For the second time in less than three months, the Uinta County Republican Party has put out a plea for donations as the party continues to fight a lawsuit brought by a party member.
“The Republican Party is in a terrible situation,” chairman Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson posted on Facebook. “Do (sic) to a lawsuit filed against us we are in danger of losing any and all viability to further the values that we all know are vital to the survival of our state and our society.”
The lawsuit has advanced to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
How It Got Here
Mountain View resident Jon Conrad is fighting the county party in the Wyoming Supreme Court, claiming certain Uinta County GOP party officers should not have been allowed to vote in the county party’s 2021 leadership election because they lost their respective precinct committee elections in August 2020.
This resulted in Jackson being elected chairman, Karl Allred becoming state committeeman and Jana Williams state committeewoman. Jackson is Williams’ daughter.
The crux of the lawsuit is whether major political parties in Wyoming must follow state statute in the way they conduct internal party business.
Conrad says they do.
“It is axiomatic that when and where a statutory grant of authority is given, the procedures and limitations on that grant of authority found in the law must be followed,” his attorneys wrote in a December court brief.
The party, on the other hand, argues that political parties are private organizations in Wyoming subject to their own rules for internal affairs.
“We need your help to save the party from those that claim to be trying to protect it while simultaneously trying to destroy it,” Jackson posted. “Any little bit you can donate can help to save us.”
Under state law, precinct committeemen and committeewomen are chosen in public primary elections, but party leadership is set through internal party elections.
Both sides argued their cases to the Wyoming Supreme Court last month. Attending was Secretary of State Chuck Gray, State Treasurer Curt Meier and Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne.
Allred, a former interim secretary of state, put out a similar plea for donations from his personal email while serving in his official duties last December.
He said the attorney handling the lawsuit for the county party, Caleb Wilkins of Cheyenne, gave the Uinta GOP a $30,000 estimate to continue litigating the case, but the county party only had $900 at the time.
Jackson said in another social media post last weekend that the party now owes Wilkins $50,000.
She said if the party cannot pay the debt, the Uinta County government could force a garnishment from the individual defendants and the party itself. As long as she is an official with the party, Jackson said she is financially responsible for the lawsuit.
“If that were to happen, I would be at risk of losing my home because, like many, I live paycheck to paycheck,” Jackson wrote.
In July 2022, a District Court judge dismissed Conrad’s lawsuit, deciding the county party’s rules allow leadership to decide who can vote for future county party leaders.
District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel ruled that state law was purposely written in an unambiguous manner to avoid overregulating political associations and asserted that political party bylaws can supersede state laws.
Conrad appealed the case to the state Supreme Court a month later.