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How Liz Cheney's attempt to get reelected as Wyoming's member of the House is going

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Representative Liz Cheney got a lot of national attention as vice chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the Capitol. But that is not helping her back home, where former President Trump remains popular and where she's trying to get reelected as Wyoming's single member of the U.S. House. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck reports that Cheney faces a strong pro-Trump challenger in the state's Republican primary.

BOB BECK, BYLINE: Representative Liz Cheney has her supporters, but lately many of them have come from the wrong party. This is Dana Woods in the tourist town of Jackson.

DANA WOODS: Yes, absolutely. I'm definitely supporting Liz Cheney. I am a Democrat and liberal, but I feel like she is just someone who, you know, has strong ethics and has stood up against some terrible things that have happened over the past five years.

BECK: Wyoming Republicans Mark Hanson and Donny Roemmich see things differently.

MARK HANSON: We've got a lot of RINOs in there that we need to get out, and Liz Cheney's one of them.

DONNY ROEMMICH: As far as I'm concerned, Liz Cheney is a traitor.

BECK: Cheney says she knows what's in front of her.

LIZ CHENEY: I think that there's no question that I'm the underdog in this race, certainly.

BECK: Donald Trump won Wyoming with 70% of the vote in 2020 and roughly 69% of the state-supported Cheney. But when Cheney started to attack Trump, the state party censured her. Trump then backed Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman, and she became the frontrunner despite Cheney raising three times as much money. It's the most expensive House race in state history. University of Wyoming political scientist Jim King says Hageman and Cheney are politically very similar, except on Trump, who Cheney voted to impeach.

JIM KING: There is that one vote. And her - now her participation in the House Select Committee - that has obviously rankled some Republicans in Wyoming.

BECK: Cheney had hoped to talk to more rank and file to explain to them why her time on the committee is important for democracy. She does tell people she's still conservative, has not changed her views on policy and will fight for the Constitution.

CHENEY: But I've also been clear I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to tell people what they want to hear.

BECK: But Cheney's time on the January 6 committee has allowed Hageman to try and take advantage. Trump spoke at an event for her, and she's traveled the state telling people they need a Wyoming representative.

HARRIET HAGEMAN: Liz Cheney has not been representing Wyoming for a year and a half. The moment she made the decision to go to war with Donald Trump, that's really the only thing that she has been focusing on.

BECK: Hageman says she grew up in Wyoming - something Cheney did not - and has spent her entire career as an attorney fighting against the federal government. The state Republican Party has made it clear that Hageman is their choice, and she's also been endorsed by many House Republicans. Many of Cheney's donations have come from out of state. Her in-state support from many longtime Republican politicians really doesn't have the impact it once did. Cheney says Republican politics has certainly changed.

CHENEY: When you look at Wyoming in particular, you know, the chairman of our state party is a member of the Oath Keepers. He was on the Capitol grounds on January 6. There are photos of him, walkie-talkie in his hand, that day. And then he went home and said that he thought we ought to contemplate seceding from the union.

BECK: Cheney says she would like the party to return to its values, and she plans to work on that whether or not she gets reelected. Recent polls have her trailing by 20 points and also show that few voters are undecided. But Wyoming does have a significant number of right-leaning independents that Cheney is clearly targeting. The primary is August 16. For NPR News, I'm Bob Beck in Laramie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.