WILSON, Wyo. — For much of the morning at the place where Liz Cheney was expected to cast a vote for herself in Tuesday’s Republican primary, there were more reporters than voters waiting to cast ballots.
Yet at times, the line to enter the barn-red community center in Wilson — a wealthy, mostly white enclave of fewer than 2,000 people at the base of the Teton Pass — extended nearly to the street. Longtime residents said they had never seen anything like it.
The voters who rode up to the city’s lone polling site in elite performance bicycles, Teslas and luxury trucks seemed mostly to fall into three camps on the polarizing issue of the day, Cheney’s reelection: Republicans who dislike Cheney and voted for her opponent Harriet Hageman; Republicans who admire Cheney’s resolve and bucked what seems to be the overwhelming sentiment in the Wyoming GOP; and Democrats who never voted Republican, but crossed party lines to support Cheney.
Teton County, home to Jackson, a new playground for the ultra-rich set against a breathtaking natural landscape, is unlike anywhere else in this heavy mining and agricultural state. It’s Wyoming’s bluest county, meaning voters here are more likely to be Democrats who voted for Cheney, an uncommon phenomenon that Cheney’s campaign encouraged.
Cheney never arrived Tuesday morning. The Jackson Hole News and Guide reported that Cheney had actually voted the day before at the Teton County Library. Despite outcry from Republicans about voter fraud and absentee voting, the nation’s reddest state offers both in-person early voting and no-excuse voting by mail.
Residents were astonished — and a little flattered — that Wilson had suddenly become a hotbed of media attention for all of 12 hours.
“I’ve never seen a line this long for either a primary or a general election,” said Jeff Koshan, a 25-year resident of Wilson who wouldn’t reveal whom he voted for, but whose comments suggested it was probably Cheney. “I think people feel the need to say something.”
As for Cheney’s crossover appeal, “I can’t say I’ve ever heard of any candidate ever target the opposite party for voting support. It makes good sense,” he said.
Data from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office as of Aug. 1 shows not nearly enough Democrats scattered across the state to make a difference in Tuesday’s primary. More than 207,000 Wyoming voters are registered Republicans, versus barely 40,000 Democrats — a fraction of whom are concentrated in Teton County.
The Cheney/Hageman divide seemed to reflect the generational and economic schism in Wilson, a mixture of new modern homes and more modest ranches.
A woman in her 30s buckling a toddler into her truck after voting said she would probably never vote Republican again, but that Cheney’s situation has “ethical” implications.
Still, in a sign the crossover hug of Cheney has its limits, those same Democrats frowned when asked whether they would vote for Cheney for president.
“She’s way more conservative than I would ever vote for,” the woman said, citing her job as a reason for not giving her name.
“I had never voted for either one of them, dad or daughter,” said Kelly Sales, a Democrat from Wilson, referring to Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. “She upholds the rule of law and the Constitution, and that’s what matters.”
In her mission to compete against a Trump-backed opponent, Cheney’s campaign enlisted Democratic voters who share the congresswoman’s revulsion toward the former president, whom she voted to impeach for instigating the Jan. 6, 2021, mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol.
Even some Republicans said the events of Jan. 6 were enough to go against the party establishment, which backed Hageman, a natural resources attorney from the Cheyenne area.
“I’m a Republican. But I draw the line at idiots,” Stan Crook, a retired 74-year-old from Freedom, told HuffPost on Monday. “I’m a veteran. Jan. 6, 2021, that got me so upset. None of the Republicans in the Senate, none of the Republicans in the House ... only when their lives were in danger did they [do anything]. Then they went right back to the same BS.”
Ted Kimmel, a Republican who voted for Hageman, acknowledged that Trump is a “problem,” but said the House’s Jan. 6 select committee, on which Cheney serves as the top Republican, didn’t conduct its hearings fairly.
“Both sides get to speak. Both sides get a rebuttal. That’s how we do it in our country. I don’t feel that happened in the Jan. 6 hearing,” he said.
As the line outside the tiny, well-manicured Wilson community center swelled in the shadow of the Tetons, a Hageman supporter asked what the fuss was about.
“What is everybody coming out for? Is the loser coming out or something?” said the man, who didn’t want to share his name with reporters. He said he likes Hageman because she’s a “conservative and not that anti-Trumper.”
He stressed that what’s playing out in Cheney’s home county isn’t representative of the rest of the state.
“Teton County, there’s a lot of liberal folks here. But the rest of the state is pretty conservative,” he said. “With the crossover, that skews things.”