By Liliana Salgado and Nathan Layne
JACKSON, Wyo. (Reuters) -U.S. Republican Representative Liz Cheney vowed to do all she could to keep Donald Trump out of the White House and said she would decide in the coming months whether to run for president herself, after she lost to a Trump-backed primary challenger in Wyoming on Tuesday.
But Senator Lisa Murkowski, another Republican who has defied the former president, cleared a hurdle in Alaska. She was set to face Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka in the Nov. 8 congressional election, as the two candidates advanced in that state’s non-partisan primary.
Cheney’s defeat, by Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman, marks a significant victory for the former president in his campaign to oust Republicans who backed impeaching him after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last year.
In conceding the race, Cheney — a fierce critic of Trump who has played a prominent role in the congressional investigation of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol — said she was not willing “go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election” to win a primary.
“It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take,” she told supporters.
Cheney told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday that she “will be doing whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office” and that she was considering running for president.
“It is something that I am thinking about, and I’ll make a decision in the coming months,” she told “Today” when asked about a presidential bid, adding she had a lot of work left to do with the Jan. 6 committee probing the Jan. 6 Capitol assault.
“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat and risk to our republic. And I think that defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents. And that’s what I intend to be part of,” Cheney said.
With 99% of expected ballots counted in Wyoming, Hageman led the Republican field with 66.3% of the vote, followed by Cheney with 28.9%, according to Edison Research, an election monitoring firm.
The results were less clear cut in Alaska.
With 72% of expected ballots tallied, Murkowski narrowly led with 42.7% of the vote, followed by Tshibaka at 41.4% and Democrat Patricia Chesbro at 6.2%, according to Edison. The non-partisan primary format in that state weeds out all but the top four vote-getters.
Murkowski, a moderate who is one of the more independent voices in the Senate, has held the seat since 2003.
Also in Alaska, Edison predicted that no candidate would emerge as a clear winner in the three-way contest to complete the term of Representative Don Young, who died in March.
That race pits Sarah Palin, a former governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee who has been endorsed by Trump, against fellow Republican Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. The winner will be announced on Aug. 31.
Both Wyoming and Alaska are reliably Republican, making it unlikely that the results will influence whether President Joe Biden’s Democrats lose their razor-thin majorities in Congress. Republicans are expected to retake the House and also have a chance of winning control of the Senate.
WEEDING OUT TRUMP CRITICS
The ousting of Cheney is the latest sign of Trump’s enduring sway over the Republican Party.
Trump, who has hinted that he will run for president in 2024, made ending Cheney’s congressional career a priority among the 10 House Republicans he targeted for supporting his impeachment in 2021.
Cheney, the daughter of Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney, has used her position on the Jan. 6 committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the Capitol riot to keep attention on Trump’s actions that day and his false claims that he won the 2020 election.
Republican leaders are expected to dissolve the Jan. 6 investigation if they win control of the House in November. The representatives in the new Congress take their seats in January.
Hageman, a natural resources lawyer who has embraced Trump’s election lies, criticized Cheney’s concession speech, saying it showed she cared little about the issues facing her state.
“She’s still focusing on an obsession about President Trump and the citizens of Wyoming, the voters of Wyoming sent a very loud message tonight,” Hageman said on Fox News.
Cheney, in the House, voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Capitol riot, while Murkowski, in the Senate, voted to convict him on that charge. Trump was ultimately acquitted.
Of the 10 Republicans who supported impeachment, it is possible that only one – Dan Newhouse of Washington – will be in Congress after November’s election.
(Reporting by Liliana Salgado in Jackson, Wyoming, and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Eric Beech, Moira Warburton and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Alistair Bell, John Stonestreet, Alex Richardson and Bernadette Baum)