This week is shaping up to be a big one for local Republican politics.
Cynthia Lummis, a U.S. Senate candidate from Wyoming, was in town Wednesday, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is expected Friday — albeit virtually as Walker is self-quarantining after attending last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where an attendee was later confirmed to have COVID-19.
Local party members have one more big event to attend: Thursday’s Teton County GOP Caucus.
“We certainly expect that all precinct committee men and women will attend ... [and] we encourage any concerned and active Republicans to show up and participate,” Teton County GOP Chairman Alex Muromcew said. “This is grassroots-level democracy.”
The caucus is set to kick off at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Antler Inn, where the county’s conservatives will gather and chew over the party’s platform and local issues in groups determined by precinct. Ultimately, those who attend are tasked with choosing delegates to send to the county GOP convention April 6.
Presidential politics will become a bigger part of the conversation at that time. The delegates chosen Thursday will rehash the platform-oriented conversations from the caucus at a countywide level. They will also choose delegates to attend the state convention, set for May 7 to 9 in Gillette, as well as one to send to the Republican National Convention, which will be held from Aug. 24 to 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 2016, Teton County was the only county in the Cowboy State to pick a national delegate at the countywide convention who endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump.
Presidential conversations, however, will not be front-and-center at Thursday’s caucus. “It’ll be more focused on the platform,” Muromcew said.
Paul Vogelheim, a former Teton County GOP chairman and county commissioner, said the gathering is a chance to define what it means to be a Teton County Republican. “We kind of summarize who we are,” he said.
In 2016, the caucuses set the stage for the local convention, where conservatives voted on the county party’s three pillars: “fiscal responsibility and private sector solutions,” “conservation and responsible stewardship,” and “respect and compassion for individual freedoms.”
“That set us apart from the rest of the state and took a lot of challenges from the state Republican party,” Vogelheim said. “We’re a much more moderate perspective on social issues.”
He added that the 2016 conversation also highlighted the Teton County GOP’s “focus on the great legacy the Republican Party has had, which is kind of lost, on conservation issues.”
Vogelheim pointed to President Theodore Roosevelt, who set aside 230 million acres of public lands, and to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act, both of which came out of the Nixon administration.
The caucus starts the process of defining “who we are at the local level,” Vogelheim said, which is “maybe a little different from the state and a little different from the national Republican party.”
“This caucus allows us to give that type of definition,” he said.