By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Although calls have been made by several GOP officials within county party organizations asking State GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne to resign, he is refusing to do so.
Late Sunday night in an internal email sent to party members, Eathorne responded to his detractors and the most recent allegations, likening them to the spreading of false and misleading information. Eathorne never directly addressed or countered the allegations made or explained how they are inaccurate, but rather, spent most of his statement correlating it to an attack on the State Party, “conservative leaders, voters, platforms, and policies.”
“I have spoken to the SCC (State Central Committee) openly regarding the matters contained within the allegations and consider the matter at rest,” Eathorne wrote in his letter. “If you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly. I honor and respect you as leaders from your respective counties and am always happy to talk to you.”
Last week, a report with numerous pieces of photo and video evidence surfaced, showing Eathorne, much more involved and closer than he originally claimed to be to activities taking place during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in Washington, D.C. The evidence was verified with medium to high likelihood by facial recognition technology. Eathorne did not respond to a request for comment made by Cowboy State Daily last week.
During a Central Committee meeting earlier this year, Eathorne described the protest as “moving”. The audience applauded when he said the media’s coverage of him “doesn’t necessarily involve the truth.”
Eathorne said he only made a “brief stop in the vicinity of the Capitol building property” and once he became aware there was violence occurring there, he left the premises.
Time stamped photo and video evidence supplied by CapitolHunters, a group collecting and disseminating information on Twitter regarding the riot for the purpose of exposing those involved, shows he spent at least two hours at the event. The evidence also shows he was much closer to the Capitol building than he originally said, and would have been present when “flash bangs,” explosive devices designed to disorient people, and tear gas canisters were lobbed into the crowd.
Call For Resignation
Natrona County Republican Party State Committeeman Joe McGinley sent an email Friday to the State Central Committee, calling for Eathorne to resign.
“Would this be acceptable to you in your home or family?” McGinley wrote of Eathorne’s action. “Do you feel our chairman is leading by example? Do you agree with destruction of public property and the Capital invasion? I would encourage each of you to reflect on the platforms and then assess just how many were violated with the most recent and past behavior.”
CapitolHunters said based on the photos and videos, Eathorne would have also heard the crowd’s cheers for the breach of scaffolding and the seizing of the Capitol’s West Plaza.
“The most disappointing fact is that Frank lied to each and every one of you,” McGinley wrote.
McGinley also referenced a recent report from WyoFile and the Casper Star Tribune outlining Eathorne’s history of infidelity and abuse of power as a law enforcement officer in 1994.
“At some point, the acceptance of this behavior has to end,” McGinley wrote. “Many of you are strong conservatives with values based in Christian faith.
“I find this behavior despicable and not in line with our party values.”
McGinley has been involved in several instances of infighting within the party in the past.
“GOP Is United”
In his response to the letter, Eathorne said the “vast majority” of the Wyoming Republican Party is united, an accurate statement, at least with delegates to the state convention in May.
McGinley’s Natrona County Republican Party recently lost a lawsuit over a bylaw change that allowed the state party to greatly reduce the amount of Natrona delegates seated at the convention, as punishment for not paying its party dues.
Kevin Taheri, Natrona County GOP chairman, said although he agrees with McGinley’s letter, which was written independently of his county party, he said it’s ultimately the chairman’s decision. Eathorne will be up for reelection as chairman next spring.
“It might be the best thing right now,” said Taheri of the proposition that Eathorne should resign. “In the light of all that’s happened.”
Others rallied behind Eathorne and against McGinley’s letter like Kari Drost, Weston County Republican party chairman.
“I just felt the need to say that I am SO proud to be a part of the Wyoming Republican Party and feel blessed that we have Frank as our leader,” Drost wrote in a response to Eathorne’s letter.
“I would walk through barbed wire for him, and for the majority of this great group of principled individuals on this email. We are all accomplishing great things in our respective communities- and that is why the left- and the RINOS are afraid of us,” she wrote.
Eathorne also made the claim that party membership is increasing daily. According to Secretary of State’s office data, there were 2,560 more registered Republicans last Wednesday compared to the same date in 2021. However, there were 13,052 more Republicans registered in January 2021 than the same time in January 2022, and 11,363 more registered than are today.
Due to the national spotlight cast on the U.S. Congressional race between frontrunners U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman, this year’s primary election could see a record voter turnout competing with or even beating turnout from the presidential election 2020 year.
On Thursday night, Cheney will oversee hearings where findings from an investigation on the Jan. 6 event will be presented to the public on primetime national television.
Traditionally, presidential election years fuel a much greater voter turnout than non-presidential years like 2022, but compared to June 2020, there are already 41,300 more people registered as Republicans.
Many GOP leaders and former President Donald Trump have accused Democrats and Independents of crossover voting in Wyoming, a process of registering with the Republican Party to influence the primary election, and then changing one’s vote in the general election in November to a candidate of their own party.
One of the most common races used as an example of this was the 2018 gubernatorial primary, where Gov. Mark Gordon was elected as the GOP candidate over certain candidates deemed more conservative like Hageman and the late Foster Friess. There are 2,337 fewer Democrats registered today than there were in June 2018 and 8,363 fewer than June 2014.
Democrats do have 4,159 more registered voters since June 2020 and 2,056 more since primary election day 2020.