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Trump critic Liz Cheney loses Republican primary

Trump critic Liz Cheney loses Republican primary

4 min. 17.08.2022
Cheney was once a rising Republican star until she stood up to Trump
US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks to supporters at an election night event during the Wyoming primary election on August 16, 2022
US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks to supporters at an election night event during the Wyoming primary election on August 16, 2022
Photo credit: AFP

Republican Representative Liz Cheney called on Americans to unite across party lines to keep Donald Trump from winning the White House again following her crushing defeat on Tuesday to a primary challenger backed by the former president.

Cheney, who has served three terms in Wyoming’s sole US House seat, lost to conservative lawyer Harriet Hageman in Tuesday’s Republican primary primary, and made a point of conceding to her opponent - something she has long criticised Trump for never doing after the 2020 election.

Speaking to supporters on the grounds of a ranch not far from her own home as the sun set on the nearby Teton Mountain range, Cheney warned that the January 6 US Capitol insurrection and the refusal of Trump and other Republican leaders to tamp down the rage behind it put the nation at risk.

“Our nation is barreling once again toward a crisis of lawlessness and violence,” she said, putting the blame squarely on Trump. “I have said since Jan. 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office and I mean it.”

Cheney was once a rising Republican star until she stood up to Trump. After she voted to impeach Trump in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters, the political costs for Cheney’s defiance mounted. The Wyoming Republican Party voted to censure her and asked her to resign. Then she was removed as the third ranking House Republican leader by her colleagues, who accused her of abandoning the party. 

That culminated in her loss Tuesday to Hageman by a two-to-one margin with half the votes counted. In her concession speech Cheney hinted that she was not stepping away from the political arena but didn’t explicitly say what would come next. She will continue to have a forum until January for her campaign against Trump as vice chair of the committee investigating the former president’s role in the Capitol insurrection.

Citing Abraham Lincoln, the Republican president who steered the US through the Civil War, Cheney said no office was worth betraying the democratic principles the US was built on.

“Two years ago I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could easily have done the same again,” she said. “But it would’ve required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would’ve required that I enabled his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take.”

In her speech Hageman said, “Wyoming has put the elites on notice - we are no longer going to tolerate representatives who don’t represent us.” 

Wyoming is a reliably Republican state, so the winner of the GOP primary is all but assured a general election victory. 

Trump called Hageman’s victory a “complete rebuke” of the Jan. 6 committee and a “wonderful result for America” in a posting on his Truth Social website.

Cheney’s loss is the latest illustration of Trump’s grip on the Republican Party. Just two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the US Capitol insurrection last year survived their primaries to make it to the ballot in November’s general election. Cheney is the fourth to be defeated and four are retiring.

Among those 10, Cheney was the most prominent and persistent in rebutting Trump’s election lies and in making the case that the Republican Party had to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6 2021, Capitol attack and must reject him as a threat to the nation’s democratic order and the Constitution.

“At the heart of the attack on Jan. 6 is a willingness to embrace dangerous conspiracies that attack the very core premise of our nation, that lawful elections reviewed by the court when necessary and certified by the states and electoral college determine who serves as president,” Cheney said.

Cheney, a one-time Trump backer and a conservative on most social and security policy issues, had been openly appealing to Wyoming Democrats to temporarily switch their parties and vote for her in the Republican primary. But the prospect of there being enough Democrats doing that was always a long-shot.

Hageman’s primary victory all but assures her of winning the general election in November in a state where registration data show Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly 5-to-1.

There has been some speculation in both Wyoming and Washington that Cheney might be looking at a run for president in 2024. Her spokesperson, Jeremy Adler, said Cheney has repeatedly stressed that she’s made no decision yet about making such a bid.

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