Democrats Aren’t Dead In Weston County; Party Resurrects After 12-Year Hiatus

Former Newcastle Mayor Deb Piana leads the newly resurrected Weston County Democratic Party, and area Republicans say they welcome an active local two-party system.

Leo Wolfson

April 20, 20236 min read

Collage Maker 20 Apr 2023 10 42 AM 9939

For the first time in about a dozen years, Weston County has a Democratic Party.

Although it has fewer than 10 members and two precinct committee members, party chairperson Deb Piana said she’s pleased some are taking the first step in what she calls politically getting Weston County “out of the dark.” 

She describes being a Democrat in one of the deepest red counties of Wyoming, one of the deepest red states, as occupying “a lonely place.”

“I think it’s time that the Democrats in Weston County have a presence and get active,” she said. “In this time I think we need it more than ever.”

Dark Red

Piana doesn’t know exactly what led to the Democratic Party in Weston County going defunct around 2011, but wonders if it had a little to do with fear of being identified politically as something other than Republican in a deeply conservative county.

President Donald Trump got an overwhelming 87% of the vote in the 2020 election.

According to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, there were 90 registered Democrats in Weston County as of April 1. In the 2020 presidential election, 360 people in Weston voted for President Joe Biden. 

Piana said she’s received vocal support from others, but suspects that like in 2011, those people don’t want to be “outed” as Democrats because they believe that would be “risky.” She said some own businesses, while others may be concerned about tarnishing friendships.

“They don’t want to be known,” she said. “They don’t want people to know they’re Democrats, and I just think that doesn’t help. We need active members.”


Piana said the reboot of her party isn’t for the purpose of opposing Weston County Republicans, but rather to find a more balanced common ground.

“Now it’s so partisan,” Piana said. “It’s time to communicate with each other and not be so oppositional and black and white.”

When a handful of Weston Democrats were visited by state Democratic Party Rural Organizing Director Greg Haas in February, Piana, the Newcastle mayor from 2016-2020, knew she had to stand up.

“I didn’t think anybody else was stepping up to do it and I was just tired of the way things are going in our country, our state, our county, and it was time to do something about it,” she said. “I was tired of just being silent. I felt like that was being a hypocrite.”

Haas said it’s important to have a Democratic presence in all parts of the state, no matter the political leanings of the area.

“Too often, the folks living in those areas buy into the fear-mongering of the political right and end up voting against their interests,” he said. “We're doing this work for everyone, regardless of the letter behind their names, and having a presence everywhere helps us to tell that story everywhere, build the party, and let people know that Democrats are here for good - we're not going anywhere and are going to work hard to make good things happen in our communities.”

Republicans Welcome Them

State Rep. Allen Slagle, R-Lusk, who is also vice chair of the Weston County Republican Party, says having two active parties is a positive for the county’s residents and his party.

“Both parties, and especially the Republican Party, are stronger when there are two vibrant parties in the county,” he said. “When you have a strong Republican Party, a strong Democratic Party, you tend to have the better candidates of both parties.”

Slagle doesn’t see Weston as differing greatly from the rest of Wyoming, saying most residents oppose taxes. He also said there is a solid contingency who have no problem accepting federal funding. 

Growing government and accepting federal assistance are tenets of a more progressive political philosophy. 

“A lot of people tend to rely on the government to do more stuff for us like fixing roads and other projects,” he said. “I don’t think we should really become dependent on the federal government. Our whole state has some very socialistic tendencies.”

Crossover Turned Convert

Piana grew up in Weston County and in a Republican household. She initially voted Republican, but said her viewpoints changed when she went to college.

But when she returned home, Piana said kept voting Republican in Wyoming primaries because of the disproportionately few number of Democrats in Weston and Campbell counties. By the time the general election came around, she would switch back to voting for Democrats, a practice known as crossover voting. 

Piana said she worried her father would make her park down the street from his house because her car had a bumper sticker endorsing former Democratic Gov. Mike Sullivan. 

At a certain point, Piana realized crossover voting wasn’t helping her party, which in Weston had significantly dwindled over her lifetime. She stopped participating in Republican Party primaries altogether, save for the 2022 primary featuring former congresswoman Liz Cheney, whom she supported.

Piana said Weston County Clerk Becky Hadlock, a Republican, was pleased to hear the county Democratic party had returned, as Hadlock had struggled finding Democratic election judges after the party disappeared.

One of the party’s primary goals will be finding at least one candidate for local elections in 2024. According to state Legislature data, the last time Weston was represented by a Democrat at the Capitol was in 2011. The last time they had a local candidate was in 2018.

Because Democrats had no central committee members with there being no county party, the county also lacked representation at state party meetings and conventions.

‘We’re Out Here’

Piana wants the party to have a presence at the local farmers market and town parades.

“Just let people know that there are Democrats here, and come join us,” Piana said.

The party has held two meetings and will have its third May 20. In September, Newcastle and Weston County will host a state Democratic Party event.

Piana holds no illusions that Weston County will turn blue anytime soon, but said it’s important for Democrats to make their presence known.

“Whether it makes a difference or not, we’re out here,” she said.

Share this article



Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter