U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, a fierce Republican critic of Donald Trump who has played a prominent role in the congressional probe of the January 6 assault on the Capitol, lost to a Trump-backed primary challenger in Wyoming on Tuesday.
But Senator Lisa Murkowski, another Republican who has defied the former president, cleared a hurdle in Alaska. She was set to face Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka in the Nov. 8 congressional election, as the two candidates advanced in that state’s nonpartisan primary.
Cheney’s defeat, by Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman, marks a significant victory for the former president in his campaign to oust Republicans who backed impeaching him after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last year.
In conceding the race, Cheney said she was not willing “go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election” to win a primary.
“It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take,” she told supporters.
With 99% of expected ballots counted in Wyoming, Hageman led the Republican field with 66.3% of the vote, followed by Cheney with 28.9%, according to Edison Research, an election monitoring firm.
The results were less clear cut in Alaska.
With 72% of expected ballots tallied, Murkowski narrowly led with 42.7% of the vote, followed by Tshibaka at 41.4% and Democrat Patricia Chesbro at 6.2%, according to Edison. The nonpartisan primary format in that state weeds out all but the top four vote-getters.
Murkowski, a moderate who is one of the more independent voices in the Senate, has held the seat since 2003.
Also in Alaska, Edison predicted that no candidate would emerge as a clear winner in the three-way contest to complete the term of Representative Don Young, who died in March.
That race pits Sarah Palin, a former governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee who has been endorsed by Trump, against fellow Republican Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. The winner will be announced on August 31.
Both Wyoming and Alaska are reliably Republican, making it unlikely that the results will influence whether President Joe Biden’s Democrats lose their razor-thin majorities in Congress. Republicans are expected to retake the House and also have a chance of winning control of the Senate.
Weeding out Trump critics
The ousting of Cheney is the latest sign of Trump’s enduring sway over the Republican Party.
Trump, who has hinted that he will run for president in 2024, made ending Cheney’s congressional career a priority among the 10 House Republicans he targeted for supporting his impeachment in 2021.
Cheney, the daughter of Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney, has used her position on the January 6 committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the Capitol riot to keep attention on Trump’s actions that day and his false claims that he won the 2020 election.
Republican leaders are expected to dissolve the January 6 investigation if they win control of the House in November. The representatives in the new Congress take their seats in January.
Hageman, a natural resources lawyer who has embraced Trump’s election lies, criticized Cheney’s concession speech, saying it showed she cared little about the issues facing her state.
“She’s still focusing on an obsession about President Trump and the citizens of Wyoming, the voters of Wyoming sent a very loud message tonight,” Hageman said on Fox News.
Cheney, in the House, voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Capitol riot, while Murkowski, in the Senate, voted to convict him on that charge. Trump was ultimately acquitted.
Of the 10 Republicans who supported impeachment, it is possible that only one — Dan Newhouse of Washington - will be in Congress after November’s election.