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Republicans who voted for impeachment face barrage of pro-Trump primary challengers

Nine of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are already facing primary challenges – and some of them may have a very hard time holding on to their seats. 

Trump vows to work against those Republicans as they run for reelection in 2022, and has already endorsed one primary challenger and signaled there are more to come. 

“Instead of attacking me and, more importantly, the voters of our movement, top establishment Republicans in Washington should be spending their energy in opposing Biden, Pelosi, Schumer and the Democrats,” Trump said in his February CPAC speech. 

“Get rid of them all,” he said of the Republicans who voted to impeach him. 

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Trump was impeached over his alleged role in inspiring the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Trump was impeached over his alleged role in inspiring the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
(AP Photo/John Raoux)

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Here’s a breakdown of the developing primary challenges. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

Cheney, the highest-profile Republican favoring impeachment, was the House Republican conference chair when she cast her vote. Cheney, at the urging of Trump and his allies, was eventually deposed from her leadership post but still faces a horde of at least eight primary challengers aiming to remove her from office. 

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard has raised the most money so far, recently eclipsing $500,000. Bouchard told Fox News that Cheney’s impeachment vote “made it obvious … to everyone” that “she has not had a conservative vote in Washington.” 

Cheney, for her part, has been defiant amid the harsh criticism of her opposition to Trump. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. House Republicans meet at the Capitol to decide whether to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from her leadership post, in Washington, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. House Republicans meet at the Capitol to decide whether to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from her leadership post, in Washington, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP)

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“Bring it on,” she said on NBC when asked about the desire of Trump and his allies to back a primary challenger. “As I said, if they think that they are going to come into Wyoming and make the argument that the people of Wyoming should vote for someone who is loyal to Donald Trump over somebody who is loyal to the Constitution, I welcome that debate.”

Other candidates running against Cheney include veteran Denton Knapp, Wyoming state Rep. Chuck Gray and lawyer Darin Smith. 

Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C.

Rice is also facing a bevy of pro-Trump Republicans gunning for his job. Among the announced candidates are former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride and state Rep. William Bailey. 

One of the more unique candidates in the race is Graham Allen, who gained prominence as a right-leaning influencer rather than through holding office. 

“I think that President Trump showed the world that you don’t have to be a politician to become a politician,” Allen told Fox News. 

“President Trump showed the world that you don’t have to be a politician to become a politician.”

— Graham Allen, GOP primary opponent to Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C.

“Tom Rice forgot his place,” Allen added. “It’s Tom Rice’s job to be the conduit – that is the voice – of the people that he represents. He did not do that.”

Rice told Fox News that he’s “faced challengers in every election. I welcome the opportunity to discuss how I’ve been working every day in Congress on behalf of my constituents.

“From broadband investment, infrastructure investment, beachfront renourishment and federal disaster relief, to ensuring our pro-life values and the Second Amendment remain protected from House Democrats, I’m proud to represent the interests of the people of the 7th District,” Rice added. 

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Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.

Herrera Beutler faces challenges from at least four candidates, including former Green Beret Joe Kent.

“Rep. Beutler voted for the impeachment of President Trump based on a false narrative that Trump inspired an armed insurrection against the Capitol,” Kent told Fox News in an email. “But the facts don’t matter to the left or Rep. Beutler.”

Kent said in an interview with Fox News that part of the reason he supports Trump is because the former president took steps to remove American troops from Syria. He experienced the personal tragedy of America’s involvement in the Middle East when his wife, Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed in Syria on Jan. 16, 2019.

 In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 file photo image taken from video, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., speaks as the House debates the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania, at the U.S. Capitol. On Tuesday, Jan. 12 Herrera Beutler came out in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump over the riot at the Capitol.  (House Television via AP, File)

 In this Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 file photo image taken from video, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., speaks as the House debates the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Pennsylvania, at the U.S. Capitol. On Tuesday, Jan. 12 Herrera Beutler came out in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump over the riot at the Capitol.  (House Television via AP, File)

“I started speaking out in support of what President Trump was doing in the war on terror,” Kent said. 

Craig Wheeler, a spokesperson for Herrera Beutler, told Fox News the Republican Party “needs to focus on presenting conservative solutions to the American people in order to win back the White House, the Senate and the House. That won’t happen if we’re constantly looking backwards, fighting each other and shrinking the tent.”

“Jaime continues to be the same conservative, pro-life, pro-strong-border leader who ardently defends the Second Amendment and has opposed every tax increase that’s come before her,” Wheeler added. “She remains focused on solving problems for southwest Washington.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

Kinzinger has positioned himself as one of Cheney’s closest allies in the fight to de-Trumpify the GOP. It’s paid off for him in massive fundraising hauls – he pulled in $2.2 million via his leadership PAC and campaign in the first quarter of this year. 

Kinzinger’s top challenger is Catalina Lauf, 27, who worked in the Trump administration in the Commerce Department. Lauf slammed Kinzinger as a “fake Republican” when she announced her campaign. 

Kinzinger’s office and Lauf did not return requests for comment. 

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

Newhouse came under fire for his impeachment vote and faced calls to resign from Republicans in his district. 

He has at least three candidates running against him so far, led by state Rep. Brad Klippert and former GOP candidate for governor, Loren Culp. 

Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio

Gonzalez faces the most well-financed challenger to date in former Trump aide Max Miller, who got the former president’s endorsement shortly after announcing his candidacy. 

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Miller told Fox News that “weak Republicans” like Gonzalez “need to see the door and have an exit.” Miller said Trump endorsed him because “he knows that I am not ever going to fold or take a knee, and I will continue to fight for the people and the America First agenda no matter at what cost.” 

Former President Donald Trump talks with former Deputy Campaign Manager for Presidential Operations Max Miller, left before his speech to the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Washington. Miller is now running for Congress against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, who voted to impeach Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Former President Donald Trump talks with former Deputy Campaign Manager for Presidential Operations Max Miller, left before his speech to the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, in Washington. Miller is now running for Congress against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, who voted to impeach Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP)

Gonzalez’s office did not return a request for comment from Fox News. 

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

Upton faced a common form of retribution against the GOP representatives who voted for impeachment – censure by local parties. He’s drawn at least five challengers so far, including two sitting officeholders – state Rep. Steve Carra and Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott. 

But unlike some other House members like Cheney, who have been largely marginalized after their impeachment votes, Upton has gained some influence as a vice chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.

Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich.

Meijer is an Iraq veteran who replaced former Rep. Justin Amash in 2020 after Amash left the Republican Party. During his campaign, Meijer racked up endorsements from a number of high-profile Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. 

But Meijer’s short time in Congress has been largely defined by his impeachment vote, and he’s now facing primary challenges from at least three people, including Audra Johnson of Kalamazoo, known as the “MAGA bride” for her pro-Trump wedding dress, and former Sand Lake Village President Tom Norton. 

Norton said Meijer’s impeachment vote “was a violation of the Constitution” because it lacked “due process.” 

“If you can violate due process of law for a sitting president of the United States,” Norton added, those rights could be violated for “every American.” 

“The GOP needs to focus on presenting conservative solutions to the American people in order to win back the White House, the Senate and the House. That won’t happen if we’re constantly looking backwards, fighting each other and shrinking the tent.”

— Craig Wheeler, spokesman for Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.

Norton noted that he finished in a “strong” third place in the 2020 GOP primary for Meijer’s seat and believes name recognition could help him win in 2022. 

“I was born and raised in the district. I know this district. It’s my home,” Norton said. 

Meijer and Johnson did not respond to requests for comment. 

Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif.

Valadao was first elected to Congress in 2012 but lost his 2018 race to former Rep. TJ Cox, D-Calif. Valadao ran again in 2020, however, and won back his former seat even as President Biden beat Trump in the district by more than 10 points

But following his vote for impeachment, Valadao is facing a primary challenge from Chris Mathys, an Army veteran and former member of the Fresno City Council. 

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“When David Valadao decided to not only vote to impeach President Trump, but he called President Trump un-American and unfit for office, to me it was an act that you just don’t do as a conservative Republican,” Mathys said. Mathys added that his top focus in Congress would be on securing water for his drought-stricken California district. 

“The state and federal government have cut us to less than 5 percent,” Mathys said. “And some people are getting no water.” 

Valadao’s campaign did not return a request for comment. 

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y.

Katko is the only Republican who voted to impeach Trump who does not yet have an announced primary challenger. Katko, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, appeared to get back into good graces with GOP leadership quickly after his impeachment vote. He was one of the faces of a border trip McCarthy took with a group of House Republicans earlier this year. 

Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser, Andrew Murray, Evie Fordham and Joseph. A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report. 

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