Who is Harriet Hageman, the Trump-backed candidate running against Liz Cheney?
The Wyoming attorney may oust Cheney, Donald Trump’s harshest GOP critic.
In many ways, Tuesday’s GOP primary battle for Wyoming’s at-large congressional seat is a war — by proxy — between former President Donald Trump and someone he deems disloyal.
But the former president’s hand-picked choice to take on Trump’s harshest GOP critic — Rep. Liz Cheney — is especially noteworthy for earning Trump’s backing after also once denouncing him.
MORE: Does Wyoming want Liz Cheney to hang onto her House seat?
Former Cheney adviser and never-Trumper Harriet Hageman has won the endorsement of the man she called “the weakest candidate” in 2016, joining other Republicans in attempting to undermine his nomination at that year’s Republican national convention.
On Tuesday, the natural resources attorney who ran an unsuccessful primary bid for Wyoming’s Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018 is widely expected to clinch her race against longstanding Wyoming political royalty in one of the most watched races in the nation, an indication of how strongly voters turn out around Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud — in a state he won by nearly 70% in 2020.
Previously called Trump ‘racist and xenophobic’
Trump’s memory is short when it comes to endorsing candidates who have flip-flopped from being critical of him to becoming stark defenders. Hageman is no different. In 2016, she condemned Trump as a “racist and xenophobic” candidate who would repel voters Republicans needed to win a national election.
She backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, joining with other Cruz supporters at the GOP convention in Cleveland — when she was a Wyoming delegate — to force a vote on the floor to block Trump’s ascension. Cheney supported Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Hageman has not publicly addressed those efforts, but has briefly mentioned her past opposition to Trump, telling the New York Times in 2021 that she “heard and believed the lies the Democrats and Liz Cheney’s friends in the media were telling at the time.”
MORE: How Liz Cheney went from rising Republican star to primary underdog after Jan. 6
“But that is ancient history as I quickly realized that their allegations against President Trump were untrue,” Hageman said.
“He was the greatest president of my lifetime, and I am proud to have been able to renominate him in 2020. And I’m proud to strongly support him today.”
Hageman earned Trump’s backing after Cheney, along with nine other GOP House members, voted to impeach him.
A long history as an anti-conservationist
The daughter of a longtime Wyoming state legislator, Hageman, 59, was born and raised on a small ranch outside Fort Laramie, Wyoming. She’s married to Cheyenne-based malpractice attorney John Sundhal.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wyoming and a juris doctor degree from the University of Wyoming College of Law, she worked as a law clerk for federal appeals judge before building a decades-long career as a water and natural resources lawyer throughout Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.
Hageman has long sparred with environmentalists over her anti-conservation record, a background that earned her the title “Wicked Witch of the West” — something she embraced. She became known in Wyoming for suing federal agencies over land use decisions and a successful battle to end a Clinton-era policy to halt road construction on millions of acres of federal land.
She claims to have “stopped the EPA from seizing control of our irrigation infrastructure and operations,” and prevented the USDA from enforcing the registration of all ranches with the federal government.