmakers. Cheney, however, became a “special case,” which is how she described her own support for Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie’s primary rival two years ago as Republican House Conference chair. McCarthy also pledged in July he would support Hageman’s request to be placed on the House Natural Resources Committee to navigate the state’s myriad of public lands issues. Despite half the state being under the jurisdiction of the federal government, Cheney left the committee in her third term to focus on feuding with the former Republican president.
Cheney’s obsession with Trump not only antagonized members of her own party on Capitol Hill but also sank her in Wyoming, where residents scoffed at the Cheney-directed theatrics of the Soviet-style Jan. 6 Committee and the state party voted to no longer recognize her as a Republican. When The Federalist asked Wyoming voters at Cheyenne’s Frontier Days rodeo festival what they thought of the Jan. 6 investigation, voters called it a “farce” and labeled Cheney a “hypocrite” and a “traitor.”
“I think they beat that drum until it died,” said retired, 22-year Cheyenne resident George Hoff in reference to the House panel. “When she goes over to the Potomac, she forgets about Wyoming.”
In turn, Cheney skipped events with constituents whom she called “crazies” to mingle with reporters instead on her few trips to the Cowboy State. The late stages of her campaign took the form of a doomed candidate attempting to capitalize on the anti-Trump martyrdom for a future presidential run, with much of her campaign war chest left unspent at the conclusion of the contest. On the eve of the election, the Washington Post ran the headline, “Liz Cheney’s political life is likely ending — and just beginning.”
In an interview with the New York Times last week, Cheney broadened her targets to include any Republicans aligned with “Trumpism.”
“Ms. Cheney suggested she was animated as much by Trumpism as by Mr. Trump himself,” the Times reported. “Asked if the ranks of off-limits candidates included Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, whom many Republicans have latched onto as a Trump alternative, she said she ‘would find it very difficult’ to support Mr. DeSantis in a general election.”
“I think that Ron DeSantis has lined himself up almost entirely with Donald Trump, and I think that’s very dangerous,” Cheney added.