May 26, 2022

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Trump moves to close off Liz Cheney’s political escape hatch

Trump moves to close off Liz Cheney’s political escape hatch

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been privately lobbying Wyoming lawmakers to change the state’s election laws as part of an effort to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

On Thursday, Trump endorsed Wyoming legislation that would prevent crossover voting in a primary election. Were the law to pass, Democrats, Republicans, or independents would no longer be able to switch party affiliation on the day of the state’s primary to vote for a candidate in another party.

The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Bo Biteman, is part of a push by some Republicans in the state to oust Cheney by blocking Democrats from switching parties to support her in her upcoming election against Trump-endorsed congressional candidate, Harriet Hageman.

Behind the scenes, Trump and Club for Growth’s David McIntosh have both personally called Wyoming’s Republican governor, Mark Gordon, to encourage him to back the bill, according to two people familiar with the calls.

“The Governor has had many conversations about this issue, including with President Trump and David McIntosh, however characterizing that as ‘pressure’ would be incorrect. Governor Gordon is going to do what’s best for Wyoming and he respects the legislative process,” said Michael Perlman, the communications director for Gordon.

The intensity of the push for the legislation peaked earlier this week, when Republicans began speculating that Gordon could announce his support for it in his State of the State address. But he did not. And as the week has gone on, Trump’s private lobbying became public.

“This critically important bill ensures that the voters in each party will separately choose their nominees for the General Election, which is how it should be!” Trump said in a statement. “It makes total sense that only Democrats vote in the Democrat primary and only Republicans vote in the Republican primary.”

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The former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., also called on Wyoming to “pay attention” to the bill and American Conservative Union president Matt Schlapp— a close Trump ally — tweeted on Thursday that his group might score the legislation as it considered its support of GOP lawmakers.

“There was a big push this morning to get all of our MAGA influencers to push it and make a big deal out of it,” said one Republican operative involved in the race.

Cheney told The New York Times she will not encourage party switching or support any effort to encourage Democrats to vote in the Republican primary.

It’s not the first time Wyoming’s primary voting laws have come under scrutiny. In 2018, some Republicans in the state claimed Gordon won the Wyoming GOP gubernatorial primary and defeated more conservative candidates like Foster Friess because Democrats switched party affiliation to boost his bid. Analyses of voter registration numbers from the Secretary of State’s office did not back up that claim, but the law has remained a focus of Republicans in the state.

Last year, the Wyoming Legislature rejected a different bill that was supported by Trump Jr. that would have required candidates to win a majority of votes to prevent a runoff election.

Last week, Trump held a fundraiser for Hageman at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. He is expected to hold a rally in the state this spring. He has targeted Cheney relentlessly for her vote to impeach Trump after the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and her involvement in the House select committee’s investigation into the attack.

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The 2022 Wyoming Republican primary is August 16.