At the last meeting of the Wyoming Republican Central Committee, a motion was made to censure the Natrona County State Committeewoman, JoAnn Skeim-True. Her crime? Co-establishing a nonpartisan group whose mission is to increase women’s participation in Wyoming’s political processes. The Cowgirl Run Fund provided financial and educational support to women candidates running for nonpartisan as well as partisan local, county and state offices. Republican, Democrat and Libertarian candidates benefited from the PAC. The basis for the motion was the inclusion of Democrats in these efforts.
The Boiling Frog
The gradual consolidation of power in the GOP State Central Committee reflects the increasingly partisan nature of our state politics and strict definitions of “true Republicans.” A divide has appeared between large and small counties, ideologues and pragmatics. Grassroots participation in the county party structures has dwindled as fewer and fewer precinct positions are filled through the primary election process. This disconnect has solidified the influence of party regulars who feel their success in maintaining their positions is a mandate for their view of what is “Conservative” and what is “Republican.”
Ironically, the apathy or disinterest has been reversed in one county, Natrona. For several election cycles, the majority of precinct positions have been elected rather than appointed. A robust process is in place to identify and recommend individuals if appointments are necessary. Meetings are held regularly and are open to the public and the press. Every single legislator successfully elected is a Republican. The county party stands firmly in support of their elected Republican officials.
The result is a county party that both reflects the Natrona Republican electorate and runs afoul of the Central GOP Party. The resulting attacks have been both personal and organizational. In addition to the Central Committee actions, members of the committee and a small but vocal contingent of hyper-partisans have lambasted county leadership on over a half-dozen partisan pages on social media. A clearly orchestrated effort to deny seating the 62 Natrona County delegates representing over 20,000 Republicans at the state convention ultimately failed, but further highlighted the divide.
A True Republican
JoAnn Skeim-True could and should be a standard for Wyoming Republicans. She reflects the generational commitment of the True family to the people and state of Wyoming at the same time that she reflects the changing and challenging realities we face. There are only a few families in the state that have leveraged their wealth, education, experience and capabilities in service at local and state levels. It would be an easy thing, as many have done, to simply write checks and let someone else do the heavy lifting.
That is not their way, and JoAnn is a perfect example of how the state has benefited from their personal commitment to serve. She has applied her degrees in geology and an MBA from the University of Wyoming as a successful businesswoman and in professional geology associations, as well as being appointed to the Wyoming Geological Survey. Her community service reflects a broad range of interests and includes Food for Thought, Wyoming Hunger Project, CASA of Natrona County, Ag in the Classroom, Rotary Club and Advance Casper, Platte River Trails and Casper Chase. She is a member of Leadership Wyoming 2018, which she claims is the best class ever.
For the past 10 years, JoAnn has shown her support for the Republican Party. She was on the committee that reactivated a statewide Young Republican group in 2010, was a National Young Republican state committeewoman, served as a Ward Captain and is currently a precinct committeewoman, Natrona County State Committee woman and District 4 alternate.
All of this while taking care of the greatest priority: her husband and family of “littles,” “middles” and “bigs.”
Building a Stronger Party
This all leads up to an opportunity to set a new tone, a revitalized party, a healthier and energizing political environment in the state that serves the time-honored principles of the Republican Party and reflects the values I believe the overwhelming majority of Wyoming citizens hold.
As Republicans, we believe that the free market and open competition lead to growth, productivity and benefit to all. Those principles apply in the political arena as well. Encouraging women from any party to engage in that free market raises the bar for all. We should welcome the opportunity to build a stronger pipeline of Republican women candidates. Muscles are built through resistance, steel is strengthened by fire. JoAnn True should be lauded for her work, not censured.
Gail Symons is a self-confessed civics wonk, a lifelong Wyoming Republican and is retired as a US Navy Officer and from GE. She is committed to increasing civic engagement and publishes Civics307.com, a blog on the state legislature.