Wyoming and Alaska primaries

By Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 8:34 a.m. ET, August 17, 2022
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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. 

5:06 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

What to watch for in the Wyoming and Alaska elections

From CNN's Eric Bradner in Jackson, Wyoming

A campaign sign for Rep. Liz Cheney is posted in Laramie, Wyoming, on Aug. 14.
A campaign sign for Rep. Liz Cheney is posted in Laramie, Wyoming, on Aug. 14. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign to purge the Republican Party of his opponents could reach its most dramatic moment of the 2022 midterm election cycle on Tuesday in Wyoming.

Rep. Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the House committee investigating January 6, 2021, who was booted from her House leadership position and censured by the GOP organization in her state after voting to impeach Trump, faces the Trump-backed Harriet Hageman and three other candidates in the GOP primary for the state’s lone House seat.

A Cheney loss would be a demonstration that – despite the evidence publicly presented by the House committee and the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago last week in a separate probe – Republican voters remain loyal to Trump, who’s suggested it’s a matter of when, not if, he launches a 2024 presidential bid.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, a Trump ally, former Gov. Sarah Palin, is attempting a political comeback. And a Republican who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, faces the first of what’s likely to be a two-round showdown with a Republican rival backed by the former President.

Here are a few things to watch in Tuesday’s elections:

Cheney is the last of the "impeachment 10" to face voters

Most of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the insurrection are not returning to Congress next year.

Four of them (Reps. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, John Katko of New York and Fred Upton of Michigan) aren’t seeking reelection. Three (Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Peter Meijer of Michigan and Tom Rice of South Carolina) lost their primaries earlier this summer.

The only two who have survived – Reps. David Valadao of California and Dan Newhouse of Washington – did so in part because their states hold all-party primaries, where the top two vote-getters advance to November.

That leaves Cheney as the last of the 10 to face primary voters.

Trump endorsed Hageman, a lawyer and former Republican National Committee member who has embraced his falsehoods about election fraud as well as hammered Cheney for her focus on the former President.

To pull off what would be a stunning victory, Cheney is relying, in part, on support from the Democratic and independent voters who once opposed her. Her campaign sent information to those voters on how to change their party registration to vote in Tuesday’s GOP contest, and she has focused her campaigning in the race’s final days in Jackson Hole, the state’s only heavily Democratic region.

Murkowski’s first round vs. Trump-backed challenger

Trump has also set his sights on Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only one of the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial who is up for reelection this year.

Trump is backing former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner Kelly Tshibaka; he traveled to Alaska to hold a rally for her in July.

However, Alaska’s unusual nonpartisan primary system – the top four finishers, regardless of party, advance to the general election – means that both Murkowski and Tshibaka are all but certain to advance to the November contest.

Retired educator Patricia Chesbro, who is endorsed by Alaska’s Democratic Party, is also widely expected to advance. The fourth spot is a jump ball, with 16 other candidates in the race.

Murkowski’s family has held her Senate seat for more than four decades.

Will Sarah Palin win a seat in Congress?

Alaska is holding a special election Tuesday to fill the remaining months of the term of the late Rep. Don Young, the Republican who represented Alaska in the House for 49 years until his death in March.

The race pits Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee who has not appeared on a ballot since that election loss, against Nick Begich III, the Republican scion of the state’s most famous Democratic political family.

Begich, who received the Alaska Republican Party’s endorsement in the race, is the grandson of the Democratic congressman of the same name, who disappeared on a flight in 1972, and the nephew of former Democratic US Sen. Mark Begich.

Also in the race is Mary Peltola, a Democratic former state representative who was the fourth-place finisher in the June special primary. Peltola, if elected, would become the first Alaska Native in Congress. Independent Al Gross placed third in the primary, but he subsequently dropped out of the race and urged supporters to back Peltola.

If none of the four candidates tops 50% on Tuesday, ranked-choice voting kicks in – a system that could work against the Trump-endorsed Palin.

She is likely to receive the most support – but she could also face the most hardened opposition in a state that hasn’t forgotten her 2009 decision to resign from the governor’s office midway through her only term. Palin has been largely absent from Alaska’s political scene since then.

Keep reading here.

4:15 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Analysis: Liz Cheney is already looking beyond 2022

Analysis from CNN's Chris Cillizza

(CNN/CNNI)
(CNN/CNNI)

Liz Cheney didn’t come right out and say she expects to lose her primary. But in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on July 24, it was pretty easy to read between the lines of the Wyoming Republican’s answers.

“I am working hard here in Wyoming to earn every vote,” Cheney said at one point. “But I will also say this. I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to say things that aren’t true about the election. My opponents are doing that, certainly simply for the purpose of getting elected.

“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,” she said at another.

Asked by Tapper whether her service as vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will have been worth it even if she loses in her primary, Cheney responded that it was “the single most important thing I have ever done professionally.”

If it sounds to you like Cheney is framing her primary for Wyoming’s at-large House seat as a sort of fait accompli, and as not the end of the story but as a part of a broader narrative, well, then, you are right.

The simple fact is that Cheney is very unlikely to beat Harriet Hageman in Tuesday's primary. Hageman has the support of former President Donald Trump, as well as a number of top Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

While Cheney has tried to recruit Democrats to cross party lines and support her – and some undoubtedly will – it’s hard to see that making a real difference in the outcome of the race in such an overwhelmingly Republican state.

Simply put: Cheney looks likely to lose – and she knows it.

What she also knows is that, at least in her mind, this isn’t the end of her political career.

Read more here about how Cheney answered a question from Tapper on whether she is interested in running for president in 2024.

3:23 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

These are the candidates competing against Sarah Palin in Alaska's special general election and primary 

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza, Ethan Cohen and Eric Bradner

There's a special general election in Alaska to fill the remainder of the late Rep. Don Young's term and also a primary election to decide who will compete in November for the seat's next full term starting in January.

While four candidates advanced to Alaska's special general, only three candidates are on the ballot, after independent candidate Al Gross withdrew from the race.

Sarah Palin, Nick Begich III, Mary Peltola.
Sarah Palin, Nick Begich III, Mary Peltola. (AP)

On the ballot are: former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin; Republican Nick Begich III, who won the Alaska Republican Party's endorsement in April and is the product of a powerful Alaska political family; and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola.

Palin's attempt at a political comeback comes 13 years after she resigned the Alaska governor's office in 2009 during her only term. Since then, she has been a conservative media figure and has endorsed and campaigned with various Republican candidates, but she has been largely detached from Alaska politics.

Rival candidates and political observers in the state say the ranked choice voting process could hurt Palin's chances in the general election. She's the best-known candidate in the race by far, and has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who carried Alaska by 10 points in 2020. But Palin also faces opposition from voters still angry that she quit the governor's office.

For the regular primary on Tuesday, Palin, Begich and Peltola are also on the ballot, along with 19 other candidates.

Read more about Alaska's elections on Tuesday here.

7:34 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Cheney voted today, but avoided the traditional photo op

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny in Jackson, Wyoming

GOP Rep. Liz Cheney voted this morning at the Teton County Library, choosing to cast her ballot at a polling place in nearby Jackson, Wyoming, rather than at a location less than two miles from her home.

There was a wide expectation among residents in her hometown of Wilson that she would vote at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse. Some people — and many reporters — have been waiting for hours for Cheney to vote, but she chose to do so away from cameras rather than have a traditional photo opportunity on Election Day.

A Cheney adviser confirmed that she voted, but had no explanation for why she avoided the press at her neighborhood polling place.

Here's what Cheney tweeted about her vote today:

12:45 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

From Cheney friend to foe, Trump-backed Harriet Hageman takes command of Wyoming race

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny in Rock Springs, Wyoming 

Harriet Hageman speaks at a rally in Jackson, Wyoming, on June 14.
Harriet Hageman speaks at a rally in Jackson, Wyoming, on June 14. (Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Harriet Hageman proudly wears Wyoming on her sleeve – and wields it like a hammer against Liz Cheney.

“I know Wyoming. I love Wyoming. I am Wyoming,” Hageman told audiences as she traveled across the state during the closing days of a bitter Republican duel in one of the highest-profile congressional races in the country.

“I am going to reclaim Wyoming’s lone congressional seat from that Virginian who currently holds it,” Hageman likes to say, casting aside the Cheney family’s deep roots in the state and suggesting the three-term congresswoman is more at home in the Washington suburbs.

These days, signs of trouble for Cheney are easy to spot here in Wyoming. Hageman holds a commanding lead in the final weekend of a primary election that stands as yet another reminder of the Republican Party’s evolution in the era of Donald Trump.

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.

“If it’s a big Republican vote, there aren’t enough Democrats to change it, even if we all crossed over,” former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan said in an interview Friday, noting that he is among the Democrats who have temporarily switched parties to support Cheney. “Out of honor and respect for her leadership, I cast my vote her way.��

The venom in the Cheney-Hageman race comes alive in conversations with voters, dueling television ads and reports of stolen yard signs. Their relationship wasn’t always acrimonious, when Hageman stood alongside Cheney and showered her with praise during Cheney’s first bid for Congress in 2016.

Keep reading here.

11:56 a.m. ET, August 16, 2022

More than half of Republican governor nominees have questioned or denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election

From CNN's Daniel Dale

Republican nominee for Arizona governor Kari Lake speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, on August 06, 2022.
Republican nominee for Arizona governor Kari Lake speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, on August 06, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The Republican nominee in at least 20 of this year’s 36 gubernatorial races is someone who has rejected, declined to affirm, raised doubts about, or tried to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

And the list will almost certainly get longer when the last batch of Republican primaries is completed over the coming weeks.

The 20 candidates on the list so far have expressed varying views about the 2020 election. Some have falsely proclaimed the election stolen; some others have been evasive when asked if Biden’s victory was legitimate. Some incumbents endorsed a 2020 lawsuit that sought to overturn Biden’s win but have said little about the election since; some first-time candidates made false election claims a focus of their successful 2022 primary campaigns.

Regardless, the presence of a large number of 2020 deniers, deceivers and skeptics on general election ballots in November raises the prospect of a crisis of democracy in the 2024 presidential election in which former President Donald Trump is widely expected to run again. Governors play a major role in elections – signing or vetoing legislation about election rules, sometimes unilaterally changing those rules, appointing key election officials, and, critically, certifying election results.

It is possible that some swing states will have their 2024 elections run by both a governor and elections chief who have vehemently rejected Biden’s victory.

In Arizona, for example, both Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem are conspiracy theorists who want to overturn Biden’s 2020 win in the state. In Pennsylvania, where the governor gets to nominate the election chief, the Republican gubernatorial nominee is Doug Mastriano, a fervent election denier who has taken various steps to try to reverse the 2020 result. Both Republican nominees in Michigan, Tudor Dixon for governor and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state, have falsely claimed Trump won the state in 2020.

Read about them here.

5:08 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

Cheney sees early support — even among Democrats — in her Wyoming town

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny in Wilson, Wyoming

The Old Wilson Schoolhouse in Wilson, Wyoming — the town where GOP Rep. Liz Cheney resides — is open as a polling location on Aug. 16.
The Old Wilson Schoolhouse in Wilson, Wyoming — the town where GOP Rep. Liz Cheney resides — is open as a polling location on Aug. 16. Credit: Jeff Zeleny/CNN

The doors opened at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse shortly after sunrise, with voters trickling in to cast their ballots in the small Wyoming town that GOP Rep. Liz Cheney calls home.

Libbe Burchfield, who has lived in Wilson for four decades, is a Democrat. But she said she switched parties today to vote for Cheney, as a sign of respect for her leadership on the Jan. 6 House select committee.

“I don’t agree with any of her politics – none,” Burchfield said, pausing for a moment to talk. “But what I’ve seen her do on the committee has been very rewarding. I think she’s done a hell of a good job.”

Burchfield said she realizes it’s an uphill battle for Cheney, but added, “I hope enough of us changed parties to get behind her and she still has a chance.”

A University of Wyoming poll released last week found that Cheney is trailing Harriet Hageman — backed by former President Donald Trump — by 29 points.

Throughout the morning, a steady stream of voters arrived at the polling place, which is one of four in Teton County. 

The school, which serves as a community center for this small town outside Jackson, is close to Cheney’s house. Several residents said they expect her to cast her ballot here before day’s end.

Resident John Grant did not have to change his parties to cast his vote for Cheney. He said he’s a longtime Republican, and he's frustrated the party is still in the grips of Trump.

“It certainly is a tough race for Liz. She does a good job and works hard at what she does,” Grant said. “She stood up for what she believes in. It took a lot of courage to step against the Republican Party and Donald Trump and Republicans in general.”

8:41 p.m. ET, August 16, 2022

The winner of Alaska's special election will be determined through ranked choice voting. Here's how it works

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

Sarah Palin, Nick Begich III, Mary Peltola.
Sarah Palin, Nick Begich III, Mary Peltola. (AP)

Alaska will hold a ranked choice special general election for its House seat to fill the remainder of the late GOP Rep. Don Young’s term.

While four candidates advanced to the special general, only three candidates are on the ballot, after independent candidate Al Gross withdrew from the race.

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee, Republican Nick Begich III, who won the Alaska Republican Party's endorsement in April and is the product of a powerful Alaska political family and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola are on the ballot.

What is ranked choice voting and how does it work? It literally rank their choices in order of preference, marking candidates as their first, second and third choice picks (and so on).

The winner must have a majority (more than 50% of the votes) rather than a plurality (simply the most votes).

In Alaska's special general election, only first choice votes will be reported on election night.

The ranked choice voting tabulation will be conducted on Aug. 31. That means that, except in the unlikely event that one candidate gets a majority of the initial preference votes, we won’t be able to project a winner until the end of the month.