GOP sticks with conservative leadership

Kimmet reelected as chairman

Posted 3/9/23

During its biennial elections last week, the Park County Republican Party chose to stay the course, sticking with a staunchly conservative slate of leaders.

Party Chairman Martin Kimmet of Clark …

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GOP sticks with conservative leadership

Kimmet reelected as chairman


During its biennial elections last week, the Park County Republican Party chose to stay the course, sticking with a staunchly conservative slate of leaders.

Party Chairman Martin Kimmet of Clark and Vice Chairman Bob Ferguson of Meeteetse were unanimously reelected to their posts while four others aligned with the current leadership and the more conservative portion of the party won contested races.

Vince Vanata of Cody was reelected as state committeeman and Karen Jones of Cody moved up from secretary to state committeewoman. Renee Alphin of Cody was tabbed as treasurer and Tim Lasseter of Powell as the new secretary. The four won with 54-62% of the roughly 100 votes, each defeating candidates who appeared to have the backing of more moderate members of the central committee.

A number of people aligned with the party’s more moderate camp won seats on the committee in August’s GOP primary and it made for a full house at the Cody Cowboy Church last week. Just about all of the precinct committee people present or were represented by proxies at the March 2 meeting.

While citing a need to stick to the party platform, those who ran for the offices pledged to be respectful of their fellow Republicans. In his remarks to the body, Ferguson said he favors discussion instead of “some kind of black and white purity test” to determine who’s a Republican.

“We’ve got 102 people in this room talking about politics. Anyone who thinks we’re going to agree, you’re crazy,” Ferguson said.

Some disagreement was evident during the meeting.

“I think we need to bring stability, professionalism and diplomacy back to this body,” said new Precinct Committeewoman Kelly Simone, saying the group needs to focus on “reestablishing credibility to help with recruiting people to the party.”

Meanwhile, Committeeman David Hill of Cody, who ran against Lasseter for secretary, said he would bring a “much more measured approach” to the position.

Neither nor Simone nor Hill gave specific examples of what they were referring to, but the Park County GOP has taken a more assertive approach in recent years, with a renewed focus on holding elected officials accountable to the platform.

They’ve admonished several elected Republicans for what the central committee members saw as deviations from the party’s wishes. That included calling for an investigation into former Sen. R.J. Kost (R-Powell) in late 2021, after they felt his concurrent service on the Powell Hospital District Board represented a “conflict of interest” regarding vaccine mandates. During her remarks, Jones approvingly alluded to the fact that the party was one of the first to censure then-U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for her role on a Democrat-led panel that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Lasseter, who defeated Hill by a 60-42 margin, underscored the importance of adhering to the party platform.

“Before there can ever be unity, we actually need to all be working for the same goals, the same ideals,” he said, “which is what the Republican Party is all about.”

Lasseter said his core principles aligned with the party’s views, saying “abortion is murder,” children “should not be subjected to pornography and other things” in schools, “the vast majority of taxation is theft” and he expressed support for small government and parental rights.

“I believe that compromising the core values in the name of unity with anyone that seeks to destroy them is not beneficial to our party. It’s a foolhardy endeavor that has put our country on the course that it’s on now … It’s exactly what liberals want us to do,” Lasseter said.

The Republican Party platform contains 23 planks that range from supporting life from conception to natural death to defining marriage as being between one man and one woman to calling for limited government and low taxes.

“You either agree with that, or you don’t,” Alphin said during her remarks. “You can’t come in with differing views that are so opposing and expect to find unity in that, because we have a set system and a set party platform that we’ve all agreed to follow. And I would suggest that you follow it or find a party that more benefits you and fits your beliefs.”

Earlier in her Q&A, former U.S. senator and current Precinct Committeeman Al Simpson — who’s been openly critical of the party’s current direction — pressed Alphin on whether she believed all people were created equal, specifically inquiring about those who are gay, lesbian and transgender.

“We are all God’s creatures,” Simpson said.

Alphin agreed, “But there are also principles and precepts in the Bible that talk against that,” she said.

“You can find anything in the Bible,” Simpson retorted.

“It’s very, very clear in the Bible,” Alphin responded, adding that many other scriptures are pro-life.

As for transgender individuals, “If you think you were born a woman and you now want to be a man, what happened? Did God make a mistake? Is that what you’re saying?” Alphin asked rhetorically. “So I don’t support that at all, but my heart grieves and my heart aches for those kids that are struggling with that issue.”

“I think you’re saying God makes mistakes,” Precinct Committeeman Jake Ivanoff of Cody interjected to Alphin.

It wasn’t the only contentious moment. Later, Simpson rose to ask why there was “great fear” about so-called crossover voting in a state that President Donald Trump carried by a wide margin.

“What the hell are you worried about?” he asked.

Those and other remarks prompted another committee member to loudly yell at Simpson to watch his language and Kimmet asked the senator to “refrain from any profanities in the church.”

Ultimately, the meeting ended amicably, with opposing members chatting and shaking hands.

Kimmet recalled that, after he lost his first bid for a party leadership position years ago, it was Simpson who encouraged him to try again.

“There was a lot of divisiveness within the party when I was voted in … and I do think that we have worked really hard in putting this party together,” said Kimmet, who has served in the role since 2017. “There’s still people here that don’t agree, but at the end of the day, I think we’re all friends.”

The Park County Republican Party will next meet on April 6. The county party’s platform and bylaws won’t be up for debate until its caucuses and convention in 2024.