Just say ‘No’ to loyalty oaths

Posted 6/14/22

Park County voters who are following local and statewide elections should be acutely aware that nearly all of the primary candidates are registered as Republicans. In a state where the Grand Old …

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Just say ‘No’ to loyalty oaths


Park County voters who are following local and statewide elections should be acutely aware that nearly all of the primary candidates are registered as Republicans. In a state where the Grand Old Party (GOP) dominates almost every elected position — from governor and U.S. senator to state reps and county commissioners to city mayors — it comes as no surprise that Republicans feel betrayed by politicians who run on the GOP platform, and then cast votes that don’t comport with Republican ideals.

The GOP is the party of conservatives. Naturally, Republican officials expect their candidates to support the party’s platform.

Should everyone who runs as a Republican agree to sign a pledge committing to vote along GOP lines at least 80% of the time?

This question was asked of most of the candidates who participated in the 2022 forums held by the Park County Republican Women in Powell and Cody over the past two weeks.

Although many of the candidates for House District and Senate District races said they would agree to such a pledge, many did not.

Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, the incumbent for HD24, made it clear she considers herself a devoted conservative. However, Newsome also stated at the GOP Women’s forum in Powell she feels obliged to support all constituents, particularly in the general election in which Democrats and other non-Republicans vote.

“I don’t know if I should be forced in any way to have the Republican Party determine if I can be a Republican or not,” Newsome said.

Other candidates for the Wyoming Legislature concurred with Newsome. However, some said they would absolutely agree to a pledge obligating them to support the Republican Party platform at least 80% of the time.

With one exception, candidates for Park County Commission said they were not comfortable signing such a pledge. Five of the six candidates at the Powell Republican Women’s forum said they serve all county constituents. Therefore, they were not enthusiastic about signing a written document obligating them to vote along GOP lines eight out of 10 times. Only Tyson Williams, who is running for one of three open seats on the commission, went on record as stating he would sign a Republican pledge.

There are two schools of thought regarding the GOP pledge. The first points out in a GOP primary election, all candidates who run as Republicans should be obligated to vote along party lines if elected to any political body, be it city council, county commission, state legislature or U.S. Congress.

The opposing side states that party affiliation is only one factor in determining a candidate’s credentials. Experience, socio-political philosophy and voter needs are also important. They argue that once they’re elected in a primary, they must run in a general election, where Democrats, independents, libertarians and voters from a variety of parties cast their ballots. If they vow to vote Republican more than three-quarters of the time, GOP candidates lock themselves into a commitment that might prevent them from being elected in a general election.

Proponents of party pledges counter that 1. Wyoming is predominantly a Republican state; therefore, the likelihood of a non-GOP candidate winning an election is slim. 2. Anyone who runs as a Republican has a commitment to vote along party lines. In fact, pledge proponents argue 80% is generous. Some say it should be 100%.

Republican Nina Webber, who is running against Newsome for HD24, said at the GOP Women’s forum in Powell, “You’re running as a Republican, be a Republican and defend the party platform.”

With accusations that some liberal voters will register as Republicans to vote in Wyoming primaries with ulterior motives of casting their ballots for the least conservative candidate on the ticket, it can be argued that GOP candidates have an obligation to set an example by supporting the party platform.

The issue is complex. Not all of the legislation, ordinances and laws elected officials are expected to vote for, or against, are clear-cut. If conservatives take a pledge not to raise taxes, for example, should a GOP candidate in a predominantly agricultural state or county vote against government subsidies for conservative farmers? Should a patriot who runs on their military background vote against allocating funding for a local U.S. Air Force or Army base because they made a pledge not to accept more government funding?

The issue becomes even more complex at the local level, where zoning laws and basic residential needs — including well-paved roads, safe bridges and sanitary water services — require finesse, compromise and bipartisan support in order to satisfy all taxpayers.

On election day, voters have a choice. To make informed choices, they should know about the candidates’ statements, promises and voting records. Conservative Republicans who think a candidate running on the GOP ticket is too moderate can vote for the opponent. If a Republican incumbent has a voting record that skews moderate, or even liberal, they can be voted out of office.

That is the American way. Requiring candidates to sign written pledges to vote along party lines smacks of “loyalty oaths” — and that reeks of McCarthyism.