Wyoming Republican firebrand and conservative podcast host Joey Correnti has been nominated by the Carbon County Republican Party to fill a vacant seat on that county’s commission.
Despite the party nominating two other candidates earlier this month, Carbon County GOP Chair Paul Metevier made a proposal at the state GOP’s Central Committee meeting last weekend that the Wyoming Republican Party officially endorse Correnti as its preferred candidate for the seat.
It was an unusual move, as nominating local people to fill vacant county commission seats is handled by political parties at the county level, with three candidates selected.
Correnti received 76% of the county party’s 25 votes in his successful nomination, a tally Metevier described as “astonishing.”
Metevier said because of some recent instances of county party nominations being disputed, he and the party thought it would be important for the state party to weigh in. The Carbon County GOP unanimously approved the proposal, which Metevier said would’ve been brought no matter who won the county party nomination.
“This shows a strong decree of who the Carbon Central Committee and the people that represent Carbon County want to be their next Carbon County commissioner,” Metevier told the state GOP. “We ask for the state to send a unifying message of support to the counties and the result of these processes strengthen the resolve of the people.”
The proposal was rejected by the state party.
Park County Committeeman Vince Vanata said that state law leaves it up to county commissioners to fairly choose between the three nominees put up by the county party.
“I stand in opposition to this,” Vanata said about the state party becoming involved. “This is tantamount to endorsing rank-based type voting. I think endorsing a rank-based type thing contradicts what the Republican Party, what we do in Wyoming statutory.”
Carbon County Commissioner Sue Jones told Cowboy State Daily that state law requires commissioners to select the candidate they find most qualified for the position. What is considered a qualification is up to the discretion of the commissioners.
Jones said she welcomes calls from constituents about who they would like to see picked and is keeping an active tally of the results. She plans to use this feedback and the answers the three candidates give when questioned by her board Nov. 21 to guide her decision.
Jones also mentioned how two candidates with a substantial amount of political experience were not selected by the county party’s central committee.
Former Saratoga Town Council member and Carbon County Impact Joint Powers Board Chairman Richard Raymer was not selected. Nor was Memorial Hospital of Carbon County Board of Trustees Secretary Jerry Steele.
Instead, the party selected Elk Mountain Volunteer Fire Department Treasurer Garrett Irene and Saratoga rancher Emilee Berger. Both lack prior political experience.
Metevier said both candidates showed an honest desire to work with and understand the Republican Party platform while taking a conservative approach to problem-solving.
“This whole nominee selection is a political process,” Metevier said. “So, political experience is not required; however, replacing a Republican who resigned with a Republican, should represent the values, ethics or standards of a Republican so people receive a consistent approach they can count on based on what the party represents.”
Of the three candidates, Correnti is the oldest at 44. He said the transparency the other candidates showed when acknowledging they didn’t know all the answers to the questions asked of them helped push them over the edge with their central committee members.
“Whether you like this process or not, I think there’s a clear leaning toward youth,” Correnti told Cowboy State Daily. “I think that honesty, even though it showed inexperience, went a long way with the central committee.”
Correnti, who lives in Saratoga, does have legitimate political chops, serving as the former chairman of the Carbon County GOP. He also ran for the state Legislature in 2016 and 2020.
“I don’t assume that just because I have a background in politics that I’m a shoe-in. I’m actually pretty sure it’s going to work against me,” he said.
In 2022, Correnti pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment stemming from a shooting incident during an altercation in Saratoga.
The chosen candidate will serve in their commissioner seat until the 2024 election.
Correnti said he won’t be disappointed if he’s not selected and is happy to serve as a resource to another person selected.
“Whoever gets in, as long as the focus is serving the people, recognizing the Constitution and upholding liberty, then it’s a win,” Correnti said. “It doesn't have to be me.”
Jones said there have only been two other vacancy appointments during her 10 years as a county commissioner, and those past appointments drew far fewer candidates.
Jones said she is encouraged by the fact that there were eight candidates for the commissioner seat and other people she spoke to who expressed interest.
“The government is still about ‘We The People,’” Jones said. “If we don’t participate, we’re in trouble.”
But Jones, a Republican, said the current process for filling political vacancies in Wyoming is a bit antiquated.
Under state law, most vacancies for local elected official seats are filled through a nomination process engaged by the county political party that the past official belonged to. The county party nominates three candidates from which their county commissioners pick.
This process has come under scrutiny in recent years for some controversial appointments at the state and local levels. Earlier this fall, the Sheridan County commissioners refused to select any of candidates nominated by its county Republican Party and deferred to a local judge to choose between the candidates.
Jones said she would be open to the idea of conducting a special election for vacancies. She said this would cost the county about $15,000 to run.
“The Republican Party is very vocal about voting after all,” Jones said.
Correnti has advocated for making political parties mostly private entities in Wyoming and said he would support legislation that would allow political parties to decide who could run as a member of their parties in general elections.