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Wyoming GOP upholds results of controversial election, laying groundwork for convention battle
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Wyoming GOP upholds results of controversial election, laying groundwork for convention battle

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GOP Fundraiser

Republicans mingle at the beginning of the GOP fundraiser at The Hangar in Bar Nunn May 2, 2018. The state party has upheld the results of its most recent election.

A number of top members of the Wyoming Republican Party say they will be filing a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office after the party’s executive leadership upheld the results of an election held last week at its state convention in which fewer than two-thirds of all eligible delegates voted – a move critics say rendered the election “illegitimate.”

Last weekend’s elections for national committeeman and woman – which pitted the party’s right wing-chosen candidates of incumbent Corey Steinmetz and former gubernatorial candidate Harriet Hageman against the moderate-backed candidates Sam Galeotos and former U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Cubin – created a firestorm of controversy in the state’s Republican politics after polling closed with fewer than two-thirds of all delegates voting, resulting in a win for the party’s right flank.

The election’s results — which ended in a chaotic, last-minute effort to re-do the vote — was quickly denounced by both sides.

The decision to uphold the election, which was announced Wednesday in a press release by Chairman Frank Eathorne, comes after GOP officials determined the party could not formally contest the results of a party election until the state convention reconvenes in June.

“The body voted to adjourn before a revote was ordered and in any case, revoting by the same method was out of order,” Eathorne wrote in the release. “Since the election was not overturned, it must stand as the action of the body unless or until subsequent action is taken.”

However, that decision was marred by a number of technical difficulties in the final tally. Many voters said they were unsure if their ballot had even been counted, while others – including a state representative – told the Star-Tribune they were improperly sent a ballot, casting greater doubt on the final results.

While those backing the victors have argued that naysayers are simply acting out in the midst of defeat, Joe McGinley – the chairman of the Natrona County Republican Party and a vocal critic of party leadership throughout the past year – said the discrepancies in the final vote count merit further consideration. This week, he said he and other members of a reform coalition called the Frontier Republicans would be bringing a formal complaint to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office to contest the results, telling the Star-Tribune in a text message that even one of his most “staunch critics” reached out to support a revote.

The leadership’s decision – and the ensuing complaint by its critics — lays the groundwork for a fight at the state convention in Gillette next month, in which a party divided between more moderate factions and more conservative wings is expected to battle over everything from the state GOP platform to its future as Wyoming’s largest political organization.

And the differences are many: While the party has thus far been almost unanimous in its resolve to accomplish a number of conservative goals, including the reelection of President Donald Trump, battles to date have ranged from squabbles over resolutions promoting beliefs held by anti-vaccination advocates to secret investigations of members who openly dissent against state leadership.

The Wyoming Republican State Convention is tentatively scheduled to take place June 25-27 at the Camplex in Gillette.

Correction: A previous version of this article implied Wyoming Republican Party Secretary April Poley was leaving her position within party leadership. Poley told the Star-Tribune following publication of this story that she has not left her position, and clarified that she remains with the party.

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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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