A Wyoming Senate bill to create election runoffs failed on Wednesday, despite Donald Trump Jr.’s campaign to pass it in an attempt to defeat Republican Rep. Liz Cheney in 2022. The vote was 14-15 with one lawmaker excused.
The former president’s son has increasingly attacked the No. 3 House Republican since she voted to impeach his father following the deadly attack on the Capitol. Cheney has called the then-president’s actions surrounding January 6 a “betrayal” of his oath to the Constitution, and said the former president should not play “a role in the future of the party or the country.”
In January, Trump Jr. called into an anti-Cheney rally led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, urging Republicans to coalesce around a single candidate to challenge her. And in March, Trump Jr. publicly pressured the state senators on the committee working on the bill, tweeting their email addresses to his 6.8 million followers.
“Any Republican in Wyoming who does Liz Cheney’s bidding and opposes SF145 is turning their back on my father and the entire America First movement,” Trump Jr tweeted.
The bill would’ve forced Cheney and other candidates to receive more than 50% of the vote to win a primary, and potentially pit her against one Trump-backed opponent in a runoff primary election. So far, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard and state Rep. Chuck Gray have said they’ll run against Cheney. In deep-red Wyoming, a Democrat is unlikely to win the general election for the state’s sole US House seat.
Gray told CNN that he supported the legislation “because Wyoming deserves the ability to choose between the two best candidates for office.”
“Liz Cheney’s betrayal of our Wyoming values is a clear indicator that runoff elections are needed,” he added. “It is no wonder that her team is working behind the scenes to kill this legislation.”
Before the vote on the bill, a Cheney spokesperson told CNN that she “trusts the state legislature to do what is right for Wyoming” and that “neither she nor her allies are trying to influence the state legislature over the bill one way or the other.”
But despite Trump Jr.’s efforts, a Wyoming state Senate committee amended the bill so it wouldn’t take effect until 2023, as some legislators pushed to give county clerks enough time to adapt.
Wyoming state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, a Republican co-sponsor of the legislation, had doubted that it would pass this year, telling CNN that the state needed more time to fully understand the cost and impacts of moving the primary from August to May, and creating a new runoff election. Zwonitzer also said that the national attention put lawmakers in a difficult spot.
“When national Republican politics comes to Wyoming, it further divides and creates those same difficulties for us,” he said. “Now all of a sudden, the bill will be seen as ‘Are you a Trump loyalist or not?’”
“These weird purity tests will start being thrown around and it’s just more divisiveness that we don’t need in the Republican party or in Wyoming,” he added.
Supporters of the bill now say the fight for it will move to next year’s legislative session.
“For now, it’s done,” state Rep. Hans Hunt told CNN.