Vice President Cheney to headline Republican dinner

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While Vice President Dick Cheney may draw mixed opinions across the United States, he remains extremely popular among local Republicans.

When Cheney was announced as the headliner for the Park County Republican Party’s biggest annual fundraiser — Friday’s Lincoln Day Dinner — party officials sold $13,000 worth of tickets in just the first week of sales.

In Geri Hockhalter’s 30 years of helping with party functions, that kind of success is “unprecedented, unheard of,” she said.

And it didn’t stop there: The dinner featuring the vice president, being held at the Holiday Inn in Cody, sold out last week. Some 240 tickets have been sold for the dinner, plus another 40 for a cocktail reception. That’s raised $30,000 for the local Republican party, Hockhalter said.

Cheney, she said, is “beloved here; people love him and we’re so proud to be honoring him like this.”

Hockhalter added that, “having a vice president, it’s a real coup for Cody, I think, to have him here.”

Noting the excitement she’s seen in advance of Friday’s dinner, “I just don’t think we could have gotten a better program,” said Denise Shirley, the chair of the party’s fundraising committee and a leading organizer of Friday’s dinner.

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, R-Cody, will introduce Cheney, then the vice president will be interviewed by his daughter, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

Part of the program will involve honoring local young men and women who are entering the U.S. military. Seats have also been set aside for veterans.

A slew of Republican officials and candidates from across Wyoming are expected to attend.

Beyond the $75 per plate dinner tickets, funds will be raised through dessert, wine and silent auctions at Friday’s event.

The money will be used to pay the party’s annual $7,600 dues to the Wyoming State Republican Party, to support local Republican candidates (if they need help in the general election) and to pay for events — such as the party’s annual Fourth of July Freedom Celebration and a statewide tour of GOP candidates that will visit Park County this summer, Hockhalter said.

Beyond that, “we’ll have money in the coffers for the presidential cycle — and we’re going to fight hard for our president [Donald Trump in 2020],” she said.

Friday’s dinner should bring a particularly large windfall because Vice President Cheney is not charging the county party a dime for his appearance.

At the local party’s convention in March, some GOP members pitched the idea of paying to bring in Aynaz Anni Cyrus, an anti-Islamic speaker, and/or former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, nationally known for his conservative views, as fundraisers.

However, Shirley said party leaders later concluded that “not everybody was super-comfortable” with Cyrus heading up a party event.

“We felt it was more targeted towards the churches than the Republican Party,” Shirley explained.

Back in March, precinct committeewoman Lisa Rieb of Powell had questioned whether bringing in Cyrus to talk about the horrible experiences she suffered under Islam was the right message to unite Republicans. She said it could play into false accusations that Republicans are Islamophobic while not helping to draw younger people into the party.

“We’re holding onto fear to bring people in, and we have a lot more to offer,” Rieb said.

Committeeman Tracy Lewis of Clark, who’d suggested Cyrus, countered that her story was “an extremely positive message,” saying she escaped a brutal regime and achieved her dream of becoming an American citizen.

Party chairman Martin Kimmet said he believed Cyrus would have united people, saying it would bring in many Christians. However, at the convention, Kimmett also wondered if a church could host Cyrus.

As for Sheriff Clarke, Hockhalter said it would have cost $15,000 in speaking fees and expenses to bring him to Cody — meaning it likely would not bring in a large amount of money for the party.

Although Clarke “really wants” to come to Wyoming, “there was just no way,” she said. (Shirley said if people are interested in helping sponsor a visit from Clarke, they should contact the party.)

Shirley added that, “I know a lot of people like [Sheriff] Clarke, but I don’t know if it would get as much attention as having a former vice president here.”

She praised the work of all the committee members who helped sell the hundreds of tickets and tables for Friday’s event, noting the sales came despite it being both the Memorial Day and graduation weekend in Cody.

Friday’s festivities start with a cocktail hour at 5:15 p.m.

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