A pivotal meeting unfolded at Casper College’s Wold Science Building, on April 11th, 2015, where 71 County Central Committee GOP delegates, or proxies, gathered to cast their votes for the State Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary of the Executive Committee. Some labeled it as a watershed event in terms of GOP future politics. A sparse number of non-voting observers filled the upper portion of the room. More than the outcome of the election was revealed in those proceedings. Outgoing Chair, Tammy Hooper gaveled her last meeting, punctuated by a deluge of unsolicited accolades from officials from around the state. Some were surprised she wasn’t immediately ushered into some ethereal location after that round of conferred appreciation of her reign.
Converse County rancher W. Frank Eathorne and Laramie County attorney Matt Micheli submitted to majority voters to be dubbed Chairman on the GOP Executive Committee for the next two years. After nominating speeches by their respective voters, both made their pitch for the delegates up for grab. The vote was razor thin. Micheli prevailed 37 to 34. Therein is part of the fissure. Some counties are staunchly conservative such as Converse, Goshen and Uinta, for example. They generally reflect their leadership. Park County and Natrona leadership are more moderate, and resisted the censure last year in Evanston. The election on this day reflected the chasm, and the issue is larger than the vote for Chairman. It preceded last Saturday. It percolated into a battle brewing earlier that morning prior to voting.
Casper House Representative Tom Reeder had previously filed a grievance to the State Executive Committee over what he characterized as voting improprieties at the March 25, 2015, elections at the Natrona County Central Committee meeting. With a motion from Karl Allred, Uinta County Chairman, Reeder outlined the charge of “two extra proxy votes.” The votes to hear the motion prevailed by a narrow majority. It is the job of the Executive Committee to hear and resolve such issues. Bonnie Foster inartfully explained the reason for the two extra votes. Defending the action, she deflected the charge, asking Karl Allred if his Committee had the same problem. They hadn’t. After numerous motions, ultimately the body voted narrowly to “take no action.” The motion died. Foster’s explanation and summary of the vote count for each office, prompted Park County delegate, attorney Colin Simpson, to observe it was “only two votes,” and it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Political causality? Majority determined ethics on that day.
Hugh Hageman, Goshen County, behaved like a statesman, explaining that it’s a matter of trust of the process, and transparency. A position championed by Tom Reeder and others who supported the motion. Everyone in the room understood if Natrona County was obligated to re-elect officers, they would have been unable to seat their delegates that day, and the vote for Chairman may have been tied.
It was revealed that subsequent to the March 25th election, Chairman Foster and State Committeewoman Amy Womack posted sophomoric, indecorous comments regarding their victory on social media sites. Tom Reeder exposed it, calling for an apology. Womack defended her remarks as “not illegal.” That’s her standard? Professional ethics are supplanted by political opportunism. Arrogance trumps civility. In her polemic for the Committee’s actions, Chairman Foster reported that one of the defeated candidates “didn’t really want the job.” Is that in the Chairman’s purview? During the query regarding Natrona County’s election process Foster failed to mention that the proxy votes weren’t verified until after the vote. Political amnesia?
Any political novice understands that differences are hammered out on the anvil of discussion and debate. That took place on April 11th in Casper. Prior to the meeting, candidate for State Chairman, Matt Micheli confronted your’s truly dismissing my article that described him as “a moderate“ with a “letter-in-hand from Governor Mead.” A brief exchange ensued, explaining that the reference to “letter-in-hand” is a figurative term. When asked, “Who’d you vote for in the Governor Primary in 2014?” he acknowledged his vote for Governor Mead, clarifying that he vigorously opposed Mead in the 2010 Primary. Of course. His father, Ron Micheli, was on the ballot. Is he a moderate as charged? Matt Micheli denies it. Time will tell.
Former Wyoming House Speaker, Ed Buchanan endorsed Matt at the event, espousing his staunch conservative values. Buchanan was one of the most effective and trusted Speakers, on both sides of the isle. Will Micheli’s leadership match his rhetoric? During his appeal to delegates he reminded the assembly that he’d served as Mitt Romney’s campaign manager in Wyoming. How conservative was Romney? You may recall, in his last race against President Obama, Mitt described himself as a “severe conservative.” What ever that is. The same Romney that as Massachusetts Governor described himself as a “moderate.” When “big tent” Wyoming GOP includes former Wyoming Senator Al Simpson, as a conservative, a vocal advocate of same sex marriage, inimical to the GOP platform, were in for murky times.
Many agree that the fissure between the staunch conservatives and the moderate conservatives was forged by SF-104, and Governor Mead’s exhaustive hunt for Superintendent Hill’s Achilles heal. The attempt to censure Governor Mead further divided the GOP in Evanston, and the shenanigans used by Mead devotees to kill the vote on the floor. That divide persisted on April 11th in Casper.
To Micheli’s credit, he offered the vacant at-large seat on the Executive Committee to Frank Eathorne. An olive branch? Or political reality that considering the razor thin margin of victory, he should work with him, or face resistance. Frank has the political aplomb and staunch conservative record to defend the constitution and advance the GOP platform with unshakeable convictions. Liberty minded conservatives agree there’s work to be done at the grassroots level in many counties to change hearts and minds. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt is a Natrona County resident. His email is email@example.com