If there was one person at the Wyoming Republican Party’s quarterly Central Committee meeting Saturday who may have seemed out of place, it was likely Jackson Democrat state Rep. Mike Yin.
Yin, the House minority leader in the Legislature, was greeted warmly by many of his Republican colleagues and by GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne.
“I felt like I was treated better than I’ve seen some members of the press be treated,” Yin remarked.
Eathorne was friendly to Yin but reminded him that he needed to stay in the public area of the room during the party’s elections, Yin said.
“I knew it was going to be a contentious vote, and I didn’t want to make it seem that I was trying to influence anyone in any way,” Yin said. “I really want to come and observe and not be one where people think I’m trying to do something.”
Eathorne won reelection for an unusual third consecutive term as state GOP chairman.
He won by a landslide over challenger Frank Moore despite past scandals that include infidelity in his personal relationships and accusations he allows divisions to grow in the party’s ranks. Eathorne also drew national attention last summer when evidence surfaced that he stood much closer than he previously claimed to the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.
GOP Elected An ‘Insurrectionist’
On Monday night, Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Joe Barbuto put out a scathing rebuke of Eathorne’s reelection.
“In a normal political climate, I’d reach across the aisle to congratulate my counterpart and wish him the best in his role, maybe even talk about the opportunities for working together,” Barbuto said in a Democratic Party Facebook post. “Unfortunately, when the other person is an insurrectionist who promotes falsehoods and has been a particularly damaging element to the political discourse in Wyoming, I’m unable to make that effort.”
Yin declined to comment on Barbuto’s post or Eathorne’s reelection.
Yin said he watched the elections Saturday to learn how the Wyoming Republican Party conducts its meetings and to personally welcome the party to his community. The meeting was held across the street from his home, giving him a sense of obligation to make an appearance.
“When it’s literally right on my doorstep, it’s hard to say no, I’m just going to stay at home or do something else when the process that affects many people in the state is literally across the road,” he said.
Yin represents one of the most progressive districts in Wyoming in a county that has the largest Democratic concentration in the state. He encourages his fellow Jackson residents to visit other parts of the state as well.
“I think anything that can bring Wyoming closer together is a good thing,” he said.
Yin, who grew up in a Republican household, also is familiar with the need for bipartisanship to get bills passed in the state Legislature, where his party holds a super minority of just seven of 93 seats.
“In our political party system, we’re sort of on an adversarial basis, especially when it comes to election years,” Yin said. “I don’t think it’s my place to come to every meeting, but I thought it was an interesting one to attend when it was so near me.”
One key difference Yin noticed between the way state Republicans and Democrats conduct their meetings is that his party lets state legislators and any of their statewide officials vote as part of their central committee, while the Republicans do not.
Another difference is Democrats hold their chairman elections every four years, while the Republicans do it every two.
“Observing that all was very worthwhile,” he said.
Less Friendly Response
Fremont County Republican Party Vice Chair Ginger Bennett speculated in a Facebook post that Yin showed up to support Moore.
“If the Democrat minority floor leader shows up at the Republican state committee meeting to support you, you might be a Democrat,” Bennett posted.
The Wyoming Freedom Caucus also made a post that was later taken down commenting, “Now why would the House Minority Leader attend a State GOP meeting?”
Yin said he found Eathorne and Moore fairly similar as candidates and thought it interesting that the vote for the two candidates was the exact same as the vote taken for vice chair.
Yin made a point to shake Casper Republican Sen. Bob Ide’s hand, but did not extend his hand to former interim Secretary of State Karl Allred, who was standing nearby.
In September 2022, Allred called Yin “a flippin’ idiot” during a GOP Central Committee meeting. After Allred was named to his interim post, Yin told Cowboy State Daily it was irresponsible for him to have been selected for the position because of the comment and his role overseeing the state’s elections.
Contact Leo Wolfson at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.