Park County Republicans condemn Legislature
By CJ Baker
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
POWELL — The Park County Republican Party condemned the leaders of the Wyoming Legislature, called for the state’s elections to be tallied by hand and took a stand against health care mandates during its recent convention.
At their March 12 gathering in Cody, members of the party’s central committee admonished the state Legislature for “fail[ing] to act on behalf of people of Wyoming” and “disregard[ing] their own rules and state law.”
The resolution doesn’t list specifics, but both Park County Republican Party State Committeeman Vince Vanata of Cody and Precinct Committeeman Troy Bray of Powell expressed specific displeasure with the Legislature: for failing to take meaningful action during a special six-day session on COVID-19 mandates last fall; for the way it handled questions raised by the Wyoming Republican Party about whether Rep. Dan Zwonitzer resides within his Cheyenne district; and for stripping Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, of his committee assignments at the end of the session.
Bouchard, one of the Legislature’s most conservative and pugnacious members, was accused by Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, of “a continued pattern of intimidating and disorderly conduct and other behavior that is unbecoming of a member of the Senate.” But Vanata said the senator was denied due process, calling his removal from the committees “totally inappropriate.”
The party’s resolution “asks for and demands” the resignations of Dockstader and Speaker of the House Eric Barlow, R-Gillette. Vanata said the two leaders “should take responsibility for the lackluster performance of the Legislature.”
Party Vice Chairman Bob Ferguson suggested it would be better for the party to condemn the Legislature in a later, standalone action, “rather than packaging it with all these other resolutions that those folks [legislative leaders] are never going to read.”
However, Bray countered that the party should pass the resolution at the convention and consider additional action later.
“This Legislature has been a pathetic mess for two years now. And I want them to know that we said that,” Bray said. “We can do it every day, because they’re still the same people and they’re still the same idiots.”
The only one to speak and vote against the resolution was Precinct Committeewoman Cherie Fisher of Cody. She said the measure “just discourages people from participating in our process for fear of retaliation.”
Responded Precinct Committeeman Tim Lasseter of Cody, “If we could discourage people like Dan Dockstader and Eric Barlow from participating, I’m all for discouraging that.”
Lasseter said the resolution was aimed at elected officials who aren’t representing the will of the people, sending a message that “we are not going to stand for it as a party.”
The Republicans passed a total of eight resolutions, which are statements that don’t carry any legal weight, but represent the county party’s official opinion. With about 44 members of the central committee in attendance at the meeting, about half of the members were absent.
A number of more moderate members of the party have stopped regularly attending or participating in party functions, including a 2019 meeting in which three board members resigned over differences with Party Chairman Martin Kimmet.
Kimmet said he was sorry the party didn’t have more members attend the March 12 convention. He supported a resolution that calls for a new law that would allow the party to replace precinct committee members who miss three straight meetings and don’t provide notice.
Vanata accused some of the absent members of making “an obstructive move, to occupy a precinct and to weaken the individual party.”
“If you’re elected or appointed, and you accept the position, then by God you should be showing up at the meetings, you should be participating in the process, you should be at caucus, you should be at convention …,” he said.
Fisher was again the only member to vote against the resolution, though Committeeman Paul Lanchbury quipped, “you’ve got to admit, they [the meetings] go a lot smoother” with some committee members absent.
The majority of the eight resolutions passed with unanimous support — including one that calls for publicly observable hand counts of all election results; the county GOP wants those counts to take precedence over machine-compiled tallies.
“There were a lot of irregularities in the previous election and things happened that observers were locked out from observing,” said Committeeman Tracy Lewis of Clark, saying the hand count and observations would help ensure confidence in elections.
A couple resolutions stemmed from restrictions related to COVID-19, one calling for a law that would require hospitals to allow patient visits and another opposing vaccine passports and all health care mandates.
Anthony Spiering of Heart Mountain made an unsuccessful effort to narrow the resolution’s language to bar “disproportionate” mandates.
“We all know that COVID was a hoax,” Spiering said, “but if it was ebola, I wouldn’t mind some kind of mandates.”
However, Bray said the same argument was used with COVID — that the disease “was so bad we needed something.”
“We’ve seen it abused with COVID and we’ll see it abused with ebola, too. I am against any mandates,” he said, drawing applause.
Similar skepticism about the federal government’s role in regulating people’s health care choices later led the party to narrowly reject a proposed resolution that would have opposed the legalization of medicinal or recreational use of marijuana.
Committeeman Richard Jones, an outspoken critic of marijuana, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying that lawmakers aren’t qualified to declare what qualifies as a medicine or how it should be used.
“That should be left up to professionals and longstanding policies and procedures to protect the public from harm,” Jones said. “This is why we have the FDA and Consumer Privacy Commission and others to protect health and safety for our food and drug sources.”
However, a couple speakers questioned whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to review and approve food and drugs and Lasseter said some “very legitimate medicines” have not been approved by the FDA, and he gave the example of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID.
James Andrews of Powell argued people should be able to smoke marijauna if they want to, saying he’s generally opposed to the government telling people what to do.
“I don’t mind that they tell me that I can’t do 1,000 miles an hour down the highway, because it protects people,” Andrews said, “[but] when it comes to me and my body, I don’t think they should have a say.”
The stance against marijuana was rejected on a 22-21 vote. A separate resolution on education, which passed unanimously, calls for a prohibition on teaching “critical race theory or identity politics or that any sex, race, ethnicity or national origin is inherently superior or inferior to any other” in public schools, along with all activism “based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race relations.” It also calls on school districts to make all teaching materials available for parents’ inspection before being taught.
With regard to energy, another party resolution endorsed coal, natural gas, uranium and oil as “important sources of clean energy,” while criticizing windmills, solar panels and nuclear power as costly alternatives that benefit other states while “devastating the invaluable landscape of our beautiful state.” The measure calls for a $5 per megawatt hour tax on wind and solar energy exported from Wyoming.
A final resolution opposed any support or settlement of “illegal aliens” in Wyoming.
Park County’s Republican voters will choose their precinct committee members for the next two years during August’s primary election. The filing period for the party positions runs from May 12-27.