The Wyoming Republican Party voted to bar the state’s most populated county from participating in its convention this weekend in Sheridan, effectively shutting out about 28,700 voters from deciding the business of the party. The decision stemmed from a state party credentials committee recommendation Thursday that Laramie County lose most of its delegates due to a rules violation. The committee did not make similar recommendations to discipline other county parties that also committed minor election infractions.

The larger body of the convention ultimately heeded the committee’s recommendations and ejected all 37 of Laramie County’s delegates. Many in favor of the motion cited the party as being one of “law and order.”

The controversy is the latest example of party infighting, and some say it’s evidence of the party leadership’s retribution tactics for members who do not fall into lockstep with its far-right trending positions. Laramie County is perceived by some to be more moderate, and is one of the few county parties to have voted against censuring U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming). 

“We could have been doing good county work, good state work [at the convention],” Laramie County GOP committeeman Ben Sherman said. He pointed to thoughtful philosophical and policy debate that characterized conventions in the past. 

This was not thoughtful debate, Sherman said. He called the two hours the body spent Saturday deciding the fate of his county “a waste of time.”

When Sherman and the other Laramie County delegates filed out of the fairgrounds building in a single marching line — some crying visibly and each defiantly tossing or slamming down their delegate badges onto the desk of leadership — many in the room applauded and cheered their exit. 

“It is my distinct pleasure to move on to the business of this convention,” GOP State Chairman Frank Eathorne told the room before turning attention to other matters. 

An empty table for Laramie County delegates after the Wyoming GOP voted to eject them at its convention in Sheridan on May 7, 2002. (Kevin Knapp/WyoFile)

The division in the details 

In even-numbered years, the Wyoming Republican Party holds a state convention to allow delegates to vote on the party’s bylaws, resolutions and platform. Outcomes can shape policy, including what issues the Wyoming Legislature takes up. 

Before the convention, delegates are elected at the county level, typically in proportion to the county’s population size. But those proportions have shifted in recent years. State party leadership slashed Natrona County’s delegate count from 33 to six in January, for example, for failure to pay dues. Like Laramie County, Natrona is one of the state’s largest population centers and is perceived to be more moderate. It also has not censured Cheney. 

Despite being the second-largest county by population in the state, Natrona’s delegates now hold less voting power at the state convention than Niobrara County — Wyoming’s smallest county by population  — which has seven delegates. 

As of Saturday, Laramie County now has zero delegates. 

Sheridan County GOP Chairman Bryan Miller (right) speaks with Laramie County GOP Chairwoman Dani Olsen (in red) during the convention debate over whether to seat her county’s delegates in Sheridan on May 7, 2022. (Maggie Mullen/WyoFile)

The trouble began when a party member filed a formal complaint about how Laramie County carried out its election for delegates. In particular, the complaint accused Laramie County of neglecting to accept nominations from the floor. Laramie County GOP Chairwoman Dani Olsen said the issue had been remedied at the local level. But it also had no material effect, such as preventing someone who wanted to be a delegate or alternate from being one, according to Olsen and others in Laramie County. 

Nevertheless, the complaint was forwarded to the state credentials committee, which tackled the issue first thing Thursday in Sheridan as the first business of the convention began. 

“We’re not here to show mercy. We’re not here to have somebody say they’re victims,” Sheridan County delegate Susan Porden said during the meeting. It is up to the committee to enforce bylaws, Porden said, and Laramie County broke them.

“The [Laramie] County chair is going to have to go back and explain to her own voters how and why she disenfranchised them. We did not,” Porden said. 

Not everyone on the credentials committee was as eager to intervene in county business, including Jeb Hanson, a Niobrara County delegate. 

“We could be opening the door of any faction of the party to target any county that they don’t like,” Hanson said. 

After the credentials committee voted 15-8 to recommend Laramie County lose its delegates, it resumed its usual business with Wyoming’s other 22 counties, some of which had been named in a second complaint. 

Gail Symons, a Sheridan County Republican, filed that complaint. It alleged that Albany, Crook and Sublette counties broke state bylaws when they failed to notify their respective county clerks about when they would hold county conventions. 

“I’ve been quiet for two years, sitting back and watching how we cherry pick things,” Liz Bingham, chairwoman for the Sweetwater County GOP, said. Bingham brought motions not to seat the three counties named in the second complaint. Not because she didn’t want to seat them, Bingham said, but in order to apply the rules uniformly. 

“I just wish that we would hold that one standard,” she said. 

Failing to notify the county clerk is not the equivalent to what happened in Laramie County, according to Rafael Delgadillo, an Albany County delegate. 

Ultimately, the credentials committee agreed with Delgadillo’s argument and recommended seating Albany, Crook and Sublette counties. 

Ben Hornok, a Laramie County Republican, filed the original complaint against his county party for a rules violation. Hornok later asked the convention to seat his county’s delegates despite the complaint. (Maggie Mullen/WyoFile)

The final say

“What is done today will set the course of action for the Wyoming Republican Party,” Ben Hornok, a Laramie County delegate, said Saturday morning as the body debated whether or not to seat his county. He had filed the original complaint, but was nonetheless asking the body to seat Laramie County. 

Hornok’s plea was not enough, nor were other attempts to rectify the situation. 

One motion, for example, would have allowed the bulk of Laramie County delegates to be seated if its top five delegates, including Chairwoman Olsen, would surrender their badges. Joey Correnti, Chairman of the Carbon County GOP, brought the proposal, but it failed in a 119-157 vote. 

For some, like Karl Allred, Uinta County State GOP Committeeman, compromise was out of the question. Seating Laramie County delegates, Allred said, would be the equivalent of throwing the bylaws “out the window.” 

Rep. Mark Jennings (R-Sheridan), on the left, with Uinta County GOP State Committeeman Karl Allred at the Wyoming Republican Convention in Sheridan on May 7, 2022. (Maggie Mullen/WyoFile)

After the final vote, Laramie County delegates gathered outside, along with Rep. Jared Olsen (R-Cheyenne), who said he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision. 

“Those making those decisions today do not represent the majority of voters,” Olsen said. 

“They’ll have this voice inside of this room today. But their voice doesn’t carry on into actual policy in the state,” he added. 

Olsen believes the primary fracture in the state party mostly has to do with a division between urban and rural Republicans, he said, which does a disservice to voters. He pointed to Natrona County’s slashed delegates and predicted other larger counties, like Campbell or Sweetwater, will be next on the chopping block. 

Joey Correnti, Chairman of the Carbon County GOP, at the Wyoming Republican Convention in Sheridan on May 7, 2022. (Kevin Knapp, WyoFile)

Chairwoman Olsen said her party plans to go back home and focus on its candidates in the upcoming elections, since several Democratic challengers are expected to run. 

Ben Sherman, Laramie GOP state committeeman, is concerned infighting in the party is only going to help their opponents, he said. 

“Wherever there’s division, there’s a crack, right? Wherever there’s a crack, that means there’s weakness. And so I guarantee all of the Democrats are going to try to find a way to exploit this,” Sherman said. 

Eathorne, the state GOP chairman, did not respond to WyoFile’s request for comment. 

Maggie Mullen reports on state government and politics. Before joining WyoFile in 2022, she spent five years at Wyoming Public Radio.

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  1. The article doesn’t mention it, but did Ben Hornok mention the rules violation at the Laramie County convention and give them a chance to fix it? If so, then it’s on them. If not, it’s on him. He set up his own delegation. I would have a vote to censure, if not impeach, him from the county central committee.

  2. the GOP is a circus and the only way to eliminate these trumpanzees, many of whom are carpetbaggers, is to quit feeding them bananas. The who mess will eventually self implode and clownage like the “Rocky Mountain Patriot” will skip rent on his shack in Cody and fill up the Dodge Caravan and sneak back to Missouri

  3. The crazies on both sides need to be cleared out by forming a third party of moderate Republicans and Democrats. Liz Cheney for President!

    1. Cheney is part of the problem. Just a carpet bagger living off dadddys name and political position. Which he wasn’t that good of a V. P nor company leader.

  4. The GOP has been infiltrated by nut jobs, proud boys, oath keepers and other ner’ do wells. This political party will implode. Meanwhile, do you mind if the rest of us laugh our you know whats off at your antics? It’s been entertaining and the meltdown when LIz Cheney rolls over the ranch witch this coming primary will be epic

  5. It wasn’t MINOR and it wasn’t the first time. They cheated. They’ve done it before. They think they are above the rules. They finally had to pay a price.

  6. The Wyoming GOP has been shang hai’d by the nutwhacks. Up here in Park County, the carpetbaggers from elsewhere have moved in and run off the old guard. The GOP will soon implode and maybe some decent folks will pick up the pieces and rebuild. Until then……NUT CITY!!!!!

  7. Chair Eathorne said on Fox News some months ago “in Wyoming, we don’t necessarily embrace the idea of big tent.” Exactly the sort of thing an oath keeper might say. Keep it up, boys. Bit by bit (sidelining Cheney, censuring thinking legislators like Case, excluding representatives from the state’s most populous county), you make the Republican Party more extreme, rural-centric, and irrelevant. Perhaps time to rename the GOP. How about The Party?

  8. I’m waiting for some honestly harsh or harshly honest reporting on Fox News about the radical Republicans of Wyoming feeding on their own kind , like cannibals. Let’s give Tucker, Hannity, and the rest of the Fox den some stark hard news to choke down . The rest of America needs to see what happens when extreme far right Trumplodytes usurp the democratic process for their own subterfuge.

    Who’s next on the menu at Frank Eathorne’s neofascist grill now after Liz Cheney , Cale Case, and the Laramie County state delegation ? I hear the barbecue smoked RINO is the house special.

  9. Well it seems the purges have begun. If the moderate republicans of Wyoming feel that they no longer have a voice in their party we’d be glad to have them with our conservative democrats! We’re alway glad to here the voices of rational people that don’t approve of people flying off into Cloud Cuckoo Land.

  10. Thanks Maggie. I noticed that the Wyoming Republican Party leadership folks want to transfer federal land to the state. I guess I can kiss my hunting on public land opportunities goodbye. These guys will sell those lands to the East and West Coast billionaires. I hope that Wyoming’s hunters will come together once again to stop this steal.

  11. its a mess all over. One problem is way to many lawyers as politicians. Attorneys/Lawyers make horrible buisness people. You know they are lie when their lips move.

    1. It’s unfortunate that you can only find fault with “lawyers and attorneys ” that choose to get into politics.

      I’d think preventing a substantial number of delegates from having any input into the direction of the party is the biggest grievance.

      Is it because the blocked delegates don’t agree 100% with the far right fringe that have taken the party over?

  12. The far right fringe is taking out what “reasonable” Republicans may be left in the state.

    Be prepared for more CRT hysteria, election fraud lies, voter disenfranchisement, Jewish space lasers, book banning, and attacks on rights of LGTBQ, women, and minorities.

    What a circus…