By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne lashed out Wednesday at the multiple plaintiffs who brought a lawsuit against the party over the way it selected nominees for an open statewide office, calling them “RINOs” and “Cheney supporters.”
Eathorne noted the lawsuit filed Tuesday took aim at the party for following state rules that have been in place for decades for picking nominees to fill open state offices.
“Grassroots Republicans are being sued, by Democrats and a handful of self-important RINOs and (U.S. Rep. Liz) Cheney supporters, for following the law and completing its role in sending 3 names to the Governor so he can fill the vacancy created when Jillian Balow resigned, the same way elected official vacancies have been filled for decades in our state,” Eathorne said.
Balow resigned as superintendent of public instruction earlier this month to take a similar position in Virginia. Under Wyoming law, Gov. Mark Gordon is to select a replacement to finish her unexpired term — which runs until January 2023 — from a list of three nominees submitted by the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee.
The lawsuit alleges that because the central committee is made up of three representatives from each county, counties with smaller populations have a greater influence over such decisions than counties with large populations, a violation of the equal protection clause of the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions.
Eathorne said on Wednesday that for the plaintiffs, the situation was not about the Constitution, but about control.
“If you ever wondered what Wyoming’s self-appointed good ol’ boys club looks like, this is it – former and current newspaper owners, Democrats, high-level university administrators, former legislators, wealthy elite, self-important Cheyenne lawyers, and all represented by Democrat (Former Gov. Dave) Freudenthal’s former Attorney General, Pat Crank,” he said.
He added that the plaintiffs had one thing in common: none of them were currently elected to serve Wyoming Republicans.
“They represent Wyoming’s past, full of smoky back rooms and political side deals,” Eathorne said. “They cannot stand that the Wyoming Republican grassroots has risen up and can outvote the lobbyists and lawyers who have controlled Wyoming politics in the past. These are the same people who support Liz Cheney, fight to preserve the ability for Democrats to crossover and interfere in Wyoming Republican primaries, vigorously oppose runoff elections, and seek to tear down and defeat Conservative principles.”
The party’s central committee selected three nominees for Gordon’s consideration from a field of 12 applicants during a meeting Saturday.
Gordon interviewed the three Tuesday and, by law, is to select a replacement for Balow by midnight Thursday. Gordon has been ordered by a federal judge not to make the selection before midnight Thursday to give the parties in the lawsuit a chance to comment on a request for a temporary restraining order that would block Gordon from picking any of the nominees.
Eathorne said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit view certain Republicans as “pawns on their chess board who are expendable in the service of their king.”
“The current leaders of the Wyoming Republican Party view grassroots Republicans much differently,” Eathorne said. “We view you as our friends and neighbors, the voters who elected precinct men and women all over the State, who have worked hard and tamed this western landscape we call home. We have held town halls to encourage the grassroots all over the State to let their voices be heard on issues important to their communities, about Liz Cheney’s treasonous behavior, and the overreaching COVID shutdown of Wyoming’s small business, churches, and gathering places.”
He added that the plaintiffs have argued an unelected bureaucrat should remain in Balow’s position instead of adhering to the process set forth in law to fill the vacancy. Eathorne pointed out that Kari Eakins, the interim superintendent, is a Democrat, which she has been registered as since 2010.
“At a time when Wyoming needs this Superintendent to stand up to Joe Biden’s radical agenda and defend Wyoming’s children, they want an unelected Democrat to fill that role rather than follow a statutory process that they have never complained about before,” Eathorne said.