Park County Democrats stick with Biden

Posted 4/16/24

When it came time to formally nominate a candidate for president at Saturday’s Park County Democratic Party caucus, Kelly Tamblyn kept her remarks brief.

“I think we should vote for …

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Park County Democrats stick with Biden


When it came time to formally nominate a candidate for president at Saturday’s Park County Democratic Party caucus, Kelly Tamblyn kept her remarks brief.

“I think we should vote for Joseph Biden, because he is not Donald Trump,” said Tamblyn, who serves as the local party’s state committeewoman. “That’s it.”

The sitting president — who unofficially clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination last month — wound up collecting votes from 18 of the 21 attendees at Northwest College. Biden enjoyed similar support across the state, collecting 380 of 407 votes (93.4%).

Beyond presenting an alternative to Trump, Stan Strike of Cody said the party should emphasize Biden’s efforts to protect the environment, strengthen infrastructure and help people in need, “rather than give tax breaks to people that do not need help.”

“That’s the reason I think that we’re all here today to support Joe Biden,” Strike said.

Tamblyn agreed, offering an apology for being “flippant” in her nominating speech.

Party Chair Ann Pasek of Cody also chimed in with her appreciation for Biden’s work protecting abortion rights and women’s rights.

“When you go out and talk to people, those are the things you need to be talking about,” added Mike Specht of Clark, a former party chair. “You need to be talking about the attack on women’s rights, you need to be talking about the infrastructure bill that nobody got credit [for].”

Beyond improving roads and bridges across Wyoming, Specht praised the president’s efforts to cap the price of insulin for seniors on Medicare. He said some die-hard Trump supporters within his morning coffee group are now saving hundreds of dollars a month thanks to the cap.

“He’s put $650 [a month] in your pocket instead of some pharmaceutical company,” Specht said. He also blamed corporations for rising oil prices and inflation in general.

“Things are better than they were three years ago,” he said. During the 2020 pandemic, refrigerated trucks “were sitting all over the place with dead people,” Specht said, “because we had a president decide that he'd rather kill them than admit that there was a problem.”


Participation sags

After the votes were tabulated on Saturday, the Wyoming Democratic Party congratulated the president on his “resounding win” and pledged to “work our hearts out to ensure his victory come November.”

However, the party has its work cut out for it in Wyoming, where Republicans outnumber Democrats more than 7:1 and where former President Trump received his greatest support (69.9% of the vote) in 2020.

The number of registered Democrats in the state has shrunk in recent years, and the 21 participants in Saturday’s caucus — who are among about 750 registered Democrats in the county — represented a big drop from recent election cycles. For example, 165 local Democrats attended the 2016 caucus in Cody (with another 105 voting via surrogates) and 549 voted by mail in 2020.

It was a similar story across the state, where the all-mail 2020 caucus drew in 15,118 participants as compared to the 407 who showed up on Saturday.

The Wyoming Democratic Party had originally planned to again conduct the caucus by mail — sending ballots to each of the state’s registered Democrats — but Pasek said that option proved too expensive. She had predicted that participation would drop with a return to a “live” caucus.

In 2020, “we got huge participation because people didn’t have to take the day or skip their kids’ soccer games,” Pasek said.


Other candidates

Of course, the 2016 and 2020 recent election cycles featured hotly contested races for the Democratic nomination.

With Biden now an incumbent seeking reelection, his nomination has been presumed and his opposition limited to lesser-known candidates; six of them qualified for Wyoming’s Democratic caucuses.

Perhaps the best known alternative was U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), but he dropped out and endorsed Biden in March. Others in the running ranged from best-selling author Marrianne Williamson to Stephen Lyons, a Maryland plumber who shouldn’t be confused with the retired general of the same name.

“Are these candidates for president?” one caucus attendee asked as the party went through the list.

Three of Saturday’s caucusgoers opted not to vote for Biden and instead declared themselves to be “uncommitted.” One of those participants, Susan Lasher of Cody, said she wanted “to voice and express disagreement with this administration’s foreign policy when it comes to the war on Gaza.”


Campaigning in Wyoming

One of the candidates up for consideration on Saturday was David Olscamp, a Colorado businessman who made a concerted campaign push in Wyoming; he visited Democrats in all 23 counties in recent weeks, including meeting with Pasek in Cody. 

Olscamp isn’t running to win the party’s presidential nomination but to start a conversation about finding a nominee to replace Biden at the top of the ticket. He fears that Biden can’t win in November, particularly with the specter of independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. drawing votes in swing states. He also doesn’t think Trump or Biden will unify a divided country.

Like Ezra Klein of The New York Times, Olscamp believes that a change in the presidential ticket at a so-called open national convention “would just be this energizing moment for the Democratic Party.”

“And you’d have the opposite of what you're having right now where a lot of votes for Biden right now are votes against Trump,” he said.

Olscamp said he had some great conversations with Wyoming Democrats who were excited about his message, but still unsure if his idea would help the party. He ultimately picked up two votes in Weston County.

Olscamp personally attended the caucus in Cheyenne, and was surprised that only 22 of Laramie County’s roughly 4,825 registered Democrats participated. Olscamp suggested the state and party look at ways to make the process more accessible, including for young people.

“We just need to find a way to get more people participating in this,” he said.