Chairman Frank Eathorne addresses members of the Wyoming Republican Party during the party’s state central committee meeting in Cody on May 15, 2021. (Nick Reynolds/WyoFile)

CODY — The Wyoming Republican Party on Saturday resoundingly re-elected Chairman Frank Eathorne to an additional term, solidifying populist conservatives’ hold on party leadership in the lead-up to what is expected to be a contentious 2022 primary season.

Eathorne, who was first elected to the position in 2017, ran unopposed and faced only a smattering of ‘nos’ in the voice vote for re-election during Saturday’s State Central Committee meeting. The committee adopted a motion to record the result as unanimous despite the miniscule opposition.

Sitting Vice Chairman Dave Holland and Secretary-elect Donna Rice also ran unopposed for their positions. Rice finished in fourth place in 2020’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate. 

The vote comes on the heels of an increasingly public rift within the Wyoming Republican Party in which some former party leaders and elected officials have been critical of its direction. Party fundraising has also languished. Though Eathorne said fundraising performance has improved in recent months and the party’s balances are on par with other years, the GOP currently reports less than $58,000 in its in-state accounts and a little more than $32,000 in its federal accounts. Eathorne attributes those amounts to a shift in political fundraising operations and says the party is in good shape — especially compared to the past. 

“In 2011, the Wyoming Republican Party was $50,000 in the hole. We were in debt. We had legal issues that were hamstringing our ability to raise money,” Eathorne said. “When I first became chairman in 2017, we had very low bank balances. Since that time… We have maintained per cycle the same balances on average that we have always maintained. That means we have steady support.”

Members of leadership also discounted the idea that the party isn’t united. In a speech, Holland said he believes the Wyoming GOP is an “accurate reflection” of the people of Wyoming, and while the media and the Democratic Party want to paint the party as divided, he said, all Republicans have a common enemy in the Biden administration.

Should populist Republicans take the reins of government in 2022, Holland said, it will be grassroots party members who will allow them to be successful.

“People are claiming the party back,” Holland said, “because we have only so much time to claim our country back.”

There was some acknowledgement of limited discontent within the party. In a question and answer period before the vote, leadership members were asked whether they supported the Frontier Republicans. The political action committee, which is comprised of a handful of Republican that want to increase civility in the state’s politics, has often been at odds with state party leadership.

Wyoming Republican Party Secretary-elect Donna Rice fields questions during the Wyoming Republican Party’s state central committee meeting in Cody on May 15, 2021. (Nick Reynolds/WyoFile)

The party election took place amid a national conversation about former President Donald Trump’s role as standard bearer and the fallout for opposition Republicans like Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney. 

Cheney was ousted from her leadership role last week after refusing to back down on her stance that Trump incited the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection after losing a fair election. 

The Wyoming Republican Party censured Cheney in February for voting to impeach Trump, and several activists within the party are now running to replace her. These include Sheridan County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Miller, who announced his intention to run during the meeting. 

The party tension over Cheney was apparent during the meeting. While numerous elected officials, including Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, addressed the crowd directly or in writing, Cheney did not.

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“We don’t hate Liz Cheney,” Park County Republican Party Chairman Martin Kimmet said. “We love Liz Cheney. But we do have to voice our opinions if we don’t agree with her and we don’t agree with what she’s doing. I just want to make that clear to the press and to everyone seated here today. This is not a party of hatred. It is a party of accountability.”

In his address to the delegates gathered in Cody, Eathorne said the party will remain Trump’s party. 

A CBS News/YouGov poll released over the weekend shows four in five Republicans agreed Cheney’s vote to impeach the former president was off-message and only served to divide the party. Roughly one-third of those who agreed were supportive of her removal as a message that “disloyalty will be punished,” according to the poll.

“When asked who is the leader of the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party, it is Donald J. Trump, and he continues to be our leader,” Eathorne said to applause. “We don’t worship the man, but he spoke for us in ways that we haven’t seen since President Reagan. And so we continue to recognize him as our substance leader.”

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  1. That poor guy has a large white fungus of some kind growing on his head: Surgery may be able to remove it since his brain is obviously being absorbed with the fungus, just as bats and amphibians around the world are also facing massive die-off’s caused by foreign fungus.

  2. The fact that they called a vote unanimous – that wasn’t – doesn’t surprise me. You right wing folks should take a closer look at these individuals that call themselves conservatives. Many take public money to make ends meet. This fellow even attended the “stop the steal” craziness. Where I come from it’s called unamerican ( at least).

  3. I feel sorry for that poor guy with the large strange white fungus growing on top of his head. Can’t be healthy.

  4. Wow, Wyomong’s Republucan Party sure have gotten a lot of national press the past two weeks, impressive! First for turning on homegrown – well, not really – daughter, formerly the state’s Republican darling, Liz Cheney, because she dared to believe what she saw with her own eyes, the January 6th insurrection, she was there in fact, that apparently many Wyoming Republicans now also believe was just a bunch of harmless tourists, following in lockstep with the DC Republican goons.

    And just today, another of your stalwart Wyoming Republican Party members got a giant boatload of national press for impregnating an underage girl, 14 years old, in his just-a-typical teen youth . It’s all over the news, ALL the news, social platforms, whatever, aren’t most of you R Party members just pleased as punch. Well, shucks, t’weren’t nothin’ but another Romeo and Juliet story, oh how you wish, Senator, if only.

    The more recently elected Wyoming Republican crackpot legislators, along with diehard party members, have done such a terrible disservice to the the decent, moral Republican legislators who remain. It sure looks like the Wyoming Republican party is becoming more like what remains of the national party, a dangerous and increasingly far far-right fringe, marching in lockstep with the criminal who Joe Biden, and not a second too soon, legitimately defeated in the 2020 Presidential election. A Republican Party with absolutely no shame or pride.

  5. Sounds to me like y’all on the right here locally have more of the same coming. I think that’s one of the traits of conservatives. That, and reactionary “ideas”.