Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman in an image from her 2018 campaign website. (screengrab)

Pressure is building for challengers of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) to drop out of the race following former President Donald Trump’s Thursday endorsement of new entrant and former Republican National Committee member Harriet Hageman.

Members of Trump’s team and the Wyoming Republican Party have been working behind the scenes to consolidate the field around a sole challenger, according to interviews, emails and text messages reviewed by WyoFile. Strategists and Trump have stated that Cheney is more likely to win in a crowded primary where numerous candidates split the vote.

During a June candidate forum in Casper, several challengers said they would drop out of the race by May 1, 2022 if they were not leading. They were also asked if they would drop out if Trump endorsed another candidate.

Party officials are now asking if those who answered “yes” to the second question — Darin Smith, Bryan Miller, Robyn Belinskey, Chuck Gray and Denton Knapp — will step aside ahead of a planned candidate forum Sept. 17 in Rawlins.

“Based on your answer to that question, and the newly formed situation where President Trump has now officially endorsed Harriet Hageman for the position you are running for, are you prepared to honor your word to the people and endorse Harriet Hageman for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and step aside in this race?” Joey Correnti, Carbon County Chairman, asked in an email to candidates Thursday morning.

“Time for those who haven’t committed to dropping out to think real hard about it, as the only way Harriett loses is if the conservative ticket is split,” Doug Gerrard, former chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party and founder of conservative blog Evidence Based Wyoming, wrote in an anti-Cheney Facebook group.

Some did so immediately. Miller dropped out early Thursday, according to the Star-Tribune, and Smith followed suit later in the day to support Hageman. 

However, there is little to indicate others will soon follow suit.

Bouchard has continued his campaign as normal after failing to get a meeting with Trump during a recent summit at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course. 

“Wyoming’s voters aren’t for sale,” Bouchard said. “They may run this game in larger states. But Wyoming voters won’t be so easily played.”

Gray did not respond to a request for comment.

Knapp won’t drop out to support Trump’s endorsee at this time, despite committing to do so in the May candidate forum, he said.

In a July text message exchange between Republican strategist and Knapp supporter Rob Jennings and Trump campaign official David Bossie, Bossie said the former president would not meet with Knapp unless he would commit to dropping out of the race. After Jennings lobbied for Knapp to get a meeting regardless, Bossie said he would “discuss with Frank and the Wyoming guys next week” — an apparent reference to Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne — to surmise if he was a serious candidate. 

Eathorne wrote in a text message that he did not discuss any of the candidates with Bossie, nor was he asked about Knapp in any conversations.

Any candidate who didn’t step aside following Trump’s endorsement, Bossie wrote, “will pay a heavy price.”

Bossie declined to comment on the record about the exchange. 

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Hageman, a former Republican candidate for governor and former National Committee member for the Wyoming Republican Party, brings some awkward personal history to the race, despite the Trump endorsement. In 2014, Hageman served as an adviser on Cheney’s failed campaign for U.S. Senate and, two years later, was fingered as a member of a “Never Trump” coalition of Republicans while serving as a delegate for Sen. Ted Cruz at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Hageman also endorsed Cheney and campaigned for her statewide during Cheney’s 2016 House race. 

Her upside, insiders believe, lies with her name recognition and fundraising ability. While running for governor in 2018, she raised more than $276,000 from a largely Wyoming-centric donor base while spending roughly $76,000 of her own money, according to campaign finance records, far less than candidates like Mark Gordon and Foster Friess spent on themselves. Hageman also amassed another $655,000 through an affiliated political action committee called “Right for Wyoming” during her gubernatorial race. 

Hageman’s reversals on Cheney and Trump are considered boons in the race, Bossie wrote in text messages obtained by WyoFile. Her campaign’s communications have underscored that as well.  

“Like many Wyomingites, I used to support Liz Cheney,” a fundraising email from Hageman’s campaign read. “However, when she got to DC, she put DC elites over her constituents and put her hatred of President Trump above all else.”

Knapp said he believes it should be Wyoming voters — not Trump — who determine the race’s outcome.

“People are telling me ‘hey, do the right thing and drop out, go find something else to do,’” Knapp said. “But we’ve got 11 months and at that time, if [Hageman] is the leader, I’ll support her. But I think Wyoming gets a vote. The last time I checked it was not an appointed or anointed position, it’s selected by the people of Wyoming.”

This story has been updated to include Darrin Smith’s decision to step aside and to clarify Denton Knapp’s position — Ed.

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  1. I choose a leader who has been tested by fire and not afraid of getting dirty. He does not wear bright red lipstick and he has cowboy in his blood. I choose Denton Knapp to be the Senator of WY to fulfill Code of the West and stand for his oath of office. No more RINO blood or friends of RINO Cheney….enough.

  2. Strange that people who proudly identify as conservative, law abiding, rugged individuals allow a life long con artist that tried to install himself as king in spite of losing the 2020 election, to control the Wyoming Republican party from Mar-a Largo. Makes ya go huh???

    1. Mr. Sinden,

      It is baffling the lengths the new age Republicans will go to, just so they are able to talk out of both sides of their mouth. It’s also baffling how much the Facebook educated “patriots” slurp up the lies and take it as gospel.

      I hope you and yours are doing well. Give my regards to your son.


  3. You can support the Constitution or you can support Trump, but not both. It will be interesting to see if Harriet and the Wyoming Republicans will even use the our founding document in support of their desire to be elected?

    PS Supporting the #2A while trashing the rest of the document means that you are unfit for office. Harriet is unfit to hold elected office.

  4. Though she can seem unconventional and even flamboyant, Harriet Hageman is definitely part of the WY political elite class. It will be interesting to hear what she thinks about January 6, conspiracy theories, the strong-arming of elected officials to change results. If she embraces these and other extreme ideas she risks losing WY donations. Can she trust Trump and his self-enriching PAC to make up the difference? Not likely. Whatever one might think about Liz, one thing is for sure. Her compass has never wavered, much less turned north to south, east to west.

  5. I always think it’s hilarious when anyone tags a Wyoming Republican as being “liberal” – all Wyoming Republicans are pretty much in the “solidly conservative” spectrum when it comes to policy, including Cheney and Gordon. Yes Gordon listened to science and tried to walk the line between doing the right thing and keeping people safe and bowing to the demands of loud far right who don’t care about public safety – 3 of whom I knew personally are now dead. The ONLY reason some Republicans have turned on Cheney is her vote to impeach – that’s it. One vote out of I don’t know how many of her normal party line votes. Trump does not run Wyoming (remember he came in 3rd in the primary here and his bud Foster Fries lost too), he doesn’t run this country – he lost, he’s a loser. I sure don’t get it. I’ve never seen peoples political careers hinging on a former presidents endorsement or so many sheeple acting so subserviently to a former president . He doesn’t care about Wyoming he just has a petty grudge against Cheney. The Republican party can do better. I truly believe that the majority of Americans and even a large chunk of Wyomingites are closer to the middle – both parties keep moving further and further apart. Just imagine how strong a party could be if they actually didn’t listen to the loudest people on either end, but actually listened to the people in the middle who are tired of the rhetoric on both sides.

  6. So Harriet Hageman won the competition for “The Apprentice: Congressional Edition” It figures. She does not have the baggage of Romeo Bouchard, and is not quite the daddy’s boy as Chuck Gray. But typical of a Trump choice she is undistinguished except for her slavish adherence to right-wing ideologies and “culture wars” issues. Her only fault as a candidate who needs to appeal to MAGAbilly morons is that she probably has too large and complicated a vocabulary for most of her potential voters.

  7. Wyoming voters are not sheep and have historically chosen the best candidate regardless of political party affiliation.

  8. The liberal-leaning Wyoming Public Media and PBS decided they knew who was going to be at the top of the ticket during the election for Wyoming governor in 2018 by excluding Foster Friess from the first debate. He placed 2nd, of course.

    Additionally, Trump endorsed Foster who lost to the more liberal Gordo.

    The idea that the Wyoming Republican Party knows who is best for Wyoming, or Trump knows, or the liberal media knows, or conservative media knows, is an interesting idea on paper,.

    Wyoming residents can decide for themselves, thank you. Let us have an exchange of ideas from all interested parties in the public square. Stop the gatekeeping.