Wyoming GOP Convention Wrap-Up: Civility & Optimism Despite Laramie County Walkout

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

More than 250 registered Republicans from around the state gathered in Sheridan last weekend to lay out the party’s stands on key issues and send directives to Wyoming’s legislators and congressional delegations as to the actions they would like to see taken.

And while the convention was not without arguments or disputes, the atmosphere remained civil at nearly all times. 

One of the major divisions within the party is the split between what has been described as its moderate and more conservative wings. 

Sheila Leach, a precinct member from Park County, said such divisions are to be expected from a party that counts 70% of the state’s voters as members.

“We have such a wide political spectrum,” she said.

The Trump Factor

That spectrum can be demonstrated in part by the strength of support and opposition among party members to former President Donald Trump.

The divide has taken shape in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat sought by incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a frequent critic of Trump’s who voted for his impeachment, and Harriet Hageman, who won Trump’s endorsement in her House campaign.

It is worth mentioning that in the three states where primary elections have already occurred, Trump-endorsed candidates have gone 55-0 so far.

Carbon County GOP Chair Joey Correnti said he doesn’t see the Cheney-Hageman race so much as a test of allegiance to Trump but more of a measurement of the dedication to the values Trump represents. He said if Trump doesn’t run for president in 2024, a candidate who espouses his values would get his full support.

Laramie County Walkout

On Saturday, the party voted overwhelmingly to disallow all but three of Laramie County’s 37 delegates from being seated at the convention due to multiple bylaw violations made at their county convention.

Certain members from Laramie County, including party Chairman Dani Olsen, accused the party of playing politics with this decision as retribution for the county’s party speaking out against state party leadership.

Olsen pointed out that there were other county parties that also committed rule infractions at their county-level conventions, items the Credentials Committee considered but did not find raised to the level of Laramie County’s infractions. 

Ben Hornok, a Laramie delegate who originally reported the violations, said even though he asked unsuccessfully that the county’s full delegation be seated, he didn’t regret making his original report to the state party.

Laramie County precinct member and delegate Daniel Singh was one of the three party members who did represent the county for the rest of the convention. He was upbeat about the future of his county and the state party.

“Sure, there’s divisions, but I feel really good about where things are at,” he said. “We had a lot of good discussions today.”

Project Veritas

The State GOP had James O’Keefe, a political activist and undercover investigative journalist, speak twice during the convention about his organization Project Veritas.

O’Keefe has made it his goal to expose bias in the media and government corruption. At times, he has been criticized, accused of selectively choosing excerpts from his undercover interactions in a way that inaccurately displays the true nature of conversations, and for blurring ethical and legal lines to catch his suspects red-handed. 

O’Keefe did not appreciate being questioned about these allegations when speaking with Cowboy State Daily on Saturday.

“You’re bringing up something from more than 10 years ago?” he questioned.

O’Keefe went on to explain that by using undercover reporting tactics, it holds officials accountable without a shred of doubt.

In the past, he has agreed to pay settlements and has been found guilty of criminal charges stemming from his reporting, but it must be noted that these events did take place more than a decade ago.

O’Keefe has exposed legitimate wrongdoing, including his team’s recent reporting, showing a producer from CNN and an editor from the New York Times admitting to exaggerating the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a way to increase their audiences. 

Journalists & Sources

O’Keefe said he thinks a major problem in today’s age of journalism is the relationships journalists develop with their sources. The more attached to a source they become, he said, the less inclined they are to question the validity of their source’s statements or engage in reporting that might upset them.

“Reporters are torn by the access they get to sources,” he said. “They rely on the hand that feeds them.”

O’Keefe didn’t have a clear answer as to what could be done to solve this problem moving forward. 

He supported the leak of the recent Supreme Court draft decision on  Roe v. Wade and noted it was made possible by close relationships by Politico reporter Josh Gerstein with government sources.

Identifying the problem is only half the equation and if the Wyoming Republican Party desires to mend its divisions, it will have to figure out the solutions as well.

There is a clear desire to do so, as many people expressed the belief the party needs to be and is already unified. If it doesn’t, only more infighting will probably be the result.

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