Members of the Wyoming Senate take their seats during the first day of this year's legislative session. Some in the Wyoming GOP are debating whether small counties hold too much clout.

An interesting rift was opened in Wyoming’s Republican politics last week. The chairwoman of the state’s largest county committee, Dani Olsen, opened fire on state central committee leadership over what she characterized as a corrupt power grab to boost the state’s small counties in the state’s delegate selection process — something she said would limit the influence of its largest blocs of voters in more urban settings.

“The smaller counties tend to be represented by a group that really does not align with most Republicans in Wyoming,” Olsen told the Star-Tribune last week. “Whereas Laramie County has a more diverse group of Republicans we’re representing, some counties view Laramie County Republicans as ‘too moderate,’ because of the fact we have more diversity, that we’re not ‘Republican enough.’”

In a statement posted on Facebook the following day, the party fired back — saying that Olsen’s voice was simply overruled in the matter and that her claims of corruption were unfounded.

Beyond that, however, the disagreement opened a greater philosophical argument over representation in Wyoming — namely, whether the needs of a powerful, urban majority should overrule the voices of the rural few.

It’s a question grappled with nationally. Democrats — winners of the popular vote in the last six presidential elections — have lobbied for the abolition of the Electoral College, which Republicans have argued allows their more rural constituencies a more equal footing in matters at the federal level. Democrats nationally have also questioned the validity of states like Wyoming — with a population smaller than 31 cities — having two votes in the United States Senate, another equalizer for small rural states.

With more than 20,000 registered Republicans, the Laramie County GOP counts greater numbers than a number of rural county committees combined. Whether they feel that’s enough of a reason to pursue the abolition of a so-called “electoral college” clause in the state’s delegation selection process could be an interesting development.

The Week Ahead

Monday: Travel, Recreation and Cultural Resources Committee meets in Thermopolis.

Tuesday: Cheyenne Frontier Days Grand Parade.

Wednesday: None.

Thursday: None.

Friday: None.

Weekend: None.

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Wyoming Politics

State efficiency commission sends recommendations to governor, Legislature: The Wyoming Government Efficiency Commission approved a list of 18 cost-saving measures in state government to Gov. Mark Gordon and the state Legislature last week. (via The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)

As critics bare their teeth, Casper lawmaker doubles down on corporate income tax: Few bills in the Wyoming Legislature the past several years have elicited more controversy — or soul-searching about Wyoming’s future — than the National Retail Fairness Act, a corporate income tax proposal by Casper Republican Rep. Jerry Obermueller. (via Trib.com)

Orr: Loaner pickup truck is not a “gift” Is a pickup truck loaned to an elected official by a local dealership a gift in possible violation of ethics law? That’s what some social media followers and at least one city councilman are asking since a Dodge truck was loaned to Mayor Marian Orr by Cowboy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram last Friday in advance of Cheyenne Frontier Days. (via The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle)

Around Wyoming

Campbell County takes another step to develop ‘Carbon Valley’: Campbell County Commissioners have approved the Carbon Valley Ecosystem Development Blueprint Agreement. It provides funding for a study that will identify how the region can become a successful hub for advanced carbon research. (via Wyoming Public Media)

Suit triggers Jackson to rethink laws; now-dismissed complaint argues town can’t cite business for soliciting on sidewalk: Facing legal action from a high-end downtown cosmetics store known for high-pressure sales tactics, the Town Council repealed a set of laws that the business said violated its constitutional right to free speech. (via the Jackson Hole News & Guide)

With coal in free fall, Wyoming faces an uncertain future: Over the last few months, Wyoming’s struggling coal industry has gone from bad to worse. In May, the third-largest mining company, Cloud Peak, filed for bankruptcy, leaving the pensions and future of hundreds of employees in jeopardy. Less than two months later, Blackjewel, Wyoming’s fourth-largest coal company, abruptly declared bankruptcy, idling mines and putting hundreds out of work. (via High Country News)

John Barrasso co-sponsored several pieces of legislation, including S. 2066, which is a bill to review the United States’ Saudi Arabia Policy. He also continued efforts pursuing a nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, an effort that has recently been complicated by increased seismic activity on the West Coast.

Mike Enzi continued his efforts to reform the nation’s budgeting process, including pushing the Congressional Budget Office to disclose a list of all federally funded government programs.

Liz Cheney‘s campaign announced the best fundraising quarter it’s had in three years. In the meantime, she has received some unsavory scrutiny in the national press recently for her longstanding attacks against Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was the subject of a racist tweet by President Donald Trump telling the naturalized American citizen to “go back where she came from.” (An explanation of why this trope is considered to be of unequivocally racist origins can be found here.)

Cheney has countered that narrative in a number of appearances in the national media, saying in a press conference “our opposition to our socialist colleagues has absolutely nothing to do with their gender, with their religion or with their race. It has to do with the content of their policies.”

Have any tips or suggestions to make this newsletter better? Let me know! Call me at 307-266-0634, email me at nick.reynolds@trib.com or follow me on Twitter, @IAmNickReynolds

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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

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