Representative Liz Cheney has garnered most of the attention in the race for Wyoming’s sole congressional seat thanks to her vocal denunciations of former President Donald J. Trump and what she describes as the threats to democracy posed by his far-right followers.
But the challenger who looks poised to dethrone her in Tuesday’s Republican primary, Harriet Hageman, has a track record in Wyoming when it comes to fierce advocacy on issues particularly relevant to farmers, energy and mining interests. of the state.
She spent decades as a trial attorney against environmental activists in America’s most sparsely populated state and against federal rules protecting land, water and endangered species. Her most far-reaching case was a successful challenge to Clinton-era federal regulations to protect millions of acres of national forests from road construction, mining and other development. A federal judge banned the regulation in 2003.
Ms Hageman also represented groups seeking to remove gray wolf protections under the Endangered Species Act and let the state manage the hunt. An unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2018, she proposed transferring a million acres of federal land to the state, which opponents warned would have resulted in the sale of prized hunting, fishing and hiking areas.
“She has a long standing reputation with conservation and sports organizations as an anti-federalist, especially when it comes to land ownership,” said Dan Smitherman, Wyoming’s state director at the Wilderness Society. “Most of the major conservation groups and probably 50 to 60 percent of sports clubs assume we will defend it on public land issues and maybe some issues like wolves and bears.”
At lunch last week in front of the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce, a community built on the extraction of fossil fuels, Ms. Hageman pledged to be a champion in Washington for those industries if elected.
“I think we should make the federal government largely irrelevant to our daily lives,” Ms Hageman told the audience.
And she warned Democrats’ climate and tax bill would be “devastating” for Wyoming after declaring coal was an “affordable, clean, acceptable resource that we should all be using.”
Hageman spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said Tuesday that, if elected, “Harriet Hageman will make the fight against the administrative state her signature in Congress because Wyoming is often the target of the federal government, which attacks its resource industries and owns too much of his land.”
Before the primary, Ms. Hageman, 59, had a nearly 30-point lead in recent polls, reflecting Republican loyalty to Mr Trump in a state he won with 70 percent of the vote in 2020.
Ms. Cheney, 56, has infuriated the former president and much of her party grassroots by acting as co-chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol. Of the Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the crowd that day, she is the last to face the primary voters. Four of the ten House Republicans who voted against the former president retired, three lost their primary and two survived to make it to this fall’s general election.
“We’re tired of the January 6 committee,” Ms. Hageman said at a meeting in Casper that Mr Trump headlined in late May. “And we’ve had enough of Liz Cheney.”
It wasn’t always like that. Mrs. Hageman is a former close ally of Mrs. Cheney. She introduced Ms. Cheney at a state party convention in 2016 as a “brave constitutional conservative.” That year, Ms Hageman also called Mr Trump “racist and xenophobic.”
But like many other officials and aspiring candidates in the Republican Party, Ms. Hageman experienced a conversion in which she enthusiastically came to support Mr Trump. In 2020, when she campaigned and won an internal party race to become one of Wyoming’s National Republican Committee members, Ms. Hageman openly supported Mr. Trump. She explained that she had previously been misled by “lies from the Democrats and Liz Cheney’s friends in the media” being told about Trump.
As her campaign gained momentum this year, she grew bolder in embracing Mr Trump’s false claims that he was deprived of reelection. “Absolutely, the election has been manipulated,” Ms Hageman said recently at a forum in Casper. “What happened in 2020 is a mockery.” (There is no evidence of widespread fraud in 2020.)
During the campaign’s only debate, in June, Ms. Hageman was furious after the first two questions focused on Mr Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 Capitol breakthrough, the subject of the House investigation whose hearings played a prominent role in prime time. recommended Mrs Cheney.
“The J-6 situation,” as Ms. Hageman put it, “isn’t what the people of Wyoming are talking about.” She added: “What they are talking about is the gas crisis. They are talking about food prices.”
As she traveled thousands of miles across Wyoming, Ms. Hageman broadened her message, trying to make the race less of a referendum on Mr. Trump than a choice between whether she or Ms. Cheney more faithfully represented the state’s core traditions.
She introduced herself as a “fourth generation Wyomingite.” She described her upbringing on a ranch near Fort Laramie, where she learned the value of “driving for the brand”—that is, she explained, “loyalty to the outfit you work for.”
Despite Ms. Cheney’s own Wyoming roots—her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and her mother, Lynne, were lovers in Casper high school—Mrs. Hageman portrayed her rival, a congressman who had served three terms, as an unfaithful outsider and a prisoner of Washington.
“I’m going to reclaim Wyoming’s only congressional seat from that Virginian who currently owns it,” she said during the meeting with Mr. Trump.
Mrs. Hageman, the daughter of a longtime member of the state legislature, received her law degree from the University of Wyoming. She became active in the Laramie County GOP and was a delegate to the National Republican Convention in Cleveland in 2016. There, she was part of a last-ditch effort by supporters of Texas Senator Ted Cruz to stop Mr. Trump’s nomination. whom she called “the weakest” candidate Republicans could nominate.
Two years later, Mrs. Hageman ran for governor of Wyoming and never mentioned Mr. Trump in her TV commercial. She finished third in the primary.
Eleven months ago, Mr. Trump endorsed Ms. Hageman after interviewing and vetting potential candidates at his New Jersey golf club. By then, she had completed her complete reversal of Mr Trump’s eligibility for office, calling him “the greatest president of my life.”