More than 50 House Republicans were at a Washington, D.C., fundraiser on Wednesday night for Harriet Hageman, Rep. Liz Cheney's challenger in Wyoming. It's a sign that a sizable part of the House GOP caucus is eager to get Cheney out of office — less than a year since they ousted her from her leadership position.
But multiple attendees said Cheney wasn't the focus of the evening. Instead, Hageman and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was billed as a "special guest" on the invitation, focused on selling her as a candidate and future member of Congress.
"It was spoken very clearly by Harriet that she's running for the state," said Republican Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois outside the event. "It was very positive to her candidacy and not bashing the person that holds the seat right now. Look, there's a lot of candidates that spend a lot of time badmouthing the other candidate. There was none of that, she was selling herself."
Cheney is known as a critic of former President Trump, and has pushed back on his baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. She is the vice chair on the House select committee investigating the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Since her vote toafter the attack, Trump has made Cheney one of his top targets for 2022. Hageman has his backing and also that of McCarthy and Rep. Elise Stefanik, of New York, who replaced Cheney as House Republican conference chair.
The fundraiser brought in about $250,000 for Hageman, according to a source familiar with the event. Attendees paid at least $1,000 to get into the event, according to a copy of the invitation, which was first reported by Politico.
Cheney held a D.C. fundraiserwith Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, that brought in over $526,000.
The Hageman event was held at the home of Jeff Miller, a longtime McCarthy adviser who is now a lobbyist for Pfizer.
"That host list is very impressive. She's going to be a very strong candidate and even better member," said Congresswoman Kat Cammack, of Florida.
Hageman, a trial attorney, used to be a long-time Cheney supporter and family friend. Since she launched her campaign, she has been trying to portray Cheney as an "establishment" Republican whose actions against Trump are out of touch with Wyoming voters.
"That's clearly a vote of no confidence," Hageman told CBS News in February at the Conservative Political Action conference about McCarthy's endorsement against Cheney. "What I'm finding in visiting with folks in Congress is that they have absolutely no confidence in Liz Cheney. And what that means from the standpoint of Wyoming is that she can't accomplish anything for us."
Commenting on the fundraiser, Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said "Liz would like to thank Kevin McCarthy for anointing one of her opponents as the D.C. insider/establishment candidate in the race."
If elected, Hageman said she would be aligned with the conservative House Freedom Caucus and possibly another conservative caucus, the Republican Study Committee. She'd like to be assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee, if elected.
When asked about the legitimacy of President Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election, a clear point of contrast between Cheney and Hageman's backers, Hageman said, "Clearly, there were things that happened in the 2020 election."
"It's important that we evaluate what happens and make sure that it never happens again," she said in February, adding a suggestion that Facebook's large investments in election administration and voter education in 2020 had too much influence on the vote.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, the lone senator on the initial guest list, claimed Hageman's popularity is "10 to one" over Cheney among Republicans.
"I don't think Liz Cheney has much of a chance of winning unless she can convince most Democrats to vote for her. But most of the Democrats haven't been too happy with the Cheneys either. So I think she's sort of a woman without a party at this point," said Paul, who campaigned for Hageman earlier this year.
Wyoming election law allows voters to change their party registration and vote in a primary on the day of the primary. Trump had pushed for a proposed state law that would change that, but that was shot down in the legislature.
"It's not too often you see a challenger who has about 50 congressmen come out to support her," Paul added.
Other attendees of the fundraiser on Wednesday include Congressmen Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Mick Mulvaney, a former acting White House chief of staff and CBS News contributor, as well as former Trump administration and campaign officials Mercedes Schlapp and Caroline Wren were also seen at the event.
Ellis Kim contributed reporting.
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