By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
Natrona County will only have six delegates representing the county at the upcoming state GOP convention, fewer than 20% of the delegates the state’s second-largest county usually fields.
With no action expected on a lawsuit filed by the Natrona County GOP against the state Republican Party before the convention begins on May 5, Natrona County will have to abide by limits on its delegates set by the state party.
The dispute stems from the state party’s 2020 convention, when it adopted bylaws requiring each county party to pay dues to the state party.
Natrona County is opposed to the way these bylaws were passed and filed a lawsuit over the change in 2020.
The county also refused to pay its dues to the state party, prompting the state Republican Party in January to cut the number of Natrona County delegates allowed to participate in this year’s convention, to be held May 5-7 in Sheridan, from 33 to six.
The Natrona County Republican Party owes the state GOP $25,217 for dues that state party Treasurer Bob Ferguson said have been accruing since July 2019.
In documents filed with the state district court in Natrona County hearing the lawsuit, the Natrona County GOP said it has refused to pay its dues because it does not support how the state GOP is being run and because of fundraising difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both parties have asked the judge in the case to rule in their favor before the trial on the lawsuit is scheduled to begin on June 6.
But Natrona County Republican Party Chairman Ken Taheri said it was announced during a March 22 court hearing that no ruling would be made on the case prior to the state convention, meaning Natrona will be stuck at six delegates for the convention.
In addition to opposing the content of the bylaws, Natrona County Republicans have argued in their lawsuit that when the state GOP passed its current bylaws in June 2020, it only counted votes from those present at the meeting and not all elected delegates.
The county party also said this vote took place through a voice vote, with less than a majority of those in attendance giving voting in favor.
The state GOP has argued a clear majority voted to pass the bylaws. It has also argued the issue should not be settled in state district court because it involves internal party matters and have said the party will ratify bylaws at the upcoming convention that will make this lawsuit “moot.”