Harriet Hageman gives remarks at the Hangar Bar and Grill in Bar Nunn while campaigning for Wyoming's U.S. House of Representatives seat on March 14, 2022. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

A man named Layne hollered out the question, which echoed through the big back room at the Hangar Bar and Grill in Bar Nunn. 

“What do we need to do to bring back voter integrity in order to avoid voter fraud, like we totally saw in the last election?” he asked.  

Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman, who is campaigning to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, retorted that she sees voting administration as a state issue. “I do not want to federalize our elections,” Hageman told the crowd on the evening of March 14. 

Over the next three minutes, Hageman lauded “incredibly important” election reforms like Wyoming’s requirement that voters present a form of photo identification. The 59-year-old former gubernatorial candidate bemoaned the recent death of a crossover voting bill that would have prohibited registered Democrats from day-of party switching to vote Republican in the Aug. 16 primary election. She called for an investigation into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s investments in getting out the vote for the November 2020 election and told attendees of the town hall-style meeting she’s been in talks with experts to determine how to make American elections safe and secure. 

Hageman alluded to a belief in improprieties during the 2020 election. She calls herself a “strong supporter” of former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Hageman’s challenge of Cheney amid his public battle with the incumbent. But publicly, Hageman stops short of avowing outright that she believes former Trump’s false claim that his reelection bid was stolen. 

“We have to pay very, very close attention to this so that 2020 never happens again,” Hageman said in Bar Nunn, which was the closest she came to repeating the stolen election falsehood.

Harriet Hageman talks with attendees of a campaign event at the Hangar Bar and Grill in Bar Nunn on March 14, 2022. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

Hageman clarified her beliefs about what happened in November 2020 in an emailed statement. She’s asked frequently whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected, she wrote. 

“I’m afraid the answer is that we don’t know,” Hageman said.

Of Cheney’s approach, she said: “I don’t think that shouting ‘the big lie’ over and over again, progressively louder, solves the problem or convinces anyone. That approach isn’t about protecting our constitution; it is about shutting down the debate.”  

Polling shows that a significant majority of Republicans nationally believe that President Joe Biden did not legitimately win the election. Still, as much traction as the “stop the steal” messaging holds nationally, the sentiment doesn’t appear to be driving political rhetoric in the 2022 primary election for Wyoming — even as the House race shapes up to be one of the most closely watched in the country. 

Cheney challenges Trump

While rubber stamping Trump’s claims has been mostly absent from Hageman’s stump speeches, adamantly opposing the claims has been a centerpiece of Cheney’s. 

“We have a duty,” Cheney told an audience at the Center for the Arts in Jackson this week. “People have fought and they have died for this constitutional republic, and we cannot just throw it away because our politics don’t match the outcome of an election.” 

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney speaks at an event in Jackson on March 22, 2022. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Cheney, arguably the most prominent Republican nationally to push back against Trump’s disproven claims, has made protecting the sanctity of elections a hallmark of her political identity. At the same time, Wyoming’s sitting congresswoman echoes Hageman and other challengers about the role states should play in administering elections and the need for some reforms. 

“I think as we’re looking at changes, voter ID is really important,” Cheney said at the Jackson forum. She listed other favored reforms, which included having “clean and cleared” voter rolls, all absentee ballots opened and counted by election day and addressing “ballot harvesting,” which “opens up possibilities for fraud. 

“So I think we need to empower our states to make sure they’re doing everything they can to improve the integrity of our elections, and that ought to be nonpartisan,” Cheney said at the event, put on by Issue One, a Washington, D.C.-based “crosspartisan” political reform group. 

U.S. Rep Liz Cheney greets students in Jackson on March 22, 2002. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Cheney’s call for altering election laws and practices elicited broad applause at the forum. From the balcony of the auditorium, Jackson resident Cathy Nutter, who wore a red “Make Jackson Hole Wyoming Again” ballcap, clapped. 

“I appreciated her message,” Nutter said after the event wrapped up. “I just objected to the way she behaved on Jan. 6. She was the judge, jury and executioner. She should have waited.” 

Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne), another Republican challenger  vying for Cheney’s seat, holds views on election reform that bleed into those of his fellow candidates. Like Hageman, he suggests that the 2020 election was compromised without outright trumpeting Trump’s claims of a stolen election. And he doesn’t believe the solutions to those alleged issues should come from the federal government. 

Jackson resident Cathy Nutter said that she appreciated U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s remarks about the need for some election reforms after listening to the congresswoman speak at a March 22, 2022 forum at the Center for the Arts (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

“The rules were changed during COVID and people took advantage of it,” Bouchard said. “But I also think we need to be clear that these things happen at the state levels, and I don’t want Congress meddling in state elections.” 

Retired U.S. Army Col. Denton Knapp of Gillette and Sheridan resident Robyn Belinskey round out the field of Cheney’s Republican challengers. Belinskey couldn’t be immediately reached, but Knapp’s views of the 2020 election and needed reforms largely align with those of his counterparts. 

“I find it very hard to believe President Biden received the most votes of any candidate in history,” Knapp said. “What we’ve got to do is go forward and fix our elections.” 

A safe distance

Cody resident and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) told WyoFile he’s not surprised Trump-aligned Cheney challengers have kept some distance from the former president’s rhetoric about the 2020 election. 

“Hageman doesn’t dare go off on that tack, because Wyoming people are rather reasonable,” Simpson said. “If her full-page ad is ‘stop the steal,’ then we know that she’s slipped into some unhinged state, and she’s not going to do that.” 

Keeping a safe distance from Trump’s claims is a good strategy, he suggested.  

“Trump may have got 70% of the vote around here,” Simpson said, “but he ain’t ever going to get it again. I voted for him once, and I’ll never vote for him again.” 

Alan Simpson (Ruffin Prevost)

But not all Wyoming Republicans share Simpson’s take. National polling data, after all, suggests a majority of the party believes the race was strategically swung in Biden’s favor, even though the outcome of more than five dozen failed Trump campaign election lawsuits indicates otherwise. 

“I find it hard to believe that Joe Biden, campaigning from a basement, could have gotten more votes,” said Vince Vanata, a Cody resident and committeeman for the Park County Republican Party. “I really do [believe that], and I try to take a rational perspective to it.” 

Vanata’s view is that Cheney’s outspokenness is a result of her own political ambitions. 

“She’s had her sights set on the White House for a couple of years now,” he said, “and I personally believe that she is preemptively trying to take out the competition and using the Jan. 6 Commission to do so.”  

Other Republicans haven’t permanently written Cheney off for her disavowal of Trump. After having heard Cheney out in Jackson, the red ball cap-wearing Nutter remained undecided on which Republican’s name she’ll be marking come the August primary. 

“I’m not going to say at this point, because I don’t know,” Nutter said. “I go to these [events] to learn.”

Mike Koshmrl

Mike Koshmrl reports from Jackson on state politics and Wyoming's natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures...

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  1. Cheney needs to go. Simply because USA politics are becoming monopolized by few family’s. Bush/Pelosi–she is second generation congress person. Clinton’s. Term limits are desperately needed. Feinstein is sitting drooling out her term. Too many old mental midgets sitting around. Need strict limits on once term limited out at least 12 years before one can become lobbey member. Dark money needs to be curtailed An list goes on. Work at congress in chamber 7am to 4:30 like rest of world

  2. Wyofile says “There’s No Agenda” and promotes their “unbiased” reporting. Well, Mr. Koshmrl’s article is nothing if not his biased opinion: Trump’s “false claim”, Trump’s “disputed claims”, the “stolen election falsehood”. The amount of fraud in the last election is overwhelming, provided one opens their unbiased eyes to see it. So much for “unbiased” reporting.

  3. Actually, I said, “I find it hard to believe that Biden, campaigning from a basement, and having limited rallies in six foot circles, could have gotten (7 million) more votes than Obama did in his previous campaign.”

    1. Great comments, Mr. Hardison. The only difference I see is that 70% did not vote for Trump in the 2016 election — they voted for the republican. That is a big difference to understand. He was a surprise candidate, and many were concerned that he would prove to be just what he did – unworthy and incompetent in the office. So remember, when there is only one choice on the ballot, and it is a bad choice, Wyoming will still vote for it with a blind allegiance to party. So don’t think those votes were all for Trump; any republican in that race would have fared just as well in Wyoming.

      1. Excellent response, Tammy. And, that is why I’m seeking to break the two party “doom-loop.” As Political Scientist Lee Drutman said in a book of similar name:

        ““American democracy is at an impasse. After years of zero-sum partisan trench warfare, our political institutions are deteriorating. Our norms are collapsing. Democrats and Republicans no longer merely argue; they cut off contact with each other. In short, the two-party system is breaking our democracy, and driving us all crazy.”

        The Founders didn’t want parties at all. They called them “Factions” and they hated the concept. See Federalist Paper 10.

        But they built a system with no thought about parties. And the system they built, with lots of tiny districts in the lower house where each district is “Winner-Take-All”
        has a massive “Gravity” or “Tropism” to two parties.

        Consider:

        1) The “Liberty” Party directly caused the defeat of Henry Clay and caused “Manifest Destiny” to be dominant.
        2) The “Green” Party directly caused the defeat of Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore and the election of the near-Fascist Bush Jr. (“The PATRIOT ACT”)
        3) The “Hippies” gave us Nixon. (“The Controlled Substances Act”)
        4) Bernie Sanders gave us Trump. (Russia-gate, The Big-Lie, The Seditious Conspiracy, the Insurrection, two impeachments, etc.)

        As Liz said at the Jackson event, vote for the serious candidate committed to the Constitution not to someone who is beholden to a craven, narcissistic, twice impeached President, who moments ago, literally this morning, was criminally accused by David O. Carter, a sitting Federal District Court Judge, in the case of John Eastman v 1/6 Committee (8:22-cv-00099-DOC-DFM) of a, wait for it, “a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process. […] If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have undermined the peaceful transfer of power in this country, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”

        It’s a blistering judgment and it’s worth a read:

        https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21561085-eastman-ruling

        “We have a republic, if we can keep it,” said Ben Franklin!

        -fait lux!

        Casey William Hardison
        Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives
        Wyoming-at-Large 2022
        https://www.caseyforwyoming.com

      2. Excellent response, Tammy. And, that is why I’m seeking to break the two party “doom-loop.” As Political Scientist Lee Drutman said in a book of similar name:

        ““American democracy is at an impasse. After years of zero-sum partisan trench warfare, our political institutions are deteriorating. Our norms are collapsing. Democrats and Republicans no longer merely argue; they cut off contact with each other. In short, the two-party system is breaking our democracy, and driving us all crazy.”

        The Founders didn’t want parties at all. They called them “Factions” and they hated the concept. See Federalist Paper 10.

        But they built a system with no thought about parties. And the system they built, with lots of tiny districts in the lower house where each district is “Winner-Take-All”
        has a massive “Gravity” or “Tropism” to two parties.

        Consider:

        1) The “Liberty” Party directly caused the defeat of Henry Clay and caused “Manifest Destiny” to be dominant.
        2) The “Green” Party directly caused the defeat of Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore and the election of the near-Fascist Bush Jr. (“The PATRIOT ACT”)
        3) The “Hippies” gave us Nixon. (“The Controlled Substances Act”)
        4) Bernie Sanders gave us Trump. (Russia-gate, The Big-Lie, The Seditious Conspiracy, the Insurrection, two impeachments, etc.)

        As Liz said at the Jackson event, vote for the serious candidate committed to the Constitution not to someone who is beholden to a craven, narcissistic, twice impeached President, who moments ago, literally this morning, was criminally accused by David O. Carter, a sitting Federal District Court Judge, in the case of John Eastman v 1/6 Committee (8:22-cv-00099-DOC-DFM) of a, wait for it, “a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred violent attacks on the seat of our nation’s government, led to the deaths of several law enforcement officers, and deepened public distrust in our political process. […] If Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan had worked, it would have undermined the peaceful transfer of power in this country, undermining American democracy and the Constitution.”

        It’s a blistering judgment and it’s worth a read:

        https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21561085-eastman-ruling

        “We have a republic, if we can keep it,” said Ben Franklin!

        -fait lux!

        Casey William Hardison
        Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives
        Wyoming-at-Large 2022

    2. It’s funny how repeated something often enough one begins to believe it and disregard the fact that 60 court cases, the Attorney General, the DHS and many others, all determined there was not enough fraud to alter the result of the 2020 election.

      President Trump’s repeated pleas for Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger clearly demonstrate that his justification was not to investigate fraud, but to
      win the election:

      “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”

      There’s evidence of fraud ^^^ !!!

      And, if you’re brave enough to read it, here in this Court Order handed down yesterday is more evidence of fraud:

      https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.841840/gov.uscourts.cacd.841840.260.0_4.pdf

      In which it is demonstrated that:

      (1) President Trump attempted to obstruct “Congress’s proceeding to count the
      electoral votes on January 6,” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2);

      (2) “President Trump, Plaintiff [Dr. Eastman], and several others entered into an
      agreement to defraud the United States by interfering with the election
      certification process,” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

      Don’t buy the snake oil! Read it yourself.

      Cx

  4. Do people forget that Donald Trump even list the popular vote in 2016, but was elected by the outdated electoral college.
    As an election judge in Wyoming I have full confidence in the integrity of our elections.

  5. What Wyoming voters often miss is represented by a frog in water slowly being boiled alive. It just doesn’t notice until it’s too late.

    In this beautiful, sparsely populated, austere land with minimal outside contact, it is hard to truly judge the national mood via a local or state newspaper, or local or state television, or one’s family and friends at the local tavern, supper club or even at the dinner table. It becomes an echo chamber.

    That Trump received 70% of the vote in Wyoming is a matter of fact. Enough of his policies were benefitting Wyomingites and or seemed enough like they were benefiting Wyoming.

    That he was reviled nationally for his crass, uncouth nature, his ignorance, misogyny and bigotry in the more populous parts of the nation was unmistakable. That he completely bungled the COVID response, “it’ll be gone in a couple of weeks” whilst thinking he was the smartest guy in the room, is a tragedy that resulted in way more deaths and harm to our economy than was ever necessary.

    That a large number of people were voting for the “lesser of two-evils Joe” is not surprising. Trump was an embarrassment to many conservatives with traditional values. The grab ’em by the upside down bible wasn’t working to convince these voters of his family values, nor was eying up his daughter. His law and order credentials were demolished with his continued lying, encouragement of disinformation, pardoning of blatant dishonest criminals and more importantly, somehow he was always the victim. In short, he lacked integrity, responsibility and a coherent vision for an America striving for that more perfect union.

    And, I see this as the dividing line between Harriet and Liz. Liz has the votes and the life history to prove her republican street cred and she’s sticking to her Oath to our State and Federal Constitutions, the most republican action of all. I respect that.

    Harriet has sold her soul at the Trumpian crossroads and placed the ashes of her integrity on Peter Thiel’s alter. Is this what we want for Wyoming?

    Yes, “we will never know” about the 2020 election, except that 60 court cases, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and even Attorney General Bill Barr all said there was no evidence of fraud on a scale necessary to turn the election in Trump’s favor.

    And, if a constitutional lawyer like Harriet is unwilling to stand by the evidence, accept the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power all whilst feigning ignorance of the outcome of the election, she doesn’t have the spine it takes to represent Wyoming and stand up to the craven egos of narcissistic, sociopathic men like Trump.

  6. Too few care or understand what it means to uphold what is written in the Constitution. It’s all reduced to a team sports reality (America’s great and dangerous distraction) and it will be the death of this democracy.

  7. Good piece. I’m not a resident, but Alan Simpson has always struck me as a reasonable guy. His comments make sense. In any case, the nation is following this race with bated breath.

  8. The article states, as a factual matter, that Trumps claim that the 2020 election was stolen is false. How can the author know that? He can no more know that the election was reliable than can Trump know it was stolen.

    With wide spread mail in voting, absentee voting that didn’t follow state laws, votes counted that shouldn’t have been, and ballot harvesting with no identifiable chain of custody, no one can say the 2020 election is known to be accurate. Especially when it was so close in so many key states. The author should do a better job of trying to hide his personal bias and stick to reporting known facts. WyoFile editors should have caught this and corrected it.

    1. Those are the facts as much as you’d like them not to be. Multiple audits have shown no fraud on the scale the chrump cries about.

      Court cases, secretaries of state, attorney generals, republican appointed judges all agree that there was not fraud on the scale that chrump lemmings claim.

      It’s time to get back to reality

  9. Those who still distrust our election system, also don’t trust our courts where no fraud was found, very un-American views. I find it quite simple to believe Biden won after witnessing 4 years of incompetence, fear mongering and embarrassing stupidity. We watched, we waited, we voted.

  10. Looking at Hageman’s past involvement, with the state, She has a lot of ? marks by her name.Think when you vote,

  11. Former President Trump doesn’t come out and say he wants to federalize elections however he clearly wants the executive branch of the federal government to have the power to overturn any election.

  12. The fine line between having the gullible chrump people support you and still try to appeal to the rational Republicans.

    Do politicians qualify for Oscar awards?