There’s nothing like standing up to a bully to earn people’s respect. Just ask Sen. Cale Case.

Opinion

Case, a Lander Republican, is a 30-year veteran of the state Legislature. He’s had plenty of political battles, but probably never expected one would be with his own party.

The GOP’s leadership, at both the state and local levels, has taunted him for several years as a dreaded “RINO” — a Republican in name only. 

Case has fought back. “Increasingly, party officials and events and our government meetings are characterized by hate, threats, and even violence,” he wrote in a Cowboy State Daily op-ed last month. “Yet I am convinced that most Republicans trend more towards the real issues and value civility and collaboration in service to the state.”

That theory was tested last week when the Fremont County Republican Party Central Committee voted 11-7 to censure Case for writing the column and daring to buck party leadership by supporting Medicaid expansion.

“I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response,” Case told me. “There’s a lot of energy out there for some kind of change. People are really tired of this.

“This could be the best thing that’s happened to me all year,” he added. “It was a brutal budget session.”

The censure unwittingly bolstered Case’s argument: intolerant, ideologically rigid GOP officials are running people off. Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” that housed Republicans of diverse interests is long gone in the Equality State.

That’s the way State Republican Chairman Frank Eathorne likes it. “In Wyoming, we don’t necessarily embrace ‘Big Tent,’” he told Fox News last year.

No kidding. Case is only the latest Republican with rock-solid conservative credentials to be attacked for refusing to kiss the ring. 

Most famously, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney was censured by several county groups and the state party for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump after he incited the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. The Republican National Committee also censured her.

Republicans, how does your party hate you? Let’s count the many ways.

In 2020, the state GOP censured Natrona County State Committeewoman JoAnn True. Her “crime” was co-founding a nonpartisan political action committee, the Cowgirl Run Fund, which aims to get more women on the ballot, regardless of political party. 

In January 2021, the state executive committee censured Natrona County Republican Chairman Joe McGinley for allegedly tarnishing the state GOP’s reputation, violating party bylaws, and — I kid you not! — telling the media that he’d been investigated and censured.

Rep. Evan Simpson of Afton was censured by Lincoln County Republicans for not voting in line with the party’s platform. The action was later rescinded for procedural reasons, but the county’s State Committeeman, Mike Lungren, said the censure vote was “a way of saying, ‘We don’t like what you’re doing right now.’” Duh.

Sometimes whole county groups draw the state party’s ire. Eathorne has been in a long-running battle with McGinley and the Natrona County GOP, which has withheld its state dues since 2020 and sued the Wyoming Republican Party over an alleged violation of its bylaws.

Last November, McGinley — who did not vote with the majority of the state party’s central committee to no longer recognize Cheney as a Republican — told CNN the party has been taken over by extremists very willing to embarrass and harass their own members.

“I mean, you can’t tell someone that they’re not a Republican,” McGinley said. “If they register as a Republican and say they’re a Republican, then they’re a Republican.”

Natrona County was punished at the recent state GOP convention in Sheridan when its delegation was sliced from 33 members to six. Niobrara, Wyoming’s least populous county, had seven.

But that was nothing compared to what the party did to Laramie County, originally allocated 37 delegates. A complaint to the state party charged that Laramie County officials violated state bylaws by not voting by secret ballot.

The state convention voted 225-63 to seat only three Laramie County delegates. All 37 walked out in protest. A committee determined that several smaller counties also violated state rules, but only Laramie County — Wyoming’s most populous — paid any price.

It’s a sure bet Laramie County will find a better way to spend the $15,000 in dues the state party expects this year, after its delegates were given the heave-ho.

It was no surprise Cheney didn’t attend a convention run by people who don’t recognize her as a Republican or their congresswoman. Still, I loved how she informed them.

“The Wyoming GOP, led by an Oath Keeper who was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and advocates secession, rejected the vast majority of delegates from our two largest counties,” Cheney tweeted. “Our state party is broken. Wyoming deserves better.” 

A whistleblowers’ group in December outed Eathorne as a member of the notorious Oath Keepers militia group.

Oath Keepers leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes III and 10 other members have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 riot. In a press release the next day, Eathorne said he attended Trump’s rally near the White House but did not witness any violence or property destruction.

I wondered why Wyoming’s Republican chairman wanted to make his Jan. 6 itinerary clear. Now, it makes sense: Eathorne wanted to put a lot of distance between himself and his other group.

Two weeks later, Eathorne’s loose lips plunged him head-first into an embarrassing controversy. He discussed Wyoming’s possible secession from the union on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.

“We are straight-talking, focused on the global scene, but we’re also focused at home,” Eathorne said. “Many Western states have the ability to be self-reliant, and we’re keeping eyes on Texas, too, and their consideration of possible secession.”

After taking a ton of grief over his remarks, Eathorne meekly said the issue “won’t come up again unless the grass roots brings it up.”

So, as Wyoming GOP bosses snipe at members for their stubborn representation of constituents instead of party overlords (or, in Cheney’s case, her vexing insistence on saving democracy from Trump), just what does a censure mean these days?

Pretty much what it’s always meant: a whole lot of nothing. People simply don’t respect who’s doing the censuring. 

Case will see at least one far-right primary challenger, but it won’t be the Pavillion man who instigated the censure since he doesn’t even live in the senator’s district. It should only help his re-election bid.

Much of the $10 million Cheney has raised for her 2022 campaign has come from donors far and wide after her national and state censures.

All that success has left me wondering how I can earn my own censure from Eathorne et al. 

Granted, I’m a Democrat, which would seem to make me ineligible. But Wyoming Republican leaders have nightmares about thousands of us crossing over to vote in their Aug. 16 primary.

Heck, I’m planning to do that anyway, since it’s probably the only way I’ll get to vote for someone who actually wins. I thought it would only be for a few minutes, just long enough to switch my party affiliation, vote, and then become a Democrat again.

I’m willing to delay that maneuver and remain in the party if the GOP’s head honchos can hold an emergency vote on my censure. Just don’t take more than 24 hours, OK? 

It’d be a real badge of honor.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. Mr Drake, too bad your own party can’t muster up a good enough candidate that you wouldn’t have to crossover vote. Democrats make me laugh!

    1. I would say its too bad that the republican party is so captivated by a pathological liar that democrats would be compelled to crossover.

    2. Jeff,
      It is too bad your party doesn’t know how to research and vote for a candidate based on their abilities instead of just going down a ballot and vote for whomever has an “R” by their name. I feel if the party affiliation were removed from the ballots the majority of “Republicans” wouldn’t be able to vote because they wouldn’t know how to do it.

  2. So Wyoming and Montana politics have a lot in common. The possibility of crossover voting sends our Republicans spinning. Of course, that’s because Republicans love to vote the Democrat Party ticket. They once got caught red-handed when the Republican Governor, who had no Primary challenger, got fewer votes than the weakest Democrat candidate running or Governor. Governor Babcock apologized for the too well organized crossover vote.

  3. Something not addressed is how 18 members of the Fremont County Central Committee creates a quorum to do business. It’s less than half the membership.

  4. Interesting,My only ? would be does anybody have or talk to Liz, before she, opens mouth.

  5. I love your writing, Kerry Drake. Thanks for being a journalist of integrity and honesty. I also love your sense of humor. As a fellow Democrat who is also going to switch at the primary to vote for Cheney, I really appreciated your candor. Kayne Pyatt

    1. I am a Montana Democrat who sends Liz money every time she makes the news concerning Jan. 6. She’s draining my checkbook!

  6. Censure has always been available. It’s called “vote them out of office.” Nowadays censure is simply used to silence those that were duly elected to speak.

  7. I have an idea. The loonies can all move to Texas and 45 can become their dictator. However we would have to build a giant wall between us and Texas

    I have voted for many republicans in my life but they where not whackos and they respected the constitution and the laws of this country.

    Enough said

    1. I’ll contribute to that northern Texas border wall all day, I’ll even volunteer to help build it.

  8. Thanks Kerry for sharing your laugh-out-loud plot to hack off the Wyoming GOP leadership! But, why stop there? Couldn’t you finagle a way to use your upcoming “censure” to raise funds for a cause which benefits the citizens of Wyoming?

    You could host a celebration for the bravery of those listed in your GOP-Censure-Hall-of-Fame and charge admission. Funds raised could be used to lobby for medical treatment for working folks who can’t afford health care premiums. Sort of a “lemons to lemonade” event. Only the party fringes would have a sour taste in their mouth.

  9. What a difference 36 years makes. After 13 years in Nebraska and 23 years in Texas myself and my wife returned to Wyoming to enjoy the mountains, the snow and four seasons, but reasonably quaint sensibility of the people of Wyoming. But unfortunately I’ve returned to a state that now has joined the far right in a senseless campaign of eating it’s own. There are many problems facing this state and instead of defining a problem and seeking solutions the Republican Party leadership is purging and beating the drum of “Party Purity” above all else. Seems I heard this before when I had the opportunity to discuss what life was like between the wars in Germany in the 1930’s and we already know that did not end well. But then again those that fail to heed the lesson of history are bound to repeat it’s mistakes. But I have faith in my neighbors and it may take a two by four against the heads of some but they will finally figure it out! The only over reach is now taking place by the leadership of the Wyoming Republican Party and the cost to them will be only dishonor to dishonorable people that follow lies and criminals. Remember, evil triumphs when people of good will do nothing! Remember this when you mark the ballet in August and November!

  10. Thank you, thank you, Mr. Drake, for your article! Watching the GOP devolve into authoritarianism is terrifying. I’ve been incensed at the censuring of some Republicans because they’re thinking moderates like Cale Case or performing laudable acts like JoAnn True. Your article helped me tremendously.

  11. Thanks for a good morning chuckle, Drake. When people in Wyoming complain about the federal government and going as far as to say that Wyoming should secede from the union, I have to wonder if they have any clue how dependent Wyoming is on federal support? Is it like teenager rebellion against parental control?

  12. You prove what we already know…Democrats cheat to get what they want. Admitting that they (and you) cross-over to game the system. Conservatives know there are plenty of RINOs in Wyoming that don’t represent what their conservative constituents want. Trying to clean house is considered bullying. The poll cited as the majority of Wyoming supporting medicaid expansion is baloney. You quote McGinley “I mean, you can’t tell someone that they’re not a Republican,” McGinley said. “If they register as a Republican and say they’re a Republican, then they’re a Republican.” More proof of this scam…Democrats registering as Republicans doesn’t make them Republican. If Cheney wins, it won’t be because Republican’s want her as their Representative. Her first election 60% voted for someone else. And the swamp doesn’t want to pass a run-off bill.

    1. I find this laughable. I guess our then President calling everybody under the sun to throw out the election results, or as in Georgia to “ find me 18,000 more vote” is a prime example ad not cheating? I’m a bit confused here. Many democrats in this state may make a choice to crossover to keep the extreme, hyperbolic far right, and their Q powered, conspiracy of the day thinking, or even let’s expand Medicare in Wyoming to benefit it’s citizens is government overreach? No wonder many Democrats may make the 5 minute switch!

      1. A good friend (a Democrat) of mine said she wanted to change her party affiliation to Republican to vote in the primaries but she was afraid she would die while she was still a registered Republican and she really didn’t want to be buried as a Republican.

    2. And your swipe at the Medicaid poll that shows the extent to which the Republican party in Wyoming has adopted the Lilliputian logic of “We all say it so it must be true”. Get out of your echo chamber and find out what the real people of Wyoming believe.

    3. It is pure gold when you talk about Democrats cheating to get what they want. The party of Trump has been cheating and lying to try and get their way since he lost his 2020 election. I know that hurts to hear but it is the truth. Us Democrats do switch parties to vote to try and mitigate the damage done by the far right republicants who do no candidate research and just vote down the R party line. If the party was ever taken off the ballots you would never know how to vote. Cheney will win this election for the same reason tRump lost 2020. People are getting tired of being bullied into doing what the party of the loud say to do.

    4. If you’re not willing to accept differing opinions from Republicans, perhaps you should look into a new party? I’m sure there are white nationalist organizations that would take you in.

  13. I’m happily in that camp of “cross over” voters. The far right, unrepresentative, conniving attitude of the Republican Party, state and country wide, are ripping our democratic republic apart. I’ve always been a fan of Cale Case – he does represent people over party and votes his conscience. What more can we ask for when “we the people” want representation? And as for Liz – more power to you – your willingness to uphold our nations laws and call out a autocratic liar makes you a an honest, forthright person; not a mamby/pamby, salute to McConnell, party line only congressperson, like our other two. Thanks Kerry, for once again showing truth to our state.

  14. Elected representatives should represent the people and the constitution, not the party-Joseph Henry