Rep. Liz Cheney, a prominent figure in the Republican effort to hold former President Trump accountable and the vice chair of the House committee looking into the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, lost the GOP primary for the Wyoming congressional district she has represented since 2017.
The three-term congresswoman was defeated by Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman, who has fought to overturn federal rules in Wyoming.
On Tuesday night, Cheney announced that she had conceded to Hageman, who had a lead of more than 25 percentage points in the early results, while surrounded by family and supporters close to Jackson, Wyoming.
In a nearly 15-minute address, Cheney defended her work on the Jan. 6 committee, denouncing the propagation of theories and lies about the 2020 election as well as the individuals responsible for them. She also asserted that the so-called Big Lie continues to pose a threat to American democracy.
She mentioned that she had easily won the previous election for her congressional seat and admitted that this primary would have followed suit if she hadn’t actively opposed Trump’s attempts to erode trust in the American electoral process.
The path was open, and I could have done it again with ease, Cheney added. But doing so would have compelled me to support President Trump’s fabrication regarding the 2020 election. It would have compelled me to support his continued efforts to undermine our republic’s founding principles and our democratic system. I could not and would not go down that road.
The former president and his associates gave the contest significant attention, and many of them contributed to, supported, or worked on Hageman’s campaign. In Casper, the second-largest city in the state, Trump addressed a rally in May.
Trump congratulated Hageman “on her fantastic and very decisive WIN in Wyoming” in a tweet on his Truth Social network.
In his letter, Trump blasted the “Unselect Committee of political Hacks and Thugs,” calling the outcome “a magnificent result for America.” “Liz Cheney ought to be ashamed of herself, her behavior, and her vindictive, sanctimonious remarks and deeds toward other people. She can finally vanish into political obscurity at this point, where I’m sure she’ll be lot happier than she is now.”
Instead of going unnoticed, Cheney made the decision to keep working to keep Trump out of the White House. She concluded by urging everyone in the audience, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents, to join with her “against those who would destroy our nation.”
Republicans are once again reminded by Cheney’s defeat of the danger of opposing the former president. Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, was unable to quell the rage of the Trump wing despite having a huge money edge and widespread name recognition. In one of the priciest primaries in the nation, Cheney raised more than $15 million compared to Hageman’s $4 million.
Cheney was first elected to Congress in 2016. He is a fervent conservative with a laser concentration on matters of national security. In the 1980s, her father was the seat’s holder.
As one of Trump’s staunchest supporters in the House and one of the Democrats’ scathing detractors, Cheney started her career in politics. After the Washington Post published a clip from “Access Hollywood” in which Trump spoke about grabbing women by their genitalia, she supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election. She voted with Trump more often than not while he was in office and called the attempt to impeach him in February 2020 a “sham.”
She was elected GOP conference chair at the conclusion of her first term in Congress, moving her up to the third place in the party leadership and stoking rumors that she might someday become the first female Republican speaker of the House.
The Capitol was then assaulted. Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to remove Trump from office for inciting the mob on January 13, 2021. The Wyoming Republican Party swiftly censured her and later decided not to recognize her as a member. Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a self-described MAGA Republican, took her place as leader of the House Republicans in May 2021 after she was ousted by a vote of House Republicans.
Cheney was selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to join the House Jan. 6 committee in July 2021. She later elevated Cheney to vice chair of the panel. After Pelosi stated that two of her picks, Republican Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, who had voted to block the certification of some of the 2020 election results, could not join, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) refused to allow his Republican picks to join the committee.
Despite her party’s opposition to the committee, Cheney has assumed a prominent position in the proceedings, regularly condemning Trump and the members of her party who chose not to oppose him for the acts he took in connection with the Capitol uprising.
In her opening remarks at the first hearing, Cheney remarked, “I say this to my Republican colleagues, who are defending the indefensible.” “Donald Trump will be gone one day, but your shame will endure,”
Cheney tried to present her participation on the committee as a defense of the Constitution in line with fundamental Wyoming principles when she was back home. She also made contact with Democratic voters, pleading with them to switch to her side.
Hageman, a rancher of fourth generation, claimed Cheney was out of touch, associated with Democrats, and not sufficiently focused on concerns like inflation and rising gas prices.
Hageman said from her election night watch party in Cheyenne, Wyoming, “What Wyoming has proved today is that, while it may not be simple, we can dislodge established politicians who believe they’ve climbed above the people they’re supposed to represent and serve.”
Hageman, who had assisted Cheney in his 2014 Senate campaign, is the clear favorite to win the general election. For more than 40 years, Wyoming has not had a Democratic representative in Congress.
Cheney’s future in politics is less guaranteed. It’s been suggested that she would run for president in 2024, continuing to be a rival to the outgoing leader of the Republican opposition to Trump. In interviews, Cheney has stated that she hasn’t decided whether to run for president.
The Jan. 6 committee is anticipated to resume hearings in the near future and issue a preliminary report the following month, with a more thorough evaluation planned later this year.
At the most recent hearing in July, Cheney declared that “doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has started to crack.”
Few Republicans remain in the House who are prepared to openly criticize Trump and his congressional friends, including McCarthy, in light of Cheney’s defeat.
The fourth Republican to lose to a candidate favored by Trump, Cheney was the last of the Republicans who voted to remove the former president from office to face the electorate. Reps. Tom Rice of South Carolina was defeated in June, while Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington and Peter Meijer of Michigan lost their primaries on August 2.
Only two candidates—Reps. Dan Newhouse of Washington and David Valadao of California—made it to the general election after four others retired.
In the weeks before the election, a number of polls indicated Hageman would win easily in the state, which had voted for Trump by 70% in the previous two presidential elections.
Cheney has consistently exhibited a willingness to accept failure if it meant continuing to serve on the committee. In one of her campaign’s final ads, her father referred to Trump as a “coward” and praised her for her attempts to look into him.
Nothing she will ever accomplish is more crucial, he declared, than leading the charge to ensure that Donald Trump never again enters the vicinity of the Oval Office. And she will be successful.
This article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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