American exceptionalism, deeply rooted conservatism crux of GCGOP

A. Marie Hamilton/Torrington Telegram Republicans from around the tri-county area rally behind Republican Primary winners who are facing Independents on the November ballot at Goshen County Fairgrounds on Oct. 14, 2022. Pictured is Harriet Hageman.

GOSHEN COUNTY – Rallying behind Republican Primary Midterm Election winners, strengthening election policies and laws, emboldening Wyoming’s state sovereignty, securing Second Amendment rights, protecting First Amendment rights such as free speech and religious freedoms, and defending American exceptionalism were some convictions expressed by southeast Wyoming Republicans in the tri-county area during a rally hosted by the Goshen County Republican Party (GCGOP) earlier this month in Torrington.

The core message the Wyoming Republican Party (WYGOP), GCGOP and other southeastern Wyoming conservatives echoed during the rally was what U.S. Congresswoman-elect Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming, called the “ABCs” of true conservatism: Accountability, Boldness and Courage for the Republican stronghold of Wyomingite voters.

Hageman said things in the state and country are “no longer tenable” and it's going to take the people of Goshen County and the nation to step up to change the tide because “it’s not something that can go on forever.”

“There are a lot of people who have asked me, ‘How did you do this?’ and ‘How is this possible?’” when speaking to questions surrounding how she won the Primary over her incumbent. Hageman answered and said, “I said very simply – I come from Goshen County.”

Hageman said Goshen County taught her from an early age how to be held accountable and what it looks like within her immediate community as well as her greater communities. It’s what inspired her ABCs of conservatism and propelled her campaign against “the greatest political families in the history of the United States,” referring to the Cheneys.

Hageman said in order to keep the forward momentum in Wyoming, Goshen County needs to pray for, rally behind and elect Primary winners over the Independent candidates because those candidates are meant to keep the status quo in Wyoming’s legislature instead of planting true grassroots conservative values.

At the packed Goshen County Fairgrounds Rendezvous Center on Oct. 15, Hageman, who beat incumbent U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, in the August Primary, said, “my plan is to take Wyoming to Washington D.C. and not Washington D.C. to Wyoming,” before explaining the ABCs of true conservatism as it relates to Cheney’s derelict of duty in representing Wyoming on Capitol Hill.

According to Cowboy State Politics podcast host David Iverson, a GCGOP rally speaker, in addition to many in attendance, said saving America from the current presidential administration and “woke liberal agendas'' means “first taking back Wyoming,” from “liberalized or fake” conservatives and/or Republicans. Of which Iverson said Wyoming is “primed” to start the conservative awakening across America, as he alluded to the number of Republicans running as Independents against August Primary Midterm Election winners, such as Todd Peterson, I-Torrington, running against Primary winner Scott Smith, R-Lingle, for Wyoming House District 5.

Smith was welcomed to the stage with a thunderous applause to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to which Smith, who was beaming with a smile and holding back tears, said, “This has been a very humbling experience and I just wanted to thank everyone for supporting me.”

Smith explained to attendees he originally didn’t want to run – but God showed him a different plan for his life through the COVID-19 pandemic and it became clear he was meant to run to represent Goshen County at the state capitol.

Smith reiterated his party platform commitment with an emphasis on religious freedoms and rights.

“I’m the right person for the job,” Smith said. Adding he doesn’t believe someone has to be native-born to the area to know it, love it and appreciate it, so they can fight for it because he and his family chose to make Goshen County their home for a reason and that’s worth fighting for.

Smith echoed a number of other speakers in terms of working against abortion providers, researching better election laws for better policies and inspiring conservative grassroots legislation for Wyoming.

“What’s right for Goshen County is right for Wyoming and the nation,” Smith said.

WYGOP Chairman Frank Eathorne told the more than 300 attendees, “this party (WYGOP) needs money to run – we’re under attack by the (Liz) Cheney progressives: They’ve been suing the party, we win, we win – but it still takes resources. It still takes time and devotion; it still takes some of the smartest people in the state to push back.”

WYGOP Vice Chairman David Holland kicked things off by briefly detailing his career and later wished Dewey Hageman a happy 16th birthday after stating, “I came up with my retirement plan: I’ve been a deputy sheriff and that didn’t pay, I’ve been a pastor and that didn’t pay, I’ve raised cattle and sheep – that doesn’t pay: I’m going to bottle Goshen County water because you guys gave us Harriet Hageman, Curt Meier, Corey and Cheri Steinmetz – there’s something special about this county and the people in it.”

“Folks – It is time for patriots to stand up, and they are – all across America – and you are part of it,” Holland explained. “Scott Smith is part of it, (Wyoming Rep. HD-4) Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland), (Wyoming Rep. HD-6) Tomi Strock (R-Douglas) is part of it – we have people rising up.”

Holland encouraged residents to drop into the WYOGOP Central Committee sometime because the people of the state party are ordinary people like Goshen County residents, keeping the party moving forward.

Holland shared a story about how his former congressman from Arizona HD-1 U.S. Rep. John Jacob Rhodes, R-Mesa, “went along” with the “liberal agenda” of a highly polarized state; Arizona is notorious for being a long-standing swing state with roughly an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. Rhodes worked his way up to becoming the House minority leader during the 70s and early 80s; the now-deceased former U.S. Rep./Sen. John McCain, R-Phoenix, later took his seat; however, Rhodes' son U.S. Rep. John Jacob Rhodes III, R-Mesa, would take McCain’s seat when McCain moved to the Senate. The elder Rhodes was the first Republican congressman to win HD-1 while the Phoenix metro area was still within the district, today Arizona HD-1 covers much of the northern part of the state and Native American reservations surrounding Maricopa County.

“The reason people don’t remember him (Rhodes) – is because he went along,” Holland explained. “He went along – he spoke all the good things in Arizona – but when he got to Washington (D.C.), he went along.”
Adding, “Folks, if we haven’t learned anything with this COVID-19 restriction that controlled us, it exposed the thought of people who think they are better than you – they want to control you. I would invite you to look at the Constitution of the United States of America, it says, ‘We the People’ and it says, ‘We the People do reserve to ourselves unalienable rights: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness’ – those are individual rights, we are not a collective, we are not a village.”

Holland explained how the current “liberal agenda” is fooling Americans and politicians into adapting to a collective thought theory he likens to socialism, instead of individualistic rights guaranteed by the Constitution. He noted some Wyoming GOP politicians fall into that category and deemed them no different than Rhodes with how he “went along,” instead of taking a stand. Like many of the GCGOP rally speakers, Holland took jabs at similar Republicans who recently lost their seats in the August Primary to conservatives making bold statements to not go along with the status quo anymore, such as Cheney and HD-5 Wyoming Rep. Shelly Duncan. Some primary seat losers are endorsing and/or supporting other Republican candidates to run as Independents against Primary winners next week.

Other topics from other rally speakers included preventing biologically born males, or males who claim to be female, from competing in girls’ sports, religious freedoms and reducing the ability to have an abortion anywhere in Wyoming, including what one member called “Amazon abortions.”

While dancing his way up to the stage during Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone,” Wyoming HD-31 Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, told attendees, “I feel the need – the need, for speed. We have got to get these ‘RINOs’ (Republicans in name only) out of the legislature fast.”

Bear explained how Republicans have the super majority of congressional members in the state legislature and how voting in non-Primary winners, non-conservatives or Republicans running as Independents next week could hurt the super majority and the direction Wyoming is attempting to shift toward in its attempt to become a “impenetrable conservative stronghold.”

“I’ll tell you this – if you want to see a bill where boys can’t compete in girls’ sports in Wyoming – you need to elect Scott Smith,” Bear explained to a thunderous crowd of affirmers. “If you want to stop Democrats from voting in the Republican Primary – we need to get Scott Smith into the legislature.”

Adding, “If you want to stop ‘woke’ financial institutions from strangling our industries – let’s get Scott Smith into the legislature.”

“You want to make transition surgery and hormones to minors a criminal offense, because it’s child abuse – let’s vote for Scott Smith,” Bear declared to an ecstatic crowd. “You want to hold librarians accountable, just like everybody else who provide sexual content to minors – I do, we need Scott Smith in the legislature.”

Like Holland, Bear also took jabs at soon-to-be former Republican U.S. and Wyoming Congressional members and said, “One thing I’d like to say about Scott Smith – when he goes to the legislature and votes like how the Republicans here in Goshen County want him to, you don’t have to worry about him saying he did it under duress.”

“You know (former President) Ronald Reagan said we should be able to agree on about 80% of the (GOP) platform and if people can do that, we should include them in the party – I agree with that, I’d like it to be higher than 80% but I can live with that,” Bear explained. “We’ve got a lot of people voting 20% with our platform and they’ve got an ‘R’ by their name: 10% with an ‘R’ by their name. We’ve got Democrats who can vote that well – we’ve got to put an end to that.”

“One of the greatest leaders who ever walked this Earth said, ‘any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste’ – any city or house divided against itself, will not stand,” Bear said before rallying attendees to join him in supporting Smith, Haroldson and Strock against “disgruntled” Republicans running as Independents. “Looks to me like sore losers – these other candidates are being supported by Republicans who were defeated in the Primaries. We need to show them what ‘we the voters’ means when we elect somebody.”

Adding, Wyoming voters elected “more strong Republicans than we’ve ever seen before going to the state legislature,” during the Republican Primary.

“What’s right for Wyoming – is America’s last hope,” Bear reiterated in his stance to promote Primary winners in next week’s Midterm General Election.

WYGOP Executive Director Kathy Russell explained to attendees, “I’ll tell you what, with as many problems as we are facing right now, I have never been more encouraged because for the first time, people aren’t describing – they’re doing – and that takes me to why I am a Republican and why you’re a Republican. It’s in my DNA.”

“Let me explain,” Russell said as she explained how she learned perseverance as a farmer's daughter. “The reason why we are the people we are is because we have what it takes to keep going – we’re not looking for handouts, we take care of our family, we have faith in God, we’re responsible – that all comes from accepting there are trials that we all have to grow through challenges – if you have things handed to you, you don’t grow.”

Russell explained how her own family ancestry inspires her to keep persevering as her Russian family immigrated from Germany in the early 1900s and then encouraged attendees to dig into their family history to see how this same fighting DNA is in each person present at the rally.

Russell likened how some Primary incumbent losers are attempting to “break the family” in next week’s election.

“Right now, we have a group of people who are determined to break up the family – they are going to put a wedge between us: our children and our grandchildren – they are going to put a wedge between us as neighbors,” Russell explained. “We all have had neighbors who have had a tough break – and we’ve helped – but they (other Republicans promoting Independents) are trying to encourage us to stop doing that – and in a lot of ways, they have succeeded.”

Russell also explained how Primary winners, supported and endorsed by the WYGOP, are fighting for Wyoming K-12 public education by bringing back civic minded students to be “cognizant” adult community members.

WYGOP National Committeewoman and former Wyoming HD-22 Rep. Marti Halverson, R-Etna, a state champion in mothers and unborn children rights, said, “I love Goshen County – it’s everything Wyoming is, should be and will be again.”

“This is where freedom loving, life loving, individuals gathering, like this – all over Wyoming – but they can take lessons from Goshen celebrating the greatest experiment in the history of the world: the experiment of self-governance,” Halverson explained. “First, we told the mightiest empire in the world to pound sand. Then we wrote the greatest governing document in human history: a Republic that was based on our faith in natures’ God and a belief that all men are created equal in the eyes of God.”

Adding, “Now Wyoming has a chance to live up to that creed as we commit to preserving the life and liberty of the unborn.”

Halverson briefly dove into the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturning the historical 1973 landmark case of Roe v. Wade earlier this year after hearing arguments pertaining to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 2022. She expressed how SCOTUS had self-corrected a wrong it originally made under pressure.

“No sooner had the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued its opinion that the right to an abortion simply does not exist in our Constitution, Wyoming Right to Life learned of a lawsuit against our trigger bill,” Halverson explained. “Plaintiffs used our state Constitution’s article 1, section 38, clause A – to claim an unfettered right to kill babies in the womb.”
Clause A states: “each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own healthcare decision.”
“Let me counter that with two points,” Halverson said. “Abortion is not healthcare: abortion is an act of killing and nobody in this nation should have the right an innocent human being and call it healthcare.”

Halverson said there is “currently a large body of scholarly and medical work out there that elegantly disputes the notion that abortion is healthcare.” She also explained how clause C of the same section allows Wyoming lawmakers to determine “reasonable” and “necessary” restrictions on the rights granted under section 38 to protect the health of the people of Wyoming.

Halverson said incoming legislatures can ensure criminal penalties against abortion practitioners can be legally upheld with their support in the Wyoming House and Senate through various means, including crafting legislation that makes “Amazon abortions” illegal in the state, except in the case of rape and/or incest.

Amazon abortions refers to home delivery of abortion pills from online retailers, like Amazon, often prescribed by out-of-state practitioners.

Wyoming HD-1 Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, said, “I’m so thankful that you guys are forward thinking enough and in-tune with the Holy Spirit of God enough to find the right man for the job.”

Adding, “He (God) put somebody in your midst that is going to go down there (Cheyenne) and is going to do a phenomenal job for this state.”
“I can tell you; he’s (Smith) been working for you for over a year,” Neiman explained. “I don’t know how many of you know this and I could count on Scott Smith coming down there (Cheyenne) and being in that balcony (Wyoming House building public gallery) every Friday during the session – praying for us.”
Neiman told attendees Smith is the kind of man the county wants representing them at the Wyoming Capitol because of the work he has already done and continues to do.

“The left and now some on the right supporting Independents against Primary winners are sowing confusion, disillusions and a lack of hope,” Neiman said. Adding, “Send Scott Smith to Cheyenne to keep fighting for us all.”

Wyoming Secretary of State-elect Chuck Gray, who runs unopposed next week, said he envisions a future Wyoming with stronger election integrity laws and hopes to put an end to crossover voting – but that he needs people like Smith to help fight for that in the state legislature.

“I want to tell you something, I met Scott Smith about a year ago and he ran a tremendous campaign defeating Shelly Duncan,” Gray said. “There is a reason why they are doing this independent deal in Douglas, Wheatland, Torrington – Platte County, Goshen County and Converse County.”

Gray explained the low number of conservatives in the Wyoming House when he got to the state legislature in 2016 and how it has ignited a push from him and others to deepen conservatism and conservative grassroots efforts in the state in preventing the state from having similar fates as seen in Arizona and Colorado.

Gray also said the race for the at-large US Congressional seat between Hageman and Cheney “really brought out the distinctions between the insiders who used the ‘R’ after their name to get elected versus the true grassroots conservatives that stand for something.”

Wyoming Senate district 3 Sen. Cheri Steinmetz and her husband WYGOP National Committeeman Corey Steinmetz also spoke during the rally. Cheri wanted to acknowledge the Republican leadership in Goshen County and introduce Republican candidates for the Goshen County School District board. She also thanked them for their dedication to the school district.

Cheri invited retiring Goshen County Commissioner John Ellis and Goshen County Clerk Cindy Kenyon onto the stage to thank them for their “years of dedicated service to our community and our county.” She presented the two with gifts. Both Ellis and Cindy retire in January as new commissioners and a new county clerk are sworn into office.

Corey told attendees the reason it’s important to support the Primary winner, “who is a registered Republican and running for election as a Republican” he reiterated, is so Goshen County has a voice in party leadership with sending Smith to HD-5.

“This (Republican) Caucus that is going to come up Nov. 19 in Casper is incredibly important,” Steinmetz explained. “We have a chance – for the first time in many years – to have a conservative speaker of the house.”
“If we don’t elect a Republican in Goshen County, we don’t have a voice in that caucus – and that is a problem,” Steinmetz said.

Steinmetz said he spoke with residents who are supporting Independent candidate Peterson who told him, “well, I think he’ll vote OK.” However, Steinmetz said, “for me, that’s not good enough. I want Goshen County to have a voice on Nov. 19.”

Ultimately, all speakers and those in attendance agreed, the best thing for Goshen County is to support the Primary winners as a united county for the future of both the county and state.