CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Two days after the Associated Press wrote off Rep. Liz Cheney as “nowhere” to be found at Cheyenne’s midsummer cowboy festival, the lone congresswoman from Wyoming flipped pancakes for a brief appearance before returning to work on the Jan. 6 Committee.
The pancake breakfast held on every other day of the festivities has been a staple of Cheyenne’s Frontier Days celebration since 1986 when the Kiwanis Club adopted the tradition after an historic flood the year prior. For more than three decades after, volunteers with the Kiwanis Club often joined by members of the Boy Scouts and the Air Force have served thousands of pancakes within a short span of two hours. With its roots in the Cold War-era preparatory drills in the case of a sudden disaster disrupting food supply, the annual spectacle leaves little time for politicians who participate to mingle with their voters. For Cheney, the breakfast offered the perfect opportunity to show face without spending time with constituents left angry by the rarity of their sole congresswoman’s home state presence and her politically charged work as vice chair of the Jan. 6 Committee.
“We need to move on, and go do different things,” said Maria Lemke, an accountant and 25-year resident of Cheyenne who said Cheney’s role on the committee, combined with her frequent absence from the state, has led her to cast a vote for Trump-endorsed primary challenger Harriet Hageman.
“She’s from Wyoming,” were the first words Lemke said when asked what she liked about Hageman, who just 10 feet away was mingling with vendors in the fairground’s expo center.
While Cheney’s attendance felt like a hit-and-run performance, Hageman was clearly in her element as she spoke with voters throughout the massive cowboy and rodeo festival of her hometown, held just 100 miles from the ranch where she grew up. While her family still maintains the ranch, Hageman lives with her husband in Wyoming’s capital and largest city of just more than 65,000. Cheney has a residence in Jackson but spends most of her time in northern Virginia where her kids go to school.
In the 10 months since launching her primary challenge across town, Hageman said “it’s been fun” on the campaign trail in her effort to oust a three-term incumbent and daughter of a former vice president.
“It’s been a beautiful drive,” Hageman told The Federalist, touting more than 36,000 miles traveled across the state near a row of chuckwagons complete with cast iron kitchens once used to follow cowboys on 1,000-mile cattle drives. In contrast, Cheney has been so consumed by an obsessive focus on prosecuting former President Donald Trump, that her few visits home has become rare occasions which have featured events with reporters as opposed to voters turned sour by the Jan. 6 inquisition.
The words “traitor” and “hypocrite” were common descriptors reiterated by Wyoming voters throughout the festival to characterize their sole representative and her lead role on the Select Committee.
George Hoff, a 22-year resident of Cheyenne who is now retired, described the Jan. 6 proceedings spearheaded by Cheney as a “farce” and a “waste of taxpayer money.”
“I think they beat that drum until it died,” Hoff said. “When she goes over to the Potomac, she forgets about Wyoming.”
Despite half the state being under the jurisdiction of the federal government, Cheney no longer holds her seat on the House Natural Resources Committee navigating Wyoming’s myriad of public lands issues, instead directing her energy toward her vendetta against Trump with summer show trials.
“This is one of the first times in Wyoming’s history that Wyoming’s congressional representative is not on the Natural Resources Committee,” Hageman said, adding she expects to be placed on the committee next year if elected.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office confirmed to The Federalist Wednesday the Republican leader will back Hageman’s request for the assignment but added final placement would ultimately be up to the Steering Committee after the elections.
Seated on a bench under the shade at Indian Village, Joe Valois said Hageman’s commitment to Wyoming is in part why he’ll back her over Cheney in August.
“She’s all Wyoming, she’s all about Wyoming,” said Valois, who lives in Cheyenne with his wife and six dogs.
A retired 24-year veteran of the Air Force, Valois was careful not to spill his margarita or state secrets, but gave away everything when it came to how his neighbors felt about Cheney and the “corrupt” Jan. 6 Committee.
“Everyone’s on the same page as me,” Valois said, with Cheney “not really focusing on Republican views and needs and what we want to happen.”
Despite Cheney’s Virginia-funded war chest of nearly $7 million to deploy three weeks before election day, Hageman, who has $1.4 million left on hand, isn’t worried.
“I have been pretty dramatically outspent,” Hageman acknowledged, but added Cheney isn’t spending money to defend her seat on Capitol Hill anymore. “What she’s doing is spending an enormous amount of money on staff.”
On Sunday, Cheney, who recent polling shows is behind Hageman by 22 points, all but conceded the race in Wyoming where President Donald Trump won in 2020 by a wider margin than any other state. The endangered congresswoman appears to be capitalizing on her role with the Jan. 6 Committee to lay the foundation for a possible presidential run in 2024.
“If I have to choose between maintaining a seat in the House of Representatives or protecting the constitutional republic and ensuring the American people know the truth about Donald Trump, I’m going to choose the Constitution and the truth every single day,” Cheney said on CNN, leaving the door open to a bid for the White House after midterms.
Tristan Justice is the western correspondent for The Federalist. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and The Daily Signal. His work has also been featured in Real Clear Politics and Fox News. Tristan graduated from George Washington University where he majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at Tristan@thefederalist.com.