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What Wyoming Republicans Think About Liz Cheney

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To Wyoming now, home state of Congresswoman Liz Cheney. She was removed as the third-ranking House Republican yesterday for calling out former President Trump's ongoing lies about the 2020 election. She is the only House member to represent the country's least populated state. So how are Republicans there feeling about her demotion? Well, Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler has been asking.

CATHERINE WHEELER, BYLINE: Bring up Liz Cheney's name in Wyoming, and you're sure to get a reaction.

CHARLENE CAMBLIN: I will say in the beginning, I wasn't really supportive of Liz Cheney.

WHEELER: That's Charlene Camblin. She's a lifelong Republican who lives on a ranch in rural northeastern Wyoming. Camblin says when Cheney was first elected in 2016, she wasn't sure that Cheney had spent enough time in Wyoming getting to know the people. But her conservative voting record quickly turned Camblin's opinion around.

CAMBLIN: What I really appreciate about what Liz has done is she has supported the industries that are critical to Wyoming. You know, our energy industry - she has championed that on every turn.

WHEELER: Like Republicans nationally, there's a split among Wyoming Republicans about Cheney's feud with Trump. While Camblin says she didn't agree with Cheney's vote to impeach Trump, she also says the former president's rhetoric is not productive.

CAMBLIN: We need to focus back on the policies, on the platforms. That's where I wish that we were at, is that we would just move on from this and focus on becoming more cohesive and working together.

WHEELER: But many here are upset that Cheney keeps talking about Trump in the election. Gillette resident Shelby Bachtold says Cheney's actions will affect how she votes in next year's primary.

SHELBY BACHTOLD: There is definitely a line in the sand that she has crossed. She has stood against her party. She stood against us. She has not been our voice.

WHEELER: A slew of Republicans have already announced primary challenges to Cheney. One worry is that with so many candidates, no one will be able to get enough votes to defeat Cheney, says Bob Ferguson. He lives in northwest Wyoming and also backs her ouster.

BOB FERGUSON: Her position as a leadership role as head of the caucus is to build unity. You can't possibly build unity if you're sitting there on a weekly basis bashing all, you know, 50 million people that voted for President Trump.

WHEELER: Still, Ferguson says he doesn't actually have an issue with Cheney's voting record, just her criticism of Trump. But for other Republicans here, that outspokenness and her defense of Democratic values is important. Republican Randy Okray lives in Gillette, Wyo.

RANDY OKRAY: I try to look at people who have similar values and who kind of support a good, virtuous system. And so part of that's supporting the laws and the Constitution, and I think Liz has done a great job at that.

WHEELER: In small states like Wyoming, many people acknowledge that having a powerful congressional delegation is especially important to secure money and other priorities. Voters like Charlene Camblin worry that the state will lose clout now that Cheney isn't a member of GOP leadership.

CAMBLIN: Don't underestimate that Liz still has a lot of support in this state because we value her knowledge and what - she knows how to get things done. You can call it the swamp all day long, but it still exists, and you still have to be able to navigate it.

WHEELER: One thing all these voters agree on is that the fight over Liz Cheney's future is also a fight about the identity of the Republican Party. For NPR News, I'm Catherine Wheeler in Gillette, Wyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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