CODY, Wyoming — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he will meet next week with some of the Republican candidates challenging Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for Wyoming’s lone seat in Congress.
The former president has taken a keen interest in the Wyoming Republican primary, looking for a candidate who has the ability to defeat Cheney.
“Some highly respected pollsters tell me she’s toast in Wyoming after siding with Crazy Nancy Pelosi and supporting the Democrat Impeachment Hoax. And that’s just the beginning!” Trump said in a statement. “This is a ‘hot’ race with some very interesting candidates running against her.”
Trump has promised to endorse a candidate early in the race to thin the field, as Wyoming conservatives typically split the vote in primary races and the more moderate establishment candidate goes on to win the race.
“I’ll be meeting with some of her opponents in Bedminster next week and will be making my decision on who to endorse in the next few months,” he wrote. “JUST ONE CANDIDATE. Thank you!”
Officially there are at least seven challengers to Cheney, but only three of them have demonstrated significant momentum and fundraising in recent months.
Breitbart News spoke to the three candidates during a reporting trip to the state of Wyoming.
Wyoming state Rep. Chuck Gray spoke to Breitbart News about his campaign to challenge Cheney after the Fourth of July parade in Cody, Wyoming.
“She’s never been very popular. She doesn’t represent us, doesn’t live here,” Gray said about Cheney over a bison burger at the Proud Cut Saloon.
He carries around a cardboard cutout of Cheney to some of his town halls around the state to illustrate her conspicuous absence since voting to impeach President Donald Trump.
Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump, Gray argued, was not based on principle but an attempt to crush the anti-establishment political movement that the former president stood for.
“I think that the impeachment vote is really an attempt to quash our movement. You look at the insiders, they’ve gotten their way for so long,” he said.
Gray prides himself as a “true outsider” and a fighter in the state of Wyoming, arguing Cheney was always linked with the Washington insiders Wyoming conservatives loathed.
“I think she’s part of a coalition with the insiders and the socialist Democrats. We’ve seen it, and it’s been a battle now for decades,” he said.
First elected to the Wyoming state legislature in 2016, Gray draws on his history of going to war for conservative issues in the state, including a pro-life law providing an ultrasound for women seeking an abortion and a ban on abortion coverage in the University of Wyoming health plans.
Gray also went to war to help the critical coal industry in the state, when it was clear state Republicans were not taking the issue seriously.
He sponsored a bill to set aside funds to hire a private lawyer to sue the state of Washington for blocking a coal export terminal. The bill passed the state legislature but was ultimately vetoed in 2019 by Gov. Mark Gordon (R).
Gray also sponsored bills to ban sanctuary cities and counties in the state and a bill strengthening election integrity. His bill requiring voter ID for voters in the state was passed in April 2021 and was signed by the governor.
“I’ve worked every single one of these issues, and you’re going to need that, a person conservatives can trust to consolidate,” Gray said.
Gray spoke in detail about issues affecting Wyoming, including country of origin labeling for Wyoming beef, China’s attack on the state’s soda ash industry with synthetics, President Joe Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas production on federal lands, and even interstate cattle rustling.
“A lot of people have talked the talk, but I have walked the walk, and I’m a true fighter. Not just a fighter on the keyboard but an all-around fighter,” Gray said.
Gray also visited Maricopa County in Arizona to signal support for the audit of the 2020 election.
“The processes, what they’re doing is incredible. It’s a really important effort,” he said, expressing support for widespread audits in questionable elections around the country.
Gray raised $226,000 for his campaign in the second quarter, surpassing Anthony Bouchard and his other primary opponents in the state.
Much of that funding came from Gray himself, as he loaned his campaign $165,000 of his total.
“The people of Wyoming need to know that I’m willing to invest in the cause myself if I’m going to ask them to do the same,” Gray said, defending the loan.
He raised $53,000 from individuals.
Gray is proud of his lean campaign budget, which leaves him with a reported $323,000 cash on hand.
He continues traveling the state hosting multiple town halls a week to get his name out to voters.
“I really think that work is pivotal in this race,” he said. “I want to outwork everybody.”
When Liz Cheney ran for Congress in 2016, Wyoming lawyer Darin Smith challenged her in the race as a more conservative alternative.
Smith was one of three candidates who split the majority of the conservative vote three ways allowing Cheney to win the primary in 2016 with less than 40 percent of the vote.
A lawyer who grew up in Rock Springs, Wyoming, Smith now lives in Cheyenne with his wife and five children.
Smith spoke to Breitbart News about his second campaign to take on Cheney at a Holiday Inn lobby in Cody.
“We need to export Wyoming values to Washington and not the other way around,” he said.
Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump, Smith said, was proof that she was no longer representing the people of Wyoming.
“You middle fingered the state of Wyoming. Why?” he asked of Cheney. “Well, either it was unbridled ambition or it was to settle a political score.”
Smith reacted to Cheney’s statement that she was “honored” after Pelosi appointed her to investigate the January 6th riots on Capitol Hill.
“I think that she’s not just doubled down, she’s tripled down, right?” he said. “And she’s going to keep on doing that because at this point she’s got nothing to lose, she can’t go back. I wish she’d repent, but I don’t hear that happening.”
Smith attended the January 6th protest of the 2020 election in Washington, DC, and was in front of the Capitol building as Trump spoke.
He supported the effort by some Congressional Republicans to challenge the results of the election during the special session led by Vice President Mike Pence.
“I felt that they had the authority to push it back to the states in question for a full-on audit at the legislatures and then bring it back before January 20th for a vote on the delegates in question,” he said.
Smith said he seized a bullhorn at the protest after he noticed a group of “rabble-rousers” tangle with Capitol police, and led a “Back the Blue!” chant to remind Trump supporters of their support for law enforcement.
He was surprised Capitol police offered little resistance to the crowd of protesters, and ultimately let them into the Capitol.
“Clearly there was an order to stand down,” he mused, adding that it felt like a “set up.”
Smith said he advised people around him not to go in the building, warning of what could happen.
He was disappointed with the violence at the protest, he explained, which he believes only hurt the president’s legitimate attempt to protest the election.
“We saw a lot of patriotism, even though it was misdirected, and they shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “They completely disrupted what could have been a significant win for getting an audit of the election.”
After Cheney used the protest as a reason to impeach Trump in January, Smith declared that she had “middle fingered” the people of the state and called for her censure.
Four days later, he said, he watched as an SUV pulled into the driveway of his family’s Wyoming home and sat there until he approached the vehicle.
It was the FBI.
After he invited the agents into his home, they asked him if he entered the Capitol building during the January 6th protest and showed him a picture of a man they thought might be him.
“It looked nothing like me,” Smith said, describing the picture of a man in the Capitol building who was “20 years younger and 50 lbs heavier” than he was.
The agents left, but it struck Smith as an odd encounter.
“It is ironic it was four days after I called for the censure of Liz Cheney,” he said.
Smith has also been traveling the state to meet with voters, portraying the fight to beat Cheney as critical for the entire Trump movement.
Cheney’s impeachment vote and the subsequent decision by social media companies to ban the former president’s right to free speech online, he warned, was a dangerous precedent for his supporters.
“We’re living in such a culture, if they can cancel our president, if they can do away with his right to due process, then we the people are next, and we’re going to have to rise up and fight,” he said.
Smith is a close friend and political adviser of the late conservative philanthropist Foster Friess – who ran a failed attempt for the Wyoming governor seat in 2018.
Friess came in second place in the Republican primary, losing by about 10,000 votes to the more establishment candidate Mark Gordon.
Again, the top three conservative candidates in the state split the conservative vote in 2018, allowing the more moderate candidate to win.
Smith described Friess as “my political father,” whom he admired for his character, his decency, and his commitment to his faith.
Smith said he would run unapologetically as a person of faith, recalling a speech he gave at the Wyoming state convention during the 2016 race.
Traditionally, he noted, Wyoming candidates were encouraged to steer away from featuring religion in their campaign, as advisors cite the success of politicians with an independent streak like former Sen. Al Simpson (R-WY.)
Instead, Smith said, he spoke clearly about his faith and the importance of moral issues, which he said earned him a standing ovation.
“I’m not going to deny the Lord for anybody,” Smith said.
Despite entering the race in May, Smith raised more than $177,000 as of June 30. Of these funds, $171,000 were raised from individuals and $5,550 came from loans.
Smith was confident he could rally voters in the state to beat Cheney and earn Trump’s endorsement.
“I’m running to win. I believe I’m the candidate that Trump will want to endorse,” he said. “It’s going to take somebody who’s fierce and tough and hard-nosed and cannot be bought.”
Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard was one of the first candidates out of the gate to announce a challenge to Cheney in January 2021, just after her impeachment vote.
“I have a septic business,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News. “I tell people if you want to drain the swamp, send a professional.”
The state senator remained in Cheyenne during the early part of July and spoke to Breitbart News in an interview over the phone.
The Wyoming state senator had a strong start, already raising $334,370 by the April 15 FEC deadline before his campaign hit a snag.
In May, Bouchard went public on Facebook with details of a previous relationship with a 14-year-old girl whom he impregnated when he was 18, telling supporters that his political opponents were investigating his past.
“She was a little younger than me, so it’s like the Romeo and Juliet story,” he said, defending the relationship.
At the age of 19, Bouchard married the girl but after three years of marriage, they divorced. The woman committed suicide at the age of 20.
Bouchard told Breitbart News that the events occurred 40 years ago and that he was ready to move on, noting that people in the state were looking for authentic candidates, not perfect ones.
“I think that people are sick and tired of polished politicians and they want ordinary everyday people who have had struggles and challenges or just everyday work that they’ve had to deal with instead of the silver spoon crowd that keeps going to D.C.,” he said.
Some allies of Bouchard in the state defended his past, noting he did the right thing by choosing to have the child with the girl, rather than seek an abortion.
“We all do things that we should probably not have done. On the abortion issue, he did the right thing. You know when you’re young, I don’t know. We all hope we do the right thing,” Wyoming state Rep. Dan Laursen (R) said about the incident to Breitbart News.
In June, Bouchard boasted over $500,000 in fundraising but has already spent a lot of his funds.
The latest FEC report shows that Bouchard had only $108,612.68 in cash on hand.
He said he traveled to Mar-a-Lago to meet Trump but only spoke to him briefly in passing at the club.
“I was at Mar-a-Lago and he fist-bumped me, I was holding my card out and yelled, ‘President Trump,'” Bouchard recalled.
“He looked at my card and asked, ‘You Bouchard?’ and I said, ‘Sure am!'”
Bouchard said that there were cameras everywhere but that he could not track down anybody who would share footage of the exchange.
He said he had years of experience fighting entrenched political interests in Wyoming and would bring that same ideal to Washington, DC.
“I’ve spent my time fighting the establishment,” he said. “I don’t run easy bills, I don’t run things that are going to make the dogcatcher a better position, I run things to try to clean up the mess that the establishment continually creates.”
Bouchard said he continued the fight to prevent Wyoming from expanding Medicare noting that in May he delivered a strong warning to his fellow legislators for considering it.
Holding up a bunch of carrots in a Zoom meeting, Bouchard noted they were tied to a ball of string, warning that the federal government funds had strings attached that would hurt the state financially.
Bouchard said the event was an example of his political style.
“In politics, a lot of people think you gotta make friends, and like I said, man if you want a friend, get a dog, this is about who rules who, its the adjudication of power, and if you’re not willing to fight it, someone else is gonna win,” he said.
He portrayed himself as the more professional candidate in the race, ready to campaign to win the primary and earn Trump’s endorsement.
“I entered this race in January because I’m sick and tired of the perennial candidates, the people who don’t know how to run elections. People who don’t know how to raise money keep jumping in these races at the statewide level,” he said.
Team Trump Sizes Up the Race
President Trump’s political advisers have been watching the candidates emerging in the field, waiting for the July fundraising numbers.
One ally of the president said he was alarmed with the reports of Bouchard’s past.
“The story about Bouchard impregnating an underage woman is disqualifying and would present Liz Cheney the only possible lifeline she has at winning re-election,” the ally told Breitbart News.
He said Bouchard would be a devastating challenger against a female Republican, even if that person was Cheney.
“Even if you hate Cheney, most voters aren’t going to look too kindly on somebody who has what Bouchard has in his background,” he said.
Both Gray and Smith had different strengths and weaknesses, the Trump ally estimated but noted they needed to prove to the former president they could build a strong campaign.
“At the end of the day, with President Trump’s support, I believe either one of them can beat Liz Cheney,” he said.
In their interviews with Breitbart News, both Gray and Smith indicated they were confident of winning Trump’s endorsement but that they would strongly consider stepping out of the race if they failed to earn the endorsement.
Bouchard, however, indicated that he might continue his campaign regardless of Trump’s endorsement — even if it took votes away from the former president’s choice.
“I took this fight on because I knew that I could do things different,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair to the 12,000 donors, who have already given me support to fight this fight, to not stay in and fight for them.”
As Wyoming Republicans gathered at Cody’s Stampede Parade this Summer to celebrate the Fourth of July, Liz Cheney was nowhere to be found.
Sen. John Barrasso (R) walked down the street of Cody’s Sheridan Avenue during the parade, stopping to shake the hands of military veterans and offer them a challenge coin to thank them for their service. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R) waved at cheering supporters from a classic Pontiac Grandville convertible with a pair of bull horns mounted on the front grill. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon walked the parade lineup with a large bag of candy to hand to children on the street.
But there was no sign of Wyoming’s lone elected member of Congress.
Days earlier, Cheney accepted an appointment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a special commission to investigate the January 6th riots on Capitol Hill, saying in a statement she was “honored to be chosen” for the task.
Cheney was also absent from the Park County Republican Party’s annual Freedom Celebration at the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park after the parade where Gordon, Barrasso, and Lummis spoke together with local and state politicians.
In an interview with Breitbart News after the parade, Barrasso said he could not remember the last time he met with Cheney. Lummis told Breitbart News she spoke with Cheney about a month ago at an event with political figures but said it was up to Wyoming voters to decide her political fate.
Republicans in Park County noted that Cheney was holding private invitation-only events to defend her position, but even some state lawmakers noted they were not invited.
“She’s having private gatherings. I would assume that it is people with dollars,” State Rep. Dan Laursen said.
Scott, a man from Cody, said he attended the small private meeting with Cheney as Republicans voiced their disappointment with her impeachment vote.
“We told her to quit talking about Trump. Just shut up about it. We wanted you to just serve Wyoming,” he said.
He said that Cheney spoke about her “constitutional duty” to make sure Trump could never run for office again.
“We don’t really care about that,” he said. “We need to go in there and be advocating for oil and gas and things.”
After hearing her argument, he said he was not impressed.
Cheney told the group she was not trying to run for president in 2024 but was uniquely focused on Trump, he recalled.
He said he preferred Bouchard or Gray who had a chance to compete with Cheney, but that a divided conservative field would only reelect Cheney who would get more moderate and Democrat voters in the state.
In Wyoming, Democrats can vote in the Republican primary if they choose.
Republicans at the veterans’ event in Cody universally condemned Cheney for siding with the establishment in Washington, DC, against Trump despite the state’s support for the former president.
“We all know what happened right off the bat. She didn’t even give Trump and that whole deal an opportunity. She jumped ship because she’s a RINO,” a Republican sheepherder named Doug said. “In Wyoming, she does not get to run this state. She’s not going to be reelected.”
He noted that Cheney was never really from Wyoming, and voters always viewed her with skepticism.
“She may as well go to Virginia or wherever she’s really from and just be a Democrat and do her thing,” he said.
One woman named Becky rolled her eyes when asked about Cheney’s reelection chances in the state.
“If she wins reelection, there’s something wrong with Wyoming,” she said.
Two veterans attending the event also voiced their disappointment with Cheney.
“I think a lot of veterans here think she’s a RINO. She’s too much like John McCain,” John, a veteran from the state said to Breitbart News. “And it’s too bad. Everybody’s got to support each other and everybody’s got to work together.”
He said Cheney made her impeachment vote all about herself and her legacy and not about the people of Wyoming.
When asked if there was anything Cheney could do or say to get his vote, he replied shortly, “Retire.”
Adam, another veteran who fought in the Middle East said he appreciated Trump’s America First policies, including his attempt to withdraw troops from the Middle East, while Cheney pushed for the opposite.
“What’s so wrong with bringing it in?” he asked. “Let’s bring in some of the bases in some of the weird spots. Let’s reconsolidate and rebuild the superpower status. We don’t need American blood on everything.”
As she runs for reelection in the state, Cheney has kept a low profile in Wyoming, but ramped up her national media profile.
Cheney’s team did not agree to an interview with Breitbart News about her primary race despite multiple requests for comment.
After she was ousted from her House Republican leadership position in May, Cheney spoke freely about her opposition to Trump to several corporate media outlets who promoted her position.
In May, Cheney did an interview with the New York Times in an “unmarked conference room of the Dick Cheney Federal Building” in Casper, Wyoming. She also spoke in a video interview with the Wall Street Journal‘s “Women In” series from a vehicle she said was in Riverton, Wyoming.
In June, Cheney spoke to President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager David Axelrod for his CNN podcast, as he lavished praise on her for her stance against Trump.
Cheney’s position against Trump has earned her a great deal of national funding for her reelection.
She has amassed a massive campaign war-chest of $2.8 million after already raising $3.5 million in her campaign.
Trump’s endorsement means everything for her primary rivals as Wyoming conservatives try to thin the field and raise millions to compete.
In her interview with Axelrod, Cheney said she was “excited” about her campaign for re-election, noting it would send a message to the entire country about Trump’s political future.
She noted that one of her opponents would likely get Trump’s endorsement, setting up a choice for Republicans in the state.
“It will be a choice for the voters of Wyoming between a candidate that’s pledged loyalty to Donald Trump, loyalty to one man, and me, who has demonstrated loyalty to the people of Wyoming, loyalty to the Constitution,” she said.