Liz Cheney, Trump’s Main Opponent, Loses in a Landslide

JACKSON, Wyo. — Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney was overwhelmingly defeated by Harriet Hageman in her Republican primary on Tuesday, handing Donald J. Trump his most prized trophy yet in his long campaign to clear the Republican Party of its critics.

Ms Hageman, a Cheyenne lawyer with little political following before she was waived by Mr Trump’s endorsement, defeated Ms Cheney, the daughter of a former vice president, by more than 30 percentage points, taking more than 90 percent of the vote. counted.

Ms. Cheney’s loss was both anticipated and consequential. The leading Republican vote against Mr. Trump, and vice chair of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, will no longer have her seat in Congress next year to fight a figure she believes poses a serious threat. to American democracy.

Ms. Cheney admitted defeat as The Associated Press called the race, suggesting she was a model for accepting the will of voters.

“Harriet Hageman got the most votes in this primary – she won,” Ms Cheney told supporters gathered outside at a ranch. She stood alone on the podium, pleading with Americans to fight back against Mr. Trump and others who deny his loss in the 2020 presidential election. “No citizen of this republic is a spectator,” she said, adding, “We cannot give up the truth and remain a free nation.”

Ms. Hageman claimed victory at a rally in Cheyenne, thrashing Ms. Cheney and “the elites” in Washington. “We’re tired of the January 6 committee,” she said. “We’ve had enough of Liz Cheney.”

Ms. Cheney’s rejection made it clear that Republican primary voters desire retaliation against office holders who openly and aggressively confront Mr Trump, even as the former president remains embroiled in multiple investigations. Only two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year will advance to the general election this fall.

However, none of those 10 held the rank of Ms. Cheney, who, before being ousted from the House Republican leadership last year, was seen as a potential leader in the chamber.

Her loss, two months after George P. Bush’s crushing defeat in an attempted attorney general in Texas, represents the GOP’s complete and perhaps final transition from traditional Bush-Cheney-era conservatism to grievance-oriented populism of mr. Trump.

Other matches held on Tuesday would reveal the magnitude of that transformation. In Alaska, Senator Lisa Murkowski, another daughter of local political royalty and one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Mr Trump for inciting insurgency, is in a re-election campaign against a field led by Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican and former state official who supported Mr Trump.

Alaskans were also deciding whether to embrace a comeback for former Governor Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate whose slashing media attacks predicted Mr Trump’s rise. Ms. Palin is running in a special round of elections for a seat in the House as well as in a full-term primary. Thanks to the state’s ranked choice system, the top four from the primaries in November can advance to the general election. Results in those races were not expected on Tuesday evening.

In a statement, Mr. Trump celebrated Ms. Hageman’s victory as a “wonderful result for America,” but quickly targeted Ms. Cheney, slamming her “hateful, hypocritical words.”

Ms. Cheney has vowed to continue her fight against the former president, viewing first as the only front in a longer political war in which she is determined to triumph.

Focusing almost entirely on the Jan. 6 panel and reluctant to campaign publicly while facing death threats and vitriolic criticism, Ms. Cheney long resigned from her political ruin in the state her father elevated 44 years ago to the seat that she now holds. She has set her sights beyond Wyoming, arguing that blocking Mr Trump’s return to the White House is her main job, a mission that has fueled speculation that she is considering a presidential bid.

Ms. Cheney delivered her concession speech in a measured tone, speaking as if she were sitting on the podium of the Jan. 6 committee in the Capitol, rather than standing in front of bales of hay on a ranch in the shadow of the Teton Mountains. She hinted at a potential presidential bid, or at least a grassroots and bipartisan effort, to block Mr Trump’s comeback while reaching out to Democrats and independents.

“This is a fight for all of us together,” she said, noting that her dedication to partying has its limits. “I love my country more,” she said.

Ms. Cheney twice invoked the Civil War and gave a possible signal of what might follow her loss in Congress. “Lincoln was defeated in the Senate and House elections before winning the most important of them all,” she said.

It’s not clear, though, if she’d even be competitive in a 2024 primary, a prospect Ms Cheney seemed to acknowledge this month when she said her “very sick” party could take “several cycles” to change.

Where the Congresswoman saw illness, however, Ms. Hageman saw opportunity.

She featured Mr Trump in her campaign literature and her television commercials, reiterating his false claims that the 2020 presidential election had been rigged, and that she was being rewarded for doing so in a state that gave the former president 70 percent of the vote two years ago. its largest percentage in any state.

Credit…Stephen Speranza for The New York Times

The strategy completed Ms. Hageman’s evolution from Trump critic to vehicle for his political revenge. In 2016, she called Mr Trump “racist and xenophobic” and tried to block his path to the GOP’s presidential nomination. But like many Republicans, Ms. Hageman has since walked in line, proclaiming Mr. Trump “the best president of my life.”

Ms. Cheney, too, has dramatically changed her view of Mr Trump, from a trusted policy ally to adversary in the wake of his refusal to accept defeat.

After a number of Wyoming Republicans competed for Trump’s support, and some of his supporters nervous that the anti-Cheney vote would disintegrate, the former president rallied behind Ms. Hageman almost a year ago. The daughter of a rancher, she has been active in Republican politics for a long time, finishing third in the 2018 GOP primaries for governor.

As a trial attorney, Hageman has been a fierce advocate on issues important to the state’s powerful ranching, mining and energy interests, and has fought environmental activists in court over land use and federal regulations. She and Mrs. Cheney were once political allies. Ms. Hageman served as an advisor to Ms. Cheney’s short-lived 2014 Senate campaign and endorsed when she claimed the House seat in 2016.

The women debated just once, in June, and Ms. Cheney used the forum to urge Wyomingites to “vote someone else” if they wanted a politician who would violate the oath of office.

In the closing weeks of the primaries, Mrs. Cheney ran an ad in which her 81-year-old father called Mr. Trump “a coward,” making it even more apparent that she was using the primary as a stage for her crusade against Mr. Trump instead of trying to fend off Ms Hageman. Equally noteworthy, Ms. Cheney withheld millions from her campaign fund, more than $7.4 million since last month.

Her approach differed greatly from that of other Republicans who became embroiled with Mr Trump in the wake of his defeat in 2020 and then muted their criticism. That list included figures like Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia and Representatives David Valadao of California and Daniel Newhouse of Washington, the two House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump but managed to reach the general election.

However, Ms. Cheney was defiant and insisted that Mr. Trump should be confronted and convicted. Her language resonated with the dwindling ranks of anti-Trump Republicans and with even more independents and Democrats, whom she tried to get to vote in the GOP primaries in the final months of the race.

It wasn’t nearly enough to change the outcome of the race, but such crossover voters were easy to find in posh Teton County, home of Mrs. Cheney and her parents. The county, which includes Jackson and surrounding resort communities, is the most liberal in the state, a blue dot in the corner of the reddest of the states.

With Ms. Cheney openly calling for votes from Democrats and Independents, many here responded to that call — even if they couldn’t quite believe they were temporarily registering as Republicans to support a Cheney.

Maggie Shipley, who works for a local nonprofit, showed up at Jackson town hall to vote Monday, the last day of the early voting. Cheney.

“The election lies are terrifying to me, and preserving democracy is really important, and at least she has,” Ms Shipley said.

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