Liz Cheney Becomes 2nd Wyoming US Rep to Lose Renomination
Cowboy State incumbents now have a primary record of 51-2
As expected, three-term Republican U.S. Representative Liz Cheney was crushed in Wyoming’s primary on Tuesday – failing to win even one-third of the vote as attorney Harriet Hageman cruised to a 35+-point victory.
Cheney adds her name to a very short list in her home state – joining Republican William Harrison as the only incumbents who fell short of winning renomination to the U.S. House.
Prior to 2022, Wyoming’s U.S. Representatives had run for reelection 52 times since statehood and won renomination in 51 of those cycles.
Harrison fell short of that mark during his third stint in the chamber.
The presidential grandson and great-great grandson served two terms (1951-1955) before a failed U.S. Senate bid in 1954 and then two more terms (1961-1965) before getting unseated during the 1964 Democratic landslide by Teno Roncalio.
Following his return to the chamber in a 1966 open seat race, Harrison lost the 1968 Republican primary by 2.2 points to geologist and former state party chairman John Wold.
Each of the previous 30 and subsequent 21 renomination bids to the office by incumbents were successful until Cheney on Tuesday.
Cheney and Harrison are also the only two Wyoming U.S. Representatives to fail to reach the 50 percent mark in a primary – all others won their renomination with an outright majority.
In fact, all but two other incumbents received at least 60 percent of the primary vote – freshman Republican Vincent Carter won 54.8 percent in 1930 in a three-candidate field and five-term Republican Barbara Cubin received 55.0 percent in 2004 with five GOPers on the primary ballot.
The list of Wyoming U.S. Representatives who exited in defeat is much longer than simply Cheney and Harrison, however:
- Seven U.S. House members lost the general election: Republican Clarence Clark in 1892, Democrat Henry Coffeen in 1894, Republican Frank Mondell in 1896, Democrat Paul Greever in 1938, Republican Frank Horton in 1940, Democrat John McIntyre in 1942, and William Harrison in 1964
- Six others decided to run for the U.S. Senate instead and were defeated: Republicans Frank Mondell in 1924, Charles Winter in 1928, Vincent Carter in 1934, William Harrison in 1954, and John Wold in 1970 and Democrat Teno Roncalio in 1966
Cheney has more than hinted at her interest in challenging Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
If she does, she will become the first Wyoming politician to run for president in the modern primary era.
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As noted in the text, voters of the Cowboy State historically have not rewarded its incumbent representatives who have bid for ‘promotion’ to the US senate.
Interestingly, “Liz” – derided and ridiculed as “that Virginian” by her detractors – arguably would be the first clear-cut Wyomingite to try for national office since the proliferation of the presidential primary contests; her father – sarcastically referred to as “Darth Cheney” (at least before his turn against The Former Guy) – had been a resident both in fact and on paper of TX (Dallas area) when he was somewhat surprisingly selected by George Bush the younger (“Junior” from West TX) as the R vice presidential nominee in 2000.
Cheney is probably regretting her decision not to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2020. She would have been the frontrunner even if current Sen. Cynthia Lummis also ran; and by the time she would have been up for reelection in 2026 her support of the January 6 investigation would likely not have been the defining issue of the GOP primary as it was this year.
Her decision not to run was due to her (at the time, understandable) belief that her position in the House GOP leadership would give her more influence in the long term than a “1 of 100” Senate seat, and might even have set her up to be a future speaker. It is remarkable how quickly that was shown to be a miscalculation, as she was ousted from the House GOP’s No. 3 position in 2021 and has now lost her seat entirely in 2022.
I imagine there are plenty of examples where accepting an upward move proved disastrous for someone’s political career (Tom Price and Brian Benjamin are recent examples that come to mind); but I can’t think of any other case where *declining* an upward move proved similarly disastrous.
Perhaps it has been a family tradition thing not to bid for a US senate seat – just as it had been for the Simpsons, both Milward and Alan, not to try for the at-large House seat (prior to Senate service, both put time in state government, something neither Cheney had done).
True, “Liz” would not have lost her Congressional seat, had she stood for and won the Class 2 senate seat in 2020. However, a senator Cheney would have been unable to pursue the case against the seditious former president as even a member – let alone “vice chair” – of the 1/6 Commission due to the diabolical filibuster by her caucus writ large. As well, she apparently came to the realization that, in order to save her beloved party (long-term) the democratic (w/ small d) system had to be preserved first and foremost. What is a congressional seat worth, compared to THAT?!
Fun Fact: WY has had a female house member since 1995. Even with Cheney’s loss, Hageman will continue that streak.