Laramie County GOP leaders return from state convention disappointed

CHEYENNE – Laramie County Republican Party leaders said they returned from the state convention in Sheridan this weekend disheartened, but they have no plans to file a lawsuit.

Members of the county Executive Committee were joined by the majority of their delegates in a walkout Saturday, after the state Central Committee voted not to seat Laramie County’s 37 delegates. This upheld the recommendation by the state Credentials Committee, which had voted earlier last week 15-8 in favor of not seating the delegates due to Laramie County's violations of the bylaws related to delegate selection.

Although the chairwoman, state committee woman and committeeman are guaranteed representation, they did not take part following the final vote.

“There was no reason to stay and fight with them, when they made it clear they didn’t want us there anyway,” Laramie County GOP Chairwoman Dani Olsen told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Monday.

However, she said her frustration lies not with the entirety of state party leadership following the votes, but with Chairman W. Frank Eathorne.

“It would be an understatement to say that I’m disappointed with him, because he’s continuing to add to this divide within the party and is not willing to be a neutral mind to resolve conflicts,” she said. “Instead, he’s issued multiple false and inaccurate press releases about Laramie County, where he didn’t actually put any effort into figuring out if the statements he was making were true.”

The Wyoming GOP released a statement April 26 announcing the state Credentials Committee was tasked with reviewing the qualifications of all delegates and to address the concerns that the Laramie County GOP convention did not follow county bylaws and procedures for the election of delegates to the state convention. It was alleged the local Republican convention had not taken nominations from the floor, nor did it nominate alternates through the correct procedure.

“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,” Eathorne commented in last month's release. He did not comment Monday.

Olsen responded to the allegations and said the alternates were approved as a whole, instead of individually by the delegation and were not listed in the order of votes by secret ballot. She agreed there was legitimacy to this claim, but she provided, at the just-completed party meeting, the minutes from the county convention showing nominations were taken from the floor.

Nonetheless, the county convention’s delegate nomination legitimacy was highly debated during the Wyoming GOP state convention.

The motion that was debated was brought by Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, and it would have allowed 32 delegates from Laramie County to be seated at the state party's gathering. Olsen said five of the members of the Laramie County Executive Committee, including her, had already given up their credentials in hopes of allowing the rest of the delegation to participate for the weekend. She said it was a proposal introduced to her by Carbon County GOP Chairman Joey Correnti.

It did not change the outcome.

Laramie County GOP Vice Chairwoman Kylie Taylor said in an interview Monday that there was more than two hours of debate, which Olsen said included two delegates who were nominated from the floor from Laramie County in opposition to the county's delegation being seated.

The state body voted 157-119 against the motion to allow 32 delegates from the county to be seated.

“I was incredibly disappointed and disheartened by the debate and the way that Laramie County was treated at the convention,” Taylor said. “I wish that we could have had the opportunity to fix the issue that was brought forth at the county level so that we could all still be seated and had the opportunity to attend the convention. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.”

Both Olsen and Taylor are concerned with not only the lack of Laramie County Republican representation at the convention, but with the precedent it sets.

Olsen said Sweetwater County challenged three other counties for violations, one of which was for the same reason Laramie County GOP delegates lost their seats. A complaint against Sublette County was for not allowing any nominations from the floor, and Olsen said it was brushed off by the Credentials Committee. She did not see it as a fair application of the bylaws.

Cook and Albany counties' delegations were challenged because they didn’t meet their notification requirements in the state party bylaws. Olsen said members of the committee decided not to take action because they concluded “those aren’t as egregious of offenses.”

She said she hopes this will not impact local involvement or dues payments, but she said she suspects it will be difficult to convince Laramie County Republicans to pay their share if their party representatives are unable to be seated at the state convention. If Laramie County's share of its dues is not met, delegate representation is automatically lost.

“A precedent has been set that even if you do pay your shares, if they don’t want to hear your voice, they’ll find another way not to seat you,” she said.

Both the Laramie County chairwoman and vice chairwoman, who said there are no plans to sue, said they want fairness in the system. Taylor said the local party will focus on Laramie County issues, and it is not its responsibility to police other counties' procedures.

The Laramie County GOP will hear feedback from local delegates on May 17 at the local Central Committee meeting, where formal action to respond to the state-level action may be requested.

“As Republicans, we should have more that unites us than divides us,” Taylor said. “And I hope that, going forward, we can address these issues before it gets to this level.”