Former Wyoming Democratic Gov. Mike Sullivan Switches Party To Vote For Cheney

Former Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan said he never thought hed see the day where hed register to vote as a Republican, but that day has come. He said he plans to vote for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the upcoming Republican primary.

Leo Wolfson

August 02, 20225 min read

Collage Maker 02 Aug 2022 02 55 PM

Former Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan said he never thought he’d see the day where he’d register to vote as a Republican, but that day has come. He said he plans to vote for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the upcoming Republican primary.

“Political courage deserves respect,” he said.

Sullivan is one of two former Wyoming governors offering support for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in her reelection bid. Former Gov. Matt Mead has donated to Cheney’s campaign against frontrunner challenger Republican Harriet Hageman.


Do endorsements like these hold sway with the voters at-large?

“If they can run on his or her (endorsees’) ability to make a connection with someone,” said James King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming. “It means something if it has the connection.”

King said name recognition and a voter’s connection to an endorser is crucial in the modern age of politics, but especially in tight-knit Wyoming, where a handshake and conversation can go a long way.

“If ‘John James’ is supporting ‘James Smith,’ it can be effective if the person gives credence to John James in politics,” King said.

King said familial connections can also help, such as a son or daughter of a well-known politician running in their parents’ footsteps. Cheney’s father, Dick Cheney, is a former U.S. vice president and longtime Wyoming U.S. congressman.

Hageman has earned the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. 

“President Trump received 70% of the vote in Wyoming in 2020 – more than in any other state – and if he were on the ballot today, I believe he would garner even more support,” Hageman said in a June interview with Cowboy State Daily. “Having President Trump come to Wyoming to support my campaign has been a massive boost and I still hear from people every day how excited they were to be able to be there with us (in person or watching on TV).”

Although Mead, a Republican who served as governor from 2010-2018, has not publicly endorsed Cheney, a spokesperson for the congresswoman confirmed Mead has donated $500 to her campaign. It’s a notable donation for Mead as federal finance documents show he has not donated to any political campaign in 10 years. His last donation was $500 to former Rep. Cynthia Lummis during her 2012 U.S. House campaign. Lummis, a Republican, is now one of Wyoming’s two U.S. senators.

Mead did not respond to a request for comment.

“Bigger Than Politics”

Sullivan, a lifelong Democrat who was Wyoming governor from 1987-1995, said it’s the first time he’s crossed over to vote as a Republican in a primary election. He said his identity as an American and a state citizen take precedence over any party allegiance.

“There are things that are bigger than politics,” he said.

Cheney has been an outspoken critic of Trump for his claims the 2020 election was stolen and for his alleged role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

“I respect the position Liz has taken,” Sullivan said. “Her and (U.S. Rep.) Adam Kinzinger are the only two Republicans willing to acknowledge what should be obvious to everybody else.”

Sullivan said he finds no issue with crossover voting.

“It’s totally legitimate,” he said. “I don’t see the barriers as all that sacred.”

Sullivan said he would never have been elected if it weren’t for Republicans crossing over to vote for him in his Democratic primaries. He considers his appointment of Joseph Meyer, a Republican, to attorney general, “the best appointment” he could’ve made.

“Tear My Head Off”

Although he said he is rooting for Cheney and finds crossover voting to be a “straw man” for the Republican Party, former Gov. Dave Freudenthal said he doesn’t plan to register as a Republican so he can vote for Cheney.

“If I did that I think (former Gov.) Ed Herschler would come back and tear my head off,” he said with a laugh. Herschler, also a Democrat, passed away in 1990.

Freudenthal said aside from speaking out against Trump, he finds Cheney a good representative for the state.

“She’s dogged about the issues important to Wyoming,” Freudenthal said. “She knows the issues and is not afraid to ask questions.”

King said voters don’t tend to pay much attention to endorsers just because they may hold political standing.

Many members of the State Legislature have endorsed either State Sen.Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne or Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper in the Secretary of State race.

Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton and former State Senator and State GOP Chair Diemer True have endorsed Nethercott. Gray has been endorsed by State Treasurer Curt Meier, State Reps. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, John Bear, R-Gillette.

Former Wyoming Republican Gov. Jim Geringer did not return a phone call for comment.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter