The Fremont County Republican Party voted Monday to censure Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander), citing his support for Medicaid expansion and a recent op-ed written by the lawmaker, among other things.
“Wyoming State Senator [Case] speaks and acts constantly in [sic] contrary to the will and consent of the governed and the platform of the Wyoming Republican Party,” according to the resolution.
Republicans in Wyoming have increased their reliance on censorship since 2020, including in response to U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming)’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. Party censorship is a largely symbolic act that does not involve any material sanction such as dismissal or loss of authority. Rather, it is a resolution expressing formal disapproval when no other recourse is available.
The Wyoming Republican Party uses “RINO censorship and labeling of any dissenting views” to maintain a “narrow focus,” Case wrote in a Cowboy State Daily op-ed. The fact that he was censored shortly after the article was published only proved the point he was trying to make, Case told WyoFile.
“What else can they do? They can’t send me to bed without my dinner,” Case said.
County party officials voted 11 to 7 in favor of censoring Case.
A little history
“A censorship resolution brings out the grumbling going on behind the scenes,” Republican and former lawmaker Marti Halverson told WyoFile.
In 2020, Halverson wrote an op-ed in favor of the state’s GOP party censuring JoAnn True, at the time a state GOP committee member for Natrona County. It was the party’s first censure in several years and, according to True, it was the first censure of a woman in Wyoming state history.
True’s censorship was due to her role in creating a political action committee intended to increase the representation of women in power, regardless of their party affiliation. Like other nonpartisan PACS, Cowgirl Run Fund donates money to Democratic and Republican candidates. Despite censorship, True has remained politically involved and encourages others to do the same.
“The average Republican needs to get involved or get back into partisan politics at the precinct level,” she said.
Prior to 2020, one of the last times the party censured one of its own members was 2014. Around that time, Republican Gov. Matt Mead was censured by multiple county GOP parties for signing a bill. who stripped then Superintendent of Public Instruction, Cindy. Hill of most of his powers. Despite censorship, Mead won primary and general elections for his second term later that year.
Although such resolutions have become more common since – Case being the most recent – they don’t have much of an effect on voters, according to Jim King, a professor of political science at the University of Wyoming.
“It could be part of the ‘drip, drip’ eroding candidate support, but by itself the censorship won’t carry much weight,” King said.
It certainly doesn’t look good for a candidate, he said, but voters may not take much inspiration from the party’s leadership. Most voters will have already formed an opinion for or against the target of censorship by the time a political party acts, King said.
In Cheney’s case, King said his extensive censures are indicative of the GOP’s move away from President Ronald Reagan’s gospel against speaking ill of other Republicans.
“I think that’s just one more part of this shift in how the Republican Party works internally,” he said.
Whether those censures reflect the minds of most voters will be revealed in August, when Cheney faces a challenger backed by Trump and others in the 2022 primary election.
“This censorship is not a tactic. It’s not bullying,” Pavillion Constituency Committee member Steve Lynn said at the Fremont County Central Committee meeting on Monday.
“There’s room in our tent,” Lynn said, but the party couldn’t be “everything for everyone.”
Although not a Case’s voter, Lynn carried the censure because he said it was his “duty to account” for Case’s actions, such as supporting Medicaid expansion.
The program is an overreach of the government, according to Lynn, and therefore unconstitutional. Case refuted this idea and maintained his position. He also pointed to a poll from October last year that found nearly two-thirds of Wyoming residents support expanding Medicaid. Split by party, 58% of Republicans were in favor, as were 98% of Democrats and 64% of independents.
The censor also challenged the character reference case provided during a sentencing hearing for a former county official who was convicted of embezzlement. Everyone is entitled to a defense, Case said in response.
“This whole country is a wreck because of the RINO Republican conga line we have among us,” Shoshoni’s John Pennington said in support of the censorship.
Not everyone who spoke at the reunion echoed Pennington and Lynn.
“If you’re serious about [this censure], I want to go down with Cale. I would be honored to be censored,” former Fremont County GOP Secretary Jim Hellyer said.
“The Wyoming Republican Party has a long-term goal of using punitive measures to mitigate the impact of thoughtful and well-rounded dissent,” Hellyer wrote in an op-ed in April.
Case urged the body to reject the censorship, but said whatever he planned to “keep going because I believe in what I’m doing.”
“I stand on my feet, and the people in my district will decide whether or not I should be expelled,” he said.
Case is eligible for re-election this year. He intends to run.