Republican Anti-Trumpers to host ‘Principles First’ summit to rival CPAC event

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


Anti-Trump Republicans including Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) will attend their own “counterprogramming” session to compete with the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) scheduled to take place this weekend.

Dubbed the “Principles First Summit,” GOP members who have sought to distance themselves from the former president will hold the CPAC-alternative gathering February 26th and 27th, marking the group’s second such summit. A 2020 Principles First convention was attended by 300 conservatives representing 30 states. The pandemic prevented a 2021 summit.

“Principles First is excited to announce a two-day grassroots summit at Washington D.C.’s National Press Club February 26-27, 2022 focused on discussing and advancing a more principled politics in the United States,” the group says on their website.

“We look forward to bringing together conservative and independent speakers, thought leaders, and grassroots activists for two days of panels, speeches, networking, and substantive discussion about the meaning of conservatism today and the future of our movement,” the group boasts.

Event partners include American Values Coalition, The Bulwark, Country First, and Republican Accountability Project.

“The strength of our republic depends upon the moral conviction of our elected officials,” the site declares. “If we don’t pick trustworthy people to lead us, they will bring the character of the country down with them. Unethical and immoral behavior can never become the norm.”

Both Kinzinger, who is retiring later this year, and Cheney are slated to speak at the event. The summit falls three weeks after the Republican National Committee voted to censure them for siding with Democrats by voting to impeach Trump and participating in the House select committee’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol Hill protest. Other notable attendees include Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R), and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who testified before the Jan. 6 committee that he was attacked and called the N-word during the riot.

“We want to come together in a visual show of support for people who have taken stands for ideas when it hasn’t been comfortable,” Principles First founder Heath Mayo, a Republican lawyer, told CBS News. Mayo, who once suggested that COVID-19 outbreaks were primarily occurring in Republican-led states, referred to this weekend’s summit as a “counterprogramming of CPAC.”

“You don’t see those folks, yet, in rooms that are energized. But I think the energy is there. We’ll see how many folks show up,” he said.

Mayo also suggested that an anti-Trump candidate like Cheney or Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan may even throw their hat into the 2024 presidential election. 

“The party is completely stuck in a rut talking about if the last election is legitimate and if Liz Cheney, Hogan, or someone else is compelling and wants to run, I think a lot of people would listen,” Mayo said. 

Cheney faces a difficult primary challenge in her home state of Wyoming against Republican Harriet Hageman, who has been endorsed by top GOP leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the GOP’s highest-ranking female House member Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). Cheney was stripped of her House leadership role last May in an overwhelming vote. Prior to her RNC censure, Cheney’s own state party voted to no longer recognize her as a Republican. The New York Times recently noted that she “hasn’t appeared at a state Republican Party function in more than two years and hasn’t been to an in-person event for any of the party’s 23 county chapters since 2020.”

Meanwhile, this year’s CPAC event will feature speeches from prominent Republican leaders including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Former Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is also slated to speak at the event. 

Follow FISM news for live coverage of the event.