It all started on a Friday in late January with a joke on the floor of the Wyoming House. 

Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo), addressing the soon-adjourning body, invited counterparts of the then-fabricated “Wyoming Caucus” out for a 7 p.m. social hour. 

Crago, caught up perhaps in poking fun at the far-right clique, the Freedom Caucus, forgot to even say where they were gathering. Rep. Bob Nicholas (R-Cheyenne) stepped in.

“The location of the Wyoming Caucus is the Met, by the way,” Nicholas said. 

Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo) at the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session in Cheyenne. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

Although then just an announcement intended to irritate the Freedom Caucus, the idea of coalescing under the banner of the Wyoming Caucus has since gained traction. Specifics are still being sorted out, but infrastructure is being laid to financially support more traditional Republican candidates running for office via a new Wyoming Caucus PAC. And elected Republicans on the outs with the Freedom Caucus are now assembling and making plans to establish some kind of organizational structure that provides a counterpoint to the far-right bloc’s composition

Rep. Clark Stith (R-Rock Springs) said the burgeoning effort is a direct response to how Freedom Caucus representatives conducted themselves in Cheyenne over the legislative session this winter.

“The most striking feature of the House Freedom Caucus this last session was they were voting in lockstep in accordance with text-message instructions that they would receive,” Stith said. “The interesting effect of that is that it, to some extent, forced the remaining members of the House to become slightly more organized.” 

Rep. Clark Stith (R-Rock Springs). (Legislative Service Office)

As for the name, Republican House representatives who were not among the Freedom Caucus’ 26 or so members started referring to themselves as “Team Wyoming” or the Wyoming Caucus.

“The idea being that we were trying to do what’s in the best interest of Wyoming and our constituents rather than follow a national agenda,” Stith said.

Members of the Freedom Caucus in the Wyoming House aren’t shy to admit they receive guidance on how to vote via text messages during floor debate. 

“That was done in the 66th [Wyoming Legislature] too, though it wasn’t as informed as it is now,” Rep. John Bear (R-Gillette), who chairs the Freedom Caucus, told WyoFile late during the legislative session.  

‘In lockstep’

The difference in the 67th Legislature, Bear said, was that the Freedom Caucus had an employee, Jessie Rubino, to “do research” on the bills and consult with “resources back in Washington [D.C.] she can access.” 

Rubino is an employee of the State Freedom Caucus Network, directing its Wyoming operations. The national organization is based in Washington, D.C.

“Simple text messages” conveyed in digest form informed the bloc of Rubino and the Freedom Caucus’ preferences about bills and amendments, Bear said. There is no requirement that members and aspiring freshman members bend to the Freedom Caucus on every vote, he said, though there are unpublicized adherence thresholds to retain membership.

Still, Freedom Caucus representatives were often perfectly united.  

“We’re quite pleased with how well this group is voting together,” Bear said. 

Votes on the supplemental budget, which socked away a record $1.4 billion in savings, offer an example. The split on the bill, and its many amendments, was “very routinely” 36-26, Bear said, with the entirety of the Freedom Caucus on one side and the 31 other Republicans and five Democrats on the other. 

Rep. John Bear sits at his desk on the House floor
Rep. John Bear (R-Gillette) at the  Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session in Cheyenne. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

The small-government-loving Freedom Caucus was dissatisfied with the supplemental budget because, in Bear’s eyes, the state was spending too much money. Specifically, investment income those savings will generate, which he estimated to be $65 million annually, is “offset by $112 million they created in ongoing expenditures.” 

Voting as a bloc on fundamental parts of governance — like budgeting — has been off-putting to some representatives used to more meaningful debate.

“If 26 people are just going to vote exactly one way no matter what, that’s discouraging,” Crago told WyoFile. 

“If 26 people are just going to vote exactly one way no matter what, that’s discouraging.”

Barry Crago

One representative with two decades in office under his belt described the Freedom Caucus’ bloc voting as a major departure from the historic way of doing business. 

“I think back to my first [House] speaker, Fred Parady, he told us we were duly elected and nobody’s ever going to tell you how to vote,” Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) said. “Now everything’s kind of a scorecard, and you get texted how to vote. I think that’s really unfortunate for the institution of a citizen legislature.” 

Bear emphasized that Freedom Caucus members are given no guidance for the majority of bills. Other times, he said, his vote recommendation as chairman is at odds with that of Rubino and the Freedom Caucus Network. 

“We’ve been opposed,” Bear said. “And we’ll provide both pieces of information to the 26.” 

Even when it’s not asked of them, however, Freedom Caucus members often swam as a school. 

Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie) estimated that the House vote on 75% of the bills the body considered came out to 36-26, or within a vote or two of that split. The divide was even more absolute while working the budget: 95% of the budget amendments, she guessed, were received with a roughly 36-26 vote. 

“Team Wyoming and the Democrats were voting on how to spend government money to benefit the people of Wyoming, knowing that some money has to be spent,” Provenza said. “The other side doesn’t think any money should be spent on anything and that churches and private organizations should save us.”


It’s unclear how structured the Wyoming Caucus will be in its opposition to the more regimented Freedom Caucus. 

“I think it can be organized without being authoritarian,” Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) said. “But there’s no question that the longtime Republicans are starting to push back against the notion of the Freedom Caucus, and frankly the way they conduct politics. There’s going to be continued pushback on that.” 

Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) at the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session in Cheyenne (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

Sommers, Stith, Harshman and Nicholas jointly wrote an op-ed, published in the Cowboy State Daily, that rebutted Freedom Caucus’ attacks against establishment lawmakers. The piece blasted the bloc’s failure to vote for the budget.

“This time it is the ones who claim freedom, transparency, conservatism, patriotism and liberty who are actually the most lacking in those traits,” the four lawmakers wrote. “These are operators of the Code of Washington, D.C. and not the Code of the West. Thank goodness we are much better than that in Wyoming.”

Sommers, the House speaker during the 2023 general session, said he’s committed to managing “all factions and all parties” in his role leading the lower chamber. He hasn’t decided whether to join the nascent Wyoming Caucus, but said he’d entertain the idea.  

“I’ve never joined a caucus other than the House Republican Caucus,” Sommers said. The significance of the House Republican Caucus — a theoretical home for all 57 of the body’s Republicans — has dwindled. The caucus assembled only twice during the 8-week-long general session, Harshman said. Potentially, he said, the Wyoming Caucus will fill the void. 

Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) at the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session in Cheyenne. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

“I see that as the rebirth of the Republican Caucus,” Harshman said. 

All Republicans interviewed for this story emphasized that Democrats will be on the outs with the new caucus. But even absent ideological overlap, the repeated 36-26 votes are telling that the 31 non-Freedom Caucus Republicans and five Democrats are willing to work together. 

“I’m not in Cheyenne as a Democrat, I’m there as a representative,” Provenza said. “At the end of the day, I just want what’s best for Wyoming.” 

Provenza pointed out she also works willingly with Freedom Caucus members, even if their rhetoric demonizes Democrats.

Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie) at the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

The Trump-inspired hardline approach to politicking and “true conservative” self-styled branding has been a winning approach to taking office in right-wing Wyoming. In the 2018, ‘20 and ‘22 elections, the Freedom Caucus’ ranks grew from 6 to 18 to 26 members. Moderate Republicans, however, may be staging a comeback, at least judging by the results of county GOP party elections. 

“The ultra-right wing of the party that appears angry, I think their numbers and influence in the Wyoming House has crested already,” Stith said. “They’re on the way down, at this point. I look at the local county party election results in Uinta County, where the far-right was ousted.” 

Still taking shape 

Moderates are making a more concerted effort to get their own elected under the Wyoming Caucus banner, too. 

On March 16, paperwork to form the Wyoming Caucus PAC was filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office. The chairman of the political action committee, Casper attorney Tim Stubson, is a former Republican member of the Wyoming House, and its treasurer, Rebekah Fitzgerald, is a Cheyenne-based communication consultant. 

“Since the session you’ve had the Freedom Caucus members taking a pretty aggressive approach attacking Republican members of the Legislature for the work that they did,” Stubson said. “They’re obviously well organized, well funded, and their goal is clearly to take out ordinary Republicans. This is one effort to try to give members who aren’t affiliated with the Freedom Caucus the resources they need.”  

The Wyoming State Capitol during the 67th Legislature. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

The Wyoming Caucus PAC is on the “very front end” of fundraising and it’s still in the “formative stages,” Stubson said. The PAC and the broader caucus, he said, aren’t necessarily one of the same, but one is an extension of the other. 

There’s not an employee or even a de facto leader of the Wyoming Caucus, nor a concrete plan for what it will look like, said Fitzgerald, who will help with communications as the bloc forms and builds. 

“There’s really no face, at this point, of the caucus,” she said. “But I do think that’s coming, frankly.” 

There are characteristics the still-opaque Wyoming Caucus will coalesce around, Fitzgerald said. Those include “making good law that is solutions-oriented,” she said, and “moving away from highly charged rhetoric” that’s influenced by forces outside of Wyoming.  

Crago, who’s stayed involved since cracking the joke that spawned the name, made his own attempt at summarizing what the Wyoming Caucus is about. 

“I just see it as people trying to work together for Wyoming,” he said. “We’re focused on Wyoming-centric issues.”

Mike Koshmrl reports on Wyoming's wildlife and natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures for the Jackson...

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  1. The democrats say the sky is falling, like chicken little. The trumpsters believe in the emperor’s new clothes. Guess that leaves us stuck somewhere between hysteria and stupidity. But we get the government we deserve. So vote!

  2. “far right”–you mean, no sexualization of children with the lgbtq push, no abortion on demand, lower taxes, fiscal conservatism, no funding of marxist propaganda at UW, etc., etc…..sign me up–those ARE Wyoming values.

  3. How sad is it that elected ‘adult’ politicians act like lemmings and wait for instructions on how to vote and how to act. When they look in the mirror, what do they see? How can they preach individual rights and yet not exercise their own right to free thought and free speech? I’m baffled by how far some have fallen. Let’s hope and pray that the Wyoming Caucus can return some normalcy to our once great state.

  4. As a fourth generation native of Wyoming it disturbs me greatly that the citizens of this state, which have always been unique, proud, and dedicated to the people who live and work here, are now so enamoured with all these carpetbaggers moving here to take control and destroy the one last standing free state in the union. They have brought religious zealots with them. They want to control everything under the disguise of saying no government. Well they are destroying the public schools that rank 5th in the nation, they are running our rural physicians and caregivers out of the state, hospitals are closing, and we didn’t have enough to start with, they are taking away the rights of women in this state to create a theocracy. Women built this state. Women have always been an extremely important and respected population in this state. Women have always been equal in this state, read our constitution. They are changing our actual live and let live conservative but helpful lifestyle to something no Wyoming native wants. It is time for some real reflection. This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats, it is about an authoritarian control from out of state. It is about losing our rights as human beings and having the right and responsibility to raise our children without interference in what was once a very great place to live. Our graduates are exiting at ever greater rates. Our ranches are being bought by foreigners or wealthy bigots, or corporate powers with their own agenda. Our future is not in flux, it is in a horrific downward spiral. We must reclaim our independence and our way of life. The Freedom Caucus is a joke and it is filled with out-of-staters and they readily admit that is why they are here. They found a place to mold to the liking of their cult leaders. We are not followers, we are leaders, we are supportive of those around us and we do not judge. It is not our place to do so. We do not control others or their beliefs. We were Wyoming.

  5. The. Comment about the baseball caps reminded me of this morning’s Peanuts cartoon strip. Marcie tells Peppermint Party “Well, you won again, but we’ve got ball caps.”

  6. Quite a bit of bias in this article. For instance, the assertion of being well funded. Where a legislator get his campaign funded may have an influence on the issues that are voted on by that legislator. Compare the funding of Bob Nicholas (elected 2010) over his time in the legislature versus John Bear (elected 2020).

    Mr. Nicholas received 58% of his donations from PACs. Donations from individuals other than family is a good list of the Wyoming politically connected including past and present legislators such as John Barrasso, Chris Boswell, Bruce Burns, Richard Cannady, Cale Case, Ogden Driskill, and Tom Lockhart. Lobbyists and key government employees also give to the Representative from Cheyenne.

    John Bear received 4% from PACs. The politicians that gave to his campaign were Tim Hallinan (Representative) and Darin Smith (former LCGOP Chairman).

    Who influences the Wyoming Caucus was not covered in the article. Perhaps those who fund those campaigns matter? Perhaps it is the club of insiders that show up on the campaign finance reports? Or the special interest PACs? Perhaps, those influencing the direction of the “Wyoming Caucus” are why members of the Freedom Caucus were elected.

    I personally like members of a citizen legislature elected and funded by citizens rather than a club consisting of insiders and PACs. Oftentimes, the Freedom Caucus candidate is not as well funded as their opponents. Elections matter. The broad brush used to paint the Freedom Caucus as following a single person’s text messages is clearly wrong. The Representative on the other side voted all together as well. Perhaps they were simply voting according to wishes from the Speaker. I think both assumptions are wrong. this state and this country are truly divided on principle. Saying one side is better than the other is bias. A clear example in this article is the OP-Ed link to the Wyoming Caucus editorial, but not the response found at the link below.

    Representative Sommers commitment to “managing” all factions and parties is a joke. You simply will not see a chairman for a committee be selected by Sommers from the Freedom Caucus. Ever. Fundamentally, it would be good to see the leadership to give a chance to any of the Freedom Caucus to chair a committee. But even Representative Neiman, elected to be Majority Floor Leader will not get the chance to chair a committee from Speaker Sommers. Representative Sandy Newsome as a freshman got the nod to chair Travel, Recreation Wildlife & Cultural Resources before any member of the Freedom Caucus. The journalist that can’t see that fact hasn’t been looking. Giving Sommers unquestioned credit for the statement was bias by the journalist.

    The characterization of Freedom Caucus as “Far Right” is really from the perspective of a journalist who, compared to a Wyoming citizen, might be considered “Far” left. In the districts that elected their own representatives, members of the Freedom Caucus look very much like the citizens that elected them. In fact, that is true of all of Wyoming. Representative Bob Nicholas is from a district full of government employees, Democrats and even a small number of conservatives. The characterizations of representatives as “Far” or “extreme” says more about the writer than the representative elected by the district they are from. Disrespecting voters has become a hallmark of ‘journalism’ in Wyoming. It would be good to have Wyoming Journalists like Jim Angel filling the websites, and newsprint of today’s Wyoming news outlets.

    1. You should check your facts. Although I have served on the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources since I was a freshman in 2019, I was not appointed to chair the committee until 2023. This is my third term.

  7. Fro Oh Brother Where Art Thou:”Stokes : [as Grand Kleagle at a KKK rally]  Brothers! Oh, brothers! We have all gathered here, to preserve our hallowed culture and heritage! We aim to pull evil up by the root, before it chokes out the flower of our culture and heritage! And our women, let’s not forget those ladies, y’all. Looking to us for protection! From darkies, from Jews, from papists, and from all those smart-ass folks say we come descended from monkeys!”

  8. The “Wyoming Caucus” supports; hiding bills so they can’t be voted on, changing Bills to the opposite intention of the author, vaccine and mask mandates, gender re-asment surgery, weak 2nd Amendment protection, etc. Their actions and the fact that they vote with the democrats over 80% of the time caused me to support the Freedom Caucus. Good ideas are good whatever the source

    1. Perhaps you should reconsider what you are saying. This is not about Democrats. This is about an authoritarian cult taking control of our state and local governments at the behest of out of state wealthy authoritarians who are pleased to own you.

    2. LOL – There are only 5 Democrats so to day they vote with Democrats 80% of the time is a joke – I think it’s the Democrats voting with them! And a lot of things the Freedom Caucus is against, a majority of Wyoming citizens are for OR don’t think the government should be involved in. All representatives should be there to represent their voters, not their caucus!

  9. Good luck Wyoming Caucus you are going to need it. 75% of Wyoming voted Trump in 2020, they will do it again 2024 and the Wyoming Freedom Caucus will grow to over 30 members next cycle.

  10. The past is prologue. Recall that the Republican Party was created in 1854 from the wreckage of the Whigs , the Free Soil Party , and the Know Nothings.

    Also recall that it was done in the glory days that gave us the first Worst President Ever, the inimitable Millard Filmore ( precursor to Donald Trump ? ). I believe today’s Freedom Caucus both nationally and here in Wyoming is descended from those Know Nothings. We’ve known for a very long time that the hegemonical Stockgrower component of the Wyoming legislature was and remains the thinly disguised progeny of the Free Soilers. So by deduction the emerging Wyoming Caucus must be those immortal Whigs.

    We’re so effed …

  11. It was “fun” to watch the Legislature this year as the old school Wyoming legislators seemed to be astounded at how far and how fast the Freedom Caucus swept into power. It really should not have been a surprise as the Wyoming republicans were riding the support of some of these groups for years without much push back on their authoritarian bent.

    Liz Cheney’s demise is part of this same failing as she rode this right wing base to power but did not realize this part of the republican electorate lost the understanding of our Constitutional principles and embraced an authoritarian view of America. Dick Cheney’s mentor at UW worried about the loss of Constitutional education but that lesson did not seem to take in the Cheney family until it was a little to late. Instead of returning to Wyoming to address these issues, she “courageously” takes a gig at UVA.

    Wyoming is now fighting the well financed bullies led by the Hageman/Rubino family that put their biblical beliefs over our rights enshrined in the US and Wyoming Constitution. The Hageman/Rubino clan should be wary of being kept by Peter Thiel as it does not always come to a good end as his most recent paramour committed suicide.

  12. That the Freedom Caucus need to call outside WY to know what to do or how to vote says it all. ” DC Republican puppet masters” calling the shots is laughable and sad at the same time. It gives a new meaning to Freedom.

  13. only at the end of this article did i figure out what the motive was.
    tim stubson a casper attorney who is the chairman.

    republican voters against president trump.
    250 $ on 09/24/2020.

    you can fool some of the people some of the time,
    you can fool some of the people all the time,
    but you can’t fool all the people all the time.
    this pac is nothing more than a bunch of malcon

  14. There’s a great deal of truth and hope in this quote from Rep. Clark Stith of Rock Springs:
    “The ultra-right wing of the party that appears angry, I think their numbers and influence in the Wyoming House has crested already,” Stith said. “They’re on the way down, at this point. I look at the local county party election results in Uinta County, where the far-right was ousted.”

    I’ve tangled with some of these folks in Park County and repeatedly challenged them – many of whom are relatively new to the county and state – asking, “Where do you (especially, newcomers) get off telling traditional, loyal, conservative, longtime Republicans that we’re not conservative enough?”
    The gall of some of these self-righteous people is starting to doom them and their movement. (Reminds me of the final days of the Tea Party in our state.)

    Look for Wyoming Caucus caps to be 2023’s hot new fashion item across the Cowboy State.

  15. Now where can I purchase a “Freedom Caucus” hat, similar to my Trump hats? The Freedom Caucus ensures only conservative Republicans represent Wyomingites the way they are expected to, by the vast majority of voters, small government, no trans athletes in Girls’ sports, no abortions! All fake Republicans, RINO’s, because their conservative voter base would never elect a Democrat, need to publicize their recent voting records, so their constituents can see exactly where their votes are going! Who wants to be like Colorado? What a mess! That’s exactly where the RINO’s and the Democrats will take Wyoming if we let them. Now, where’s them hats? OK, I’ll just go ahead and make some myself. If you want one, text me at 575-312-7136, Mark R.

    1. you preach for freedom in the same sentence that you ask for sweeping arbitrary government bans of individual rights

  16. The moderates could call themselves “The Reasonable Adult Caucus” as opposed to the ignorant children in the so-called “Freedom Caucus.”

    1. Please . . . this article is such a sham. Mike Koshmrl shows his true colors. Gee, Republicans’ of the “Wyoming Caucus” vote in lock step with Democrats to spend more than the State brings in?
      But the Freedom Caucus opposes this and that means they don’t care about Wyoming?
      If accurate, Wyoming voters made a clear decision. It is no accident “In the 2018, ‘20 and ‘22 elections, the Freedom Caucus’ ranks grew from 6 to 18 to 26 members”.
      They are tired of Democrat and government spending. They do not agree with the Romney-wing of the Republican Party and that was easily shown as the State ushered Liz Cheney into retirement to her home in Washington, DC.
      Will that 26 grow depends on how much those who oppose small government push spending and approve the loss of personal freedoms and abridge the US Constitution.

      1. “Democrat and government spending”
        You write that as if Republicans have any credibility whatsoever on fiscal responsibility