Wyoming and Alaska primaries

By Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 8:34 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022
20 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
9:57 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Longtime television producer advising Jan. 6 committee is present at Cheney's event in Wyoming

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny in Jackson, Wyoming

James Goldston walks past the hearing room before the House select committee holds its second public hearing on Capitol Hill on June 13.
James Goldston walks past the hearing room before the House select committee holds its second public hearing on Capitol Hill on June 13. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

James Goldston, the veteran television producer who has spent the last several months advising the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, is on hand in Wyoming tonight for Rep. Liz Cheney’s speech.

Goldston, the former president of ABC News, was surveying the scene at Cheney’s campaign event at a cattle ranch outside Jackson. He and a small film crew were taking in the picturesque landscape, with the Grand Tetons in the distance and the Wyoming prairie bathed in the evening sunlight, in what will be a stunning backdrop for a marquee Cheney speech expected later today.

As the vice chair of the committee, Cheney worked closely with Goldston’s team in presenting the findings in a TV-ready fashion to a national audience. They have worked together to edit hours and hours of recordings that have brought to life the insurrection as it unfolded. 

Goldston was not in Wyoming as part of his work as a special adviser to the House committee, CNN has learned, but rather on assignment for his own production company for potential future projects involving Cheney.

“She invited him as a friend and it has nothing to do with committee work,” Jeremy Adler, a spokesperson for Cheney, told CNN.

Goldston declined to comment.

9:26 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Polls are closing in Wyoming. Here's what to know about the race between Cheney and a Trump-backed challenger

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza, Ethan Cohen, Melissa Holzberg DePalo, Clara Grudberg and Nicholas Anastacio

Rep. Liz Cheney arrives with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, to vote at the Teton County Library on Tuesday, August 16.
Rep. Liz Cheney arrives with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, to vote at the Teton County Library on Tuesday, August 16. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/AP)

It is 9 p.m. ET and polls are closing in Wyoming.

The key race we are tracking: Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, is facing several Republican challengers, including attorney Harriet Hageman, whom former President Donald Trump has endorsed. Cheney has been one of Trump's harshest critics and was ousted from her House Republican leadership post last year after publicly rejecting for months Trump's lie that he won the 2020 presidential election. Cheney is also the last of the House Republicans who voted for Trump's impeachment to face primary voters.

"No matter what the outcome, it is certainly the beginning of a battle that is gonna continue and is going to go on, and as a country, we're facing very challenging and difficult times. We are facing a moment where our democracy really is under attack and under threat," Cheney told CBS earlier today in Wyoming.

"And those of us across the board — Republicans, Democrats and independents — who believe deeply in freedom and who care about the Constitution and the future of the country, I think have an obligation to put that above party and, I think that fight is clearly going to continue and clearly going to go on," she said.

Cheney is expected to deliver remarks tonight near Jackson, Wyoming, and intends to make the case that she is at “the beginning of the battle,” advisers told CNN's Jeff Zeleny, as she calls on Republicans, Democrats and independents to join her fight to protect democracy and the rule of law in America.

A University of Wyoming poll released last week found that Cheney is trailing Hageman by 29 points. Yet one question looming over the Republican primary is how many Democrats and independents will switch parties and vote for Cheney, which even her supporters acknowledge is her only chance to stay competitive.

The Cowboy State is also holding a gubernatorial primary election.

Read more about tonight's Wyoming primary here.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Gregory Krieg contributed reporting to this post.

8:17 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Polls are closing soon in Wyoming where Rep. Liz Cheney is fighting to hold on to her House seat 

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on August 16.
Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on August 16. (David Williams/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Polls are closing in Wyoming at 9 p.m. ET. The immediate political future of Rep. Liz Cheney, one of former President Donald Trump's most powerful critics in the GOP, is at stake tonight as the last of the House Republicans who voted for his impeachment to face primary voters.

She's facing a challenge from Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman, among others, in a state the former President won with nearly 70% of the vote in 2020. His enduring popularity there, coupled with Cheney's role as vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, has made the three-term congresswoman and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney a top target of Trump allies.

Trump's grip on the GOP has been proven again and again since he left Washington. Once considered an up-and-comer in the party, Cheney, a fierce conservative, was booted from House GOP leadership last year over her unyielding opposition to the former President.

Of the 10 House Republicans who voted for his second impeachment, at least seven are not coming back to Congress next year, either because they're not running for reelection or were defeated in a primary. The two survivors to date, in California and Washington, benefited from their states' nonpartisan primary system. Cheney has no such cushion, though a late push for Democrats and independents to register for the GOP primary might soften the ultimate count.

More about the primary: Leading Republicans on Capitol Hill have coalesced around Hageman, who has embraced Trump's false election fraud claims and called the 2020 contest "rigged." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, another Hageman supporter, on Monday said during an appearance on Fox News that the election in Wyoming is "going to be a referendum on the January 6 committee."

Cheney's focus on the committee's work and her unwavering commitment to, in her words, doing "everything I can to ensure that (Trump) never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office," has set her apart from the small band of GOP colleagues who also voted for impeachment and are running for reelection. What her pledge entails, in practice, remains to be seen, but chatter about a 2024 presidential run has already begun.

Watch CNN's John King break down the Cheney vs. Hageman race:

7:43 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Cheney isn't the only Trump critic facing voters today  

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Sen. Lisa Murkowski listens during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Committee hearing in May.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski listens during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Committee hearing in May. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

While Rep. Liz Cheney's fate in Wyoming has grabbed the most headlines, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial, is also facing new competition this year fueled by her lack of fealty to former President Donald Trump. Unlike Cheney, however, Murkowski — herself the latest in a proud statewide political dynasty — is a better bet to overcome the forces arrayed against her.

That's in large part due to Alaska's nonpartisan top-four primary, which, like in the House race, sends the top four candidates to the general election, which will be decided by a ranked-choice vote if no one receives a majority. That process should aid Murkowski against Trump-backed challenger Kelly Tshibaka, the former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration.

Murkowski has in the past enjoyed broad support, across partisan lines, in a state that elected her father, Frank Murkowski, first to the Senate and then as its governor. He then appointed his daughter to her current position in 2002. When she was defeated in a 2010 primary during the tea party wave, Murkowski launched a write-in campaign and defeated GOP nominee Joe Miller in the fall.

The state's gubernatorial primary also features some familiar names: Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and independent former Gov. Bill Walker, who likely would have lost to Dunleavy in his 2018 reelection bid had he not dropped out shortly before the election and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich.

Dunleavy, now seeking a second term, won the one-on-one contest by less than 10 points.

7:13 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Sarah Palin is looking to make a comeback in Alaska

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on August 4.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on August 4. (LM Otero/AP)

If Wyoming GOP. Rep. Liz Cheney is threatened with being cast into her party's wilderness, a prominent figure from its recent past is hoping to return from more than a decade off the electoral map.

Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, whose ascent marked a precursor to the party's Trump era, returned to the ballot on Tuesday. In this new iteration, she is the candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump in a three-deep field vying to fill the remainder of the late GOP Rep. Don Young's seat.

Palin, who resigned as governor in 2009, is squaring off in the special election with Nick Begich III, the Republican scion of the state's most storied Democratic family, and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola, who was endorsed by independent Al Gross after he dropped out of the race despite making the final four. If none of the three active candidates secures a majority of the vote, the election will be decided with a ranked-choice calculation that begins at the end of the month.

The three special election contenders — along with nearly 20 other candidates, most notably Republican Tara Sweeney — are also running in a concurrent primary that will determine the four finalists for the November election that will decide who will win the at-large House seat for the next full term.

Read more about tonight's primaries here.

8:40 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Tonight's primary is a crucial test for Cheney. Here's a look back at key moments from her political career

From CNN's Christopher Hickey

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney has been one of former President Donald Trump's biggest and most outspoken critics in the Republican Party. Today, the three-term conservative congresswoman faces multiple Republican opponents, including the Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman.

Although Cheney voted in line with Trump's agenda 92.9% of the time, her vote to impeach the former President in January 2021 led to her ouster as GOP conference chair. A year later, the Republican National Committee took the unprecedented step of formally censuring her for serving on the House January 6, 2021, committee.

Now voters will decide her future in the House. For Cheney, tonight's election represents another chapter of a tumultuous political career.

Here's a look at some key moments from her political career:

  • January 2016: Announces her run for Wyoming’s US House seat, which she wins in the fall. It’s the same House seat held by her father from 1979-1989
  • November 2018: Re-elected to the House of Representatives. Cheney runs for the role of the Republican Conference chair in November and wins
  • November 2020: Re-elected to serve a third term in Congress and a second term as the No. 3 Republican leader in the House
  • Jan. 12, 2021: Announces she will vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump after blaming him for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, writing that “None of this would have happened without the President.” She is one of only 10 Republicans to vote for his impeachment
  • Feb. 3, 2021: House Republican Conference holds a secret ballot on whether to remove Cheney as their chair. The vote fails, 61-145, and she remains in her leadership role
  • Feb. 6, 2021: The Wyoming Republican Party censures Cheney for her vote to impeach Trump
  • May 4, 2021: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy criticizes Cheney on Fox News, claiming members are worried about her ability to “carry out the message
  • May 11, 2021: The night before an expected vote to remove her from her leadership role, Cheney delivers a defiant speech on the House floor, vowing she will “not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President's crusade to undermine our democracy.” As Cheney spoke, all but one Republican lawmaker, Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, left the chamber
  • May 12, 2021: Cheney loses her position as Republican Conference chair by voice vote. There is no debate or recorded vote. She is greeted with boos when she criticizes Trump in a speech ahead of the vote, an attendee tells CNN
  • July 1, 2021: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces Cheney will serve on the newly formed committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol
  • Sept. 2, 2021: Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson — chairman of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection — announces that Cheney will serve as the committee’s vice chair. She is one of only two Republicans on the panel.
  • Sept. 9, 2021: Trump announces he is endorsing Harriet Hageman, a primary challenger to Cheney, for the Republican nomination in Wyoming’s 2022 congressional election. Cheney responds on Twitter: “Here’s a sound bite for you: Bring it”
  • Feb. 4, 2022: One year after her censure from the Wyoming GOP for her impeachment vote, the Republican National Committee formally censures Cheney and Kinzinger for their roles on the January 6 committee. This is the first time the RNC has ever censured incumbent congressional Republicans
  • June 9, 2022: The January 6 committee holds its first prime-time hearing. Cheney features prominently during the hearing, delivering opening remarks with Thompson. “President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney says
  • June 29, 2022: The day after the sixth committee hearing — which features explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — Cheney delivers a piercing rebuke of Trump and Republican leadership at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. She warns the crowd that Trump poses a “domestic threat that we have never faced before.” “Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” she says to a round of applause
  • Aug. 16, 2022: Cheney is on the ballot defending her congressional seat from Harriet Hageman and several other Republican challengers in the Wyoming primary election

See the full timeline here.

6:37 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Your handy guide to tonight’s primaries

Analysis from CNN's Adam Wollner

Campaign worker Shannon McCormick uses a stake to place an American flag on top of a hay bale prior to a gathering for Rep. Liz Cheney on Tuesday in Jackson, Wyoming.
Campaign worker Shannon McCormick uses a stake to place an American flag on top of a hay bale prior to a gathering for Rep. Liz Cheney on Tuesday in Jackson, Wyoming. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Even though just two states are voting, Tuesday is one of the most consequential primary days of the year, with former President Donald Trump looking to once again exert his control over the GOP in Wyoming and Alaska

Here is your guide to what to keep an eye on as polls close throughout the night:

9 p.m. ET: Polls close in Wyoming. Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary is one that has been circled on Trump’s calendar for a long time. Cheney is the last of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year to face a primary. So far, just two have advanced to the general election. But of that group, Cheney in particular has drawn Trump’s ire, using her perch as the vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the US Capitol to repeatedly call out the former President as a threat to democracy.  

Harriet Hageman, who won the former President's endorsement in September of last year and had embraced his false election fraud claims, is a heavy favorite to defeat Cheney in the state’s at-large congressional district. While Cheney has maintained a clear fundraising advantage, her only hope to remain competitive in a state Trump won easily in 2020 is to convince enough Democrats and independents to cross over and vote for her in the GOP primary. A Cheney loss would further cement Trump’s grip on the Republican Party and mark the end of a family political dynasty — at least for the time being.  

Hageman last ran for office in 2018, when she lost the Republican primary for governor to Mark Gordon, who is now seeking a second term as governor. While Gordon faces a handful of challengers Tuesday, he is expected to cruise through his primary. 

12 a.m./1 a.m. ET: Polls close in Alaska. If you’re planning to follow the Alaska primary results, you may want to put on a pot of coffee this evening, especially if you’re on the East Coast. Polls will close in most of the state at midnight ET, but in a small part of the state, polls are open until 1 a.m. ET, so don’t expect any race projections until after then.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the only Republican senator facing reelection in 2022 who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial last year. Like Cheney, she quickly drew a primary challenge, with Trump endorsing Kelly Tshibaka in the summer of 2021. Murkowski may benefit from Alaska’s unique primary system where all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot and the top four finishers advance to the general election.

Elsewhere on the ballot, former vice presidential nominee and Gov. Sarah Palin is attempting a political comeback in a special election for Alaska’s lone congressional seat to complete the late Rep. Don Young’s term. She is on the ballot along with Republican Nick Begich III, who won the state party’s endorsement and is the grandson of the former Democratic congressman of the same name, and Democrat Mary Peltola. This election will be decided using ranked choice voting: if no candidate receives 50% of the first choice votes Tuesday, the ranked choice tabulation won’t be conducted until Aug. 31. 

To make matters even more complex, there is also a regular primary election for a full two-year term in Alaska’s at-large district. Palin, Begich and Peltola are also on that ballot for that contest, along with 19 other candidates. The top four vote-getters will advance to the November general election. 

Alaska is also hosting a top-four primary for governor, which features incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy as well as his predecessor, independent former Gov. Bill Walker. 

Subscribe to CNN’s The Point newsletter here.

6:20 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Cheney vs. Hageman: How the Wyoming primary was reshaped by Trump

From CNN' Eric Bradner and Jeff Zeleny in Jackson, Wyoming

Rep. Liz Cheney walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill on July 28.
Rep. Liz Cheney walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill on July 28. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Six years ago, when Rep. Liz Cheney first ran for Wyoming's lone House seat, Nicholas Houfek said he saw the long-time Virginia resident, who had purchased a home in Jackson Hole four years earlier, as a "carpetbagger."

Now, Houfek, a registered Republican who works in real estate, is staunchly behind Cheney in Tuesday's primary against Harriet Hageman and three other candidates.

He asked Cheney's campaign for a yard sign, which he and his wife Payson Houfek proudly display in their front yard. The two said many of their Democratic friends in the area have switched their party registration to vote for Cheney.

"This is not the Republican Party my dad and grandpa supported," Nicholas Houfek said. "I support Cheney because she actually supports the election results. She's a true Republican and always has been."

The contest between Cheney and Hageman, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, stands as a telling bookend of the Republican Party's evolution through the Trump era.

Even before Trump ran for office, the GOP in Wyoming was embroiled in a years-long feud between establishment Republicans and a more conservative wing that had increasingly seized power in party organizations throughout the state.

During Trump's presidency, Cheney — whom Wyoming voters first elected to Congress on the same night Trump won the presidency in 2016 — had not just survived those factional battles but risen to the No. 3 spot in the House Republican conference.

But the riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — followed by Cheney's vote to impeach Trump and her leading role on the House select committee investigating the attack and its causes — reshaped those allegiances and rivalries.

Keep reading here.

5:54 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Cheney will deliver pointed address tonight marking "the beginning of the battle" to confront Trump, aides say

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny in Jackson, Wyoming

Rep. Liz Cheney delivers a closing statement during a hearing by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol on July 21.
Rep. Liz Cheney delivers a closing statement during a hearing by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol on July 21. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

In her remarks tonight from Wyoming, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney intends to make the case that she is at “the beginning of the battle,” advisers tell CNN, as she calls on Republicans, Democrats and independents to join her fight to protect democracy and the rule of law in America.

The congresswoman has been working on her speech intensely for the last several days, aides said, crafting what is described as a blunt message seeking to escalate warnings about the danger of misinformation and lies. Win or lose, aides said, she is expected to strike similar themes in hopes of quickly pivoting beyond her race with Harriet Hageman.

The speech, which will be delivered outdoors from a ranch near Jackson with the Tetons in the distance, is intended to be forward-looking and offer a roadmap for the next steps in her quest to try and keep former President Donald Trump from winning the White House again. 

While she will address some questions about the next chapter of her political ambitions — forming a super PAC to support like-minded conservative candidates, establishing a policy-oriented think tank — she is not expected to deliver a firm answer to whether she will run for President. But the speech is not intended to rule out the possibility, aides say.

Cheney has been working on her speech with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and her mother, Lynne Cheney, both of whom are expected to be in the audience tonight. Her mother has been battling cancer, but family friends say they are hopeful she will be able to attend.

She intends to speak shortly after the race is projected, aides said, mindful of a national audience for her speech.

Cheney will outline her plan to “stay in the fight” against Trump, advisers say, and intends to wear the outcome of the primary as a “badge of conviction.” 

On the eve of the election, Cheney held a dinner for staff members and close friends in Jackson, people familiar with the event said, where she outlined some of her plans. She made clear that she is not expecting a victory over Hageman tonight, telling friends that a resounding loss will show once and for all that Wyoming GOP values are no longer aligned with her own. 

Yet in recent days, friends say, she has been more focused on trying to narrow the margin of the race, hoping to show there is a market for her message to stop Trump.

It’s an open question, of course, whether that is true. But even if she falls short, aides say, she intends to keep her focus on the House Jan. 6 committee and hearings next month.