Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Joe Barbuto at a party fundraiser in Wilson during the summer of 2019. Barbuto was unanimously elected to a third term over the weekend. (Wyoming Democratic Party/Facebook)

Wyoming Democrats unanimously re-elected Party Chairman Joe Barbuto to a third term Saturday on promises of better fundraising and heightened competitiveness. The vote came in the wake of lackluster results in the 2020 elections.

Barbuto a former state lawmaker from Rock Springs ran unopposed for the state party’s top spot. He’s held the post since 2016 and sources in Democratic politics say there has been mostly satisfaction with his leadership.

Incumbents Erin O’Doherty and Mandy Weaver also retained their seats as vice chair and secretary. 

The re-elections follow an election in which Democrats lost most of the legislative seats they’d hoped would be competitive. 2020 also saw several state legislative districts including in traditionally blue Sweetwater County flip from blue to red. Only two of Wyoming’s 30 state senators and seven of its 60 representatives are Democrats. All five statewide elected officials — the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and superintendent of public instruction — are Republicans. 

Down-ballot Republicans were boosted by the popularity of former President Donald Trump who was also on the ticket, Barbuto said. That resulted in major policy losses for Democratic priorities in the statehouse, he said.

“The election of Donald Trump and the ascension of individuals to elected office who prescribe to his brand of politics and behavior has had an impact that didn’t go away during the 2020 election,” Barbuto said during Saturday’s elections, which took place remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “In fact I would say in the months since the election, Donald Trump’s brand of politics has only intensified.  

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“In this legislative session, lawmakers in Wyoming fully embraced the MAGA approach to governing,” he added. “Whether it was education, civil rights or any other topic that was covered in Cheyenne, you could count on a noticeable contingency of radical Republicans to put their ideology before the needs of our state and our people.”  

Heading into the next election cycle, Barbuto told his fellow Democrats they have a winning message, namely because they unlike Republicans, are “the party of the people.”

It’s unclear how that message differs from the one that fell flat with Wyoming voters in 2020. Democrats identified and invested in several races last year they believed they could have been competitive. House Districts 11 and 44 in Cheyenne, HD-46 and Senate District-10 in Laramie, HD-54 in Lander, SD-12 in Rock Springs and HD-60 in Green River were swept by Republicans.

However, the margins in some of those races were within several hundred votes. That fact, coupled with the belief that his organization has improved its fundraising apparatus and grown more sophisticated, gives Barbuto hope for better future returns, he said. 

“Looking back at 2020, we know that we had a better organization [than the Wyoming GOP], we had better grassroots support, better candidates, better staff, better county organizations,” Barbuto said in an interview with WyoFile. “But there was no planning for that incredible turnout of voters from the right, and it kind of brought us to this conclusion that and it sounds simplistic but if we want to win, we’re going to have to find some more Democratic voters.”

Much of that plan, Barbuto said, rests with improving the party’s messaging. 

After raising a record-setting $29,000 from the organization’s Nellie Tayloe Ross fundraiser last year, the party overwhelmingly elected one of the event’s chief organizers, Jackie Grimes, to serve as party treasurer on Saturday. Grimes said she hoped to use the position not just to be the party’s accountant, but to bring in more funding to improve messaging and “help people understand” what Democrats have to offer in an increasingly nationalized political environment.

“I don’t know if you call it educating voters,” Barbuto said. “It’s more about letting them know the positives that are happening with Democrats and how we approach policy. The second part is holding Republicans accountable for their inaction or inability to get things done.”

The party has bought billboard space in Casper and Cheyenne to tout Democrats’ role in crafting the American Rescue Plan and the benefits it will have in Wyoming. It has also worked to expand its digital presence through increased advertising and utilizing new forums like TikTok and podcasting and cold-called Wyoming residents in an effort to connect them with federal programs like rent assistance or expanded healthcare credits passed as part of the ARP.

The strategy also includes physically finding more Democrats to participate in Wyoming’s elections. Looking into the future, the party has begun developing plans to begin voter registration drives in high schools around the state with a message tailored to young voters in the hopes some will eventually register as Democrats.

“Right now it’s kind of in its beginning stages and we’re figuring out how it’s going to be best accomplished in Wyoming,” Barbuto said. “We’ve seen examples from Arizona, Nevada and most recently, Georgia, about the changes you can make happen when you empower people to vote and give them the resources they need to vote. And so we realized that’s a place where our focus needs to be.”

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  1. “Looking back at 2020, we know that we had a better organization [than the Wyoming GOP], we had better grassroots support, better candidates, better staff, better county organizations,” Barbuto said in an interview with WyoFile

    I don’t know what data he is looking at… so I will share what the elections results of 2020 are.

    In the following counties, NO democrat Precinct men or women were elected.

    In fact of the 1062 precinct positions for Democrats in the last election, only 11.58% were filled.

    Joe want to believe he has an energized party, but he is deluding himself.

  2. I’ve lost track of the exact count: Was there three or four of us democrats in Wyoming?

  3. Well, how about we extend a hand to those disenfranchised residents of Washington DC? They could join us! Like the islands of Hawaii, they would not have to be contiguous with our big square. We might still not earn our vast representation in Congress, but it could help who we elect.

  4. The democraps stopped being the “party of the people” long ago. Decade by decade, since the end of the second war of the world, they have moved further and further to the right. I attended one of their caucuses here in the early 2000s, and felt I was in the midst of a group of moderate rethuglicans. Like the rethuglicans, democraps depend on the money of the robber baron class for their existence and so do nothing that would really upset the wealthy. At best, they can be counted on to timidly offer half measures when it comes to making things better for us lowly commoners, though they lie to us through their teeth about how they love us and will make things better, if only we will waste our votes on them. Finally, they, like the rethuglicans, love sending our kids to wars based entirely on lies, and funding those wars indefinitely.

    1. Spoken like a true Trumpster! Of course JAnuary 6th was a peaceful protest of people just trying to stop all the votes that were faked or stolen that flipped the election. Trump is standing in the wings just ready to straighten it all out. In fact according to Trump himself the only one capable of doing it!
      Of course I’m still waiting for his fabulous health care plan, his infrastructure plan and of course the release of his federal tax forms that are now being audited by the people who should have done it years ago. I really want to express my great joy on that great COVID plan that was to get the vaccines distributed and put into the arms of the American people so they don’t die from this disease! Oh excuse me I forgot, there was not Trump plan, but lazy Joe got the job done1. And let’s not forget the infrastructure plan. There is only over 800 bridges and thousands of miles of substandard roads in Wyoming that need to be fixed, you know all the ones well marked as deficient or substandard. That you go over possible every day. Oh, and let’s not forget the 13 dams in need of repair and upgrades. The airports and the lack of high speed internet so both schooling and business can be conducted in Wyoming’s ruial areas. And of course there are the issues, you know the ones that Trump are so proud of he doesn’t want to share his tax secrets with anyone particular law enforcement official and forensic auditor. I feel so homered that the billionaires will get the infrastructure they need for their businesses and are working so hard to keep from paying for it likes the rest of us so they can continue stuff more money into their pockets with the full support of every Republican in both the house and senate. And how about the swell deal Wyoming State legislators gave to 28,000 Wyoming residents by again turning down expansion of Medicare, I guess medical bankruptcy is okay for them if their a little short of luck and a decent paying job because Republicans also refuse to raise the minimum pay rate even though it has not been indexed or raised in nearly three decades. Yes it’s all the Democrats fault and the dining Republican Party wabnts to talk about the gender of Mr Potato Head and the withdrawal of 6 Dr Suess books by the family of the Author. Fixing problem that don’t exists and ignoring the real one is exactly what Republican’t’s are good it, so much simpler to say kno then to fix something

      1. You have a strange way of defining a supporter of the orange hog. Trouble is, in reality, he wasn’t that much worse than his immediate predecessor. You know, the guy who gave us a health insurance plan that mainly benefited and enriched private insurance companies, who continued Bush2’s foreign policies; the guy who went out of his way to to blame dark-skinned people for their problems rather than admitting to the institutional racism that has existed in this country from its beginning. He was also a sleight-of-hand master who enjoyed diverting us with tales of our supposed exceptionalism”.

        Or, how about Clinton, under whose wise and benevolent leadership Glass-Steagall was repealed and Aid to Families with Dependent Children was abolished? He also managed to wage a bloody (for the residents of the area in particular) war in the Balkans. Biden is doing a lot of babbling at the moment, but I’ll believe he supports real and substantial change for the better when I see it happen. I’m used to democraps making lots of promises that they have no real intention of keeping. How that makes me a supporter of the orange hog is beyond me…

  5. Your article is a bit off point. It seems to imply that the “lackluster” performance of the Wyoming Democrats can be attributed (at least in part) to Joe Barbuto. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Joe has grown the staff, and therefore the reach, of the WDP. He has recruited County-level people for County parties and certainly energized the Party as a whole. Joe has proven to be an effective leader and is focused on what’s good for the people of Wyoming.

    Nothing lackluster about Joe or the WDP!

    Since you are an investigative reporter, I hope you see the need for further investigation.