Sheridan GOP Censures Rep. Cyrus Western, Call For Resignation: He Says They Won’t Get It

Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, was censured Saturday by the Sheridan County Republican Party for his alleged role in a political mailer that targeted local people and labeled them as “Wanted … for trying to tear our state apart.” The party also called for Western to resign; he says he won’t.

Leo Wolfson

March 21, 20235 min read

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State Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, has been censured by his Sheridan County Republican Party for his role in a 2022 political mailer.

“It’s about what the party can do to express its displeasure with the electeds so he knows they are very displeased with his actions,” said county chairman Bryan Miller about Saturday’s 67-13 vote to censure Western.

 The Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office investigated the mailer and found evidence tying Western and Johnson County Commissioner Bill Novotny to the project. Allegations were made that paying for the mailer wasn’t reported by any campaign and was the work of an unregistered political action committee. 

“That mailer had nothing to do with his election,” said Gail Symons, a Sheridan County precinct committee member who voted against censuring Western. “It has to do with people moving to Wyoming from out of state and trying to influence how we do business.”

To PAC Or Not To PAC

The Wyoming In Name Only political action committee was the listed agent on the mailer, but the organization is not registered with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office. 

 Symons also said just because an organization calls itself a PAC doesn’t make it so, seeing the mailers as free speech unrelated to electioneering efforts.

Although the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office agreed with the findings of the complaint, it determined that since the mailer didn’t involve anyone running for political office it would not prosecute the case. 

“People were very put out by that whole process since the law was obviously violated,” Miller said.

Miller said this was the fourth election complaint brought to the Sheridan County Attorney’s office in the last few years that has gone unprosecuted. 

 Western Won’t Resign

The mailer was designed to look like an Old West wanted poster featuring the mugshots of four people described as “conservative imposters.”

The people were “Wanted,” the mailer says, “for trying to tear our state apart.” 

The censure also called for Western’s resignation. He told Cowboy State Daily he doesn’t plan to resign.

 “The county GOP is after anyone who doesn’t take their marching orders,” Western said. “The voters always deserve the last word.”

Investigations And Complaints

Sheridan County residents Jeff Wallack, Laurie Bratten, Kristen Jennings and Jimmy Dee Lees were identified in the mailer.

 It was the determination of the Sheridan County Attorney’s office that neither Wallack or the other three targets were running for public office, so the related elections laws did not apply to the campaign mailer. 

Wallack was the only candidate in any type of election in 2022, to be a party precinct committeeman.

All four in the Wanted poster served on Wallack’s Wyoming Is Right PAC, which declined to endorse Western in the primary election. 

 “His record is clear that conservatives would not support him,” Wallack said, adding that when he approached Western about the mailer, the representative denied any involvement.

Miller ran against Western in the 2022 Republican primary, losing by a small margin.  

He said another complaint about the mailer was filed with the Secretary of State’s office in late 2022, but under the prior administration it was communicated that the complaints first needed to be addressed in Sheridan County. 

In January, under newly sworn-in Secretary of State Chuck Gray, the county attorney’s office communicated in a letter that the county was not the appropriate agency to handle any prosecution on the matter.

Following the county attorney’s letter, Gray’s office received two new complaints in February pertaining to the original allegations that were made by Wallack and state committeeman Tod Windsor. 

Gray told Cowboy State Daily the complaints are under review. If his office finds a complaint has merit and suspects a violation of the election code, it will be referred to Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill for investigation and possible prosecution.  

 “Our office takes election complaints very seriously,” Gray said.

The Meeting

Over the course of Saturday’s meeting, the resolution was changed to more closely reflect an oath Western took when he was sworn into office.

Left in the censure is a claim that Western sent “illegal” mailings. Although the county attorney’s office determined a connection existed between Western, Novotny and the mailer, it never filed charges on the matter.

Although there were a few current and former legislators at the meeting, Wallack said Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, was the only one to vote on the censure, in support of it.

 There was no official notice given about censuring Western until the evening before the meeting was held, a point Miller confirmed. He said no further notice was necessary, as there had been rumors floating around and informal discussions about it at the Sheridan County Republican Party’s “Patriot Chat” event held more than a month prior. 

That the local county attorney wouldn’t prosecute over the mailer doesn’t sit well with some Sheridan County Republicans.

“People were very put out by that whole process since the law was obviously violated,” Miller said.

Symons and Wallack said there was an attempt by Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, at the start of the meeting to remove the censure consideration from the agenda.

Symons said the county party is planning to bring the censure to a state level at its central committee meeting in May.

Western’s censure is the third brought against a state legislator in the last year. Two were brought against Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, in 2022.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter