By Kathy Brown
Gillette News Record
Via Wyoming News Exchange
GILLETTE — Much of the discussion about a controversial Campbell County Republican Party resolution was derailed Saturday when the party chairwoman agreed it was out of order and an appeal of that ruling failed.
Bill Fortner had proposed a resolution that would allow the party to disqualify any candidate running as a Republican in Campbell County who didn’t uphold the beliefs of the party’s platform. He had even proposed an 80/20 rule, saying the party could not recognize a candidate as being Republican if they didn’t vote for the platform 80% of the time while in office.
Several Republicans, including former Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau II of Gillette, had said that proposal, if approved, would violate Wyoming law.
So when Fortner asked the party’s central committee to consider his resolution in a two-hour meeting Saturday at the Campbell County Public Library, state committeeman Dave Horning essentially put the kibosh on the idea.
He moved the proposal be found out of order and asked that the county party chairwoman, Vicki Kissack, rule that way.
Kissack agreed it was out of order and shouldn’t be considered.
Attempts by Jeff Raney and Fortner to appeal that decision were overwhelming killed in a 57-16 vote of Campbell County’s precinct committee representatives.
“As a chair who is a reasonable person and I appreciate hearing that it does go against state statute, I am going to support the ruling is out of order with a caveat,” Kissack said. “I support ruling it out of order, but I also want to say that it is always OK to bring these resolutions forward. ... So I’m going to rule it out of order. I’m going to stand with that.”
About 70 people filled the Wyoming Room at the library and Kissack suggested many were there because of interest in the proposed resolution, the last item of business.
The result didn’t dissuade Fortner from his belief that Republican candidates should represent party ideals, he said.
“They shot the argument down today,” he said after the 40-minute discussion and vote. But someone told him earlier that “a resolution is just an idea, it’s not law.”
Fortner said Horning seemed unsure about his motion when Horning stated that “what I’m submitting is that we don’t have the authority to disqualify candidates and that’s the basis of my motion.”
“I’m not put down by this,” Fortner said, adding that “you can’t quit something that’s right. ... I want to see if other people agree as well. We should have a conversation.”
Kissack said she was surprised by Horning’s motion and “I had to think very, very quickly about it.”
“I believe every person should get heard,” she said, and she guaranteed Republicans that if they propose a resolution correctly through the county party guidelines, those resolutions will be heard.
Kissack said she also thought those for and those against were heard at Saturday’s meeting. It also was a good experience and education about resolutions and voting on them.
“I think we’ll see more resolutions,” she said, adding that will happen “when you have this much energy, and I call it energy.”
Fortner said he felt many of the others in the room agreed with him and that the sticking point was the legality of the resolution.
Over the past three years, too many Republican candidates have ignored basic conservative party stands on taxes, savings and using money wisely, he said.
“This was my first try,” Fortner said. “I’m not done. I’ll come with another one. This was just the first big step. It just didn’t get heard. They twisted it in a way. We’ll change that deal for the next meeting.”
Raney spoke in support of his motion to appeal Kissack’s decision, reading from the Campbell County Republican Party’s documents about its role.
“The role of the Campbell County party is to recruit citizens to join the Republican Party, establish a platform of the Wyoming Republican Party to achieve the election of Republican candidates to substantially uphold the platform of the county Republican Party and to conduct the business of the Campbell County Republican Party,” he read.
“If the state doesn’t have a law that backs the county to be able to get rid of candidates who are running under false pretenses, then we should do something that forces them to act on it,” he said. “This resolution will go statewide within minutes of us passing it and the state will be forced to act.”
Doug Camblin disagreed and spoke against the proposed resolution. He also later made a motion to require a roll-call vote of the issue for transparency. That was later approved on a voice vote.
“The resolution regarding elected officials upholding platforms violates the Wyoming Constitution and Wyoming election laws,” he said.
“The Campbell County Republican Party has no authority ... to disqualify any person who has registered as a Republican and meets the requirements under state law,” he said. “State law does not include a litmus test of how Republican you must be to register as a Republican. Even if the resolution was legal, which it is not, it is not a good idea in any application.
“Who is going to decide the votes? Who is going to decide who upholds the party platforms and who does not and how Republican are they?”
He urged the Republicans to not allow “mob control over our elected representatives.”
Doug Gerard, the former county GOP chairman, opposed the ruling that the resolution was out of order. He also opposed the resolution itself.
“My question here is what does this ‘qualify’ mean?” he asked. “Does that mean that Republicans and the Republican Party will not fund that candidate?
“I think it’s pretty clear that we do not have standing to say, ‘Hey you, you can’t run as a Republican,’” he said. “So, I disagree with this resolution in its entirety and the way that it is written.”