Backed by Trump, Harriet Hageman looks to unseat Liz Cheney
The former gubernatorial candidate is hoping an endorsement from the former president will carry her to Washington
Even amid shifting intra-party dynamics within the GOP, Harriet Hageman believes that Republican voters throughout deep-red Wyoming are firmly united against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the embattled political scion who has positioned herself as the leading exponent of anti-Trump conservatism in the House.
Hageman, a longtime trial attorney and GOP activist in Cheyenne, describes encountering a deep and growing well of anti-Cheney sentiment as she embarks on a bid to unseat Wyoming’s lone congresswoman. “Liz Cheney is not liked in Wyoming,” Hageman, 59, charged in an interview with Jewish Insider on Friday, arguing that the congresswoman has been absent from the state in recent months. “That’s why she doesn’t come to Wyoming.”
For her part, Hageman — who resigned from her position as a national Republican committeewoman days before entering the race in September — seems unusually confident about her prospects. The first-time congressional candidate has reason for optimism thanks in large part to an endorsement from Cheney’s chief adversary, former President Donald Trump, who performed well among Wyomingites in the 2020 presidential election, garnering nearly 70% of the vote. He maintains strong support throughout the state.
Hageman is no doubt banking on that goodwill as a leading foot soldier in the former president’s effort to enact vengeance against the 10 House Republicans, including Cheney, who voted for his impeachment last January following the deadly riot at the Capitol. With just under a year until the primary, the Cowboy State showdown is emerging as a high-profile battle in an ongoing clash between establishment Republicans and Trump loyalists that has only intensified since the election.
In a statement two months ago, Trump lauded his hand-picked challenger as “all in for America First,” while deriding Cheney as a “warmonger and disloyal Republican” as well as the “number one provider of sound bites” for Democrats.
“Here’s a sound bite for you,” Cheney shot back in a sharply worded Twitter message: “Bring it.”
The three-term congresswoman insists she has no intention of stepping aside, as two of Trump’s top targets, Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), have announced in recent weeks. Stripped of her House leadership status and censured by the Wyoming GOP over her impeachment vote, Cheney, 55, has made clear she is standing her ground. The congresswoman now serves as vice chair on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
The power of Trump’s endorsement remains something of an untested proposition since he vacated the White House. Despite his mixed record with two recent special House primaries in Ohio and Texas, the former president has yet to prove his clout in more consequential races with deeper ideological fault lines. Hageman’s showing next August, then, could provide a more meaningful gauge of Trump’s influence as he teases a presidential rematch in 2024.
Hageman, a Wyoming native who was raised on a ranch outside Fort Laramie, gained prominence as a land and water resources lawyer with a libertarian conservative bent. In 2018, she ran an aggressive campaign for Wyoming governor but only placed third with about 22% of the vote. During the race, she also failed to secure Trump’s endorsement, which went to Foster Friess, the late Republican donor and businessman. Mark Gordon, who was then the state treasurer, ultimately prevailed.
Hageman argued that Cheney is out of touch with Wyoming voters. As evidence, she noted that Cheney holds no seat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, which Hageman views as a dereliction of duty in the sparsely populated state where land and resource issues feature prominently in local policy debates. Cheney, however, has introduced a number of bills addressing such matters in recent months.
Harriet Hagemen: There are several reasons why I’m running, and one of them is that, as you know, Wyoming only has one congressional representative, and we really do need to make sure that we get it right. I believe that Wyoming is entitled to a representative that is not only from Wyoming but someone who is effective and is involved with and understands and is willing to fight for the issues that are important to Wyoming. Most of my professional career has been in addressing issues and fighting for issues that are very, very important to Wyoming. I represent farmers and ranchers, municipalities, some of our most important businesses in the state of Wyoming. When I look at what’s going on in Congress, when I look at what has happened with Liz Cheney and where her priorities are, I just do not believe that Wyoming is being well-represented right now.
Just as an example — I think that this kind of speaks volumes — 48% of our surface estate is owned by the federal government, and 52% of our mineral interest is owned by the federal government. We have an enormous federal footprint in Wyoming. In addition to that, we’re the ninth largest state but we’re the least populated, so water and natural resources are absolutely critical to our future and they’re critical to our jobs and they’re critical to our families. So, historically, our congressional representative has been on the Natural Resource Committee, and Liz Cheney chose not to do that. She’s not on the Natural Resource Committee, and as such, Wyoming is right now not being represented at all on all of the issues related to the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.