It's looking more and more like GOP Rep. Liz Cheney's political career in Wyoming is in dire straits, as her Trump-backed primary challenger, Harriet Hageman, is gaining momentum heading into this spring's primary.
Harriet Hageman, the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate seeking to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney, won big Saturday in a straw poll of House candidates held by the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee.
The secret ballot of party activists awarded Hageman 59 votes, Cheney six, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, two and Denton Knapp one. The vote comes eight months before the GOP primary.
“I think it’s a good sign. It’s not an endorsement, but these are the county activists” Hageman told the Star-Tribune after the vote.
The state party itself is not statutorily allowed to endorse a candidate in the primary.
The state central committee consists of three representatives from each county and members of the state party, for a total of 74 votes. Only 71, including three of Hageman’s family members, voted Saturday. The bearing of the vote on the outcome of the August primary is uncertain: There are 196,179 registered Republican voters in Wyoming as of January.
The straw poll is a indication of current party leadership’s views, not the state as a whole. Straw polls, even with a far higher number of voters, do not have an accurate track record in Wyoming in recent years.
Then candidate Cynthia Lummis lost to Sheridan County GOP Chairman Bryan Miller by a double-digit margin in a straw poll of Senate candidates held at the Wyoming Republican Party’s 2020 convention. Between 300 and 400 people voted in that poll.
Lummis went on to beat Miller in the primary by almost 50 points in the primary less than two months later.
Still, the vote highlights the hostility that many in the Wyoming Republican Party’s leadership feel toward Cheney since her much publicized break with Trump. Cheney, for her part, has called party leaders radical.
At Saturday’s meeting, Hageman’s high vote count was announced first and met with a round of applause. When Cheney’s tally was announced, a couple members in the room audibly scoffed.
“The only elections that matter are in August and November,” Jeremy Adler, a spokesperson for the Cheney campaign, said in response to the vote.
There was division in the room over the intention of the straw poll.
“This smells like an endorsement to me, said Natrona County Committeeman Joe Mcginley, who had publicly disagreed with party leaders before. “Whether that is the true intention of the state ... or not, that’s what it appears to be.”
Karl Allred, the Uinta County GOP chairman, saw it differently.
“This is not an endorsement,” he said. “This is merely asking for the opinion of the body at this time.”
It's certainly possible that Cheney could survive the primary challenge and be reelected, but a December poll found Hageman ahead of Cheney 38-18% with more than a quarter of GOP primary voters undecided. Anything's possible.
Me, I'm rooting for the Democrat if they can, you know, find one.