July 3 – CHEYENNE – Many Republican candidates described the future of the party as being at a crossroads last week, citing divisions over what it means to have the letter “R” next to their name.
From Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne telling Fox News his party doesn’t embrace former President Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” theory, to accusations from longtime incumbent lawmakers identifying as “Republican in name only,” the political atmosphere among Republicans seems controversial to voters.
Residents running for office as Republicans spoke to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle to provide insight into their own experience of this election cycle, their need to unite against the Democratic Party, and whether their party was on a different path than the Reagan era.
Despite rumblings of disagreement, the candidates also reaffirmed the values they hope their fellow party members uphold.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that the right of association – the ability to associate with others who share similar interests – is an important part of freedom of speech,” said House of Commons candidate Harriet Hagman. representatives of the United States, supported by former President Donald Trump, in a press release. . “As Republicans of Wyoming, we are associated with each other and united by our shared belief in smaller government, lower taxes, freedom and the right of individuals to pursue their own destiny, without undue government interference. .”
She was not alone in this position. Those seeking election at nearly every level of office have reiterated a desire for limited government, a strong military, anti-abortion laws, Second Amendment protections and a conservative budget approach.
“We have real divisions in our party in the state right now,” U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo, told WTE. “And I think it’s very important for the party to remember that the most important thing is to be true to the Constitution, and that must come before everything else.”
Cheney said serving constituents to ensure the state’s energy and tourism industries are defended in the nation’s Capitol and that families, communities and schools are represented is an important aspect of his work in Congress.
This ideal has trickled down to local communities.
Abbie Mildenberger and Bryce Freeman are running for Laramie County commissioner seats as Republicans. Both have said they want to take a fiscal and socially conservative approach. This would respect constitutional values, reduce the scope of government and preserve property rights.
“Kind of a litmus test for anyone from any party to run for office in Wyoming is to have a deep appreciation for the life we have in Wyoming, the values we value and all the benefits we have. we have by virtue of being people of Wyoming, and especially Laramie County,” Freeman said. “As a Republican, I’m interested in preserving those values.”
While there was consensus from all the candidates interviewed on the core values that held many together, a line was drawn in the number of them who listed the Republican platform a party member must stand on. ‘identify. Some argued that a Republican must stick to 80% or more of the platform, and others said they only had to agree with one principle.
Gov. Mark Gordon said he has been attending Republican conventions since the 1970s and appreciates the in-depth discussions and platform development. He believes that the positions established by elected officials, precinct members and others who participate are important because they inform how he approaches issues.
“I really appreciate the work that goes into it, that’s why I always pay attention to the platform,” he said. “But in terms of percentages, I don’t know who is judging that.”
Other areas that drew mixed responses from candidates were whether the party is at all divided and what issues have caused Republican infighting. Support Trump; investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol; and suspicions that the 2020 election was fraudulent are debates that many agree can be divisive.
Attention has been focused on the Wyoming GOP and its president.
“Our Republican Party is currently led by a man, Frank Eathorne, who is a member of the Oath Keepers, who was on Capitol Hill on January 6, who argued for secession. And he really took over the party machine in our state in a very dangerous direction,” Cheney said. “That’s not who we are in Wyoming. It’s not what we believe.”
Distributed Denial of Secrets, a whistleblower organization, in 2021 distributed a list of more than 200 Wyoming citizens who were part of the Oath Keepers. Eathorne’s name appeared on the document as a member of the far-right anti-government organization, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Cheney said there is a divide between Wyoming Republican Party members and residents because their beliefs are not represented by the opinions of the president and leaders.
Eathorne had no comment.
Some blame Cheney.
“Representative Liz Cheney has actively worked against our party’s interests, partnering with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to engage in an illegitimate, Stalinist show trial of a president they hate,” Hageman said in his statement. “They are ignoring due process and engaging in unfair tactics that would not be ever allowed in any courtroom, and trying to divert public attention from the catastrophe that is [President] Joe Biden.
“Cheney actually eroded our right to associate by inviting Democrats to switch parties for a day to vote for her in our Republican primary. This is a prime example of a politician willing to set aside our conservative Republican ideals in order to stay in power – the very definition of one-party,” Hageman continued.
Rep. Rachel Rodriguez Williams, R-Cody, said she and her family plan to support Hageman because the Republican Party has publicly stated that Cheney does not represent the people of Wyoming as they wish. She said there was unity in the party and only outsiders such as the incumbent Speaker of the United States House are not true Republicans.
“She basically left the party and said bad things about the party,” Rodriguez-Williams told WTE of Cheney. “And the party has spoken loud and clear, not just at the county level, but at the state level.”
House District 61 candidate Daniel Singh said he believes Cheney has launched his own personal vendetta against Trump and that his “pursuit of what is clearly a future presidential bid” has crushed the voices of Wyoming residents.
Other state lawmakers, such as Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander and Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, support Cheney. They also said the Cheneys’ efforts to investigate the Jan. 6 actions and clarify the 2020 election should not split the party.
“I don’t see the Jan. 6 committee as divisive, I think the Republican Party screwed up on that by deciding not to play along,” Case said. “But I’m actually impressed with the Jan. 6 committee. I’m impressed with Liz Cheney on the committee, and I’m impressed with the bipartisan efforts on the committee.”
Cheney was named vice chairman of the congressional select committee from Jan. 6 through the fall of 2021 and is one of only two Republicans to serve on the committee. She faced censorship from the Wyoming GOP months before taking responsibility for her vote to impeach President Trump after the insurrection on Capitol Hill.
Case said there were records, sworn testimony, Republican witnesses and extensive evidence that this was an effort to overturn the election. He said America is bigger than an individual party. He thinks Cheney is telling the truth and she shouldn’t be reprimanded.
“I was really disappointed with the turn the state party took, the lack of civility, the intolerance of dissent and the very narrow and formulaic solutions to things,” Case said. “But I will change parties. I will work to change it, or to have a more moderate approach.”
Brown said the divisions within the party did not start with Trump or the current US House race. It dates back to 2008, when members left the Republican Party to organize the Tea Party. He said they created their own group, because they said the traditional party was not conservative enough.
Brown’s view is that the Tea Party was disbanded in order to gain voter confidence and returned to the GOP fold while arguing that the main party held the wrong values. He said Tea Party members accused those who remained registered as Republicans the entire time as RINOs.
“It absolutely caused a split within the party on many facets,” Brown said. “And we are fortunate to live in an area of a country where we are allowed to have these disagreements without repercussions from the government. But unfortunately, it seems that the Republican Party is trying to do everything it can to punish those who disagree with them.”
He no longer sees it as the party once led by Reagan, which focused on supporting every Republican.
“The Republican Party of Wyoming today, especially Frank Eathrone, says, ‘If you disagree with us 80 percent of the time, we’d rather have a Democrat in this,'” Brown said. .
Governor Gordon said he recognizes the evident discord among members as the Wyoming GOP moves away from the “big tent” ideal. He said he was a supporter of inclusive theory, as Reagan succeeded in persuading many people that Republican values were the right values to run the country, and the party regained momentum during the 1980s.
He also supports the former president’s mantra, “You shall speak no ill of a fellow Republican.”
“Our challenge is not Republican among Republicans,” Gordon said. “Our challenge is to get this country back on track.”
This is the first story in a two-part series about what constitutes a Republican.
Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle state government reporter. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.