Despite a lot of talk from some detractors beforehand, Laramie County GOP Chairman Dani Olsen easily survived an attempt to push her out of her leadership position during a meeting of the county party Tuesday.
Party members voted overwhelmingly against asking Olsen to step down as chairman.
Olsen said the voice vote calling for her resignation was so “resoundingly clear” that party officials didn’t bother counting the votes.
Party members also opted not to vote on a resolution strongly urging precinct committee members Ben Hornok, Susan Graham, Fred Schlachter, Steve Johnson, Christine Johnson and others to resign from their elected positions as precinct committeemen and precinct committewomen, effective immediately, and refrain from all party involvement in the future.
With 150 to 200 people in attendance, party member Freddy Flores-Salieb estimated there were more people at the Laramie County GOP Party meeting on Tuesday night than turned out to vote on the county party’s censure of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in 2021 or for any other meeting she could remember over the past two years.
“I think it went great because Laramie County ousted themselves,” Flores-Salieb said. “The leadership, including (Chairman) Dani (Olsen), don’t want to play by the rules.”
The leadership and majority of the Laramie County Republican Party made it clear at the meeting they are not standing down to their detractors, despite the county party losing nearly all of its delegate representation at the State GOP convention earlier this month over allegations the county party violated bylaws in selecting delegates for the convention.
On Tuesday night, the party voted to forgo paying around $2,000 in dues to the state party that date back to January. Olsen said around 80% of the precinct committee members instead voted to pay a sum of $0.
“The body made statements with concern of how the state party is being operated,” Olsen said.
Both Flores-Salieb and Olsen thought it was a positive meeting and believe their respective visions for the party will come to fruition in the near future when the precinct committee elections take place in August.
“It’s going good for the true conservatives,” Flores-Salieb said.
Ben Hornok, a Laramie County precinct committeeman and state convention delegate who originally presented the letter asking Olsen to step down, said he felt more negative about the meeting. He said he wasn’t surprised about the voting results but was disappointed that debate was heavily restricted, and opposition squelched.
“I think there were people who wanted to speak that were, by design, never allowed the chance,” he said. “Does this give you the impression of an open and honest debate within the democratic process?”
Olsen said she found it interesting that the same people who were being asked to step down voted against tabling the motion to do so.
“It shows they wanted the opportunity to go down as martyrs for their cause,” Olsen said.
The holdout on paying dues is a move similar to a tactic playing out in Natrona County, where that county’s GOP party is also withholding funds from the state GOP as a protest against the party’s leadership and a number of other issues. There is an ongoing lawsuit between the state GOP and Natrona County related to this dispute.
Olsen said she found it telling that despite failing to pay any of its shares, Natrona County was still seated with twice as many delegates at the convention as Laramie County, which had paid off its entire balance of dues beforehand.
“It’s very obvious the state leadership does not want Laramie County seated,” she said.
Olsen said the decision to forgo paying dues may change in the future but she is already expecting some form of retaliation from the state leadership.
“And I’m OK with that,” she said. “I’m happy to be a representative of my party’s wishes.”
At the state convention, a bylaw change was made, making it illegal to seek action in a court of law for an internal party matter. An investigative committee was also established for party disputes, which will be handpicked by state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne.
Olsen said she fully expects the county to have its delegates reduced again at the next state convention, which will be held in the final months leading up to the 2024 presidential election. She said taking the risk of losing delegates at this important juncture is a sacrifice worth making because “the majority of the rest of the Republicans in the state” are “tired of the way the leadership in the party is leading.”
“It’s imperative that counties take their stand,” she said. “We represent all 29,000 registered Republican voters in Laramie County. The state Central Committee tends to just be made up with people with the loudest voices.”