JACKSON, Wyo. — Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a onetime House GOP leader and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was ousted in a Republican primary Tuesday night, NBC News projects.
Former President Donald Trump’s name wasn’t on the ballot, but his shadow eclipsed the contest as he sought revenge for Cheney’s vote last year to impeach him and her work on the committee investigating his behavior leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol . His hand-picked challenger, Harriet Hageman, defeated Cheney in a multi-candidate race.
The fight with Trump cost Cheney her spot in House Republican leadership last year and now her seat, but it also provided her with an elevated platform, a monster fundraising profile and the respect of some Democrats who reviled her father.
The split-screen images of Cheney — losing popularity at home, while her profile rose nationally — have sparked questions about whether she will seek the presidency or slip into another role that keeps her at the forefront of the bipartisan anti-Trump set.
Cheney is the final Republican to fall to a Trump-backed primary challenger after having voted to impeach him. Four of the 10 opted to retire, three have already lost primaries, and two survived primaries. In one of those two contests, Trump didn’t endorse a challenger.
On Tuesday, no one could confuse Cheney with a Trump-style populist at her election night party.
Held on a sprawling ranch against the breathtaking backdrop of the Teton Mountains, Cheney’s was an incongruously urbane affair that featured a country band, beer-and-wine bars, a barbecue truck and fresh-fruit plates.
Valets parked cars for guests and shuttled them to a tent-covered set of black-clothed tables in four-door all-terrain vehicles. A gleaming red antique Chevy truck sat parked next to the stage reserved for her remarks about her.
Cheney was first elected to the House seat her father once held in 2016, and she was immediately tagged a rising star because of her background — both her father’s legacy and her experience as a senior State Department official — and her ability to deliver political messages forcefully and succinctly.
In just her second term, she took the helm of the GOP conference, the third-ranking post among Republicans with the party in the minority. But Jan. 6 and its aftermath served as a political breaking point for Cheney, who quickly turned her back on Trump and fellow House Republican leaders.
But in the end, her star fell as fast as it rose in Wyoming and in Congress.
Cheney’s January 2021 vote to impeach Trump alienated many fellow Republicans, who account for about three-quarters of registered voters in the state. In May of that year, House Republicans removed her from her post from her as their conference chair because she continued to criticize Trump and his allies from him in Congress.
She completed her break from the Trump-dominated Republican establishment by joining the Jan. 6 committee and using her platform there as vice chair to accuse Trump of illegal and unconstitutional efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, culminating in the attack on the Capitol .
“The Cowboy State is ready to send principled conservative leadership to Washington, DC — someone who will stand up to the radical left and work on the issues they care about: bringing down costs, ending the war on American energy, rejecting the reckless Biden agenda , and taking the gavel back from Nancy Pelosi in November,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement emailed after the race was called for Hageman.
Cheney’s stand against Trump made it impossible for her to gain traction with Republican voters here, where he won the 2020 election by 43 percentage points.
Given Wyoming’s deeply Republican makeup, Hageman is overwhelmingly favored to win the general election. Three Democrats were vying for their party’s nomination Tuesday, but that primary is too early to call.
Trump’s strenuous support for Hageman — who ran unsuccessfully for Wyoming’s GOP nomination for governor in 2018 — is notable because of her past reservations about him. She had vehemently opposed his candidacy in 2016 and expressed concern that the party would rally around “somebody who is racist and xenophobic,” The New York Times reported last year. Hageman told the newspaper at the time that she had since come to view Trump differently — as “the greatest president of my lifetime.”
Elsewhere Tuesday, Alaska has a trio of races with national implications.
In the state’s nonpartisan Senate primary, four candidates will advance to a November general election that will be determined by ranked-choice voting. Trump has made his presence known, backing Kelly Tshibaka over incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who incurred Trump’s wrath after voting to convict him at his second impeachment trial, following the Jan. 6 insurrection. Both are expected to be on the ballot in November.
Meanwhile, a political comeback by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hinges on two contests. She’s among the three candidates in a ranked-choice special election to fill the remaining months of the late Rep. Don Young’s term in the state’s at-large congressional seat. And she’s competing in a multi-candidate primary that will send the top four vote-getters to a November general election that will decide the winner of a full two-year term representing the district.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism