Former Florida man challenges Liz Cheney in the WY GOP primary... and he has quite a story to tell

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

An eye-opening story was published Friday online by The Hill. The subject of the story, Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, is getting out in front of a story he knows will likely affect his chances in Wyoming’s Republican primary. He is challenging Rep. Liz Cheney in her bid for re-election.

Bouchard calls it dirty politics but it can also be called opposition research. He claims he found out that a political research firm was looking into a story from his past. So, he posted a Facebook Live video yesterday for Wyoming voters, giving them a heads-up about the story. It’s a doozy.

Bouchard impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18 years old. That statement alone is cringeworthy enough to turn off people. The rest of the story is just sad. The thing is when he posted the live video he failed to mention the girl’s age at the time she became pregnant. That, for many, will be the most important part of the story. It’s statutory rape, even in Florida, which is where they both lived at the time. The fact that he didn’t mention her age is proof that he realizes it’s a bad story for a political campaign.

He tells the Facebook audience that it’s a common story – teenage pregnancy. He says she was a little younger than him. It all happened about 40 years ago and he calls it dirty politics that the story surfaces now. It’s clear he’s on the defensive and trying to brush it off as no big deal. He also calls himself the frontrunner in the primary and that is why he is being targeted.

Bouchard explains that he lived on his own from the age of 15. He received his GED and went on to take technical classes to learn a trade. The two were anti-abortion and he decided the right thing to do was marry her and take care of them. Her mother signed off on the marriage and they were married before a judge when she was 15. He speaks of the pressure they were under from family and others. He goes further with the story – after a bitter divorce, they were able to be friends. She had a difficult second marriage and ended up committing suicide. His son and he are estranged due to what he calls decisions his son has made but he voices his love for him and will not abandon him. Then he became emotional and walked away from the camera for a moment.

The video runs for just over 13 minutes. He emphasizes that he must be the strongest challenger in the race because this story is getting into the public eye. He also says that this kind of attack shows that “they hate us.” That’s an odd claim because the only reason this kind of oppo research is bad for him is that it was literally a felony because of her age and his at the time. It’s not just because of teenage pregnancy. Frankly, he did the right thing at that time. He pulled himself up from a bad family situation and educated himself to support the girl and baby. The marriage didn’t last very long, as is also common with teenage pregnancy stories. But he did what he thought was the right thing so he very well may come off as a sympathetic character with this video.

The story ends tragically for her. Bouchard’s relationship with his son is strained. It’s a sad story. That said, my reaction is not to dog him for his past, it’s to say, c’mon, man. This is something that was bound to get out during a political campaign, especially a campaign like this one. He’s challenging Liz Cheney, who until a matter of days ago held a top position in the House Republican leadership. Bouchard admits he doesn’t know who hired the opposition research company. He does make a connection between a U.K. publication’s reporter and the company. It likely is being pursued by Cheney supporters but it could also be from another challenger’s campaign. There are at least six of those. The challengers include a retired Army colonel, a rural kombucha brewer who is a former mayor, and a state representative who is a talk radio commentator.

Liz Cheney is not popular after her reaction to the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill. Before that, though, she won elections handily. She knew when to leave the Senate race when Senator Enzi retired and fell back to attaining a leadership position in the House. She easily won a vote of confidence from House Republicans when she was first challenged over her leadership position in February. She was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party. Polling now shows that she is more popular with Democrats than with Republicans. Her re-election bid is an uphill climb, to put it mildly.

Will Wyoming voters flock to Bouchard after he released his story? Or will they choose one of Cheney’s other challengers? Bouchard was wise to try to get out in front of the story but he is falling into a trap by playing victim to “dirty politics”. That isn’t a position of strength. It makes him look as though he is naive and wasn’t expecting to have to face the voters on his past. The primary will be ugly and this will just be a blip along the way to election day. He’s lucky he’s not defending a felony statutory rape arrest.