JACKSON—The two candidates for Wyoming Republican Party chairman played nice on Saturday after Frank Eathorne, the current chair, delivered a 49-25 drubbing to his challenger, Frank Moore.
“I think it was good,” Moore told WyoFile about his unsuccessful bid for one of the most powerful political posts in Wyoming. “It was good for me. I think it was good for Frank [Eathorne]. I think it was good for the [Wyoming GOP] Central Committee.”
Eathorne, who’s been the party’s chairman for five years, was equally amicable in the moments after he was elected to another two-year term guiding a party he’s steered further to the right as leader.
“Frank Moore is serious competition, and it’s healthy to have challengers,” Eathorne said. “It sharpens the ideas, the discussion and decision making.”
Eathorne’s tenure has been marked by infighting that’s depleted the state party’s finances and a growing chasm within conservative circles as the far-right element of the GOP made significant gains in the Wyoming Legislature. The resounding victory, he told WyoFile, suggests that the path he’s charted is the correct path.
“Basically it’s a 2-to-1 mandate,” Eathorne said. “I’m going to be listening to that majority. The Founding Fathers set forth the principle for this nation that you listen to the minority, but you must follow the will of the majority.”
“Basically it’s a 2-to-1 mandate. I’m going to be listening to that majority.” FRANK EATHORNE
Any doubt that Eathorne would win over the balance of the Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee’s 74 members evaporated earlier in the day, when the current vice-chairman, Dave Holland, won reelection over his challenger, Sweetwater County GOP Chair Elizabeth Bingham, by a 49-25 margin. While the rolls for the party’s election are not publicized, the duplication in the vote margin suggests there were no defectors who split their ballots.
Moore and Bingham ran as a slate, and recent county party election results caused many to believe their challenge to the current party establishment might work. In Uinta County, for example, party voters tossed out their entire far-right slate of leaders, including Chair Elisabeth “Biffy” Jackson, State Committeeman Karl Allred and State Committeewoman Jana Williams. Their replacements included Chairman Joy Bell, Committeeman Ron Micheli and Committeewoman Patty Micheli.
Allred, a former interim secretary of state who came to Jackson’s Virginian Lodge to watch the GOP’s Central Committee’s meeting Saturday, said he was confident the trio would support Moore and Bingham. Still, he anticipated the status quo to prevail — and it did by a margin that exceeded his expectations.
Moore, a Converse County rancher who runs sheep, served two terms in the Wyoming Legislature three decades ago. He was asked to put his name in for the GOP chair post “half a dozen times” over the last 15 years, he said. Moore took the tilt with Eathorne seriously, and expected to win.
“I tried to talk to every single one of them,” Moore said of the Central Committee’s members. “I traveled around — I think I hit 11 or 12 counties — and I would have gone to more.”
Eathorne, a former police officer, lost his first run at state GOP chair in 2015 to Cheyenne attorney Matt Micheli by three votes. He was elected vice-chairman in 2017, and ascended to the chair four months later when then-chairman Ryan Mulholland took a job and left Wyoming. Eathorne was reelected in 2019 and 2021.
Eathorne has stirred controversy and made headlines during his chairmanship. He told former Trump strategist Steve Bannon in a February 2021 podcast that Wyoming ought to consider seceding from the United States. He’s a member of the Oath Keepers, a militia group, according to a whistleblower’s report, and was on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol building during the violent attack on Jan. 6, 2021. A joint WyoFile and Casper Star-Tribune investigation found that he was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit three decades ago that was settled.
Eathorne took a swipe at the media on Saturday following a diatribe by Secretary of State Chuck Gray in which Gray told the audience of the press, “We have to take them on at every moment.”
Gray read off the names of past Casper Star-Tribune and WyoFile reporters who’ve left the state.
Eathorne followed. “I’d like to echo those comments on the media,” he said, “and leave it at that.”
Some Wyoming GOP Central Committee members were able to forgive Eathorne for past missteps. Many people have regrets about their decisions, Bighorn County Republican Party Chairman Sharon Hall said.
“That’s where grace comes in,” Hall told WyoFile. “We make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes.”
The only other Wyoming GOP election Saturday was for secretary. Donna Rice, the incumbent Casper small business owner who’s “pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-Trump,” according to her bio, ran unopposed.