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March 25, 2014 7:22 am

EDITORIAL: Voters will settle local Republican family feud

Written by Tom Lawrence

Hank Coe isn’t going anywhere.

Not for more than two years, anyway. The Republican state senator from Cody was elected to his seventh term in the Legislature in 2012. That term expires in January 2017, and if Coe runs again in 2016 — he reportedly is undecided at this point — he may be there for several more years to come.

Republicans, in primary elections, and a majority of all voters in Senate District 18 have repeatedly sent him to Cheyenne to represent them.

Coe is a Republican from Cody, Park County, Wyoming. To label him anything other than a traditional Republican is misleading. Some would say he leans to the center on some matters — which we don’t feel that is such a bad thing, nor is cooperating across the aisle in government. Coe definitely lands on the conservative side of the political spectrum.

But enough Park County Republicans are outraged by his at-times centrist ways that an effort to censure Coe was the centerpiece of a long Park County Republican Convention on Saturday. It failed, although the senator, who was not present, is clearly not the favorite of most activists in his own party.

Coe was criticized for supporting a pair of Democratic candidates in 2010, being opposed to the local party’s leadership and general aims as well as supporting Common Core, a set of education standards that many conservatives are strongly opposed to in Wyoming and across the nation.

Coe’s efforts to remove much of the authority from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, since he was the prime sponsor of a 2013 bill that did just that, also have outraged some local Republicans. He declined to talk about that bill at a party meeting last year, furthering angering his opponents.

After the Wyoming Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, said the bill was unconstitutional, Coe backed a bill in the 2014 session that would have asked voters whether they wanted the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to no longer be an elected position. That also went over like a lead balloon locally.

Hill, a tea party darling, is very popular among many Republicans and conservatives in northwest Wyoming. Coe, a classic Main Street, mainstream Republican, is seen, perhaps correctly, as a representative of the Grand Old Party’s Old Guard. His party is changing, and such battles between long-entrenched Republican leaders and upstart conservatives, most with tea party ties, are being waged across the country.

Coe has said he represents the majority of Republicans in his district, in the county and in the state. He said the tea party forces who have seized control of the local party are the ones who are out of step.

“Anyone who does not subscribe to their extreme views is called a RINO (Republican in Name Only) — even if that person has worked long and hard for the Republican Party and its principles,” Coe wrote in a newspaper ad two weeks ago.

At Saturday’s convention, Vice Chairman Hank Whitelock ruled it would only take a majority vote to censure Coe but said because it was a controversial and heated topic, he recommended setting a higher hurdle, asking for a two-thirds vote to issue the penalty. After a discussion, that was approved by a 28-26 vote, with precinct committee members standing to make their vote known.

However, they voted in secret on the censure, and while most wanted to issue one, the vote was 32-25 for censure, with one member abstaining. It failed to reach the required two-thirds level. Thanks to that, Coe barely avoided being punished by the leading Republicans in the county.

The senator wasn’t at the meeting. But he has vowed to battle for control of the Park County Republicans. If the Democratic Party was competitive, or even somewhat a threat, it could capitalize on this bitter family feud.

But that seems highly unlikely. Instead, the local GOP seems destined to continue this battle for months and years to come. What will come of it is unclear. While those who have the time and energy to battle on front pages, in ads and at meetings seem sure to keep the fight going, in the end, voters will have the final say.

If Coe is persuaded to depart from the Legislature, or if he can be defeated in a primary, that will tell us a lot. If he runs for and wins another term, or finds other Republicans who agree more with him than with the conservative forces, that will offer another message.

In the meantime, all we can do is watch as this struggle for the soul of the Park County Republican Party continues.

2 comments

  • Comment Link March 25, 2014 10:20 am posted by SJW

    Coe is a Progressive/RINO his disdain for the people who elected him is evident, his support for "Common Core Curriculum" and the "Hill Bill" just verifies it!

    Progressivism/Communism is a Trojan horse for “elitism” a scam, a phony sales pitch of equality and State paternalism. The goal is extortion of the masses by the elites.

    Socialism is the message, Marxism is the strategy and Fascism is the goal.

  • Comment Link March 26, 2014 6:38 am posted by Salty Dawg

    Given the sorry state of the GOP,especially in Park County,it's past time to clean out the chicken coop of the foxes that have taken over.Wake up people,get rid of these phony RINO's, or continue to be the laughing stock of the region.

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