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Bucking statewide trend, Teton County GOP still accepts Liz Cheney as a Republican
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Bucking statewide trend, Teton County GOP still accepts Liz Cheney as a Republican

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Liz Cheney

Rep. Liz Cheney sits down for an interview with the Star-Tribune on May 25. Cheney is facing a tough reelection fight. 

JACKSON — Teton County’s GOP will continue to recognize U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as a Republican.

That’s in contrast to a handful of other county Republican parties around the state that have voted to no longer accept Cheney, Wyoming’s lone voice in the U.S. House of Representatives, as a member of the party.

The reason is in part her vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump for the role Cheney, nine other House Republicans, and House Democrats say he played in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. And it’s in part due to Cheney’s continued distance from Wyoming Republicans on the matter.

The Uinta, Platte, Park, Carbon and Fremont county parties all voted to pull their recognition of Cheney in the last month or so.

The Laramie County party voted the measure down in early September, and the Teton County GOP’s Central Committee — a voting bloc that consists of the party’s elected precinct committeemen and women — did the same Monday night in a split vote.

The Teton County GOP voted the resolution down 17-5.

“I was really happy with the outcome,” Vice Chairman Alex Muromcew told the News&Guide. “People put reason ahead of emotion.”

Becky Cloetta told the paper she brought the resolution to the Central Committee because she felt like the Teton County GOP “needed to have a voice.”

In pitching the resolution, she said voting in favor of it “does not mean that you believe the election was stolen” — a claim Trump has perpetuated but was proven unfounded by courts and recounts — “or that lawbreakers should not be punished.”

Instead, she said it was about recognizing that Cheney “violated her oath to defend the constitution and serve as our representative” by voting to impeach the former president seven days after the insurrection “on no credible evidence.”

She also lamented Cheney’s participation in a Democrat-led investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, has urged a boycott of the panel because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, didn’t allow a handful of McCarthy’s chosen Republicans to serve.

“There is a saying that the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” Cloetta said during the meeting, accusing Cheney of “sucking up to Democrats.”

“What I’m saying to you tonight is that the friend of our enemy is our enemy,” Cloetta said.

After the vote, Cloetta said she was “surprised there were as few votes as there were.”

Cheney’s office provided the News&Guide with a brief statement that said she “looks forward to continuing to work with officials and citizens across Wyoming to be the most effective voice and advocate in defense of our families, industries and communities.”

Muromcew, former Teton County GOP Chair Paul Vogelheim and Commissioner Mark Barron all tied a vote in favor of rescinding recognition of Cheney as a Republican to local elections. While Wyoming voted roughly 70-30 for Trump, Teton County flipped the statewide script and voted roughly 70-30 for Biden. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans — 6,068 vs. 5,439 in September — in Teton County, which is primarily represented by Democrats in the Wyoming Legislature.

Commissioner Mark Barron is the only Republican on the Teton County Board of County Commissioners, but officials were quick to point out that there are a number of Republican officials in elected county offices and on the school board.

With Cheney’s alignment with the majority Democratic commission on the Jan. 6 insurrection acting as a national lightning rod, the three more moderate Republicans were focused on local elections.

“How will this help forward ... one of our primary goals of getting Republicans elected locally?” Vogelheim asked during the debate.

But some who voted for stripping the local party’s support for the embattled representative didn’t buy it.

“We’re not doing very well as it is,” one woman said in response to the election-focused argument.

Comments like those drew a fierce retort from Barron, who pointed to the Republican elected officials in the room Monday: himself, Teton County Treasurer Katie Smits, Clerk Maureen Murphy and members of Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees Keith Gingery and Janine Bay Teske. Gingery is also a deputy county attorney, and Jackson Police Department Chief Michelle Weber, who was there Monday, is a Republican as well.

None of those officials voted for the resolution rescinding the Teton County GOP’s recognition of Cheney as a Republican.

“We should not be tossing her to the wayside,” Barron said. “Teton County Republicans should support our Republicans. It’s hard enough to get a Republican elected in this county.”

Heidi Schmillen, Teton County GOP secretary, voted for the resolution. She acknowledged that there could be electoral consequences for the local party.

“But I would rather somebody not like what I stand for than like me because I pretended to stand for something,” she told the News&Guide.

“We’re no-one anyway,” Francis Warziniack said after the meeting, reflecting on the Teton County GOP’s position in local politics.

He, like Cloetta, lamented that Cheney has not explained her vote to Wyoming Republicans in person.

“She won’t even come talk to us,” Warziniack said. “She will not communicate with this community, with this state. Period.”

Cheney was in town Friday to witness Rylee McCollum’s remains arrive at Jackson Hole Airport and gave a press conference to Wyoming reporters that morning. But she did not meet with the general public.

Teton County GOP Chair Mary Martin said Cheney and her 2022 primary challenger Harriet Hageman, who has received an endorsement from Trump, had both been invited to Monday’s meeting. Neither showed up.

“I think she needs to do more campaigning in her home state,” Muromcew said of Cheney. “The onus is on her. I think this election is hers to lose.”

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