Cat Urbigkit: We Deserve Better Than The Freedom Caucus

Columnist Cat Urbigkit writes: "A dark political cloud has entered Wyoming, settling over Cheyenne and the work of the Wyoming House of Representatives. It has resulted in a vile and morally corrupt attack on Wyoming Speaker of the House Albert Sommers."

Cat Urbigkit

February 28, 20238 min read

Cat urbigkit cropped scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A dark political cloud has entered Wyoming, settling over Cheyenne and the work of the Wyoming House of Representatives. It has resulted in a vile and morally corrupt attack on Wyoming Speaker of the House Albert Sommers.

Make no mistake: this attack is driven by out-of-state hardliners pursuing their own agenda to keep their based riled up, but with a wink of approval from Republican legislators aligned with the Wyoming Freedom Caucus.

Wyoming deserves better.

While the leader of the State Freedom Caucus Network is leading the attack on Sommers, the Wyoming Freedom Caucus is complicit in these attacks by cooperating with something they know is morally wrong.

Wyoming deserves better.

When Speaker Sommers disagrees with another legislator on a policy issue under consideration, it’s just that: a disagreement on a policy issue. He is not engaged in personal attacks, and he provides reasoning for his actions or inaction.

But the leader of the national organization affiliated with the Wyoming Freedom Caucus called Sommers “a corrupt political hack.” Some responses on Wyoming Freedom Caucus social media called out Sommers as a “groomer,” “corrupt,” and “pedophile.”

What has been the response from the Wyoming Freedom Caucus to the vile attack on their legislative colleague? Nothing. Not a word. Total silence. That’s complicity.

We deserve better.

If you know Albert Sommers, you know he is a man of integrity and honesty who has dedicated much of his political career to supporting and improving Wyoming’s educational system. Albert Sommers is about as far from corrupt as you can get. He’s a statesman who does the work and serves Wyoming citizens well. Anyone who claims Sommers is corrupt is a liar. The other vile slurs cast at Sommers are lies as well.

Importing the D.C. Agenda

Back in early January, State Freedom Caucus Network (SFCN) President Andy Roth announced that Wyoming was the 8th state to join the State Freedom Caucus Network, warning, “Cowboys, saddle up!” SFCN is a Washington, D.C.,-based project of the Conservative Partnership Institute, which has brought its national agenda to Wyoming. Its mission: “From Election Integrity to Critical Race Theory, the most important fights of today are happening in the states. SFCN will provide conservatives in state capitals nationwide the resources they need to win.”

In announcing the Wyoming group’s affiliation with the national group, Wyoming Freedom Caucus Chairman Representative John Bear of Gillette said: “Our caucus exists because the people of Wyoming elected legislators who fear God, respect our Constitution and believe in limited government and individual liberty.”

The caucus might also fear something else, since its Wyoming legislative membership only identifies 7 members in the Wyoming Legislature, while noting that “total representation may not be shown as some members are anonymous.” Their national leader, Roth, says that while only 5 members of the Wyoming House are Democrats, compared to the supermajority of 57 Republicans, there are really only 26 real Republicans in the House because “Liberals control Wyoming.” Wyoming Freedom Caucus state director Jessie Rubino (a position reportedly paid by the national organization) regularly promotes Roth’s tweets critical of all but their 26 ideological puritans.

Does the Wyoming Freedom Caucus really support the Wyoming Constitution, limited government, and individual liberty as Representative Bear claims? Nope. Columnist Rod Miller summed it up perfectly last week when he wrote about so-called conservatives: “Their mouths speak of limited government while their hands craft legislation that increases government’s intrusion into the private lives of citizens. On the campaign trail, they say that they’ll get government out of our lives. In the capitol, they write legislation to allow government to tell citizens what they can read, what can be taught in schools, how their bodies can be treated medically, whom they can love and marry, how and when they can vote, how we are to think and speak and many other intrusions of government into the private lives of citizens.”

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus members are sent texts every day from their national organization telling them how to vote, according to reporting in Cowboy State Daily.

While the Wyoming Freedom Caucus makes general complaints that other Republicans aren’t conservative enough, SFCN is willing to do the dirty work for their state members in the legislature. In preparation for this final week of the legislative session, Roth amplified a report from the Wyoming Freedom Caucus complaining on social media about Speaker Sommers “blocking” bills on school choice, banning teaching gender identity for K-3, and banning doctors from performing sex changes on minors. Roth tweeted about Sommers about a dozen times last weekend saying, “Time to bring national attention to WY Speaker Albert Sommers decision to carry water for the teacher’s union.”

Carrying water for the teacher’s union is not what Sommers was doing. He was doing his job, basing his decisions on simple principles that he regularly cites: “Bills that are unconstitutional, not well vetted, poorly written, duplicate bills or debates, and bills that negate local control, restrict the rights of people, or risk costly litigation financed by the people of Wyoming should not become law.”

Due to Roth’s promotion of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus complaints, the storyline got picked up by Fox News. Wyoming Senator Anthony Bouchard called for Sommers to be censured by the Wyoming Republican Party, and U.S. Harriet Hageman even got involved by amplifying the issue, along with her statement of “This is about protecting our children.” Which reminded me of this bit from The Simpsons.

To top it off, the Sublette County Republican Party posted a piece by the Blaze’s Daniel Horowitz in which he claimed Wyoming Republican legislators like Sommers and others “are absolutely indistinguishable from San Francisco leftists.” They were all piling on to what was already a big mound of horseshit. As I finish my column today, the Wyoming Republican Party just sent out an email promoting Roth’s attack on Sommers.

Roth took to social media again on Sunday, saying that Republicans in Sommers’ district were sent a text complaining about his blocking of certain bills and urging people to call Sommers’ personal cell phone to tell him to act. Roth bragged on Twitter about the mass text effort, stating, “When you call yourself Republican and act like a liberal, you gotta pay the liberal tax.”

The Wyoming Agenda

While the Freedom Caucus focuses on social bills that rile up their base rather than address real Wyoming issues, there are Wyoming legislators working to find solutions for Wyoming problems. As this legislative session began, Wyoming Senate President Ogden Driskill and Speaker Sommers teamed up to outline their priorities for this legislative session, which included measures to reduce the property tax burden on homeowners, prioritize budget savings, and supporting Wyoming’s core industries while fostering economic growth and diversification. The legislative leaders wrote: “As we consider spending, our focus will be on our state’s greatest needs, like education and infrastructure, creating efficiencies and removing bureaucratic red tape in the way of economic growth and protecting Wyoming’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Thankfully, the majority of the Wyoming Legislature agreed with leaders like Driskill and Sommers on legislative priorities, passing a supplemental budget that places more than $1 billion in savings, while helping to address needs of the state’s most vulnerable people and providing some property tax relief. Read more about it here.

As I look to this last week of the legislative session, I’m reminded of the concluding statement issued by Driskill and Sommers a few months ago: “We are committed to upholding the rules and traditions of this institution to ensure fairness and respect, building up leaders at every level and debating policies on merit and substance. Wyoming solutions are needed to address the challenges that lie ahead. We have never taken our cues from Washington, D.C., and it would be a grave mistake to start now. The people of our great state deserve better.”

Indeed. We deserve better.

We deserve far better than what the Freedom Caucus is offering.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

Share this article



Cat Urbigkit

Public Lands and Wildlife Columnist