Defending our Constitution and Elections

Wilson resident Horton Spitzer wears dueling endorsements for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and her primary opponent, Harriet Hageman, Tuesday evening at the Center for the Arts. "I want people to think I can be persuaded," he said.

People wore their colors but minded their manners.

Wearing an all-red “Harriet,” cap the same color as former President Donald Trump’s ubiquitous MAGA hat, and a smaller “Cheney” pin and an NRA fleece, Wilson resident Horton Spitzer said, grinning, that he was sporting both accessories because he wanted to make sure “everyone knows I have an open mind.”

But Blair Maus, sporting the same “Harriet” cap and standing near a “Buck off Cheney” sign, said there was no way Spitzer was “open minded” on Cheney.

At Tuesday night’s bipartisan conversation “Defending our Constitution and Elections,” protestors waved signs on the sidewalk outside the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts as attendees filed in, but the event itself was marked by respectful silence as moderators Paul Hansen and Paul Vogelheim asked their own and audience questions of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Issue One founder and CEO Nick Penniman.

Helping field audience questions, Jackson Hole High School “We the People” program students Ary Jimenez and Blanca Sartillo-Meija, both 17, said they care about election integrity as they look forward to casting their first votes next year. Both students were persuaded to get involved after Town Councilor Jim Rooks presented the event to their AP English class. As members of the speech and debate team, they were also eager to hear Cheney respond to difficult audience questions.

Even in high school, some teens said, they are feeling pressure to identify with one of the two major political parties.

“As somebody that’s younger, and as an upcoming generation, it’s almost difficult to choose a side because depending on which side you choose, that may or may not decide who your friends are, or who your enemies are,” said Jordan Davis, 17. “On top of that, with social media involved, the amount of propaganda and just inaccurate information that’s out there, it becomes a very big issue of what to believe and what not to believe.”

Jim McCollum and Rebecca Cloetta, who sported a red “Harriet” hat, sat in a row of Hageman supporters, shaking their heads whenever Cheney mentioned the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Neither of them had their questions read aloud, Cloetta said, explaining she wanted Cheney to take responsibility for the people who are in jail for their role in what she called a “rally.”

“What about Matthew Perna who committed suicide two weeks ago? How does she feel about him?” Cloetta asked.

Perna, a convicted Capital rioter from Pennsylvania, died by suicide in February while awaiting his sentence.

McCollum, who attended with his daughter Roice, said the event was “the lip service we expected to hear.” He, too, planned to vote for Hageman, mainly because she isn’t Cheney.

“I’m over Liz,” he said. “She lost me a couple years ago.”

John Fox, a self-proclaimed conservative who’s lived in Teton County for 11 years, was also wearing the red “Harriet” cap. Fox said he was there in support of Hageman, who is running against Cheney, because he believes Hageman wants to “help Teton County.”

“Cheney spends 99% of her time in Virginia,” he said. “I’m concerned the people supporting [Cheney] are not Wyoming people.”

Fox said he was concerned about the state of elections in America, saying “there’s no way 82 million people voted for Biden.”

Registered Republican Caryn Haman, 80, walked into the Center Theater with her friend Elaine Laviage, 81, a registered Democrat. They said they were excited to see Cheney talk about making voting fair.

Haman, who plans to vote in the Republican primary, was proudly holding out a “Dems 4 Liz” bumper sticker in front of the crowd of protestors.

“I’ve been a lifelong Republican, but since 2016, I will not vote Republican. Historically in Teton County, as well as the state, you almost had to be a Republican to make any voting difference. But now I will switch my party as soon as the primary is over,” Haman said, adding, “I don’t always agree with her, but I think it’s important that we back her.”

— By Billy Arnold, Sophia Boyd-Fliegel, Johanna Love, Kate Ready and Evan Robinson-Johnson

— This article has been update to correct what the sign Blair Maus was standing near said. It said "Buck off Cheney."

Contact Johanna Love at 732-7071 or jlove@jhnewsandguide.com.​

Editor in Chief Johanna Love has covered the Jackson Hole community as part of the News&Guide staff since 1998. She took the helm of the newsroom in 2017. She fields story tips and kudos as well as criticism and questions.

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