Wyoming, Alaska elections: Bracing for defeat, Liz Cheney says primary is ‘beginning of battle’

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JACKSON, Wyo — Rep. Liz Cheney — the once high-ranking Republican who challenged her party to wage a lonely crusade against former President Donald Trump — braced for a potentially resounding defeat Tuesday in her primary while presenting her as “the beginning of the battle” for the future of American democracy.

Harriet Hageman, a lawyer with Trump’s endorsement, headed into the day as the overwhelming favorite, observers said, widely expected to win the GOP nomination for Wyoming’s only Deep Red seat in the House despite the Cheney calls on Democrats and Independents to re-register as Republicans and vote for her. The race marked the latest primary challenge for a small group of House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year and are mostly set to walk out of Congress after a backlash.

The 45th president also figured prominently in two high-profile races in Alaska on Tuesday: Moderate Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) took on Trump-backed challenger Kelly Tshibaka, while former Governor Sarah Palin – an anti-Republican -establishment backed by Trump – vied for Alaska’s only seat in the House.

But Cheney’s singular focus on exposing the former president has made her an especially high-profile target. House Republicans ousted Cheney from their No. 3 leadership position last year after she refused to stop criticizing Trump, and she played a prominent role on the congressional committee investigating the assault. of a pro-Trump crowd on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the conduct of Trump and his aides that day and before him.

Campaigning in a state Trump won by more than 40 points, Cheney used his last ads to target the 45th president’s “poisonous” false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, fueling speculation that she may run for president just to continue condemning Trump on the national stage.

Standing in line to vote on Tuesday — with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, by her side — the congresswoman told reporters she hoped to turn her campaign into a national, cross-party movement to defeat Trump . radiation. “Today, regardless of the outcome, is definitely the beginning of the battle that will continue,” she told a library in Teton County, a liberal-leaning outlier.

“We are facing a time when our democracy is truly under attack and threatened, and those of us at all levels – Republicans, Democrats and Independents, who believe deeply in freedom and who care about the Constitution and the future of the country – I think I have an obligation to put that above the party,” she added.

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If Hageman wins, Cheney would be the fourth House Republican to lose a primary after voting to impeach Trump last year on charges of inciting a riot. The others are Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, Peter Meijer of Michigan and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (Wash.) qualified for the general election this month as a slew of challengers split the GOP vote in a multiparty primary, while Rep. David G. Valadao prevailed in another multiparty primary. in a blue-leaning California neighborhood where Trump has refused to endorse an opponent. Four other people who voted for impeachment declined to run.

Cheney said regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, she would continue to work to block Trump from the White House. While other GOP members have sought to distance themselves from Trump and competed for influence, few have been willing to oppose him as publicly as Cheney.

“There will come a time when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she told her GOP colleagues this summer as she helped open congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Hageman used to support Cheney and in 2016 went against Trump, calling him “racist and xenophobic”. But she has come to embrace Trump and baselessly claims the 2020 election was “rigged” against him, like many Republican candidates across the country. A Washington Post analysis found that in battleground states, candidates who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 vote have won GOP nominations for nearly two-thirds of state and federal offices with election power this year. .

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Hageman campaigned on his legal career fighting the federal government and its conservation efforts in Wyoming, while attacking Cheney as unrepresentative of conservatives — someone who “cast his spell on the elites of Washington, DC.”

“Liz Cheney? She’s done her time in Congress and this election all around her,” Hageman said in an announcement. Limited Preschool Voting in the race showed Cheney trails Hageman by a wide margin.

Cheney built a staunchly conservative voting record for nearly six years in Congress; when Trump was in power, she voted with him more than 90% of the time. His family is Wyoming Republican royalty.

That story has made her a strange ally to Democrats who admire her anti-Trump mission and her work on the Jan. 6 committee. Thousands of Democratic and independent voters streamed into the GOP primary, along with moderate Republicans who might previously have shunned Cheney.

“I just want to shake your hand,” Kathy Tompkins said in Cheney Tuesday in Teton County, the only county in Wyoming to back President Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of the nearly 4,000 votes cast in Teton County’s start, only 190 came in the Democratic primary.

Then she thanked Dick Cheney. “You raised a good girl,” said Tompkins, who considers herself a liberal but also “strategic” Republican, voting whenever there is a moderate option.

Loring Woodman, a longtime Democrat and retired guest ranch host, was hesitant to back Cheney even after he voted to impeach Trump. But then the January 6 committee hearings began and he decided he would do whatever he could to support her.

Alli Noland, who runs a public relations firm, said she fears all the attention to cross voters has driven the Tories away. “It really fired up all Republicans,” she said.

Cheney’s campaign openly asked for support from Democrats this summer, sending instructions on how to switch parties for the primary. But even allies doubted that would change his luck in a state where earlier this year Republicans held a more than 4-to-1 advantage in voter registration. In 2018, about 115,000 votes were cast in the GOP primary, while 17,000 cast ballots in the Democratic contest.

In the Alaska Senate primary, Murkowski faced much better odds than Cheney heading into Tuesday, though the centrist Republican also broke with Trump and his party at times, including her vote to condemn Trump. last year after the House impeached him. Political analysts expected Murkowski to benefit from Alaska’s new voting system, which uses multiparty primaries and a ranked-choice process that boosts candidates with broad appeal.

Alaska vote tests Trump’s influence, Palin’s candidacy and a new electoral system

In Tuesday’s vote, Murkowski was preferred to go through November with Tshibaka and Democrat Pat Chesbro, a retired school official. And she survived her challenges just before: In 2010, Murkowski lost the GOP primary but pulled off a remarkable comeback as a write-in candidate.

Tuesday’s vote could serve as another test of Trump’s ability to spur challengers from those he calls “RINOs,” or Republicans in name only. Despite Trump’s enormous influence on the GOP, some of his top picks this year have battled incumbents with established reputations in their states.

Murkowski drew particular criticism from the right after she voted against Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018, with Trump predicting at the time that she would “never recover.” She also joined Democrats on key legislation, including last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which most Republicans tried to block.

Alaskans also voted Tuesday in a special election to replace Don Young, the Republican who held the state House seat for nearly half a century and died suddenly in March. Palin got the most votes earlier this summer in a crowded primary that narrowed the field to four candidates, one of whom dropped out.

Alaska leans Republican. But political operatives said the Democratic nominee, former state legislator Mary Peltola, had a real shot in the House race given Palin and the other GOP nominee, businessman Nick Begich III, were to split the Conservative vote. The voters were asked to classify as many candidates as they wanted; if no one wins a majority of the initial votes, the lowest performing candidate will be eliminated and their votes redistributed. This process could hurt a polarizing figure like Palin.

Palin hit the national stage in 2008 as the running mate of then-GOP presidential candidate John McCain, exciting the conservative base but also drawing ridicule from others. Palin resigned as governor of Alaska after she and McCain lost, but has remained a celebrity on the right, appearing on Fox News and reality TV.

Some voters criticized Palin on Tuesday as being too focused on national issues and fame. “I hope she comes out of this state for good,” said Malcom Ray, an engineer. But others expressed support, citing Trump’s endorsement and Palin’s stance on abortion.

The special election to serve out the remainder of Young’s term was held on the same day as a primary for the next term. Palin, Begich and Peltola are among nearly two dozen candidates in this parallel race.

The results of the special election will likely take weeks to emerge, as state election officials say they won’t start counting voters’ second choices before the mail-in ballot deadline. Ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day, but those sent from outside the United States may arrive more than two weeks later and still be counted.

Nathaniel Herz in Alaska and Scott Clement in Washington contributed to this report. Knowles reported from Washington.

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