By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
RIVERTON–The Wyoming Republican Party publicly reprimanded a State Senate leader Saturday while meeting in Riverton.
The party’s central committee voted – with one “nay” vote and one person abstaining – to censure Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, and to deny him funding and support. The move stemmed from Case’s unsuccessful attempt to recruit an Independent candidate to challenge Rep. Chuck Gray, of Casper, who is the Republican nominee for Secretary of State, in the Nov. 8 general election.
“Censuring someone is a very serious thing, but (Case’s effort) is a very serious and egregious offense,” said Dave Holland, Vice-Chairman of the party. “We’ve already said we’re not going to support (Case) because of (his) voting record; censuring is a step further, and I think it’s called for.”
After Gray won the primary election to become the GOP nominee for Secretary of State, Case spearheaded an effort to recruit a “conservative” to run against Gray as an Independent.
Case’s top pick, former legislator Nathan Winters, declined to challenge Gray and asked the public to rally around Republican candidates.
Gray defeated State Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, his main challenger for the Republican nomination.
Gray was at the Saturday meeting, but declined to comment to Cowboy State Daily.
Case, a Wyoming legislator for 30 years, was not at the meeting because he was at an inter-governmental energy conference in San Antonio.
He disputed the censure in a written statement to Cowboy State Daily, saying he has the “basic Republican values of liberty, individual responsibility, limited government, and respect for capitalism, markets and private property,” but that he disagrees with how the state party conducts itself.
“I am sorry that the Republican Central Committee has regressed to the suppression of ideas, intolerance and a lack of civility, and the punishing of mainstream Republicans who do not embrace the more extreme elements of their thinking,” said Case. He said leadership of the party in power “demonstrate(s) excess” similar to the Republican party in the 1950s McCarthy era.
Case said Wyoming GOP leadership did not adhere to state laws about not favoring one Republican candidate over another in the primary election. The state Republican central committee allows the same number of votes per county at its meetings, regardless of county population, which Case said “favors an insular viewpoint and fearful thinking.”
The party had already committed not to give money to Case because his voting record doesn’t align enough with the party platform, said Holland at the meeting.
“We have a pattern of behavior,” said Vince Vanata, Park County Republican party state committee man. “And this pattern has been accelerating… (Are) we going to stand back and do nothing?”
Case opposes bills that would criminalize abortion, and he voted in favor of Medicaid expansion.
The state party is pro-life and opposes Medicaid expansion.
This is Case’s second censuring this year. The Fremont County Republican party formally rebuked him in May for supporting Medicaid expansion; and for writing a letter to the editor of Cowboy State Daily in which Case called the state party uncivil and exclusive.
The opinion piece was titled “Big Tent Republicans, We Need You.”
The censure also stemmed from Case’s speaking on behalf of a convicted felon, at her sentencing hearing. The felon, Rebecca Milleson, had embezzled thousands of dollars from the town of Pavillion.
Case said there were extenuating circumstances of family tragedy in her life.
The state party also voted Saturday to condemn the actions of the Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, but to excuse committee member Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, from the condemnation.
The committee last month began drafting a bill stripping the Secretary of State of oversight of Wyoming elections, and offered to create an election commission to perform these duties instead.
Scott spoke against the effort, saying voters would “rightfully feel insulted if we tried to take a major portion of the responsibilities away before the guy’s even had a chance.”
Gray in his campaign voiced doubt in the security of Wyoming’s elections, and his pledge to make them more secure.
Cheryl Aguiar, Hot Springs state committeewoman, asked the party to take out of the condemnation statement language suggesting that Gray’s own primary election was “fair and secure.”
“The first parts of (the resolution) are saying we do believe the election was fair and secure,” said Aguiar. “So it’s kind of hypocritical – or contradictory, but it could be construed as hypocritical – to have those parts in there.”