CASPER, Wyo — Well over 120 people gathered at the Hangar Bar & Grill in Bar Nunn Friday, February 19, to voice opinions about Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump and frustrations with GOP “establishment” at the state and county levels.
Prominent members of GOP leadership were in attendance, including the state party chairman Frank Eathorne and House District 57 Rep. Chuck Gray.
“Statewide, we took down every comment and did the best we could [to find out] how many disagree with [Cheney’s vote],” said Eathorne. “97% said she made the wrong decision. Wyoming’s MAGA country; she made the wrong call.”
He added that 18 out of Wyoming’s 23 counties had either formally censured Cheney via the county party or citizens had done so informally at town hall straw polls. Such a poll was conducted Friday at the Hangar.
The town hall was organized by Liberty’s Place 4 U Wy. Mike Pyatt, one of its members, told Oil City News Friday that the group, which considers itself nonpartisan, formed over the last month over Friday morning coffee meetings at a local diner. Pyatt said most of the group had been Natrona County GOP members at one time, but that currently only one was serving as a precinct committeeman.
The Natrona and Johnson county GOP’s have not voted to censure Cheney.
“They hadn’t been able to discuss the censure of Liz Cheney at the regular Natrona County GOP meetings,” Pyatt said. “They gaveled them and said it was out of order,” Pyatt said.
“We couldn’t even debate about it,” said Dan Sabrosky a Natrona County GOP precinct committeeman. “They’d already planned out how they were going to stifle it…They talk about a swamp in D.C.; there’s a swamp here in Natrona County,” he said.
Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump was the headline, “lightning rod” issue, but the split in the party predates the rise of Trump, and many of those issues came up as well.
The Wyoming GOP platform is explicitly pro-life and anti-tax. Other Natrona County state representatives have tacitly endorsed a variety of tax increases to make up for Wyoming’s $300 million two-year budget shortfall, which remains after a general 15% cut to state health departments, higher education, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Family Services.
Both Eathorne and other pro-Trump Republicans say there’s still plenty to cut from capital construction, higher education, and K-12, particularly in administration.
House District 57 Rep. Chuck Gray touted the momentum that his “voter fraud protection” bill has this session within the Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions subcommittee. He also sponsored a bill capping property tax assessment valuations year-over-year, co-sponsoring notably with moderate Pat Sweeney, who said his own property taxes went up 333%.
Sweeney was not in attendance.
The microphone went around the room and citizens voiced their concerns. A brief mention of supposed new evidence disputing the integrity of the November Presidential election was heard, as was a desire to alter to U.S. Constitution in order to recall Cheney, but the majority of comments were more forward-thinking calls to engage at the local level.
Converse County GOP state committeewoman and 2020 House candidate Camilla Hicks encouraged people to get involved in their local precincts, including information on how to find their precinct.
“And then you need to write an interest letter [to precinct members] in taking their proxy,” she said. “Because those precinct people aren’t always going to be able to show up to those meetings, but you’re showing an interest in being part of the party. This is the first step you could start taking if you want to get bold.”
Hicks said the Converse County GOP has acted to remove her from her role as state committeeman, She said a rift similar to Natrona County’s is present in the party, with the “establishment” side represented notably by former U.S. Senate candidate Robert Short.
Carbon County GOP chairman Joey Correnti IV blamed carelessness at the polls for the election of establishment leadership, and said voters needed to more thoroughly vet the conservative credentials of their candidates.
“If we don’t ingratiate our passions and learn the processes that govern them outside of our own homes and properties, we’re just angry people today and dumb voters tomorrow…
“Don’t vote to win, vote to be represented,” Correnti added.
National committeeman Corey Steinmetz added that Republican primaries were the most important elections in Wyoming.
“Democratic Republics… are absolutely dependent on the active, informed involvement of the people for their continuance,” he said.
Pyatt was vice chair of Natrona County GOP for two years in 2016, and served as chaplain for another few months, he said.
Seven Natrona County precinct members stood to represent themselves at the town hall Friday. The conspicuous absence of a majority of Natrona County’s state delegation was duly noted.
NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Carbon County GOP had attempted to remove Hicks from her leadership role. This should have read “Converse County,” where Hicks resides.