Wyoming Republicans fractured as the GOP-led state is set for a summer showdown

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Wyoming is a supermajority state, with Republicans making up 86 of the state’s 93 legislators. But uniformity doesn’t mean unity, as the widening chasm between the state’s further-right Freedom Caucus and more moderate establishment Republicans has grown in recent years and begun to mirror GOP infighting nationwide.

For much of the Cowboy State, political representation will be decided during the Republican primary on August 20. This year, all of the State’s House and 15 of the State’s Senate seats are up for grabs. And while the candidate filing period does not open until May 16, Wyoming has seen an early surge of announcements from prospective candidates and some surprise resignations.

To moderate veterans of the Wyoming political scene like state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne), the upcoming cycle is a test of how well Wyoming’s political trends reflect national ones.

“It’s the same thing that’s happening nationally in the Republican party. The Trumpian mindset is taking over and increasing in the legislature. The difficulty is, it’s a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of substance of reading the bills and collaborating and finding common ground,” Zwonitzer said.

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A professor at Laramie County Community College, Zwonitzer will face a primary challenge from Ann Lucas, a member of the local Republican Party’s central committee.

Kathy Russell, Executive Director of the Wyoming GOP, is challenging incumbent state Representative Bob Nicholas for House District 7— who's known for winning primaries by wide margins, and for hosting end-of-session crab boils for the Wyoming legislature. Russell’s prominent role in the Republican party sets her apart as a formidable opponent.

“Conservatives are not thrilled with the leadership coming out of the Capitol. It’s all political games and bowing to a Democrat agenda, and not nearly enough of conservative priorities like protecting children, taxpayers, and jobs. I will fight for conservatives,” Russell said in a statement.

Moderate state Republicans have seen the announcement of three significant resignations: Sen. Affie Ellis of Cheyenne, Rep. Fred Baldwin of Kemmerer and Rep. Cyrus Western of Bighorn.

Ellis, the first Native American woman to serve in the legislature, unveiled a quilt at the end of the 2024 legislative session with individualized patches for all 31 state senators. Ellis, Western, the house Majority whip, and Baldwin, head of the Kemmerer fire department, all emphasized that they wanted to spend more time with their families.

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For Sen. Cheri Steinmetz (R-Lingle), who is currently spearheading the push among Wyoming legislators to call for a special session to overturn Governor Mark Gordon’s vetoes, the coming election cycle is a chance for Wyoming Republicans to represent their electorate more honestly.

“The Democratic Party is largely obsolete in the state of Wyoming. And many of the folks that used to occupy the Democratic Party have found their way into the Republican Party,” Steinmetz said. “I would like to see people that adhere to their platform. If you’re going to run as a Republican, then you should govern as a Republican.”

Cy Neff is a politics reporting fellow based in Wyoming for USA Today. You can reach him at cneff@usatoday.com, or on X @CyNeffNews

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wyoming's Republican primary election set to showcase a divided GOP