Takeaways: Cheney loses to Hageman in Wyoming; Alaska's Murkowski and Palin advance to general

·5 min read

WASHINGTON – Primary races in Wyoming and Alaska on Tuesday further revealed not only the strong grip former President Donald Trump has on the Republican Party but also the direction the country could take with the next Congress.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president in January 2021 after the violent attack on the Capitol.

On Tuesday, she lost – badly.

Trump has worked to defeat the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him. His endorsed challengers have beaten four members in primaries. Two incumbents narrowly survived their primaries, and four retired.

But Cheney's not abandoning politics yet. She announced hours after her stinging defeat in Wyoming that she's considering a 2024 presidential run. Until she decides whether to run – a decision she'll make in "the coming months" – she'll stay focused on doing "whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office," she said.

The former president, who is embroiled in legal fights and a public relations war with the nation's top law enforcement agencies, could reshape Congress if his candidates win in the fall .

  • After her primary loss Tuesday, Cheney said her work "is far from over." Her concession speech continued her fight against Trump, which started after the Capitol attack and has continued with her role as vice chair on the House Jan. 6 committee.

  • Cheney challenger and eventual winner Harriet Hageman maintained about a 30-point lead against Cheney, for whom she had campaigned in previous cycles. The Trump-backed Hageman said Tuesday night that the former president propelled her campaign to victory.

  • Alaska’s new nonpartisan primary probably helped Sen. Lisa Murkowski clear her primary, even though she also crossed Trump.

Recap: Liz Cheney, Trump foe, loses Wyoming House GOP primary; Alaskans voting now: primaries live updates 

Cheney loses but vows to keep Trump out of office

The congresswoman had told USA TODAY she knew she would lose her House seat the minute she voted in January 2021 to impeach the former president after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

On Tuesday night, Cheney said her fight for democracy – and against the former president – would continue.

"I will do whatever it takes" to keep Trump away from the Oval Office, Cheney said. 

She added that she still loves the Republican Party, "but I love my country more."

Opinion: What to do now with 'hot mess' that is the GOP?

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney rallies supporters on primary election night at Mead Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming.
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney rallies supporters on primary election night at Mead Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming.

Cheney called out Trump for spreading false statements about last week's FBI search of his home at Mar-a-Lago.

"Our great nation must not be ruled by a mob provoked over social media," Cheney said.

Cheney did best in the areas of Wyoming won by President Joe Biden.

Deeper look: Republican Rep. Liz Cheney is on track to lose her Wyoming primary. Here's how she's chasing a bigger win

Hageman wins in Wyoming, credits Trump

Harriet Hageman addresses a meeting of the Wyoming Business Alliance in Casper, Wyo., in 2018.  Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Hageman in his bid to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney, one of his most vocal critics.
Harriet Hageman addresses a meeting of the Wyoming Business Alliance in Casper, Wyo., in 2018. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Hageman in his bid to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney, one of his most vocal critics.

Hageman took an early lead against Cheney and deepened it as the night went on.

She will face Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull in November and is expected to win in the reliably red state.

Hageman credited her primary victory to Trump and to Cheney being out of touch with what Wyoming voters really wanted.

"We are no longer going to tolerate representatives who don't represent us," she said Tuesday night.

“Obviously we’re all very grateful to President Trump, who recognizes that Wyoming has only one congressional representative and we have to make it count.”

Who is Harriet Hageman: What to know about Harriet Hageman, Liz Cheney's opponent in Wyoming GOP primary

Alaska’s new elections system tested

In 2020, Alaskans approved a ballot initiative that set up nonpartisan primaries, in which the top four vote-getters move on to general elections. Those general elections, in turn, would use ranked-choice voting, a system in which voters also can indicate their second, third and fourth picks should their preferred candidate not win.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) speaks during a news conference about high gas prices at the U.S. Capitol on May 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) speaks during a news conference about high gas prices at the U.S. Capitol on May 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Ranked choice voting got an early test after the death in March of Alaska GOP Rep. Don Young after the top four candidates from a special June primary proceeded to Tuesday's special election to serve the remainder of his term. One of those candidates was former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is seeking to mount a comeback.

At the same time, and on the same ballot, voters in Alaska also selected their top four candidates in the primary to take over Young’s seat for a full term come January.

Palin, businessman Nick Begich III and tribal activist Mary Peltola advanced to the November general election for the seat. Palin and Begich are Republicans; Peltola is a Democrat.

Murkowski makes it through her primary – but so does Trump's pick for her seat

Analysts believe the nonpartisan primary format helps Sen. Lisa Murkowski in her reelection fight against Trump-backed former State Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka.

Murkowski and Tshibaka both emerged from the primary on Tuesday and will proceed to the general election in November.

Murkowski voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, earning his ire and possibly costing her support among GOP voters.

But she is expected to appeal to the broader general election audience in November, when Democrats and independents may be likelier to rank the moderate senator above Tshibaka, who had challenged the validity of the 2020 election.

What to know about the Alaska primary: In Alaska primary, Murkowski and Palin show the deepening fissures in the Republican Party

Don't expect Alaska special election results anytime soon

Because of the newly implemented laws, only voters' first-choice results in the special House election will be reported for the first 15 days after the election. Preliminary ranked-choice voting results will be released no earlier than Aug. 31; official results will be certified Sept. 2, according to FairVote, a nonpartisan group that supports ranked-choice voting.

Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at cwoodall@usatoday.com or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.

Dylan Wells is a Congress and Campaigns reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at dwells@gannett.com or on Twitter at @dylanewells.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Primaries: Cheney loses to Hageman in Wyoming; Alaska sets up races