Some in the Converse County Republican Party aren’t happy with Evansville state Rep. Forrest Chadwick’s voting record and want to send a message about straying too far from the party’s platform. The county party will consider a resolution at its October meeting to formally censure the Evansville lawmaker over his overall voting record.
Forrest Chadwick has earned a low score from certain conservative political ranking sites like WyoRino.com, which is mentioned by name in the censure resolution, that have accused him of not effectively adhering to the Republican platform.
Converse County Republican Party Chairman Bill Tibbs said he doesn’t like Chadwick’s voting record, but also doesn’t like the idea of censuring him.
“I don’t know what good the censures do,” Tibbs said. “There’s no legal binding to it.”
Tibbs said there has been a specific pattern of Wyoming lawmakers not adhering to the party platform, and he believes this stems from certain politicians hiding behind the party name when they run for office.
“They told us what we wanted to hear during the election,” he said.
Chadwick, a Natrona County resident who also represents Converse County, ran his 2022 campaign on pledges to support the energy industry and fiscal responsibility.
He beat his Republican primary opponent by 21% of the vote in 2022 to earn his first term in office. Chadwick represents House District 62, a new seat in the Wyoming Legislature created by the redistricting process completed in spring 2022. Prior to becoming a legislator, Chadwick was a Natrona County commissioner.
Platform The Will Of God?
The proposed censure states in part that Chadwick “failed to vote in a manner that has any semblance to the oath that he made to God to ‘support, obey and defend the Constitution’ or any semblance to the Wyoming Republican Party Platform.”
It also accuses him of a “blatant disregard to the oath that he made to God … and his failure to honor the Wyoming Republican Party Platform.”
Chadwick said he takes personal offense to the party equating adherence to its platform to the will of God and that he doesn’t have to agree with every plank of the platform to be a Republican.
“I’m already beholden to a Bible, I don’t need a second one,” he said. “It’s that simple. I will not have that be a Bible for me.”
Tibbs said the resolution came from the county party’s resolution’s committee. He doesn’t know how the censure vote will turn out, but said most of the Converse central committee isn’t happy with Chadwick’s voting record.
Chadwick said he wasn’t elected to represent special interest groups or the will of anonymous website owners, and he will not respond to pressure from any of them like he would to his constituents.
He believes there has been an influx of out-of-state entities trying to influence Wyoming politics and those who are bringing the censure against him aren’t looking at the details behind his votes.
“It would seem they are looking to be angry about something,” he said.
A censure holds no legal binding and is simply an expression of displeasure.
When it comes to Chadwick’s voting record, there appears to be two main issues of contention.
One is his votes on the Life is a Human Right Act, a 2023 bill prohibiting most forms of abortion in Wyoming. Although he voted to support amendments made to the bill, he voted against it on its third reading in the House.
Chadwick told Cowboy State Daily he voted against it because he believed the legislation to be unconstitutional.
“I’m not going to vote for something I believe is unconstitutional,” he said. “For them to say I don’t have that right, that’s just nuts. You try to help the bill, you try to make it constitutional, and you’re an SOB for that?”
When the bill came back to the House from the Senate on concurrence, he voted to support it, as he thought it had reached enough legal muster.
“They did just enough that I was hopeful that it might pass muster with the courts,” he said. “To this point, it has not.”
The legality of the bill is now being challenged in Teton County District Court.
Another issue of contention was Chadwick’s vote to support the $1.8 billion supplemental budget this spring. Many hardline conservatives criticized the bill as containing too much spending, but Chadwick points to the $1.4 billion that was saved within it, the most money saved in a budget in Wyoming history.
“That’s $1.4 billion that the taxpayers won’t have to pay,” he said.
Chadwick has been invited to the Converse County GOP’s next meeting Oct. 17 to defend himself in light of the censure resolution, which was tabled at the party’s meeting Sept. 19. For now, he said he plans to attend.
“The state Republican Party does not have the right to tell me I must think the way they tell me to,” Chadwick said. “I do not have to abide by what the state party tells me I must think because I must not.”
Typically, censures brought by the state party have come as a result of specific events or actions, but Chadwick’s may be the first to come as a response to a general voting record.
“I think the voters and the political party have the right and probably an obligation to tell their representatives how they wanted them to vote,” Tibbs said.
The fact that WyoRino is mentioned directly in the resolution shows the prominence that the website and others like it have developed. Tibbs believes the 10 votes that WyoRino grades legislators on are the ones that matter most and are a fair representation of lawmaker's entire voting record.
“They’re just taking information and compiling it and I have no problem with it,” Tibbs said. “They stay anonymous because they would catch a lot of crap if they didn’t.”
Earlier this month, the Natrona County Republican Party held an event for the anonymous owner of the website to reveal their identity. No one showed.
“I refuse to be pushed around by that,” Chadwick said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.