Wyoming votes overwhelmingly Republican. Republicans have held a majority in the state Senate continuously since 1936 and in the state house since 1964. But the upcoming general election has exposed a rift inside the party challenging its unity, especially where primary losers have mounted write in campaigns. David Koch of the Big Horn Radio Network reports on one of three write-in campaigns for the state’s legislative body.
DAVID KOCH: In Park County there are 13, 419 registered voters. Ninety-three percent of voters are registered as republican. However within the party there are many different views on what it means to be a republican. Some of those views are so different in fact that it has caused a rift within the party challenging their unity.
NANCY TIA BROWN: I view the Park County Republican Party as a very hard working group of people and I think that they have recently been challenged in terms of their unity and I think they have learned from some lessons that over unity can sometimes not be the best.
KOCH: That is city of Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown I spoke with her at a recent GOP sponsored meet and greet. The challenge Mayor Brown refers to is nowhere more visible than in the race for Senate District 18. In that race, long-time incumbent Senator Hank Coe narrowly beat his challenger Bob Berry by 117 votes. Dissatisfied with the results, Berry has since launched a write in campaign Coe’s roots run deep in the community dating back to 1909 when Cody was incorporated. Berry moved to the area from Texas in 2001 and has been instrumental in the founding of the Big Horn Basin Tea Party whose majority of members are not satisfied with Coe or, moreover, the direction of the party in Wyoming as expressed here by write-in candidate Bob Berry.
BOB BERRY: We would like to see the Republic flourish again. It needs to start in Wyoming, we need a voice in Cheyenne that expresses our innate freedom as Wyomingites that says we can not a voice that declares that we can’t because the federal government mandates this or that. I came into this race as a conservative Republican and I remained in this race as a conservative Republican, albeit not the nominee. One sage comment has made here in Cody over and over, ‘You get what you vote for.” Truer words have never been spoken.
KOCH: For his part Senator Coe points out that he already beat Berry once.
SEN. HANK COE: Clearly the primary process has already taken place and I was the winner of the primary and I would hope that the people would respect that process and not support the same candidate that loses to me in the primary with a write in campaign I am the republican nominee I’ve got a certificate of nomination from the secretary of state’s office to be on the general election ballot, and I hope that the people and the voters would see that and support me as the Republican nominee.
KOCH: The situation is not unique to Park County. There are three write in campaigns in Wyoming where primary losers refuse to quit. The issue has become so intense that Governor Mead has weighed in.
GOV. MATT MEAD: If you’re a Republican to me you sort of live or die with the primary, if you believe in the conservative values of the Republican party you run and you know traditionally what is done after a Republican primary if you lose you get on the phone right away and provide support to the winner.
KOCH: Will the winners and losers of the upcoming general election be satisfied with the final results, will the tent of the Republican party park county and moreover Wyoming expand or retract? Will those who believe that Wyoming Republicans are not conservative enough launch a viable alternative? Just as we wait to learn the results of the election itself, we will have to wait to learn the answers to those questions as well.
For Wyoming Public Radio, I am David Koch in Cody.