McCarthy backs Cheney’s challenger in Wyoming primary

Move is latest act of GOP retribution for criticism of Trump election lies

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney are pictured in February 2021, before she became an outcast of the House GOP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney are pictured in February 2021, before she became an outcast of the House GOP. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 17, 2022 at 7:29pm

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Harriet Hageman, the primary challenger of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a rare and significant move that is the latest Republican act of retribution directed at Cheney for her criticism of former President Donald Trump and her integral role on the Jan. 6 select committee.

“I am proud to endorse Harriet Hageman for Congress," McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement. “Raised on a family ranch outside of Fort Laramie, Harriet and her family have resided in Wyoming for generations."

McCarthy said Hageman, through her career, has "championed America's natural resources" and "helped the people of Wyoming reject burdensome and onerous government overreach."

McCarthy struck an optimistic tone for the upcoming midterm elections, when Republicans need a net gain of five seats to control the speaker's gavel in 2023. He said he looks forward to "welcoming Harriet to a Republican majority next Congress, where together, we will hold the Biden Administration accountable and deliver much-needed solutions for the American people.”

The Federalist first reported McCarthy's endorsement of Hageman.

Hageman, a Wyoming attorney and who has served on the state Republican National Committee, was endorsed by Trump in September. Hageman had raised $745,000 to Cheney’s $7.2 million through Dec. 31, according to disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. The primary is Aug. 16.

Consolidation of support behind Hageman is significant because Cheney faces several Republican challengers, and the state has no runoff law, so she could win the nomination with less than a majority if opposition is splintered. The state's heavy tilt toward the GOP makes the winner of the primary a favorite in November; Trump carried the state in 2020 with 70 percent of the vote.

House Republicans in May kicked Cheney out of her position as GOP Conference chair, the party’s No. 3 leadership role. Cheney, unlike Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., or McCarthy, denounced Trump’s lies concerning the 2020 presidential election and drew backlash from members of the conference for that. 

Cheney serves as vice chair of the House panel investigating the Capitol attack. She and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., are the only two Republicans on the nine-person panel, and both were censured by the Republican National Committee earlier this month for their role in what the GOP views as a partisan committee seeking to inflict political damage on Republicans. Cheney and Kinzinger were two of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Wow, she must be really desperate,” Jeremy Adler, a spokesperson for Cheney, said of Hageman. 

Cheney was replaced by Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and staunch Trump supporter, as chair last May.

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