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wyoming politics

Green River Couple Runs To Be Husband-Wife Legislative Team

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19796

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming may have its first husband and wife team in the Legislature next year for the first time in more than 30 years

Green River resident Jennifer James is running as a Republican for the state House this fall, while her husband Tom James is already a state senator. 

Sen. Tom James represents Senate District 13, while Jennifer James is running for House District 60, which sits inside SD13.

The idea of both serving in the Legislature is something the couple has discussed, Jennifer James told Cowboy State Daily.

“We both discussed our future political aspirations at that time and we made our life decisions together,” she said.

It would be the first example of a husband and wife serving in the Legislature since U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis and her husband Al Wiederspahn simultaneously represented Laramie County. Lummis was a Republican in the Legislature while Wiederspahn served as a Democrat.

“I appreciate the comparison and respect Senator Lummis but did not know her husband,” Jennifer James said.

State Rep. Mark Baker, R-Green River, the current representative from House District 60, is not running for re-election so Jennifer James might have a clear path through the Republican primary in August. 

Jennifer James said she has been happy with Baker’s leadership and would not run against him.

“I plan to step forward on issues important to my community members including the Second Amendment, the fight for life, education systems, smaller government, free market, continued religious freedoms and diligent healthcare policies,” she said in a Friday press release.

Sen. James is seeking re-election this fall and has announced his intention to run, but has not yet officially filed. 

Jennifer James said she has no plans to team up with her husband on bills or for their political campaigns.

“We’re two independent people and we’re kind of keeping it that way,” she said. “We have very different personalities.”


Sen. Tom James (second from right) and Jennifer James (far right) at a gala in Rock Springs in February, 2022.. (Kim Raff/The New York Times)

Jennifer James said she and her husband are staunchly conservative and adhere to the Republican Party platform. In February 2021 he won an award from the Conservative Political Action Conference for his voting record.

Jennifer James said she does differ from her husband on opportunities for the state to obtain federal support.

For instance, Jennifer James supports the addition of an Office of Grant Procurement for Wyoming, an agency she said “is extremely successful in other states and can bring us multi-millions of dollars.” She said her husband is concerned with the strings that could come attached to such a program.

The two married in October 2021 and Jennifer James, previously of Laramie County, moved to her district around that time, allowing her to meet the one-year residency requirement for candidates.

While a Laramie County resident, before her marriage, she ran for House District 10 in 2020 against incumbent Rep. John Eklund Jr. (R-Cheyenne). Although she lost that election, she did place second in the four-candidate field. 

“My former district was spread out geographically which made it difficult to reach our ranchers and farmers at their homes,” she said, a problem she believes will be alleviated in Green River, where she thinks she will be more easily able to campaign door-to-door.

Jennifer James owns a nonprofit health care training company and credits this, as well as her past experience working with the Wyoming Department of Health and the State Board of Nursing for giving her policy knowledge that will be valuable in the Legislature.

James has a doctorate in nursing systems and a master’s degree in health law and is currently earning a post-graduate certificate in public policy design and innovation from Harvard University. 

“I have had multiple successes relating to the creation of state policies and wish to bring my ideas and experience to the Wyoming Legislature,” she said in the press release. “I saw issues from the inside, but I’m not another government crony; I understand the barriers and will help us overcome.”

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Gordon Kicks Off Election Season By Filing For Second Term

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Photo by Matthew Idler.
19754

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s formal 2022 election season was launched Thursday as the secretary of state’s office opened its doors for people to register as candidates.

Gov. Mark Gordon marked the occasion by walking into the secretary of state’s office in the Capitol at 8 a.m. Thursday to file as a candidate for a second term.

Gordon, like a number of other candidates, had already announced his intention to run before filing. Although the filing process may be a formality as far as the public is concerned, it is a necessary step in order to be considered a candidate by the state and win a spot on the election ballots. Deadline for filing is 5 p.m. May 27.

Other top officials who have announced their intention to seek re-election include Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curtis Meier and Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, who was appointed earlier this year to finish the unexpired term of former Superintendent Jillian Balow. It costs $300 to run for all of these positions including the governor. 

The highest profile race of 2022 has so far been the battle for the Republican nomination for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is seeking her fourth term in the House and faces primary challenges from several other Republicans, including Harriet Hageman.

Hageman announced her intention to run against Cheney in September 2021, winning the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in the process. A handful of other candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for this race, indicating they will pay the $750 filing fee.

Although the U.S. House race is colorful, some races at the state level will be just as contentious.

State Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, on Thursday announced his intent to run for Senate District No. 19 to battle lawmakers he described as “RINOs,” or “Republicans In Name Only.”

“It is time to move to the upper chamber and get a conservative majority,” he said. “Currently both chambers in Wyoming are controlled by rinos, it is time to change that.”

The seat is currently held by Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell, who indicated in a post on Twitter in March he will seek election to a second 4-year term in the Senate.

A number of candidates have announced their intention to run for other state House and Senate seats across the state. The cost to run for these positions is $100.

All statewide candidates must file an account through the Wyoming Campaign Finance Information System in addition to filing for office.

County-level positions do not  require filing on WCFIS. This filing can be completed at the candidate’s local county courthouse. The filing fee for all of local positions is $100. There is no filing fee for candidates for school board seats.

For more information visit sos.wyo.gov/Elections/2022ElectionInformation.aspx or call 307-777-5860.

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Donald Trump, Jr. Launches Ads For Hageman Campaign

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19739

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

With Wyoming’s Republican primary election about three months away, campaigning for the state’s lone U.S. House is picking up, with Donald Trump Jr. advertising in support of Harriet Hageman.

Trump Jr., in a new ad to air on cable and broadcast television channels, is endorsing Hageman in her challenge to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney re-election bid in the ad.

“She’s the congresswoman Wyoming deserves,” Trump Jr. said in the ad, which will run for the next three weeks.



The campaign is sponsored by Wyoming Values PAC, of which Trump Jr. is an honorary chair. As of its most recent filing on March 31, the political action committee had raised $957,419 in the 2022 election cycle and spent $604,759.

In a Tuesday press release, the group said it plans to spend more than $500,000 in advertising leading up to former President Donald Trump’s rally with Hageman on May 28 in Casper. 

Wyoming Values has registered itself as a “super PAC.” According to Opensecrets.org, a nonprofit campaign contribution resource, “super PACs” may raise unlimited sums of money through donations from individuals and organizations and then spend an unlimited amount in support of or opposition to political candidates. However, they cannot donate money directly to candidates and they must act independently of the candidate.

Wyoming Values is registered in Virginia. The Hageman campaign has repeatedly implied that Cheney’s positions are more closely tied to those of Virginia than Wyoming. In March, the Hageman campaign created a spoof website called “Cheney for Virginia.”

In a news release announcing the online ads featuring Trump Jr., Wyoming Values lists a Casper address as its contact point. Very little information is provided on the PAC’s website beyond describing itself as “conservative representation for Wyoming,” and providing a section for people to donate to its campaign. 

During the advertisement, Trump Jr. refers to his father’s endorsement of the Hageman campaign.

“For far too long Liz Cheney has bowed to the Democrat elites like (Rep.) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That’s why my father and I endorse Harriet Hageman for Congress,” he said.

In a copy of the 31-second video posted to YouTube, Sunday, Trump Jr. also said Hageman will defend the border and the U.S. Constitution.

Cheney has been a vocal critic of the former president and voted for his impeachment on allegations he agitated rioters to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump endorsed Hageman on the day she announced she would challenge Cheney for the GOP nomination to the House.

Cheney has launched a series of her own Internet ads as well, but with a focus largely on her own campaign rather than criticism of her challengers. 

The two candidates’ social media pages also differ in their focus, with  Cheney’s mostly covering her stances on domestic and international policy issues. Hageman has taken more of a pointed approach, creating at least seven posts since April 15 that boast of her allegiance to Trump or criticize Cheney.

Through March 31, Cheney’s campaign had raised $10.1 million, with out-of-state donors making up the majority of her individual contributions. Her contribution total with almost six months to go before the general election shatters the $3 million she raised throughout her 2020 campaign.

According to Opensecrets,The Blackstone Group, an investment management company based in New York City, was Cheney’s biggest individual contributor through March 31 with $34,800 donated.

Cheney has spent just under $3.5 million during this campaign cycle.

Katherine Christy, a Florida resident, was Hageman’s largest individual contributor at $11,600.

Hageman has raised $2.06 million and spent $986,606 on her campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

Hageman has more than twice as many individual Wyoming contributions as Cheney, $543,094 compared to Cheney’s $255,336. California is the largest source of Cheney’s individual contributions with $942,758. Florida is Hageman’s second-largest source, with donations totaling $211,983.

Great Task PAC, a Cheyenne-based political action committee formed to support Cheney’s third re-election bid, made the largest single donation to Cheney’s campaign at $296,835. In all, Great Task has donated $550,735 to Cheney in six separate donations.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated on Friday, Feb. 13, to remove references to WINRED as a campaign donor. WINRED is a vendor that processes campaign contributions for candidates.)

Former House Speaker Tom Lubnau Resigns From GOP Leadership

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19690

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A former speaker of Wyoming’s House is resigning as a member of the state Republican Party’s leadership, citing differences with the actions and ethics of the state party.

Tom Lubnau, a 10-year legislator, is resigning his position as state committeeman with Campbell County Republican Party, a position that makes him a member of the state GOP’s central committee.

“The lack of integrity, toxicity and the move toward secrecy have convinced me to resign from this position,” he wrote in his resignation letter. 

Lubnau declined to make any further comment to Cowboy State Daily.

Lubnau’s letter of resignation was submitted to Heather Herr, chairman of the Campbell County Republican Party, on Saturday afternoon, while the state GOP convention was ongoing.

Herr did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In his letter, Lubnau said he was convinced to leave the central committee by the party’s adoption of a new “alternate dispute resolution process” which he compared to a secret court or “star chamber.”

“The system provides for secret proceedings, without notice or rules, standards of conduct which may be enforced, and unappealable legal judgments rendered in secret by a panel which cannot be challenged for bias,” Lubnau wrote. “The program is an affront to our legal system and reminds me of the Star Chamber proceedings under King Charles I.”

The process approved by the more than 250 delegates to the party’s convention last weekend is designed to resolve in-party disputes. Its work will be overseen by an Investigative Committee and Dispute Resolution Committee. No members outside the party or attorneys are allowed to represent parties in these conflicts. 

Members of the Dispute Resolution Committee will be hand-picked by the state party’s chairman, currently Frank Eathorne of Douglas.

Eathorne and Brian Schuck, the party’s attorney, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment. 

Lubnau said although he has vocally criticized the state party’s leadership in the past, the “triggering” event for him was the passage of the dispute resolution process.

“The willingness of constitution-loving Republicans to subjugate themselves to the whims of the Party Chairman is frightening,” Lubnau wrote. “The willingness to give up constitutionally protected rights in the name of expediency and quashing dissent is appalling.”

The bylaw addition was considered by the Bylaws Committee and then passed by the state’s delegates on Saturday with no input from the state central committee.

This bylaw was originally proposed by the Weston County Republican Party.

Kari Drost, Weston County GOP chairman, defended the bylaw in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

“It was a grassroots effort out of Weston County with the goal to settle disputes within the party rather than with a lawsuit,” she said. “I think it’s a great policy that had wonderful support in Weston and the state GOP.”

Another bylaw approved on Saturday addressed lawsuits filed against the party, specifying that anyone who files lawsuits against the state or county parties without going first to the new Dispute Resolution Committee will have to pay the legal fees of the group being sued.

Lubnau said these new bylaws infringe on the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. 

Lubnau in January was named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Eathorne and the state Republican Party central committee, challenging the way three nominees for the vacant office of superintendent of public instruction were selected.

At the time Lubnau said the process used to select nominees for submission to Gov. Mark Gordon was unconstitutional because it violated the “one man-one vote” principle of the Equal Protection Clause in both the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions.

The Natrona County Republican Party is also involved in a lawsuit against the Wyoming Republican Party over dues.

In his letter, Lubnau said the party has “drifted away from” him. After serving as a state committeeman in the late 1980s, he was elected to the state House five times and Republican House Caucus leadership three times. 

Lubnau said he had hoped that he could help the party alter its course but has now lost this faith and wants the Campbell County party represented on the state central committee by someone who doesn’t share his “trepidation and distrust.”

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Randy Okray, a Campbell County GOP precinct committeeman who has been friends with Lubnau for a number of years. “He’s one of the most intelligent and upstanding people that we have.”

Lubnau was elected by the county party’s voters in 2020 for a term as state committeeman that started in January 2021. However, he will not finish out the rest of his two-year term. 

The Campbell County GOP central committee will be responsible for filling his position within 30 days of his notice.

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Barrasso’s Outdoor Recreation Act Moves To Senate Floor

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Photo by J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images
19711

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A measure designed to promote outdoor recreation on America’s public lands co-sposored by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso has been sent to the U.S. Senate floor for consideration.

The American Outdoor Recreation Act, sponsored by Barrasso and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources earlier this month, moving it to the full Senate for review.

The bill is a bipartisan recreation package that would benefit outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and target shooting by providing funding for new trails and recreation areas.

The bill also contains language designed to make it easier for film production companies to get access to public lands by streamlining the regulatory process involved.

“Our bipartisan legislation is a monumental achievement for all who enjoy our public lands and shared natural resources,” Barrasso said. “It will increase access to the outdoors, streamline and simplify agency processes, and improve America’s recreation infrastructure.”

The federal legislation has the support of the Wyoming Office of Tourism, Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, America Outdoors Association and Wyoming Outfitters & Guides Association.

“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act bolsters the outdoor recreation economy and opens the doors for outfitters new and old to provide ample and affordable guided opportunities to folks from all walks of life,” said Aaron Bannon of Lander, executive director of America Outdoors Association. 

The bill consists of several different funding and regulatory packages, including Barrasso’s Federal Interior Land Media Act and his Cape and Antler Preservation Enhancement Act. Sen. Cynthia Lummis is a co-sponsor of both these bills.

The act would also establish a pilot program that would make real-time visitation data readily available for members of the public seeking to visit recreation sites on federal land, a tool that could be critical for gateway communities like Jackson and Cody.

Gateway communities are a specific target of the legislation as part of the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act piece of the bill. 

The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service are to collaborate with state and local entities to identify needs and economic impacts in gateway communities and provide financial and technical assistance to expand and assist tourist visitation. 

Assistance can include training programs, technical assistance, low-interest business loans, and loan guarantees.  

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Wyo GOP Hostilities Continue; Now Laramie County Members Demand Chairwoman Resign

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Laramie County GOP chairwoman Dani Olsen
19676

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Hostilities continued to simmer in the Laramie County Republican Party on Tuesday as competing factions submitted their own resolutions calling for members of the other faction’s leadership to resign.

One resolution, delivered by precinct member Ben Hornok, calls on Laramie County GOP Chairman Dani Olsen to resign. Olsen has been chairman of the party since 2019.

“It’s just been her overall behavior,” said Laramie County GOP convention delegate Freddy Flores-Salieb. “It’s just the whole power grab and choosing the exclusion of people.”

At the same time, Mike Heath, a member of the county party’s executive committee, wrote the other resolution, strongly urging precinct committee members Hornok, Susan Graham, Fred Schlachter, Steve Johnson, Christine Johnson and “others not named but who support their actions to resign from their elected positions as precinct committeemen and precinct committewomen effective immediately” and refrain from all party involvement in the future.

“There has been a longtime, successive attempt to undermine the party,” Heath said.

The resolutions were both submitted amid allegations that each faction was trying to split the party. They followed a dispute during the Wyoming Republican Party’s convention over the weekend that saw 34 of Laramie County’s possible 37 delegates turned away from participating in the convention as punishment for violations of party bylaws.

Hornok’s resolution called for Olsen to resign because she was responsible for the violations that took place at the county party’s convention on March 5. 

These violations, including failing to rank alternates and call for nominations from the floor, were addressed by the state party at its convention in Sheridan on Saturday with an overwhelming majority voting to only allow three of Laramie County’s possible 37 delegates to be seated for the convention.

“That’s a big deal,” Flores-Salieb said.

Flores-Salieb said Olsen should resign not only because of Laramie County losing its delegates, but also because she made “a big show” at the convention of turning in her credentials and then failing to return to the convention hall as a spectator, as many other county party members did.

Olsen said she has no plans to resign and feels confident the majority of the party will support her. At the convention on Saturday, Olsen took some responsibility for the mistakes made at the county convention.

“This is just a continuation of divisions already brought forward,” she said.

Olsen said the push to oust her is coming from Hornok, who was the first to report the county party’s violations to the state Republican Party’s executive committee.

Hornok later advocated for seating all of Laramie County’s delegates at the state convention. 

Hornok did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Heath, meanwhile, said Hornok and his supporters are “Democrat infiltrators” attempting to pull the party apart, an accusation he also directed at state party leadership. 

Olsen said she doesn’t agree with Heath’s theory, but does agree with Heath that her detractors are using the same tactics used by Democrats in Colorado to divide Republicans and take over political leadership in the state. The theory is detailed in a book called “The Blueprint.”

“They are taking the steps that already happened in Colorado,” Olsen said.

Olsen said although Heath was not “unwarranted” in drafting his resolution, she added it should be up to the voters to decide whether they want to reelect these committee members or elect someone new.

Olsen, Heath and Flores-Salieb all agree cracks within the party started forming long before the county convention in March. 

Flores-Salieb criticized the way Olsen has conducted herself as chair, saying she performed a “near assault” on Hornok when she took a microphone away from him.

Since joining the party in 1991, Heath said there has always been a group of people within the Laramie GOP attempting to divide the party, but said this contingency has “gained more power and become more vocal” over the last few years. He said their growing influence started becoming noticeable during the 2012 Wyoming governor’s election, when he said winner Matt Mead received a significant amount of crossover votes from Democrats.

Olsen said another resolution asking just Hornok to resign was crafted while the state convention was actively taking place, but it has since been rescinded. 

These resolutions will be discussed at the Laramie County GOP meeting next Tuesday, May 17, at 6 p.m. at The Metropolitan Downtown restaurant in Cheyenne. Olsen said she will recuse herself from serving as chair on both resolutions and will abstain from voting on them as well.

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Senator Cale Case Censured by Fremont County Republican Central Committee

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19646

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

The Fremont County Republican Central Committee on Monday evening voted to issue a statement of disapproval against Republican state Sen. Cale Case of Lander.  

Taken by standing vote, 11 Republican precinct committee people voted in favor of a censure of Case, while seven voted against it. Two cast their votes in favor of the censure by proxy.

Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, voted for the censure and cast the proxy votes. Ottman later clarified to Cowboy State Daily that her vote was cast in her capacity as a precinct committee woman, not as a state lawmaker.  

Precinct committeeman Steve Lynn of Pavillion brought the censure resolution, saying Case no longer represents the people he governs.  

“The Cowboy State Daily article Senator Case wrote,” said Lynn, a precinct committeeman for Fremont County Precinct 14-1, “it fired me up.”  

Lynn was referencing a opinion piece Case had written for Cowboy State Daily on April 24 entitled “Big Tent Republicans, We Need You.” 

In it, Case expressed weariness with “Republican Party leadership,” saying it was intentionally blocking delegates from “the more moderate Natrona and Laramie counties” from taking part in the the party’s state convention, which he called an “echo chamber.”   

In his call for Case’s censure, Lynn called the op-ed misinformation, but also said proposing the censure brought him “no joy.”  

Earlier in the meeting, Ginger Bennett, Fremont County Republican Central Committee chairwoman, said the majority of Laramie County delegates to the state’s Republican convention were not seated at the convention because the county’s party “did not hold their elections correctly.”   

“Actions have consequences,” said Bennett, adding that the body of the party “is here to hold people accountable, because we believe in the rule of law.”  

As Lynn continued his argument to censure Case, he said “censure is not a tactic. It’s not to bully, it’s not rooted in hate and disparagement. Some are smirking and rolling their eyes, but I will tell you this: you work for us. Our elected officials work for the people.” 

Lynn said that the Republican party does welcome dissenting views, but won’t “be all things to all people for political expediency.”  

Constitutional Banter 

Lynn argued that Case had departed from the U.S. Constitution, Article One, Section Eight, by advocating for Medicaid expansion, which he called a violation of “limited government.”   

Case, who appeared at the meeting on Monday, disagreed with Lynn. 


State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander

 “I have not acted to thwart the will of the governed,” Case said. “The gentleman bringing the censure is not even an elector of mine.”    

Lynn’s precinct in Pavillion is not within Case’s district, which covers Lander, the Wind River Indian Reservation, other rural areas of Fremont County and a slim portion of Riverton.  

Case and Lynn debated on the “necessary and proper” clause of the legislative section of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the “general welfare” clause promising Congressional delegates the power to make laws benefitting the nation.  

Citing a Wyoming poll by Lori Weigel, Case claimed that 58% of Wyoming Republicans favor Medicaid expansion.  

Pavillion Embezzler 

Another cause for the censure resolution, said Lynn, was Case’s testimony on behalf of convicted embezzler Rebecca Milleson at her March 10 sentencing hearing in state district court in Fremont County.

Milleson was sentenced to supervised probation, with two prison sentences to be imposed should her probation be revoked, and was ordered to pay back over $180,000 to the town of Pavillion. She was convicted of taking money from Pavillion while she was employed as the town’s clerk.  

“When a Wyoming state senator speaks on behalf of a felon convicted of theft aggregate and larceny by bailee to reduce sentencing,” read Lynn from his resolution, “he is acting contrary to the will and consent of the governed.”  

Case defended his participation in the judicial proceeding against Milleson by stating that he believed in her. 

“I think there were extenuating circumstances to that person’s plight, and if you know the woman I’m talking about, you might know about the death of her son,” Case said. 

Milleson’s son died years prior following an accidental gunshot.  

“I’m a citizen just like all of you,” Case continued. “She’s entitled to a defense. She’s entitled to ask me, either in an official position, or a personal position, to act… If you knew the whole story you would not tell me I’m subverting the will of the governed by appearing in somebody’s defense at a judicial proceeding.”  

Debate 

John Pennington, of Shoshoni, stood to advocate for Case’s censure.  

“This entire country is a wreck on account of the conga line of RINO (Republican In Name Only) Republicans that we have in our midst,” said Pennington. “They continually work to foul us up by working outside the constraints of the 18 enumerated powers of the Constitution of this country.”  

Pennington said he had nothing personal against Case, but had noticed that his conservative score on sites that rank legislators by comparing their votes against party platforms was “lower than many of your Democratic cohorts.”  

Another precinct committeeman, John Brown, stood to defend Case.  

Brown said Case used to score as an ultra-conservative until the emergence of newer ranking sites, which, he said don’t “account for noes on bad bills.”  

Brown said the sites will dock a legislator for voting “no” on a gun bill that may or may not be practically sound.  

“Maybe the bill just sucked,” said Brown.  

Another speaker, Jim Hellyer, said he too had been having issues with party leadership.  

“If you’re serious about (the censure), I want to go down with Cale,” said Hellyer.  

Aftermath 

State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily after the vote that he disagreed with the censure, because it was brought by a party delegate not in Case’s district.  

Larsen, who attended the meeting, said the move should raise concerns among other Republicans.  

“Why should (Lynn) have the ability to tell the people of (Case’s) Senate district that their person should be censured?” said Larsen. “If the people of his district don’t like his position on Medicaid, or don’t like him testifying in a court case, they’re the ones that should bring up the censure issue.”

Larsen noted that the way the censure occurred concerned him, in spite of the fact that he and Case “don’t always agree on things.”  

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Fremont County GOP Seeking to Censure Sen. Cale Case For “Insubordination” To Oath of Office

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Photo by Matthew Idler
19630

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Republican Party members in a rural voter precinct of Fremont County are seeking a public statement of disapproval for a state senator.

The GOP in the precinct covering the town of Pavillion “has lost confidence” in Sen. Cale Case-R-Lander, according to a proposed resolution leaked Monday morning to Cowboy State Daily.  

Claiming Case is in “insubordination” to his oath of office, Steve Lynn, the Republican precinct committeeman for Fremont County Precinict 14-1, is asking the county party’s central committee to issue a formal censure against Case during its meeting Monday evening.

Lynn could not be reached via social media message Monday morning.  

The Accusations 

According to a proposed resolution submitted to the Fremont County GOP, the Republicans in the precinct lost faith in Case because of his reported departure from the state party’s platform, his support for Medicaid expansion, his favorable testimony on behalf of a convicted embezzler at her sentencing and what the document calls “misinformation” spread by Case to the media. 

Case, the document said, “consistently aims to expand government overreach in the case of Medicaid Expansion,” which, it continues, is “contrary to the limited government (provision)” of the U.S. Constitution.   

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily, Case countered that “the majority of Republicans (in Wyoming) support Medicaid expansion.”  

Case did not have data on hand to back the claim, but said he would produce it before the party at its Monday evening meeting.  

Pavillion Embezzler 

Case testified favorably for convicted embezzler Rebecca Milleson at her March 10 sentencing hearing, when she was sentenced to probation for stealing thousands of dollars from the town of Pavillion.  

Milleson had been the town’s clerk before her employment was terminated because of the thefts.  

She was sentenced to five years of supervised probation, with two consecutive prison terms to be imposed should her probation be revoked. Milleson also was ordered to pay $188,758 in restitution to the town.  

“I certainly wasn’t out of line testifying at a sentencing hearing,” said Case, who gave Milleson a job at his hotel’s restaurant after she was charged with the first set of theft charges in 2021.  

“(The party) might not like it, but everybody is entitled to a defense,” Case continued. “And I had a knowledge of the case and of the person. I think there were extenuating circumstances in her case.”  

Case said he believes Milleson “will turn out to be a credit to the community.”  

‘Dissenting Views’ 

Case said the call for his censure only affirms the position he took in a recent widely distributed op-ed calling on moderate Republicans to get to the polls this election season.  

“I think (the party is) working very hard to get rid of dissenting opinions and not being inclusive,” said Case. “And I think my own censure is part of that. They don’t tolerate dissenting views.”  

Case also pointed out that as of 1 p.m. Monday, he had not been invited to the central committee’s 6 p.m. meeting to rebut the call for a censure and added he had only received the proposed resolution from a friend, who leaked it.  

Voters ‘Get To Decide’ 

In the Senate, Case represents Lander, the Wind River Indian Reservation, other rural areas of Fremont County and a slim portion of Riverton. He does not represent the precinct seeking to formally censure him.

“I think I do a good job,” said Case, adding that the voters within his district, not the Fremont County Republican Party, are who “get to decide” whether he upholds their values.  

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Wyoming GOP Convention Wrap-Up: Civility & Optimism Despite Laramie County Walkout

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

More than 250 registered Republicans from around the state gathered in Sheridan last weekend to lay out the party’s stands on key issues and send directives to Wyoming’s legislators and congressional delegations as to the actions they would like to see taken.

And while the convention was not without arguments or disputes, the atmosphere remained civil at nearly all times. 

One of the major divisions within the party is the split between what has been described as its moderate and more conservative wings. 

Sheila Leach, a precinct member from Park County, said such divisions are to be expected from a party that counts 70% of the state’s voters as members.

“We have such a wide political spectrum,” she said.

The Trump Factor

That spectrum can be demonstrated in part by the strength of support and opposition among party members to former President Donald Trump.

The divide has taken shape in the Republican primary for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat sought by incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a frequent critic of Trump’s who voted for his impeachment, and Harriet Hageman, who won Trump’s endorsement in her House campaign.

It is worth mentioning that in the three states where primary elections have already occurred, Trump-endorsed candidates have gone 55-0 so far.

Carbon County GOP Chair Joey Correnti said he doesn’t see the Cheney-Hageman race so much as a test of allegiance to Trump but more of a measurement of the dedication to the values Trump represents. He said if Trump doesn’t run for president in 2024, a candidate who espouses his values would get his full support.

Laramie County Walkout

On Saturday, the party voted overwhelmingly to disallow all but three of Laramie County’s 37 delegates from being seated at the convention due to multiple bylaw violations made at their county convention.

Certain members from Laramie County, including party Chairman Dani Olsen, accused the party of playing politics with this decision as retribution for the county’s party speaking out against state party leadership.

Olsen pointed out that there were other county parties that also committed rule infractions at their county-level conventions, items the Credentials Committee considered but did not find raised to the level of Laramie County’s infractions. 

Ben Hornok, a Laramie delegate who originally reported the violations, said even though he asked unsuccessfully that the county’s full delegation be seated, he didn’t regret making his original report to the state party.

Laramie County precinct member and delegate Daniel Singh was one of the three party members who did represent the county for the rest of the convention. He was upbeat about the future of his county and the state party.

“Sure, there’s divisions, but I feel really good about where things are at,” he said. “We had a lot of good discussions today.”

Project Veritas

The State GOP had James O’Keefe, a political activist and undercover investigative journalist, speak twice during the convention about his organization Project Veritas.

O’Keefe has made it his goal to expose bias in the media and government corruption. At times, he has been criticized, accused of selectively choosing excerpts from his undercover interactions in a way that inaccurately displays the true nature of conversations, and for blurring ethical and legal lines to catch his suspects red-handed. 

O’Keefe did not appreciate being questioned about these allegations when speaking with Cowboy State Daily on Saturday.

“You’re bringing up something from more than 10 years ago?” he questioned.

O’Keefe went on to explain that by using undercover reporting tactics, it holds officials accountable without a shred of doubt.

In the past, he has agreed to pay settlements and has been found guilty of criminal charges stemming from his reporting, but it must be noted that these events did take place more than a decade ago.

O’Keefe has exposed legitimate wrongdoing, including his team’s recent reporting, showing a producer from CNN and an editor from the New York Times admitting to exaggerating the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a way to increase their audiences. 

Journalists & Sources

O’Keefe said he thinks a major problem in today’s age of journalism is the relationships journalists develop with their sources. The more attached to a source they become, he said, the less inclined they are to question the validity of their source’s statements or engage in reporting that might upset them.

“Reporters are torn by the access they get to sources,” he said. “They rely on the hand that feeds them.”

O’Keefe didn’t have a clear answer as to what could be done to solve this problem moving forward. 

He supported the leak of the recent Supreme Court draft decision on  Roe v. Wade and noted it was made possible by close relationships by Politico reporter Josh Gerstein with government sources.

Identifying the problem is only half the equation and if the Wyoming Republican Party desires to mend its divisions, it will have to figure out the solutions as well.

There is a clear desire to do so, as many people expressed the belief the party needs to be and is already unified. If it doesn’t, only more infighting will probably be the result.

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Laramie County Delegates Walk Out of GOP Convention After State Party Vote To Expel

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Members of Wyoming’s Republican Party voted Saturday to bar most of Laramie County’s delegation from the party’s convention, prompting a walkout by most of the county’s delegates.

Nearly all of the 37 of the county party’s delegates walked out of the Sheridan County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall single file, handing off their credentials to the GOP executive committee without a word. Three, however, did return to the convention in the afternoon to represent the county party’s leadership.

At its convention on Saturday, the Wyoming Republican Party voted to seat the minimum three of 37 possible delegates from Laramie County, the county with the most registered Republican voters in the state.

The action was recommended by the convention’s Credentials Committee and was taken as punishment for alleged violations of party rules by the Laramie County party at its own convention in March.

“I’m not surprised,” said Dani Olsen, chair of the Laramie County GOP, citing divisions in the party she believes led to the decision.


Laramie County GOP Chair Dani Olsen holding up her county’s credentials 

The vote was taken by roll call, with an overwhelming majority of the convention delegates voting to block 34 Laramie County delegates from taking part. The other three delegates, members of the county party’s leadership, were entitled to participate in the convention, but walked out with their colleagues.

Olsen said she suspects the county party’s members will vote to not pay their county’s roughly $15,000 dues to the party moving forward. Natrona County had earlier taken a similar position on dues and is now involved in a lawsuit against the state GOP.

The decision not to seat the delegates was made after more than two hours of debate on the topic. Laramie County delegates were not allowed to take part in any vote on the topic, a decision made with a 232-44 vote earlier in the meeting. 

In the end, party members voted 225-63 against allowing Laramie County’s 34 delegates to be seated, resulting in the walkout.

Carbon County GOP Chairmen Joey Correnti earlier suggested that the convention allow 32 of the 37 possible delegates to participate, but the motion failed failed on a vote of 157-119. 

“I stood up for giving them an opportunity,” Correnti said, explaining he wanted the body as the whole to have the opportunity to rule strictly on Laramie’s non-leadership delegates. “It came down to the people.”

Correnti said he needed a commitment from Laramie’s leadership to hand over their credentials to normal committee members for this to take place.

Most of the support for Laramie County came from delegates from Sweetwater, Natrona, Campbell and Sheridan counties.

Olsen said she was encouraged by the support she received from the other counties. She did not attend the rest of the meeting despite having the right to do so. Olsen said there is already chatter about which county party other delegates will target next.

“We’ve definitely got some ideas,” she said.

The actions stem from allegations the Laramie County party violated party bylaws at its county convention in March, including failing to take votes for delegates and alternates on a secret ballot.

The State GOP’s Credentials Committee voted 15-8 vote on Thursday to recommend only three of Laramie’s 37 delegates be seated at the convention’s business meeting Saturday.

There were rumblings before the convention started that a compromise would be made to allow more Laramie delegates to be seated.

Laramie County delegate Kathy Scigliano said prior to the start of the convention a compromise still wouldn’t be ideal for the county.

“Do we want big government?” she asked. “Do we want the state telling the county what to do?”

But Scigliano also said if anyone must be held accountable for the mistakes made at the county convention, it should be the county’s leadership.


Laramie State Committeeman Ben Sherman speaks to Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne after the delegate decision was made.

As the discussion progressed, Olsen appeared to become overwhelmed by emotion, breaking into tears, and was consoled by a few of her fellow party members including Laramie County GOP Vice Chairwoman Kyle Taylor.

“I just told her it’s not her fault,” Taylor said. “She did her best and fought for the county. As chair, she feels responsible for this.”

Olsen said although “the buck stops with her,” she doesn’t feel her actions merited the final result.

Opinions on the action were divided, with both supporters and opponents of allowing Laramie County’s delegation to stay speaking out.

“Do we set the precedent to capitulate,” Michael Lundgren of Lincoln County said. “Stand with those who want to stand with their fellow brethren because they don’t get their way?

“If they file a lawsuit and use a lawsuit as warfare like their leftist brethren, then so be it,” he added.

Many of Laramie County’s opponents cited a need to follow rules and said the county’s delegates were not certified because of the county’s actions.

Olsen disputed this and said all their delegates were certified, despite possible flaws in the process.

Even members within the Laramie County party expressed contrasting views on the issue.

“As a Republican who is concerned with voter integrity, Laramie (County) has had several issues with voter integrity in the past,” said Laramie County delegate Freddy Flores-Salieb. “There have been miscounts of precinct people, legislators of county areas representing areas they don’t live in. I strongly urge the body to stand for voter integrity and accountability.”

Ben Hornok, a Laramie County party member whose complaint launched the action at the convention, asked the state leadership to seat all of the county’s delegates.

“To borrow a phrase, there are good people on both sides,” he said. “The Republican Party is the only party able to make America great again. If Laramie (County) wants to be involved in the process they should be allowed. We proved that by paying our state shares last year.”

Hornok was referring to a delay the county made in paying its dues. The state GOP argues Natrona owes dues dating back to 2019.

Taylor said there will be a trickle-down effect for the decision that was made, with a likely continuation of events similar to what transpired on Saturday.

“It shows there is a clear division within the party,” she said. “It shows this will be the case moving forward.”

Correnti on the other hand was more optimistic for the future of the party based on the selflessness he saw exemplified by Laramie County’s leaders.

“That’s what we’re doing here is building teams,” he said. “Laramie showed a lot of teamwork and that’s pretty cool to see.”

(Editors note: This story was updated on May 9 to correct the name of one of the Laramie County delegate who spoke during Saturday’s GOP convention to Freddy Flores-Salieb. Due to reporter error, the person who spoke was originally misidentified as Frances Caster. Cowboy State Daily apologizes for the error.)

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Wyo Republican Convention: Resolutions Committee Wants End To EPA, BLM

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Resolutions calling for the dismantling of some of the state and federal government’s biggest agencies were approved Friday by the Resolutions Comittee of the state Republican Convention.

Among the resolutions approved Friday for review by all of the delegates to the convention during their business meeting Saturday were measures calling for an end to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and national and state offices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

A few people like delegate Kathy Orchard expressed concern that dissolving the EPA might empower certain more left-leaning states like Washington into becoming more empowered to make unilateral environmental decisions, such as blocking Wyoming coal producers from using seaport terminals in their state. 

This has been an issue playing out with the government’s oversight, drawing legal challenges from Wyoming and Montana alleging discriminatory denial of their products.

“If we have the responsibility of the EPA remaining within individual states who are wanting to haul coal, and railroads running through multiple states, what kind mess is that mess is that going create?” she questioned the committee. 

Isaac Best of Sublette County argued Wyoming would still have its own state EPA in place to handle these matters.

The Committee also voted to remove the BLM on a national level, before also agreeing later in the meeting to abolish state offices of the agency as well.

“Really, the lands should be state lands, not federal lands. What about the private property owners?” said Jana Williams of Uinta County.

There was little consideration during discussion of these issues on the logistics of eliminating major government departments.

Nina Webber, national committeewoman for the state GOP, said the resolutions are a road map for state legislators to follow, not hard and fast law.

“Resolutions are not law,” she said. “It’s the grassroots effort. We come in and represent the counties and the counties’ interests.”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, co-chair of the Resolutions Committee, said he was pleased with the committee’s efforts.

“The Wyoming Republican Party’s Resolution Committee has done great work,” he said. “The resolutions have gone through a careful scrutiny and grassroots process.”

Gray said he takes the resolutions very seriously in his work as a legislator, but delegate Kevin Aznoe of Lincoln County said he hasn’t seen many other legislators give the resolutions much consideration while they are in session.

Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland), co-chair on the Resolutions Committee, defined for committee members when their meeting began Friday how important the committee’s work is.

“The resolutions are us reacting to a left agenda,” he said. “We’re always going to be fighting that agenda. It’s the enemy’s agenda.”

Other resolutions approved included one calling for an end to the U.S. Department of Education.

The resolution had the support of Tom Kelly, one of the Republican candidates running for the superintendent of public instruction’s office.

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Wyoming GOP Committee Votes For ‘English As Official Language’ Resolution

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Photo by Leo Wolfson, Wyoming GOP convention
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Republican Party is considering adoption of the position that English should be the official language of the United States.

Members of the Resolutions Committee at the GOP Convention held in Sheridan approved a resolution for consideration by all convention delegates that would declare English the country’s official language.

If approved by convention delegates during their meeting on Saturday, the resolution will become the official position of the Wyoming GOP.

Several delegates speaking in support of the resolution said such a declaration would help motivate immigrants to learn the English language and better “assimilate” into American culture. 

Delegate Ben Decker of Campbell County said a nearly identical proposal was offered during the county’s convention by a non-native English speaking member of the party.

“He said, ‘Learning English makes it easier to assimilate into American culture,’” Decker said. 

“American Culture Under Attack”

Several committee members also said they were concerned that English is becoming a minority language considered unnecessary in America, bringing traditional American culture under attack.

“Immigration without assimilation is an invasion,” said Scott Brown, a delegate from Lovell and Big Horn County.

Decker said he supports the concept of America being a cultural melting pot, but is opposed to American culture becoming a minority in any U.S. area. Such developments lead to the country becoming a proverbial house divided, he said.

Decker blames the rise of Mexican cartels in southern California on a move away from English-speaking dominance. 

“Don’t just take your old culture and take over,” he said.

California is one of more than 30 states to have English language requirements while still offering election services in different languages. In Arizona, where there are also English language designation laws, the state offers a Spanish-language website for department of motor vehicle services.

Judeo-Christian Roots

Brown said he supports the designation of English as the country’s official language and added America needs to return to its Judeo-Christian roots. 

Judaism and Christianity, although deeply intertwined with the founding of the country and its growth, were not the only religions followed by colonists and early Americans.

Brown did say “grace” should be shown to non-English speakers who have recently moved to America and have yet to learn much English.

Decker also said it is proper immigrants should retain their native roots.

“It does not mean you should have to let go of your heritage if you come here,” Brown said. “It does mean you need to assimilate. Otherwise, there will be division.”

There are 27 countries that have designated English as the official language including Ireland (co-official) and Canada (excluding Quebec).

During the first Continental Congress, it was decided that no official language would be chosen for the country due to the diversity of languages already being spoken in the country at that time. 

Currently, all court documents and business contracts are required to be written in English in the U.S. 

“Money-Saver”

Bill Adsit, a committee member from Sheridan County, said making English the country’s official language would save money on printing and paper by eliminating the need to publish duplicates of official documents in foreign languages.

Adsit said learning English can also be a form of consumer protection for immigrants.

“There’s too many less-than-fine people to take advantage of those who don’t know what they’re getting into,” he said.

“It’s to their benefit to learn English,” he added. “When you move someplace you need to be able to assimilate to communicate.”

The fear of traditional American culture being tossed away also reared its head in in a few different discussions about education and the teaching of history. 

A few delegates expressed their support for legal immigration with Larry French, a committee member from Park County, pushing for a quicker process for immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

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Barrasso, Gordon Receive Mostly Support At GOP Convention Dinner, Some Boos

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso spoke during the congressional delegation dinner at the State GOP Convention on Friday night, largely drawing support from the audience, but also some noticeable jeers.

One of those detractors was Gillian Sears of Newcastle, who yelled out, “We’re mad at you” when Barrasso discussed the inflation he blames on President Joe Biden’s policies. Her husband Chad Sears said he feels similarly and was also disappointed with all the members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation.

“They don’t seem to be mounting any kind of response,” Chad Sears said, explaining he would like to see delegates push more bills opposing the Democrat policies and Biden.

“Build The Wall”

Barrasso said in an interview after his speech that he plans to vote against any bill for COVID funding until the Biden administration continues the building of the border wall at the southern border started by former President Donald Trump.

Chad Sears said he harbors the most discontent with Gordon, adding that he won’t vote for the governor in the fall election under any circumstance.

Gordon and Barrasso addressed a variety of different topics, nearly all based around their opposition to Biden’s policies and allegiance to former President Donald Trump. Gordon said the current administration has dropped the ball not only on the Mexico border but also the northern border with Canada.

“It’s amazing to me to watch what has happened when you see how quickly they disassembled all the great work the Trump administration did,” he said.

Eye-Roll

But Barrasso’s statements of allegiance only brought a handful of claps from the audience. By the time the senator mentioned making Biden a one-term president, Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell) rolled his eyes.

“Under Joe Biden, (U.S. Rep.) Nancy Pelosi and (U.S.) Sen. Chuck Schumer, we are less safe and we are less free,” Barrasso said.

Sears said Gordon “ceded all control to unelected bureaucrats” when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a move he said hurt businesses. One of those bureaucrats, he mentioned, was State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, who was not elected but appointed by Gordon.

Now, Sears sees the governor doing an about face and claiming to be the state’s “savior,” because of his Covid response.

“He didn’t take a stand,” Sears said.

During an interview with Cowboy State Daily earlier in the day, Gordon said it’s easy to criticize the COVID restrictions in hindsight, but said he has no regrets about his actions overall.

Hissed

The Park County Republican Party was one of the most vocal against Barrasso, with Cody resident Jona Vanata yelling out, “What are you going to do about it?” when Barrasso mentioned the crime rate in major U.S. cities.

Heidi Reed, a nurse from Albany County, said she still supports Barrasso and hissed when the senator brought up vaccine mandates during his speech.

“I support the patient’s bill of rights,” she said.

Barrasso still received a standing ovation from the audience and will have more time than Gordon to shore up support from voters as he has two more years in his term.

Gordon, who also won applause from the crowd, is running for re-election this year and will face at least one opponent in the Republican primary this August in Brent Bien, a veteran from Sheridan who attended the dinner and convention events earlier in the day. Constitution Party candidate Rex Rammell was also present at the convention.

U.S. congressional candidate Harriet Hageman was at the dinner but did not speak to the audience. Her opponent Liz Cheney announced on Thursday night she is not attending the convention due to Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne’s purported membership in the far-right, anti-government group “Oath Keepers.”

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Cheney Will Not Be Attending Wyo GOP Convention Because Eathorne Is “Oath Keeper”

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney will not be attending the Wyoming Republican Convention this weekend because of the party chairman’s alleged ties to a far-right anti-government militia.

A spokesman for Cheney issued a strongly worded statement saying the three-term congresswoman will not be attending the convention because Chairman Frank Eathorne was purported to be a member of the “Oath Keepers.”

“The chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party is a member of the Oath Keepers who was at the Capitol on January 6th and has called for secession, so no, Liz will not be attending,” Jeremy Adler told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday evening.

Adler further noted that many members of the Oath Keepers have been indicted for seditious conspiracy and three have recently pled guilty.

The question of Cheney appearing at the convention was much-discussed on Thursday. Both event organizer Bryan Miller and Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne said they had received no word on whether Cheney would attend the convention in Sheridan.

“We’re the grassroots and the grassroots isn’t very happy with her right now,” Eathorne told Cowboy State Daily earlier in the day.

Miller, chairman of the Sheridan County Republican Party, did say Cheney will not attend the convention’s congressional delegation dinner on Friday night.

However, Miller said the event will be U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and Gov. Mark Gordon.

Cheney, who is seeking election to a fourth term as Wyoming’s lone member of the U.S. House, appeared at the party’s 2020 convention by video.

However, in November, the Wyoming GOP’s central committee voted to stop recognizing Cheney as a Republican because of her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

She has also been targeted for earning a position on the U.S. House committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the riot and for her frequent criticism of Trump.

Harriet Hageman, one of Cheney’s opponents in the GOP primary for the House, is sponsoring a full breakfast buffet for convention delegates and alternates. The event at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds on Saturday will feature comments by Hageman.

Another featured speaker at the convention will be James O’Keefe of Project Veritas, who will make two presentations. O’Keefe is an American political activist and undercover documentarian who founded Project Veritas. 

Project Veritas is a controversial conservative activist group that describes itself as investigating and exposing corruption, dishonesty waste and other misconduct in public and private institutions.

Critics accuse Project Veritas of using deceptive video editing techniques to attack mainstream media organizations and left-leaning groups and politicians.

Various convention committees will discuss proposed resolutions, platforms and bylaws for the 2022 convention in meetings on Friday. The actual business meeting of the state GOP will take place Saturday.

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Laramie County Denied: Credentials Committee Votes 15-8 Against Seating Laramie County Delegates

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily political reporter

Most of Laramie County’s delegates to the Wyoming Republican Party’s convention in Sheridan should not be seated at the convention, its Credentials Committee decided Thursday.

The Credentials Committee voted 15-8 to recommend to the convention’s full slate of delegates that Laramie County only be allowed to seat three delegates instead of the 36 the county originally sent to the state meeting in Sheridan. 

The committee decided to only seat the Laramie County party’s three central committee members. 

The recommendation, made as punishment for the county party’s alleged violation of party rules, will have to be approved by the rest of the state’s delegates during the convention on Saturday to take effect.

However, the same committee voted against taking similar action against Sublette County’s delegates, even though it was accused of a similar violation of party rules.

The Credentials Committee, a board typically convened as more of a procedural clearing house, has taken on a more high-profile role during this year’s convention.

The purpose of the committee is to decide whether each of the 23 Wyoming county party delegates and alternates were properly certified at their county’s convention.

A complaint submitted to the state GOP’s executive committee accused the Laramie County party of committing multiple procedural violations at its county convention, including not ranking alternate delegates, failing to call for nominations from the floor and failure to vote for delegates using a secret ballot.

The executive committee decided to have the issue addressed by the Credentials Committee.

Laramie County is the state’s largest and contains about one-third of the state’s registered Republicans. Natrona County, which also contains about one-third of the state’s Republicans, has already seen its delegate count reduced from 33 to six because of an ongoing dispute over dues.

During the Credentials Committee’s meeting, committee members were divided over the need to take action against Laramie County.

“There’s a lot of misinformation that I think is leading to this motion being made,” Laramie County GOP Chairman Dani Olsen said, denying the claim the party didn’t take motions from the floor and bringing minutes from the county’s meeting in March to back up her case.

Michael Lundgren of Lincoln County and Susan Porden of Sheridan County, however, accused Laramie County of disenfranchising voters by violating the rules.

Porden said “she couldn’t imagine being disenfranchised by those in power” and said it was Olsen’s job to explain to voters, not the Credentials Committee, how they were disenfranchised.

Mary Martin, Teton County Party GOP chairman, spoke on behalf of Laramie County.

“One of the things I’m bothered with is certain individuals think they need to police other counties,” she said. “As the Republican Party we want home rule, county rule.”

Jeb Hanson of Niobrara County warned the committee to be mindful of the precedent its actions might set.

“We really need to be careful,” Hanson said. “We could be opening the door to attack any faction of the party don’t like. This is cherry picking. We need to be on the honor system. There is a proper time to make objections. It is not later at a state executive committee meeting.”

A proposal later in the morning to reconsider the vote against Laramie County was defeated by a vote of 14-6.

The complaints against Laramie County spurred Gail Symons of Sheridan County to submit complaints of similar rule violations by Albany, Crook and Sublette counties. 

Symons said at the time she submitted the complaints that she did not believe any of the county parties acted intentionally, but said all county parties should be treated the same. 

Lundgren said the issue was one of integrity.

“Election notice and integrity are two very different things,” Lundgren said. “I agree with party of rule but when there is a violation, each violation should be taken into consideration.” 

But Olsen said the decision not to take any action against. Sublette County showed the committee was selectively enforcing its own rules.

Mary Lankford, a member of the Sublette County Republican Party’s central committee, told Cowboy State Daily she was denied an opportunity to volunteer as a delegate to the state convention because Sublette County did not accept any nominations for delegates from the floor during its convention in March.

“I fully intended to volunteer to serve as a delegate to the State Convention, as I am a duly elected Precinct woman representing Pinedale, and a member of the County Central Committee,” she said in an email. “There were other delegates present who intended to do the same.” 

Lankford cited the county rules requiring that nominations from the floor be entertained and said the Sublette County GOP declined to do so.

“At the end of the day’s agenda, a slate of delegates and alternates was read, and no nominations were allowed from the floor,” she said. “A voice vote confirmed the slate, and a quick motion to adjourn the meeting was passed.”

Olsen said she is still holding out hope that all of the county’s will be seated for the convention on Saturday by the rest of the convention’s delegates. She said all of her members will be present and will take part in the vote.

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One Of First Questions Of GOP Convention — Can Laramie County Participate?

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The question of whether Republican delegates from the state’s biggest county will be allowed to take part in the Wyoming Republican Party’s convention later this week will be among the first issues settled by the party.

The party’s 23-member Credentials Committee, during its meeting Thursday, will be asked to determine whether to punish Laramie County for alleged rule violations by refusing to seat 34 of the county’s 37 delegates at the convention in Sheridan.

The Credentials Committee is in charge of approving every delegate sent to the state convention from around the state. 

Typically, the process is fairly straightforward, said Committee Chair Scott Clem, but it hasn’t come without its fair share of drama over the years. 

For example, during the 2020 convention that was already complicated by COVID-19 restrictions, Clem said a proposal was made not to seat Natrona County’s delegates because of that county party’s failure to pay dues. 

Although all of Natrona County’s delegates did end up getting seated that year, the county will only have six delegates seated at this year’s convention as a result of litigation filed over the dues dispute.

Laramie County Issues

This year, the Laramie County party has been accused of committing several rule violations during its own county convention in March, including failing to vote for delegates and alternates on a secret ballot and failing to take nominations for delegates from the floor. 

The state GOP executive committee has asked the Credentials Committee to determine whether all 37 of the county’s delegates will be seated or whether the state’s largest county will have only three delegates at the convention.

Meanwhile, Gail Symons of Sheridan County has filed her own complaint with the party, noting that several other county parties were guilty of similar infractions to those alleged by Laramie County, but they have not been punished with a proposed cut in their delegate numbers.

Neither Clem or committee co-chair John Bear plan to cast votes themselves on the delegate issues but will deliver the Credentials Committee’s recommendation to all of the other delegates at the convention when it officially begins on Saturday.

Bear said if Laramie County fails to follow bylaws in the future, it could create problems down the road when the state party sends delegates to the Republican National Convention in 2024. 

More Serious

He said while he does agree with Laramie County GOP Chairwoman Dani Olsen that every county party should be expected to follow their respective bylaws, he also said he views Laramie County’s infractions are more serious than the ones brought up by Symons.

The alleged rule violations raised by Symons included failure to publish notice of a county convention and failure to use secret ballots to cast votes for delegates. She said when submitting the complaint she did not believe any of the counties acted intentionally.

Bear said due to the way Laramie County performed its delegate nomination process, delegates were not nominated equally from the party as a whole.

“Ultimately, the power to make decisions belongs to people,” Bear said. “That’s what the bylaws allow for and that’s what I believe should have happened in Laramie. You can’t take that away from the people.”

Bear said the other complaints, mostly pertaining to notification complaints, are still critical issues. He said when the Campbell County GOP made a mistake with its notices, it chose to reschedule its convention, something that also occurred in Park County this year.

“You’ve got to do the right thing and follow the rules,” said Park County Republican Party Chairman Martin Kimmet.

Civil and Smoothly

Clem hopes Thursday’s committee meeting will remain civil and run smoothly. 

Any issue brought before the committee must be presented to the committee’s members through a motion that must be made by a committee member. If no motion is made no action will be taken.

Some of the committee’s members have already spoken out about Laramie County’s alleged violations.

The Laramie County allegations were brought straight to the state Party’s Executive Committee rather than to the local party. The executive committee then passed the issue off to the Credentials Committee.

“If something happened in Laramie County it should be fixed locally at that level,” Clem said. “If there are any wrongs to be weighed it should be addressed first and foremost at that county. If people don’t like the leadership, the grassroots need to elect new leadership.”

If the Credentials Committee decides to not take action on the matter, Clem said Laramie could still be censured by the Resolutions Committee, but this would only be in the form of a formal reprimand.

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Laramie County GOP Chair: Eathorne Selectively Enforcing Rules, Committing “Voter Fraud”

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A dispute over the way Laramie County’s Republican Party selected some of its delegates to the upcoming state GOP convention could result in the county’s party losing almost all of its convention representatives.

But the proposed action on the part of the state Republican Party just days before its biannual convention is being criticized by the chair of the Laramie County Republican Party as selective punishment. Dani Olsen told Cowboy State Daily the state party has never before punished a county party for such infractions.

“It is a shame that the Chairman of the State Party would use his position to spout falsehoods as a means of not seating the largest county in Wyoming and thereby disenfranchising over (20,000) Republican voices in Laramie County,” she said.

At issue is a complaint about the way Laramie County’s GOP selected delegates to the state convention. If the convention’s Credentials Committee decides to punish the county party for its actions, it could limit the county to only three delegates at the convention — the lowest of any county in the state.

A separate dispute involving Natrona County will see that county represented by only six people, meaning the state’s counties with the highest populations will have some of the lowest representation.

The state GOP convention is held every two years. During the convention, representatives of county parties from across the state meet to decide issues such as the party’s platform and express their support for various Republican candidates seeking office.

This year’s convention is to be held May 5-7 in Sheridan.

“Multiple Violations”

Laramie County Republicans have been accused of multiple violations of their own rules in selecting convention delegates.

The infraction was reported directly to the state Republican Party Executive Committee by Ben Hornok, a Laramie County precinct committee member. 

Hornok reported that the county party, at its convention March 5, took a voice vote when nominating delegates and alternates to the state convention, in his opinion violating its own bylaws requiring “some form of secret ballot.” 

He also said no additional delegate nominations were allowed to be taken from the floor after the initial 34 “pre-selected” names were accepted. Counting the three county executive committee members, who have a guaranteed spot at the convention, the party is sending 37 delegates to the convention.

Hornok, who was present at the county convention on March 5 and was one of the chosen delegates, did not bring the infraction to the attention of county leaders, but rather took it directly to state GOP leaders at their meeting March 28, an approach some have said was politically motivated.

“I don’t have a dog in the fight,” Hornok told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “I just decided to speak up and write the complaint. The complaint speaks for itself.”

After Hornok made his report, the issue was submitted to the Credentials Committee, whose members decide which delegates are to be seated at the convention.

“Following Laramie County leadership’s admission of its failures to follow Bylaws in conducting the election, the State Republican Convention’s Credentials Committee will now review the matter and make a recommendation to the convention body as to how many delegates from Laramie County will be seated,” state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne said in a Tuesday press release.

Laramie County, the county with the state’s biggest population and most registered Republican voters, could now have all but three of its 37 delegates stripped away, giving it the least representation of any county party at the state convention, less even than sparsely populated Niobrara County’s seven delegates and Natrona County’s six. 

Natrona is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the state party over bylaws that allowed the state Executive Committee to reduce its delegates as punishment for not paying party dues.

Selective Enforcement

But Dani Olsen, chair of the Laramie County GOP, said the state GOP is selectively enforcing the rules.

“It is further alarming that while the State Executive Committee is passing motions to ‘vigorously enforce Bylaws’ that it has consistently stopped its enforcement efforts with only two counties – Laramie and Natrona counties,” she said in a news release.

Later, Olsen told Cowboy State Daily the party has never before enacted punishment for infractions and said she worries about the precedent it will set.

In her initial response to the Executive Committee, Olsen said she agreed the concerns raised by Hornok were legitimate and said the county’s delegate selection process used at past conventions and this spring did not fully follow the party’s own bylaws. She added the county party will consider addressing ambiguity in its voting rules at its next convention in 2024.

But in a later statement, Olsen had stronger words for the state party, referring to Eathorne’s statement as “fake news.” 

She also said the only “potential” mistake the county party made was the way it selected its alternates. 

In the initial response to the state GOP, Olsen did say some of these alternates will be called up to become delegates, as some of the chosen delegates have already communicated they cannot attend the convention.

State Leadership

Vince Vanata, a member of the state party’s executive committee from Park County, said the state leadership has taken no stance on the issue beyond sending the complaint to the State Credentials Committee. 

“We recognized it’s not for us to make a decision,” he said.

The issue will be brought before the committee during the first day of convention on Thursday morning. This committee will then make a recommendation that will be passed on to the all convention delegates to consider and vote on Saturday.

Joey Correnti IV, a staunchly conservative and outspoken member of the party and chairman of the Carbon County GOP, said if the credentials committee refuses to recognize Laramie County’s delegates, an argument could be made that these delegates could be prevented from even voting on their fate.

“As far as I’m concerned Laramie County members tend to only act in their best interest regardless of what the rules, decorum, or conflict would normally demand of them,” he said in an email.

Human Mistake

Olsen said she hopes the state party will use “grace” in its decision and recognize Laramie County’s officials made a human mistake. 

She said it would be “a shot in the dark” to predict the fate of her county’s delegates at this point but said the party will not let its delegates be removed “without a fight.”

Olsen also said Hornok’s complaint should not be considered because it was not brought up during the county’s convention in March, so bringing up the issue now would violate Robert’s Rules of Order. 

Olsen also said if the complaint had been raised at the county convention, the matter would have had to be voted on by the same body that made the mistake. 

Hornok said he chose to circumvent county leadership “because everything happens so fast” at convention and he “did not really know how to bring up the issue.” The roster of Laramie County delegates was approved with a 63% vote.

Hornok said other party members were aware of the possible infraction and he was worried the issue would not get brought up until the state convention, leaving the Laramie County delegates little notice they might not be able to vote.

“I did not want to see Laramie County send its delegates to the state meeting and all of a sudden be side-swiped by this issue,” he said.

Olsen disputed Honok’s allegation that no nominations were taken from the floor and stressed the county party has not admitted to any errors regarding its the selection of its delegates. 

She said the state GOP has committed its own share of errors and has found at least eight other counties that committed infractions during their conventions.

“We can only hope that the other counties will be able to hold themselves to the same high standard Laramie County has been held to and they will come forward with their own admission of errors, as we have done,” she said.

Politically Motivated

Olsen said she believes the proposal to strip Laramie County of most of its delegates is politically motivated, spurred on by the county party’s refusal to back the state party on every issue.  

“This is not a good reflection of Wyoming politics,” Olsen said. “What they’re doing is a type of voter fraud. By not allowing people to vote, they’re not protecting voter integrity, by selectively choosing which counties to protect.”

Hornok said the Laramie County party is made up of “some conservatives and moderates” and is “not very unified.” He said he would rather the county and state parties be more unified, but if the state decides to strip Laramie County’s votes “so be it.”

Vanata attibuted the situation to decisions by the Laramie and Natrona county GOP’s leaders.

“We’re not bitter towards the people of these counties,” Vanata said. “What caused this is their leadership. They created this situation and it’s unfortunate because Republicans are losing their delegate representation.”

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Who Is Brent Bien And Why Is He Running For Governor In Wyoming?

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

As a retired military officer, Brent Bien knows a thing or two about leadership and he claims there’s a lack of it in the governor’s office.

The Laramie native retired to his home state of Wyoming three years ago after finishing his military career as officer-in-charge of the U.S. Marine Corps base on Guam.

A naval aviator since 1991, Bien, who retired as a colonel, served in both support and leadership positions in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now Bien wants to use those leadership skills to take charge of Wyoming’s government as its governor.

“I’ve been voting in this state since I was 18,” Bien told Cowboy State Daily while on the road to a campaign event in Buffalo. “I’m originally from here, but even when I was stationed as a Marine Corps officer for nearly three decades, I kept my residency the whole time, and just retired back in 2019.”

Bien and his wife, Susan, bought a house in Sheridan as his retirement was looming. Susan works as a nurse at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Sheridan.

Bien, a Republican, said while abroad, he maintained a connection to his home state, visiting his parents, Bill and Virginia Bien of Cody, frequently. 

“Lack of Leadership”

Since his return to Wyoming full-time, Bien said he has become “alarmed” at what he called a “lack of leadership” in Cheyenne.

“I think what I’ve seen is just a void, or just a lack of leadership down in Cheyenne, particularly out of the governor’s office, for a long time,” he said, “and in particular the last three, three and a half years.”

Bien said he has had his eye on the governor’s seat in Wyoming since he was a young man.

“My first trigger, I guess, was way back when I was in flight school in Pensacola, Florida, when (former President) Bill Clinton got elected,” he said. “I wasn’t happy about that. And I said, ‘You know, one of these days I’m gonna be the governor of Wyoming.’ And that paved the way for today.” 

For Bien, Gov. Mark Gordon’s handling of the pandemic reinforced the idea.

“When Mark Gordon shut the state down, I couldn’t believe it, that something would happen, like declaring a state of emergency after one case of COVID,” he said. “And, of course, there’s a lot of federal money tied to declaring an emergency in the state. 

“And I thought, you know, we’re 20,000 square miles bigger and 300,000 people fewer than South Dakota, and they’re open for business, and I couldn’t figure out why Wyoming was closed down,” he continued.

“No One In D.C.”

Bien said that he was also persuaded to take the leap when he realized that no one in Washington, D.C., was looking out for the best interests of people in Wyoming.

“Nobody is protecting the freedoms of the people in the state of Wyoming,” he said. “And because we already have seen the governor put our freedom on the table, I thought, you know, I’ve got to do this.”

Bien said he resigned his position as director of safety and standardization at Big Horn Airways in Sheridan in November.

He has been traveling the state since he announced as a candidate in March, meeting constituents and spreading his message of promoting freedom for Wyoming residents.

“My platform is to make Wyoming the freest state in the nation,” Bien said. “I plan on doing that by actively, aggressively, protecting personal freedoms – and that includes private property rights, and Second Amendment rights, and the unborn, and making sure parents have primacy over their decisions for their children.”

His secondary agenda, Bien said, is to provide more government accountability.

“That’s our state government,” he said. “That’s voter integrity. That’s eliminating crossover voting. It’s trying to get our budget under control. 

“I don’t think we have any idea how much it really takes to run this state, because I can’t find a full blown, top to bottom, wall to wall audit since, gosh, for nearly 30 years… what it really comes down to is figuring out how much money we actually need to run this state,” he added.

Energy & Education

Wyoming’s education system is also high on Bien’s list of priorities for changes, particularly in the area of transparency for parents.

“After receiving nearly $500 million in COVID money, we are tied to the federal government for several years now, just in some of their education requirements across the board,” he said, “and I know that folks are not happy with that.”

Bien said that state sovereignty is a major issue, as well.

“I believe that coal, gas and oil, particularly coal, because we’re such a big coal state, that it is just as much our future as it is our past,” he said. “We produce so much coal here and, and we have the technologies that make it very, very clean.”

Bien said he would like to see the state change how Wyoming’s natural resources are perceived.

“They’ve been made out to be so bad, and we’ve got to change that narrative,” he said. “Because when it’s cloudy and when the wind doesn’t blow – and that doesn’t happen that often here in Wyoming – but you know, when the turbines stop and the solar panels don’t work, we really have to keep our energy independence.”

Bien said Wyoming produces about 14 times more energy than it uses, and he would like to see more production.

“I do think the way to target all of that objectively is to really take a look at the permitting process across all the sectors of energy, and make sure it’s fair across the board,” he said. “And right now I know it’s not standardized.”

Bringing People Together

Bien said he’s had extensive experience in getting diverse groups to work together for a common goal, as recently as his command in Guam, when various governments, environmental groups and local citizens needed to come together to build the Marine Corp base. 

“It was a matter of coalescing these groups, getting them all together and trying to explain to them, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing,’” he said. “And, you know, it was about an $8.7 billion project, and of course, it’s still going on right now.”

That experience, Bien said, would be beneficial should he be elected Wyoming’s governor. 

“I will work with the federal government, as long as it benefits the state of Wyoming, and as long as it doesn’t encroach upon personal freedoms, or the sovereignty of the state,” he said. “But as soon as it does I will have push. We haven’t seen that in nearly 30 years from our office, particularly with our current governor.”

Bien acknowledged that the state has made an effort to stand up to federal policies under Gordon’s direction by filing a series of lawsuits over federal policies including rules limiting oil and gas leases on federal lands and requiring coronavirus vaccinations for federal employees, health workers and workers at large companies. This week, Wyoming joined a “friend of the court” brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal ban on “bump stocks.”

However, Bien noted that he sees Wyoming jumping on the bandwagon rather than taking the lead in standing up to what he sees a federal overreach.

“I don’t see Wyoming leading in anything, really,” he said. “I’d like to see more proaction out of our current administration — and I can assure you, we will be far more proactive if I get down there (as governor).”

Consequences

Bien said he realizes that standing up for Wyoming might mean consequences from the federal government.

“I always make sure that people know that, ‘Hey, you know, when I say no, that could potentially mean loss of federal funds,’” he said. “And Wyoming probably takes more federal funds than any other state in the nation. 

“And so far, that’s been very well received,” he continued. “People want that – people want somebody to stand up for the state. And I’m willing to do it.”

However, Bien said he understands how difficult the road to the governor’s office could be during this year’s race.

“I’m under no illusion how difficult it’s going to be,” he said, “because we have a lot of establishment folks in there. But I think the rallying cry is, ‘Let’s be number one, Wyoming needs to be number one, and we’ve got to fight to get there, to advance our state to its rightful position at the top.’”

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Bouchard Accuses Wyoming Hospital Association Director Of Defamation Over Complaint

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A video showing an exchange between a Wyoming hospital lobbyist and two Wyoming senators does not appear to be as tense as what was described when one of the senators was removed from his committees as punishment for the incident.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, on Wednesday released a video of an exchange between him, fellow Sen. Tom James, R-Green River, and Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, that prompted Boley to file a complaint against Bouchard with legislative leaders.

In his complaint, Boley said Bouchard had been “combative” and “disrespectful” to witnesses offering testimony in front of legislative committees during the Legislature’s budget session.

During the exchange, Boley said, Bouchard and James tried to intimidate him.

“They entered my personal space and confronted me in an abusive and demanding tone and tried to intimidate me with their body language,” Boley wrote.

The security video from the exchange in the Senate lobby, posted by Bouchard to his Facebook page, shows the three men having a discussion the morning of March 8. There is no sound to the video.

Bouchard and James stand opposite to Boley in the video, and Bouchard is seen in profile. During the 4-minute video, Bouchard can be seen gesturing somewhat with his right hand, with his left hand in his pants pocket.

James’ back is to the camera, so his hands cannot be clearly seen, but according to Bouchard, they were in his suspenders.

Boley also gestures with both hands during the confrontation, pointing and moving his hand, palm open, around while talking with the senators.

Boley did not return requests from Cowboy State Daily for comment, but Bouchard told Cowboy State Daily that Boley’s actions in filing the complaint were “dishonest” and “damaging.”

“I reviewed all the committee video that Boley cited by date in his complaint, as well as my attorney,” Bouchard told Cowboy State Daily. “It looks bad for them. There’s nothing to substantiate Boley’s story.”

As a result of Boley’s complaint, Bouchard was removed from his committee assignments by the state Senate. The Legislature’s Management Council is supposed to determine whether the evidence against Bouchard is enough to proceed with a formal hearing.

“The five on the committee that are tasked with review all voted to strip me of my committee assignments,” Bouchard told Cowboy State Daily. “I’m sure they are having quite the conversation behind closed doors.”

He added he believed would be left with a dilemma, since there was no evidence against him.

“If they choose not to move this complaint forward, they’ve already taken action against me, which incriminates the senators that took action,” Bouchard said. “If they choose to move forward, it goes to a full public hearing and I get to prove…what is going on using the very evidence that’s on video.”

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Park County Republican Party Condemns Legislature For Not Investigating Zwonitzer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Members of the Park County Republican Party earlier this month passed a resolution condemning the Wyoming Legislature for refusing to investigate a Cheyenne representative accused of living outside of his district.

Party members, meeting for their convention on March 12, also called on legislative leaders to resign from their positions because of what the resolution called the Legislature’s disregard of its own rules and state law.

The resolution, was one of eight approved during the Park County GOP convention, did not specify exactly what the Legislature did to earn the party’s admonition.

Bob Ferguson, the party’s vice chair, said the resolution stems from the Legislature’s refusal to investigate allegations that Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, was living outside of the district he was elected to represent.

“We thought that was absolutely ridiculous that they refused to investigate,” Ferguson told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “It’s one thing if they investigate, take in all the evidence and decided there was no wrongdoing. But it’s another to refuse to investigate when there are maps and evidence.”

In February, the Wyoming House of Representatives rejected a proposal to form a special committee to investigate the allegations against Zwonitzer.

The resolution also called on House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, and Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, to resign from their positions. Following the legislative session that ended earlier this month, Barlow announced his intent to leave the house, but indicated he would still be pursuing a political career.

The resolution received much support from party members, with Ferguson being unable to recall much, if any, opposition to it.

However, this was not the only issue the party had with the Legislature.

Ferguson said that during the special session last October that focused on COVID vaccine mandates, Barlow and Dockstader did everything they could to “thwart” the efforts of the legislators who were fighting these directives.

“It’s really our problem with the Legislature as a whole, not addressing what the citizens of Wyoming want them to address,” Ferguson said.

He added that now the resolution will be forwarded to the Wyoming Republican Party, which will likely take up discussion on it at the state party convention in Sheridan in May.

Ferguson believes that more Wyoming Republican parties will follow suit and condemn their legislature for its actions, or lack thereof.

Dockstader declined to comment for this article. Barlow did not return a request for comment.

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RNC Did Not Recognize Hageman As Presumptive House Candidate

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The Republican National Committee and Wyoming Republican Party have not designated Cheyenne lawyer Harriet Hageman as the presumptive Republican candidate for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

Kathy Russell, executive director of the Wyoming GOP, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the only resolution adopted by the RNC that would affect Wyoming’s congressional race was the censure handed down for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

During its meeting in Utah, the RNC adopted a resolution censuring both Cheney and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, for their work on the committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The resolution specifically withdrew GOP support from Cheney and Kinzinger, R-Illinois.

“Resolved, that the Republican National Committee hereby formally censures Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and shall immediately cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party for their behavior which has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic …” the resolution said.

A number of media outlets, including Cowboy State Daily, the Washington Post and Washington Examiner, mistakenly reported a separate resolution was adopted recognizing Hageman as the presumptive GOP candidate for Wyoming’s congressional seat.

Under GOP rules, Wyoming’s three members of the RNC had to recognize the RNC’s withdrawal of support from Cheney.

However, Russell said at no point did the proceedings involve Hageman.

The reports of a recognition for Hageman by the RNC prompted a response from Joey Correnti IV, chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party, who called them “an unsupported narrative.”

Correnti, in a Facebook post he said represented only his own opinions, said he could find no evidence that any form of recognition had been given to Hageman during the RNC meeting.

He said the same was true of meetings held by various Wyoming county Republican parties where the decision was made to censure or withhold support from Cheney.

“At no time in any of these actions were any other candidates for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat mentioned, implied or presumed to have support or a presumption of nomination from the party at any of its respective levels,” he said.

It is a violation of Wyoming election laws for a political party to support one of its members  over another during that party’s primary.

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Former Wyoming GOP Chair Thinks RNC Is “Inappropriate” For Censuring Cheney

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It was inappropriate for the Republican National Committee to censure U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, according to a former chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party.

Diemer True told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he thought it was not only inappropriate of the RNC, but also the Wyoming Republican Party state central committee, to censure Cheney or any other Republican legislator who has not committed a crime.

“I’m a big advocate of the Ronald Reagan rule, where if someone agrees with me 80% of the time, they’re comrades in arms,” True said. “The purity test that seems to be coming out of the organized Republican Party, which is certainly not true of entire Republican Party, is a formula for defeat.”

True, a former state senator and longtime GOP activist, said that if the Republican Party continues to administer litmus tests to determine who is a “true” Republican, there will be more “extreme left-wing” policies coming down the pipeline.

As a former Wyoming Republican Party chairman and state party committeeman, True was also a member of the RNC for about a decade.

He said that during his time in the Republican Party ranks, officials were more concerned with electing as many Republicans as possible.

“I used to say, ‘Our job is not to play in the primaries, but to make sure we had a credible Republican candidate in every primary,'” True said. “Once we had a credible candidate in every primary, then the party’s role was complete.”

True said there was no question about Cheney’s status as a credible Republican.

“She voted with President Trump more than just about anyone in Congress,” he said. “She certainly does not deserve that kind of treatment from the organized Republican Party. If the voters of Wyoming don’t return her to office, then they have spoken. But that’s not the job of the state central committee or the RNC.”

True was just one of several Republicans who denounced the RNC for censuring Cheney and Kinzinger last week because of their work on the U.S. House committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of the most prominent dissenting voices.

“This issue is whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That’s not the job of the RNC,” he added about the censure resolution.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso had a less direct response, not saying whether or not he supported the RNC’s censure of Cheney during a Fox News interview on Sunday.

“Liz and I disagree. I voted against the Jan. 6 commission. I voted against impeachment twice. We’re going to have a very spirited primary. Liz is going to have to travel the state and make her case to the voters of Wyoming if she wants to get re-elected,” he said.

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Trump, Hageman Praise Censure Of Cheney, Kinzinger

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming congressional candidate Harriet Hageman and her political supporter former President Donald Trump this week both praised the censure of U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger by the Republican National Committee.

RNC members “overwhelmingly” voted Friday to formally censure the two representatives for their work on the committee investigating the events of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“Congratulations to the Republican National Committee and its Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, on their great ruling in censuring Liz Cheney and Cryin’ Adam Kinzinger, two horrible RINOs who put themselves ahead of our Country,” Trump said over the weekend. “They have almost no approval ratings, and the Republican Party would be far better off without them!”

Kinzinger R-Illinois, has announced that he will not run for office after his term ends, and Cheney has not formally announced her campaign for re-election for Wyoming’s lone House of Representatives seat.

Hageman called the House committee a “sham” and noted that Cheney and Kinzinger are the only two Republicans serving on it.

“This is further proof that Liz Cheney has completely lost her ability to be effective in Congress for the people of Wyoming,” Hageman said. “She doesn’t have allies in the Republican Party, and the Democrats only see her as a temporary and useful tool to achieve their partisan ends. She spends every minute of every day engaged in her personal vendetta against Donald Trump, and that is not why Wyoming sent her to Congress.

“Wyoming deserves a representative who fights the battles that are important to the people of our state,” Hageman continued. “The Biden administration is waging an all-out war on our way of life and the ability of our citizens to prosper and support their families. We need someone who will fight Joe Biden and stand up for property rights, constitutional rights, and personal freedoms, and who will push against the relentless overreach of the federal government. When I am Wyoming’s congresswoman, I will always stand for what’s important to the people of this state.”

The resolution adopted by the national committee accused the representatives, through their work on the committee, of participating in a “Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said that wording in the censure was not referring to the riots at the Capitol but rather the actions taken by the House committee investigating the attacks.

Initially, the resolution proposed removing Cheney and Kinzinger from the House Republican Conference, but ultimately this was changed to a formal censure.

The resolution was altered due to concerns that the criticism of Cheney and Kinzinger for serving on the committee had gone “too far.”

The Washington Post also reported that in addition to the censure, the RNC made plans to fund a primary challenge against Cheney in Wyoming. State Republican leaders passed a special rule to recognize Harriet Hageman as the party’s presumptive congressional nominee.

Not all congressional Republicans supported the censure, though.

“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney said. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”

Cheney was ousted from her post as House Republican Conference chair last May following her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for the role he allegedly played in inciting the riot. She has also faced much criticism from Republicans due to her refusal to fall in line with the rest of her party.

Cheney voted with Trump more than 90% of the time before her impeachment vote.

“The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy,” Cheney said Thursday ahead of the resolution vote.

“I’m a constitutional conservative and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump,” she continued. “History will be their judge. I will never stop fighting for our constitutional republic. No matter what.”

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Zwonitzer Calls Complaint About Residency A ‘Political Hit Job’

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said he was blindsided over the weekend when he discovered his residency was a topic of discussion during the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee meeting.

The Wyoming House Speaker Eric Barlow R-Gillette said Friday he has started to collect information as part of an investigation into Zwonitzer’s residency requested by the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee.

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily on Friday, Zwonitzer called the accusations that he does not live in House District 43, which he has represented for 18 years, “ludicrous,” adding the state GOP’s call for an investigation into his residency a “political hit job.”

“Why would my own party attack me without giving me the benefit of a simple phone call or email?” Zwonitzer said.

He noted that the residency complaint came up as an “emergency issue” during the central committee meeting, and no one alerted him ahead of time about it.

The party’s central committee agreed Saturday to ask the secretary of state’s office to look into whether Zwonitzer has moved out of House District 43.

The decision was made in response to a concern raised by Joey Correnti IV, chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party, who said he wanted to see if the central committee thought the issue merited further review. Correnti said he was approached by others who made him aware of the problem and, after research to collect some documents, he took the matter directly to the central committee.

Zwonitzer said he was surprised to learn that questions about his residency in HD43 had been circulating for several weeks among Republican officials, while he had heard nothing about the issue.

He also questioned who gave the information to Correnti.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan referred the complaint to the Wyoming House of Representatives. Zwonitzer has been asked to write an affidavit and collect information to send to House and Legislative Service Office officials, which he will likely have completed by next week.

“I don’t have any concerns [about the review],” he said. “I think I’ll be vindicated. I fully trust the legislative process to do what it does.”

On Friday, Barlow detailed the information he is collecting as he looks into the matter.

“I am conferring with House Leadership and LSO legal staff on the manner in which to proceed under the Wyoming Constitution and the Rules of the House of Representatives,” Barlow said. “Additionally, I have requested Representative Zwonitzer respond to the allegations in writing. Once I have received his response and understand the options available for resolving this matter in an appropriate and expeditious manner, I will propose a course of action.”

Zwonitzer believes the complaint is just a distraction from other political issues, such as the appointment of the new superintendent of public instruction, redistricting and the work that will need to be done when the Legislature convenes next month.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing House and Senate district boundaries to conform with new census figures.

Zwonitzer is the co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, which is responsible for developing redistricting plans with an eye toward keeping population numbers within different districts as close to equal as possible.

As part of his presentation to the GOP central committee, Correnti said he was concerned that some of the redistricting plans proposed by Zwonitzer appeared to change the boundaries of HD43 to include the part of HD10 where Zwonitzer bought a residence with his spouse.

Zwonitzer said it is no secret that he bought a property near Carpenter, in HD10, where his spouse lives and is registered to vote. But Zwonitzer and his youngest child are living in HD43.

He added he has done his best to keep his personal feelings separate from his work on the redistricting maps.

As of now, he has no plans to move into HD10, but he did not rule the idea out in the future.

“I’m only 42, so never say never,” he said.

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Wyoming Legislators Continue With Anti-Vaccine Mandate Special Session, Kill Special Rules

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By Ellen Fike and Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The special session of Wyoming’s Legislature dealing with the proposed federal coronavirus mandate will proceed, but without special rules drafted to speed up the process, lawmakers decided Tuesday.

Members of both the House and Senate rejected the special rules, but also voted against adjourning the session, expressing a preference to stay and work out a state response to the vaccine mandate proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden.

“We fought to get out from under British rule because we said ‘You can’t make me do that, I want representation,’” said Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett. “I want to be able to hear all the information. We have a right to our health care choices. Freedom is choices.”

Biden has issued a mandate that all health care workers, all federal employees and all workers for companies that employ 100 or more either get the coronavirus vaccine or be tested weekly for the illness.

The federal rules needed to put the mandate in place have not yet been issued.

The session, originally scheduled to run three days, was called to let legislators adopt measures spelling out how the state will respond to the mandate.

Twenty pieces of legislation were filed for consideration during the session and special rules were proposed to speed up the process.

Under the proposed rules, the state House and Senate would have reviewed legislation at the same time and then resolved any differences in bills members of both approved in joint conference committees. Usually, a bill begins in one chamber, is reviewed and sent to the second on approval, where the review begins again.

But the rules were opposed by a number of legislators who said they would improperly limit debate and public input on the bills to be considered.

“The whole deliberative process is gone,” said House Minority Floor Leader Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie. “The steps that are cut out are really, really important. We’re not listening to the people well enough.”

“The problem I have here is we are compressing what would normally take us a couple of weeks into three days,” said. Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander. “I don’t want to be here, but if I am going to be here, I think we ought to do it right.”

The rules were rejected despite arguments they would allow the Legislature to work more efficiently.

“I think these rules provide us an opportunity to do the people’s work,” said Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs. “These rules, while they are not perfect, afford us the opportunity to have a debate and some limited public participation.”

Votes in both chambers fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to approve the change, with the House voting 37-20 to adopt the special rules and the Senate voting 18-11 to do so.

Legislative leaders had promised lawmakers that if they rejected the special rules, they would offer legislators a chance to adjourn the special session.

Both chambers voted against adjourning the session, the Senate by a vote of 6-23 and the House by 21-35.There was no debate over the motion in the Senate, but House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette gave representatives a chance to express their opinions on the session.

Several legislators expressed concern because if the mandate takes effect, it could mean a loss of jobs for anyone who chooses not to get a vaccine.

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, noted that one private employer, Banner Health, has already imposed a vaccine mandate on its employees effective Nov. 1. Several of the bills awaiting review by the Legislature would prohibit private companies from discriminating against those who have not received the vaccine.

Others argued legislators need to protect the rights of the state’s residents by at least reviewing the proposed solutions to the mandate.

“I don’t know what the result’s going to be,” said Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan. “Let’s look at these bills and look at these people. I don’t know if we strike back at the (federal) overreach or not. I do know we were elected to stand between the federal government and the businesses and people of Wyoming.

Opponents to the session unsuccessfully argued the federal mandate can only be stopped in court, not in the Legislature, and added the session’s schedule of three days would not allow a thorough review of all the issues.

“We have to figure out a way to do this and do it right and I would have to respectfully submit we can’t do it in two days,” said Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne. “Let’s do this right with the right data and the right information.”

Without the special rules, bills introduced for consideration will be reviewed by one chamber of the Legislature and, if approved, sent to the other chamber for review. Any differences between the two chambers will be settled in a joint conference committee.

Committees began their reviews of bills on Tuesday afternoon and both chambers were scheduled to return to the floor for debate on Wednesday.

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Park County GOP Chooses Not To Censure Member Over Violent & Vulgar Email

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

Leaders of the Park County Republican Party have decided not to take action against a precinct committeeman for a vulgar email he sent to a state lawmaker last month.

At a Thursday meeting in Cody, members of the party’s central committee rejected a motion that would have asked Troy Bray to resign and then narrowly voted down a motion to censure him. The party held its nearly hour-long discussion in a closed-door executive session and told the roughly two dozen members present to not speak about it, leaving the details unclear.

While not commenting on what was discussed, Park County Republican Party Chairman Martin Kimmet said no one on the central committee condones what Bray said to state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne.

“Any sane person knows one does wrong when they say something like that,” Kimmet said.

However, the chairman expressed frustration about the amount of attention paid to the email, saying the press and others have “beat this thing to death” despite Bray apologizing.

“How much of a pound of flesh do you want? They made it so tough that the man [Bray] lost his job … because he used a couple profanities,” Kimmet said. “Is that justice? I don’t think so.”

“I think that is as big a wrong or more of a wrong than using those profanities,” Kimmet added. “He was exercising his First Amendment rights,”

In Bray’s Sept. 12 email, the Powell resident expressed anger about Nethercott’s handling of a bill last winter that sought to prevent coerced vaccinations. Bray said the legislation — which was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-1 vote — would have negated President Joe Biden’s ongoing efforts to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations (Nethercott says the bill would have had little effect.) The rest of Bray’s message criticized Nethercott, saying she’d ensured that Wyomingites would be subjected to tyranny.

“If I were as despicable a person as you, I would kill myself to rid the world of myself,” he wrote in part to the Senate Judiciary chairwoman, concluding with the line, “F— YOU C—.”

Bray signed it with his titles as a precinct committeeman and as secretary of Park County Republican Men’s Club. When they learned of the email, the men’s club requested Bray’s resignation, which he gave, and both it and Kimmet reached out to Nethercott to say the message didn’t represent their groups.

Comments criticized

After the contents of Bray’s message were published by the Casper Star-Tribune, the Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives, Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, and Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, called on Bray to resign his position within the Park County Republican Party.

“Attacking a state legislator through use of violent, lewd and derogatory language cannot and will not go unanswered in Wyoming,” Barlow and Dockstader wrote on Sept. 22, calling on the county and state parties to join them in seeking Bray’s resignation.

Three newspapers around the state also denounced the remarks in editorials and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Sam Galeotos did the same in a weekend column, calling for “a more forceful cry for censure and resignation” from the state and county parties, lawmakers and the Park County community. Galeotos said that pursuing accountability would discourage similar episodes and “go a long way toward promoting civil debate as a continuing standard in Wyoming.”

In an Oct. 1 statement, the Wyoming Republican Party called Bray’s comments inappropriate, obscene and vile — and said that type of communication “is neither appropriate or effective.”

However, “despite calls by the liberal media and others to dictate from the top down in a heavy-handed fashion, the party will not engage in ‘cancel culture’ tactics, nor will we participate in destroying people for poor decisions, judgment, and behavior,” the Wyoming Republican Party statement said in part. The party said the matter should be handled at the county level.

Bray apologized to Nethercott for the “inappropriate” language he used in the email — specifically the final word — but resisted the calls to resign his position as precinct committeeman.

In a Facebook post in September, Bray said he wouldn’t be bullied — and that the “cowardice and pettiness” shown by Nethercott and her supporters amid the controversy “proves every other word of my e-mail.” In an interview, Bray said he lost his job after his employer received a steady stream of phone calls complaining about his message.

Ahead of Thursday evening’s Park County Republican Party Central Committee meeting, Bray invited any local Republicans — and specifically those from his precinct, which encompasses much of the southern part of Powell — to a morning meeting at the Red Zone Sports Bar and Grill.

Only a few people showed up.

“My take on it is nobody really is that upset about it [the email],” Bray said of the low turnout. “I’m not taking it as a sign that everyone said they would have said the same thing, but they weren’t terribly upset.”

However, one of the people who attended Bray’s precinct meeting was Josh Shorb, a rural Powell Republican who took issue with the email.

“I didn’t agree with the language he used,” Shorb said in an interview. “… I said, ‘I don’t care if you would have wrote her a letter that the sky is blue and then used that language.’ The message … with what he disagreed with is immaterial to me; it’s the language. You don’t talk to somebody like that and you don’t talk to a lady like that.”

Shorb also said he felt like “there’s some things you just can’t apologize for.”

Closed-door discussion

At the central committee meeting, held at the Cody Cowboy Church, Shorb served as a proxy for another committee member and made a motion to ask Bray to resign his position.

Before he finished the sentence, other members of the party called for the subject to be taken up in a closed-door executive session. Attendees who weren’t members of the central committee were then asked to step outside the church, while committee members were told to turn off their cellphones and place them on a table in the front of the sanctuary.

The county party’s handling of the discussion differed from past efforts to censure then-state Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, in 2014 and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., earlier this year, which were held in the open. The Park County Republican Party’s bylaws don’t address executive sessions, but Kimmet indicated the decision was based on Robert’s Rules of Order.

In interviews, both he and Bray indicated the issue is now over with.

“The man did something wrong, he apologized for it … and Sen. Nethercott accepted that apology,” Kimmet said. “To me, that’s where it should have ended instead of certain people and certain press making a political issue of it. Really, it wasn’t a political issue, it was a personal issue.”

Other people “should have stayed out of it, and they cost that poor man,” Kimmet said, referring to the loss of Bray’s job. The chairman said there were more important issues, specifically naming the Cody school board’s spending and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared to other meetings the party has held this year, Thursday’s gathering had low attendance, with only 27 of the party’s roughly 75 precinct committeemen and women or their proxies present, representing 36 votes at the start of the meeting.

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Fox Host Questions Barrasso’s Lack Of Support for Policies Benefitting Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso’s opposition to the budget reconciliation bill even though it contains provisions that would benefit Wyoming drew some sharp questions over the weekend from Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

During Barrasso’s appearance on the show, Wallace pointed out that the Republican is opposing the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which contains an extension and increase of the child tax credit that the senator supported when he voted for former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts in 2017.

“Your state of Wyoming is one of the states that benefits most from the increase in the child tax credit. Why oppose that?” Wallace asked.

Barrasso began to discuss the bill’s multi-trillion dollar price tag, but Wallace interrupted him, asking the senator be specific about the child tax credit.

“It’s part of the bigger bill,” Barrasso said. “The issue for any member of the Senate or Congress, you have to look at the entire bill and say either you’re for it or you’re not.”

The senator also claimed congressional Democrats were not coming to talk with Republicans about any of the issues in the bill.

Wallace also questioned Barrasso on universal pre-kindergarten, another part of the bill.

“In the state of Wyoming, less than one-quarter of children 3 to 4, who would be covered in the bill, are enrolled in publicly funded preschool. Less than a quarter,” the Fox News host said. “Wouldn’t a lot of Wyoming families benefit from universal Pre-K?”

While the senator concluded some elements of the bill would benefit Wyoming residents, overall, the benefits did not outweigh the bill’s shortcomings.

“There’s a number of things that would help Wyoming,” he said. “Overall, Joe Biden’s policies have been hurting the people of Wyoming.”

Barrasso also said that he did not support universally free things such as community college, pre-K and daycare, adding there should be some sort of work requirements for recipients.

“That’s not the way our country has been founded,” he said.

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Anti-Biden Vaccine Mandate Special Legislative Session Would Cost At Least $118K

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Wyoming State Capitol
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An in-person, three-day special legislative session to discuss possible reactions to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate would cost the state around $118,000, the Legislative Service Office told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

Gov. Mark Gordon is considering calling a special session as early as October to address the vaccine mandate.

LSO spokesman Ryan Frost told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the mileage and per diem for travel by legisaltors to and from Cheyenne for the session would cost $23,000. Daily salary and per diem costs covering the expenses of legislators while in Cheyenne would run $24,000.

“Therefore, the estimated member cost for an in-person three day special session in Cheyenne would be $118,000 plus $24,000 for each additional day in session over three days,” Frost said. “Mileage and per diem for all legislators would likely not be necessary for a remote special session, reducing the estimated member cost by up to $72,000. Added to either option would be the costs associated with the number of session staff that would need to be retained.”

It would be more than $45,000 cheaper to conduct a special session by video conferencing through a service such as Zoom, rather than having all legislators meet in Cheyenne.

As for the session itself, Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said it would likely be conducted via video conferencing instead of in-person as the cost savings would be significant.

Biden last week announced that federal employees, health care workers and employees of companies with more than 100 workers would be required to either get the vaccine or be tested for coronavirus weekly. The rules would be enforced by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which could levy fines against companies that fail to comply with the order.

Driskill said there is a 90% likelihood that the Legislature will hold a special session to address President Joe Biden’s sweeping national vaccine mandate.

Driskill told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that he envisioned a two- to three-day session where legislators would focus on strategies to fight the president’s mandate which would, in effect, force thousands of Wyoming workers to receive a COVID vaccine or be fired.

“The Legislature has listened closely to the people of Wyoming,” Driskill said.  “We agree with the people that this is egregious overreach by the Biden administration.  It is worthy of whatever the expense is to fight for Wyoming citizens’ rights.”

Gordon is preparing for both legislative and legal action to block the vaccination mandate issued last week by President Joe Biden, he announced Wednesday.

Gordon said he has advised Attorney General Bridget Hill to begin preparing a lawsuit to stop the mandate as it applies to private employers and has also started talking with legislators about holding a special legislative session, if necessary, to address the federal order.

“We cannot sit on our hands just watching this egregious example of federal government overreach,” Gordon said in a statement. “We are already communicating with other governors and states to prepare legal options once emergency standards are issued.”

The need for a special legislative session will be determined by the nature of the federal rules adopted to put the mandate in place, Gordon said.

“If there is a need and ability for the Legislature to respond to the emergency standards, specific bills and the rules for the session will be drafted,” the statement said.

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Lummis Says Raising Debt Ceiling Would Just Be Kicking Can Down The Road

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis took to social media on Wednesday to discuss the national debt ceiling, which she doesn’t feel should be raised, as it would just be akin to kicking the can down the road.

This week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Democratic leadership should either raise or suspend the debt ceiling as soon as possible, as the nation is in trouble on defaulting on its debt, according to CNBC.

“I wasn’t in office last time we had this fight, but I would have voted no then too,” Lummis wrote on social media Wednesday morning, linking to a Politico article about the situation. “Raising the debt ceiling is just another attempt to kick the can down the road instead of fixing our spending problem.”

Congress raised the debt ceiling in 2017 under former President Donald Trump.

On Friday, Lummis also posted a link to an opinion piece by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin in the Wall Street Journal, noting why he wouldn’t support spending another $3.5 trillion due to the nation’s rising debt.

“Joe Manchin is right, ‘An overheating economy has imposed a costly ‘inflation tax’ on every middle- and working-class American” and our national debt is the “biggest threat to national security,’” Lummis wrote.

Lawmakers have until some time in October to decide on raising or suspending the debt ceiling.

According to CNBC, the ceiling prevents the U.S. Treasury from issuing new bonds to fund government activities once a certain debt level, or date, is reached.

That level reached $22 trillion in August 2019 and was suspended until the end of July 2021. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in July that the new cap will likely come in just north of $28.5 trillion.

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Cheney Opponents Call Her “Traitor” and “Climbing Ranks of Dem Party” After Jan 6 Committee Appointment

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two of the candidates for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat criticized U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney after she was appointed vice chair of the Jan. 6 commission on Thursday, with both saying she is more supportive of the Democrat Party than the Republican.

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, and Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that Cheney was acting in a traitorous fashion by accepting the appointment.

“In her true form, Liz Cheney is climbing the ranks of the Democrat Party instead of working for the Republican voters in Wyoming that put her in office,” Bouchard said.

“Liz Cheney is a traitor to Wyoming and all Americans,” Gray said. “She hates our western values and people who question the government.  Cheney is Nancy Pelosi’s pet.”

The Casper representative also called the commission a “plain, simple attempt to scare anyone out of questioning the results of the fraudulent election.”

“With Liz Cheney’s being appointed Vice Chair to the committee, she again signals that she believes her only duty is to maintain her family’s power in DC and quash our movement,” Gray said. “That’s disgusting, despicable, and un-American. Liz Cheney has been and will always be a sell-out to the radical socialists. Cheney must be removed from the Republican conference and removed from all of her committee assignments.”

Bouchard and Gray are among at least eight Republicans seeking the GOP nomination for Congress in the 2022 primary election.

Cheyenne businessman Darin Smith, another candidate for the office did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.

The appointment of Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the panel, was announced to the leadership post on Thursday morning by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, where he said her selection “underscores the bipartisan nature” of the committee.

Cheney confirmed the in a statement Thursday morning, when she said the committee is dedicated to “conducting a non-partisan, professional, and thorough investigation of all the relevant facts.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus has asked GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to remove Cheney from the committee.

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National Pollster Dick Morris Thinks Chuck Gray Can Beat Liz Cheney

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A conservative political analyst told Newsmax recently that he believes Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, can beat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in next year’s House primary election.

Dick Morris, author, analyst and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, told Newsmax over the weekend that Cheney was a “gone goose,” adding there is no “split” in the Republican party, but instead a divide of 99% versus 1%.

“She’s a dead duck in Wyoming, where there’s very good candidates including a guy named Chuck Gray who I think is going to beat her in the primary,” Morris said.

Six candidates have announced they will run against Cheney in the August 2022 primary race for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat, with more candidates expected to announce their intentions to run later. The latest candidate to announce was Denton Knapp, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has been living in California since 2017.

Gray, R-Casper, announced his run against Cheney following her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump after the riot at and invasion of the U.S. Capitol earlier this year.

Gray and his legislative colleague Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, have both been critical of Cheney’s refusal to stand by Trump.

“Dick Morris hit the nail on the head by calling out Liz Cheney for her betrayal of Republican voters and her refusal to represent the people of Wyoming, who she tricked into voting for her in the first place,” Gray said. “As the polling shows, I am the most likely to beat Cheney in 2022 because I am the only conservative in this race who has the proven record to show that I will fight to defeat the very same radical socialists in Washington, D.C. that Liz has voted with.”

Gray added that his record shows he is the kind of proven conservative fighter who will put Wyoming first that Wyoming Republicans are ready to rally around.

Cheney dominated in the first quarter of 2021 when it came to fundraising, bringing in more than $1.5 million in donations. Bouchard and Gray came in second and third, respectively.

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Retired U.S. Army Colonel To Move Back To Wyoming To Run Against Cheney

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A man raised in Wyoming who spent 30 years with the U.S. Army is returning to his hometown to run for Congress.

Everett “Denton” Knapp told Cowboy State Daily he will be arriving in Gillette on Tuesday to begin the process of becoming a Wyoming resident so he can challenge U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in her re-election bid.

“I’ll be getting my beautiful bucking horse license back,” he said. “I am not wasting time. It’s time to come home.”

Knapp, who currently lives in Orange County, California, said one of the issues he will run on is dissatisfaction with recent votes and statements by Cheney, including her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.

“It means something when you see your state is represented by elected officials who do not follow what their constituents want,” he said. “I feel Wyoming has lost trust in our elected official and I think the nation has lost some trust in the election process and I want to get that back.”

The retired colonel stressed he has been a “longtime fan” of the Cheney family.

Knapp said as a member of Congress, he would also focus on things that are “broken” in the federal government, such as the immigration system.

“I understand what immigration means and what the process is,” said Knapp, who added his own mother was from Japan and became a naturalized citizen after much hard work. “And there has to be a process.”

Knapp was raised in Gillette and won an appointment to West Point, which began his 30-year career in the U.S. Army. He was nominated for the school by former U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney, along with Cheney’s colleagues U.S. Sens. Al Simpson and Malcom Wallop.

Knapp went on to serve around the country and the globe for 30 years, including multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired as a colonel in 2017 and moved with his wife Heather to California so the two could be with their family.

For the last several years, Knapp has served in the California State Guard and has served as the director of veteran services for Goodwill Industries of Orange County.

Knapp said he has kept abreast of Wyoming’s issues and challenges with regular visits to the state to see his parents and brother, Christopher Knapp, who is a member of the state House of Representatives.

“I’ve not lived there, but I’ve paid attention to what’s going on,” he said. “Because I am a Wyomingite, I stayed a Wyomingite. I’ve been brown and gold my whole life.”

Knapp, the seventh candidate for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, admitted he is entering the 2022 primary race a little behind some of the other candidates.

“I’m a fast learner,” he said. “I’ve got some catching up to do.”

He added he plans to attend this weekend’s meeting of the Wyoming Republican Party’s Central Committee in Cody.

Knapp said he would like to discuss the race with the other candidates challenging Cheney for the party’s nomination in 2022.

“We’ve got some months here, we have to figure out as a group of candidates what is best for the state,” he said. “If what’s best for the state is to defeat the incumbent, then we have to communicate with each other and not sabotage our efforts to take care of the Wyoming people.”

Darin Smith, a Cheyenne attorney and businessman, announced last week he will run for the office. 

Other candidates include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper.

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Rod Miller: The Matt Gaetz Political Death-Spiral

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Matt Gaetz’ political death-spiral is obviously highly entertaining to some, but its also instructive. When you are finished either laughing or crying over this soap opera, take a bit of time to really think about what happened.

Gaetz was, just a short while ago, the corn-fed, rosy-cheeked favorite son of the Trump wing of the Republican Party, and poster boy of 21st Century conservative values. Today, he is one more living example of H.L. Mencken’s truism that, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

The Wyoming Republican Party was so frantic to shame Rep. Liz Cheney for her vote supporting Trump’s impeachment, that they brought Gaetz to a rally in Cheyenne, and turned him loose to support any candidate challenging Cheney in the GOP primary.

Gaetz was showered with love and attention by Trump’s Wyoming base. Selfies with “the true voice of conservative thought today” were snapped by the hundreds., He was all but canonized in comments on social media about his love for Wyoming.

Today, those same folks’ lips are zipped while Gaetz is accused of being a sexual predator who traffics in underage girls across state lines. This elegant moment of political irony was brought to you by Ocean Andrew, Anthony Bouchard and the “Cancel Cheney” movement in the Cowboy State.

Here’s the lesson in this very public meltdown of a once-powerful politician, and its a lesson t hat transcends party lines. Don’t worship idols! Not only is that Levitical Law, its also sound political advice.

Any politician whom you might idolize for whatever reason is only one tell-all article by an angry intern, one inebriated night in the wrong club, one grainy photograph or one perp walk away from that inexorable circling of the drain in which Gaetz now finds himself. This truth is nonpartisan.

Political idols, as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream described by the prophet Daniel, have heads, arms, bodies and legs of precious metal. They are shiny and bright, and people are attracted to that glitter. But they have feet of clay – all of them – and they cannot stand. They never do.

Idolizing politicians, no matter how closely they express our own personal political views, is a waste of intellectual energy. Its a crutch that we use so we don’t have to stand on our own two feet. It is listening to talk radio alone, and shouting “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”.

At the very least, we will be bitterly disappointed if we engage in political idolatry.. At the worst, we will invite Matt Gaetz to speak for us.

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Long lines of voters in Gillette might make results late

in News/politics
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By Bill Sniffin

After the polls closed, there was still a line of people waiting to vote in Gillette, we have been told.  Might be a slow night getting results.

And it is no wonder.  The Campbell County state senate seat was featuring one of the hottest local elections in the state with incumbent Sen. Michael Von Flatern being challenged by Troy McKeown.

Von Flatern was even endorsed by 24-year U. S. Senator Mike Enzi. This was designed to offset the bitter attacks launched against the incumbent by the Wyoming Gun Owners organization, who favored Troy McKeown.

The House race between Mickey Shober and John Bear appeared to be quite contested, too.

Politics is alive and well in Campbell County, based on tonight’s actions.

Casey Campbell, who is monitoring the results in Campbell County for us through County 17, said “I should’ve ordered a pizza!”

Casey said he drove by the polling center at 6:30 p.m. tonight and the parking lot was jammed full. 

A true example of Democracy is action is happening in Gillette today.

Pizza?  Why not.  Waiting for the results can make for a long night. This is my 50th year of staying up late monitoring election results in Wyoming.  It has been quite a journey.

Back in 1970, the Democrat Party was thriving.  Two of the three national representatives were members of the Democratic Party.  Boy, things have changed.

And yet here in 2020, after years of slumber, the statewide Democrat Party fielded an aggressive field of candidates.  Heck, there are SIX people vying for the nomination for U. S. Senate.  The names DeBrine, Casner, Ben David, Wendt, Wilde, and Ludwig show there really is life in the old party, after all.

On the Republican side it’s easy to call the Republican primary for the U. S. Senate, “Snow White and the nine dwarfs.” And yet some candidates spent some serious money. It will be interesting to see if any of the nine could deny Cynthia Lummis this nomination. Those candidates are Miller, Cade, Rice, Holtz, Wheeler, Kamler, Short, and Roselli. 

Meanwhile, in most states, the primary election is just a first act.  But in states dominated by one party, like Wyoming, just about all the serious action happens on primary election day.

With that thought in mind, most of us who love to watch politics are waiting with bated breath to see how these races turned out.

This truly is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party in Wyoming.

The Cowboy State is now a state with three parties:  The Democrats. The Very Conservative Republicans. And the Moderate Republicans.

The polls just closed and soon, the returns will be coming in.

We can hardly wait!

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