On the political spectrum, some consider the Jan. 6, 2021, protest at the U.S. Capitol an insurrection against the U.S. government while others defend those who stormed the Capitol as patriots whose prosecution for their involvement in it is unjust.
Count the leadership of the Campbell County Republican Party in the patriot camp. The group will host Couy Griffin, a man who was convicted for his participation in the Jan. 6 event, as its guest speaker on the three-year anniversary of the event on Jan. 6, 2024, a party fundraiser titled “A Jan. 6 Prisoner’s Story.”
"The Campbell County GOP has invited Couy to come and share his story of political persecution and the weaponization of the justice system against conservative America,” Campbell County GOP Chairman Scott Clem posted on his Facebook page.
Clem did not respond to multiple requests for direct comment from Cowboy State Daily.
Former Gillette state lawmaker and House Speaker Tom Lubnau said he’s disappointed that the party has invited Griffin to the event and believes Jan. 6 set a dangerous precedent in American history in handling the peaceful transition of power after presidential elections.
“I think it’s a shame that we place convicted criminals on a pedestal and let them speak,” Lubnau said.
Campbell County Republican Party Committeewoman Janet Mader said the party is bringing Griffin in as a way to hear “both sides of the story” about Jan. 6.
“We feel everybody should have the opportunity to look at both sides of the story,” she said. “This guy has been through the fire on this, so let’s hear his side of the story.”
Mader believes there has been “a cover up” about just what happened that day.
“I’ve been looking for the truth myself and think it will come out,” Mader said. “Let’s get down to the brass tacks of what really happened there. I want to hear other people’s side of the story."
Who Is Griffin?
Griffin is the founder of the activist group Cowboys for Trump, a group whose members are known for riding horseback at political events and rallies in support of former President Donald Trump and other politicians.
Griffin was a New Mexico county commissioner at the time he attended the Jan. 6 event, where he climbed over barriers and walls to gain access to a restricted area of the grounds. Later that month during a county commissioner meeting, Griffin announced that he would go back to Washington, D.C., with firearms for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
When he did just that, he was arrested and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Lubnau said he looks at Jan. 6 in very simple terms as it pertains to law and order.
“If a police officer tells me don’t go and I go there, that’s a crime,” he said. “Whatever the motive was, (Griffin) committed a crime when he crossed that line.”
Griffin would go on to spend days in solitary confinement for refusing to take a COVID-19 test while in jail. He was released from jail about two weeks later, was found guilty for trespassing, but was acquitted on a disorderly conduct charge. As part of his sentencing, Griffin was given 14 days in jail (already served), 60 days of community service and a $3,000 fine.
"What you'll hear is both shocking and surreal,” Clem posted about of Griffin’s story. "It's hard to believe this could happen in America, and it leaves us all wondering, what's next for America?"
A local lawsuit was filed in New Mexico to remove Griffin from office for participating in the Jan. 6 event under a constitutional 14th Amendment violation. The judge granted the request, banning Griffin for life from holding public office for participating in an insurrection, unless overruled by an act from Congress.
Griffin appealed the case before the New Mexico Supreme Court, which dismissed the case in February.
In his place, the New Mexico governor appointed a Democrat to replace Griffin, a Republican. The Democrat was later defeated by a Republican in the 2022 general election.
Coming To Wyoming …
Some of the Wyoming Republican Party and the majority of its central committee members have expressed sympathy with those who participated in the Jan. 6 protests. The party’s chairman, Frank Eathorne, was in Washington, D.C., that day. Eathorne was much closer to the Capitol during the event than he initially said, but he did not get as close as Griffin did.
Trump won Wyoming by a larger margin than any other state during the 2020 election and his endorsed candidate for congress, U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, dominated her primary and general elections in 2022.
That Griffin would be invited by the Campbell County Republican Party isn’t surprising, Mader said. Overall, 87% of that county’s voters cast ballots for Trump in 2020.
“Campbell County has always supported Trump,” Mader said, adding that people should take the time to hear what Griffin has to say, and if they still don’t like it, that’s fine.
“Come listen and decide for yourself.” she said.
Mader said it was the decision of the party’s fundraising and executive committees to have Griffin speak and no party-wide vote was taken about the invitation, which is the typical procedure for any guest speaker the party hosts.
Not Everyone Wants To Hear
Randy Okray is a precinct committee member in the Campbell County GOP who opposes the event and believes anyone who participated in Jan. 6 should expect the punishment they received.
“Everyone that was in that area at that time knew exactly what they were doing and created that issue for our country,” Okray said.
A self-admitted moderate Republican, Okray said he’s not happy with the direction the state GOP has been taking in recent years.
“I know where I kind of want to be and where I want my neighbors to be, and I think that’s more middle ground and just being trusted of whose in those positions,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem like we have that."
Okray believes certain members of the Republican Party are picking and choosing when they want to support the government and law enforcement depending on the issue being debated at the time.
He cited how certain police support movements like Back The Blue and Blue Lives Matter gained mass support from conservatives in the wake of mass protests across the country in the summer of 2020. But it was Capitol Police that many of the people participating on Jan. 6 were disobeying.
“The minute that spotlight kind of gets turned back then it’s crying foul all the time,” Okray said.
Okray expressed concerns to county party leadership about Griffin coming to speak, but he said that fell on deaf ears.
Mader confirmed that the party is paying for Griffin to attend, who she said must travel by vehicle to get to Wyoming.
“I just didn’t agree that we should pay for him to come up and share his story about how the government was persecuting him,” Okray said.
The Jan. 6 event is being billed as a fundraiser for the county party and will also include a pie auction.
"Fundraisers like this help us to pay our state party dues and enable us to raise campaign funds for Republican candidates in elections,” Clem wrote in an email promoting the event. "With this being a presidential election year, fundraisers like this are crucial."
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.