On Monday, the county GOP’s six-member Executive Committee ruled the re-vote shouldn’t have happened and that an earlier vote, won by a Romney supporter, should stand.
County Republican Party Chairwoman Geri Hockhalter said the decision to take the delegate position away from Santorum supporter Sheila Leach and give it to Romney supporter Charles Cloud was not taken lightly.
“That was tough,” Hockhalter said Wednesday, saying she and other party leaders love Leach. “We weren’t voting for a person or a delegate, period. We were voting on the rules.”
The decision is intended to end a tumultous selection process that began at the party’s March 10 county convention.
The pronouncement is the fourth time the GOP officials have announced a winner.
Leach, the Santorum supporter, was named the victor after the first round of voting at the convention in Cody. But that announcement was withdrawn when it was later brought to party leaders’ attention that Robert’s Rules of Order require a candidate to get a majority, and not a simple plurality, of the vote.
In a second round of run-off voting between Leach and Cloud, the Romney supporter, Cloud won by two votes and was dubbed the winner.
But at that point, some convention-goers demanded a third vote, citing one man’s revelation that he’d apparently voted twice amid confusion over the rules. Ballots also had been passed out to people not authorized to vote at the convention — including a Tribune reporter — but there were no accounts of non-delegates having actually cast a ballot.
A vote was held on whether to re-vote, and with a majority of delegates in favor of the motion, the determination was made that a new round of voting would take place.
A third round of balloting was then held, and that time, Leach emerged on top by a 29-27 vote and was declared the winner.
However, the county GOP leaders later discovered that under Robert’s Rules, the motion to cancel the second vote and hold a third actually needed a two-thirds majority.
“Accordingly, the third round of balloting should not have taken place and was invalid,” said a news release from the county GOP.
There were 31 votes in favor of re-voting. There was no dissenting vote taken, but assuming all 58 delegates had voted, 39 votes would have been needed for the motion to pass.
Calling into KODI-AM’s “Speak Your Piece” on Friday, Hockhalter disputed media accounts of the convention.
“Every time I turn on the radio or read the paper, they say that it was such an unorganized, confusing convention. That is not true,” Hockhalter said. “This was one of the most smoothest-run, greatest conventions we’ve had. We had a glitch in the voting.”
Speaking to the Tribune, Hockhalter attributed the problem to new people who didn’t understand party procedures and an incorrect ruling from the parliamentarian that everyone — herself included — went along with.
“We had so many newcomers that didn’t understand procedure and rules and bylaws and all of that stuff that it did make it difficult,” Hockhalter said. She said newcomers need to learn the process before getting involved.
“You need to know what you’re doing and why you’re there,” she said. Hockhalter said that, outside the frantic and hectic time around the re-vote, the afternoon work on the county GOP’s bylaws, platform and resolutions went well.
In an interview Wednesday, Leach said she “was shocked, although not suprised” by the county GOP’s decision to replace her with a Romney delegate.
She described the convention as “chaotic” and said its outcome does not inspire confidence among grassroots Republicans. Leach said a lot of convention delegates and people around the state are upset with the decision.
“Delegates who were there know that second ballot’s tainted,” she said. “They know that.”
Powell Tea Party activist David Kellett — who was a voting alternate at the convention — blasted the county GOP’s decision in a statement titled “Park County Vote Stolen,” which he sent to the Tribune and others. Kellett said he was “disgusted and ashamed of” what the committee did, saying Park County “has lost its choice in delegates and the Republican good old boy regime rolls along.”
In a separate Wednesday interview, Cloud said he personally had no qualms about the soundness of the second vote, noting that even if one person voted for him twice, it wouldn’t make a difference with a two-vote margin.
“Either way you did it, it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome of the vote,” he said.
Hockhalter, echoing that sentiment, said there was no concern among the executive committee about accepting the results of the second ballot. She said she trusts the four non-credentialed people who were in attendance when ballots were handed out didn’t vote.
Cloud was not in the room when the vote was taken on re-voting.
Somewhat ironically, he was in the hall explaining the delegate selection process to a couple people who wanted to vote at the convention and couldn’t, as they weren’t convention delegates.
Leach said she plans to continue to support Santorum and is looking forward to the state GOP convention this summer. She also wished Cloud well at the Republican National Convention.
Cloud said his thoughts on becoming the Park County delegate to the national convention are the same as when Leach was poised to be the delegate.
“Park County is a conservative county,” he said. “I think Sheila (Leach) and myself are both conservatives, and I think either one of us would represent Park County well.”
At the national convention, Cloud particularly hopes to represent the county in committees that determine party positions on public land use — a topic near and dear to Park County Republicans.
“Hopefully, I can sit on a committee where that conservative voice will make a difference,” he said.
Cloud said he’s backing Romney because, “I think at this point in time, having somebody that has business experience is going to be very important.”
The decision from the Park County GOP leaders to award the delegate to Romney means that the former Massachusetts governor took eight of the 12 delegates awarded at county conventions across Wyoming. Another 14 delegates will be chosen at the Republican state convention in April.
It takes 1,144 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.
“At this point, I don’t think they (the campaigns) are going to pay much attention to us anymore,” said Hockhalter.
An alternate delegate supporting Romney won Park County’s convention in 2008, too.
“I regret the confusion about Robert’s Rules of Order, but it happened,” Hockhalter said. “We need to move on; we need to elect a Republican (as President).”