It's All Politics
10:46 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Wyoming's GOP Caucuses: The Process Is Drawn Out And Confusing

Originally published on Tue February 28, 2012 5:53 am

Republicans in Wyoming pick delegates for the national convention in a process that stretches from early February to mid-April. Besides being time-consuming, the process is also hard to understand.

In Wyoming, precinct caucuses are the first round of the political playoffs. Republicans from throughout the state meet in county caucuses to discuss issues, suggest platform ideas and decide whom to endorse.

"The caucus is great," says Khale Lenhart, vice chairman of the Laramie County Republicans, "because it allows people a chance to come out and debate on the local level among their neighbors, and gives people a chance to participate and actually be involved in a way that allows them to advocate and express their support."

Wyoming is a big, mostly rural state, where residents in the same county often travel long distances to get from place to place. So regular interaction on political issues isn't always a given.

The precinct caucuses also elect delegates to the county Republican convention.

Tammy Hooper, head of the state GOP party, says those conventions are spread through early March, and that's where about half of the state's counties pick delegates to support a candidate.

"There will be 12 delegates to the national convention and 12 alternates picked between March 6 through March 10," Hooper says.

The Wyoming GOP traditionally spreads the dates out to allow ranchers to attend during the height of the calving season. And even then it's not over, because in mid-April another 14 at-large presidential delegates will be selected during the statewide Republican convention. So it isn't known until April 14 which presidential candidate Wyoming Republicans favor.

But people in the state seem to care less about the actual outcome than they do about the chance to interact. And that's the case with first-time caucusgoer Barb Sandick.

"It will be interesting to see if our issues with what's going on in our state and in our nation are similar to the people who live next-door to me," Sendick says.

In this fast-paced, breaking-news world, Wyoming's process that takes more than two months seems old-fashioned. But longtime caucusgoer Kim Deti says while some might prefer the immediate results of a primary, she especially likes the slower caucuses.

"It's the building block of the whole process — you have to have a foundation for a system that's going to work, and this really is a purely democratic foundation," she says.

Deti notes that anyone can show up and eventually get to the national convention in Florida as one of Wyoming's 29 delegates. That, she says, is democracy.

Copyright 2013 Wyoming Public Radio Network. To see more, visit http://www.wyomingpublicmedia.org.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Wyoming, the way Republicans pick delegates for the National Republican Convention is so confusing, even people there can hardly understand it. The process stretches from early February to mid-April. Still, as Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck reports, those involved at the grassroots level would not have it any other way.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

BOB BECK, BYLINE: It's 7:30 in the morning at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, and Greg Krall has some ideas of what he'd like to see the Republican nominee work on.

GREG KRALL: Well, I think the spending in this government's gone out of hand, and I want to be more fiscally conservative.

BECK: Are you set on somebody right now?

KRALL: No, I'm still kind of open. Whoever can beat Obama.

BECK: Spending is also a concern of caucus-goer Steve Johnson.

STEVE JOHNSON: The social issues I think they ought to leave off the table - because they're virtually irreconcilable - and focus on the real things that matter, and that's, at this point in time, are the economics, the budget.

BECK: In Wyoming, these precinct caucuses are the first round of the political playoffs. Republicans from throughout the state meet in county caucuses just like this to discuss issues and suggest platform ideas and, of course, figure out who they want to endorse. The vice chairman of the Laramie County Republicans, Khale Lenhart, loves the process.

KHALE LENHART: Yeah, the caucus is great because it allows people a chance to come out and debate on the local level amongst their neighbors and gives people a chance to participate and actually be involved in a way that allows them to advocate and, you know, express their support.

BECK: Wyoming is a big, mostly rural state, where residents in the same county often travel long distances. So regular interaction about these issues is not always a given. They will also elect delegates from these precinct caucuses to the county convention. State GOP Chair Tammy Hooper says those conventions are spread through early March. She says that's where about half of the state's counties pick delegates to support one candidate or another.

TAMMY HOOPER: So there will be 12 delegates to the national convention and 12 alternates picked between March 6th through March 10th.

BECK: The Wyoming GOP says they traditionally spread these dates out to allow ranchers to attend during the height of the calving season. Even then it's not over, because in mid-April, another 14-at-large presidential delegates will be selected during the statewide Republican convention. So you really won't know which presidential candidate Wyoming Republicans favor until April 14th.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Then we have a dilemma.

BECK: But people, it seems, care less about the actual outcome than they do about the chance to interact. That's the case with first-time caucus-goer Barb Sandick.

BARB SANDICK: I think it'll be interesting to see our issues with what's going on in our state and in our nation are similar to the people who live next door to me.

BECK: Certainly in this fast paced, breaking-news world, this process that takes over two months seems very old-fashioned. But long-time caucus-goer Kim Deti says while some might prefer the immediate results of a primary, she especially likes the slower caucuses.

KIM DETI: It's the building block of the whole process. You have to have a foundation for a system that's going to work, and this really is a purely democratic foundation.

BECK: Deti notes that anyone can show up and eventually get to the national convention in Florida as one of Wyoming's 29 delegates. That, she says, is democracy.

For NPR News, I'm Bob Beck in Cheyenne.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.