Laramie County GOP Out Of State Party’s Doghouse, Raising Big Money

What a difference a year can make. That’s about how long it’s taken the Laramie County Republican Party to go from being an outcast and in the doghouse of the Wyoming Republican Party to hosting the upcoming state GOP convention in April.

LW
Leo Wolfson

March 12, 20246 min read

It was a packed house recently for the annual Laramie County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Cheyenne.
It was a packed house recently for the annual Laramie County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Cheyenne. (Laramie County Republican Party via Facebook)

What a difference a year can make.

That’s about how long it’s taken the Laramie County Republican Party to go from being a relative outcast and in the doghouse of the Wyoming Republican Party ranks to one of the leading county parties for fundraising and picked to host the upcoming state GOP convention in April.

“Now, we look way better as far as the bill-pay situation for our county for the state,” said Laramie County GOP Chairman Taft Love.

When Love was elected as new chairman of the county party in March 2023, he vowed to improve the party’s fundraising and member recruitment efforts.

The party was in a hole at the time. In the leadup to the 2022 GOP state convention, the Laramie party had become delinquent on its dues to the state party. In addition, a rules infraction committed at a county convention led to the state GOP removing all but six of its delegates for the state convention that year.

When Love and the new leadership took over, they immediately paid off nearly $11,000 of back dues, a debt he said they knew they had to resolve to have any hope of the largest Wyoming county Republican Party group realizing its full allotment of 36 delegates for this year’s convention.

The jury is still out on that, but state GOP officials have expressed a willingness to return Laramie’s delegates, and Love said he now feels confident they will be restored.

Caught Up

Former Chairman Dani Olsen is now the party’s state committeewoman. Olsen oversaw the county party during the height of the pandemic and ensuing few years when many social gatherings were either greatly reduced or not held at all.

At the state party leadership elections last May, the county party paid off all of their remaining dues and, thanks to an unexpected $5,000 contribution from state Treasurer Curt Meier, were also able to start paying toward dues for the next year.

The move was celebrated by party leaders at the time, receiving a standing ovation from those in attendance.

Those good relations continued to develop as Cheyenne was chosen as the host city for the biennial state convention for the first time since 2012.

“We’re excited about that,” Love said.

Although Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne spoke critically of the Laramie GOP in the past, he worked with the county party to help plan the convention event this past winter.

Laramie County GOP Committeeman Dallas Tyrrell, from left, Treasurer Teresa Kunkel and Chairman Taft Love credit a reinvigorated recruiting and fundraising approach for their county party's recent success.
Laramie County GOP Committeeman Dallas Tyrrell, from left, Treasurer Teresa Kunkel and Chairman Taft Love credit a reinvigorated recruiting and fundraising approach for their county party's recent success. (Courtesy Photo)

How Did They Do It?

The Laramie GOP now has a bank account balance of $71,345. When the new leadership took over, that was closer to $20,000.

Love said the difference has been a matter of engagement with the public and new forms of advertising.

“We said we’re going to raise money so we can find good candidates, get good conservatives elected to office, and we’re going to reengage our community,” Love said. “The outreach that we’ve made in our community is what’s really showing up in our bank account.”

Quite simply, the party has been getting many more people to attend its events, like the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Last year, 85 tickets were sold for the event. This year, 301 people bought tickets for the program that featured U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman and Gov. Mark Gordon as guest speakers, in addition to a successful auction. The event raised $66,000.

One of the biggest compliments received that night, in Laramie County GOP Committeeman Dallas Tyrrell’s mind, was when someone told him they didn’t recognize anyone in the room.

“I thought that was great, because that tells you there’s a whole new group of people that are just as interested and they’re willing to come support us, and we’re reaching out to those people,” he said.

Tyrrell said the party started getting much more aggressive with its fundraising efforts and attempts to recruit younger members into the party. That also helped heal some of the divide that had formed between traditional Republicans and the more socially conservative wing of the party.

Election Efforts

Tyrrell said the party also plans to step up efforts for the upcoming elections this fall.

Although Cheyenne has only been represented by Republicans in the Wyoming Legislature over the last two election cycles, there were a few fairly close general election races in 2022, a fact that’s not lost on Tyrrell.

“If we have funds, we can help ensure that we’re getting the funds to the right candidates so that we can beat those people out,” he said.

At its recent county convention, the county party passed a resolution requiring a pledge from candidates that they will adhere to the Republican Party platform at least 80% of the time to get financial support for their campaigns. Tyrrell said this is a commitment he “absolutely” believes certain Republicans in Laramie County haven’t held to in the past.

But Love said a more uniform metric needs to be established to determine what qualifies for meeting that 80% benchmark, a common threshold used with Republican circles to determine whether someone is loyal to the party. He plans to bring a resolution addressing this at the upcoming state convention.

Laramie County members also elected Tyrrell as their delegate to the Republican National Convention this summer, where he plans to support former President Donald Trump. Tyrrell beat out Secretary of State Chuck Gray for this role.

“I think that says a lot for the fact that the body is seeing the work that’s being done and they’re approving of the work that’s being done,” Tyrrell said.

The party leaders are also open to crossing county and even state lines into to Colorado to donate to certain candidates.

“The closer you allow that to come to your border, the more likely it is to occur inside of your county,” Love said. “If you can stay very sovereign and controlled in your own county and help your neighbors establish good conservative leadership, you’re really making a good core unit for the rest of the state to operate with.”

Tyrrell said it’s all part of a larger effort to bring more unity to the Republican Party as a whole through a “power in numbers” approach.

“There’s strength in numbers,” he said. “You cannot have a divided party, you cannot have people all over the place. If you don’t like the process or the way that it’s ran, then you need to go through the proper channels to fix the things you don’t like.”

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter