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

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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 2012 Wyoming Public Radio Network. To see more, visit http://www.wyomingpublicmedia.org.

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