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A Red Reflection: Wyoming Republicans young and old gather to talk about the state of conservatism

A man with his back to the camera speaks to an older man behind a podium.
Jordan Uplinger
Wyoming Public Media

Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a college-based conservative organization, and the Wyoming Freedom Caucus held a discussion on the University of Wyoming (UW) campus. 30-plus people gathered to discuss the Republican Party's priorities for the future. Wyoming Public Radio’s Jordan Uplinger attended and spoke with state lawmakers, potential voters and UW students about their views of the current state of conservatism.

Editor's Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Austin Barnr (Student): It's very splintered right now and lots of just little factions are fighting amongst each other. And some of them are a bit more moderate, some of them are a bit more America first. Just lots of different camps. There's the Trump factor and how much he plays into it and the movement he's leading and then you have the anti-Trump people. It's just very splintered and divisive at the moment, but I see lots of hope in it for the future.

Lucy Holt (Social Media Coordinator for TPUSA and President of Students For Life): I think there's too many conservatives that are claiming to be libertarian or claiming to be, “live and let live” and you can't be on the line. If you're gonna be, if you're going to pick a political side, you have to, you have to stand for it. You have to know what you stand for and you have to come out when you're called.

Gabe Saint (President of TPUSA at UW): I think Frankie Thorne is a great chairman for our party. I know Roxy is a great chairwoman for our county party here in Albany County. But nationally, the party is real bad. It doesn't represent the grassroots at all. Trump's our guy. The platform needs to be entirely around him. The party needs to be totally rallying around him. All the candidates out there right now, everybody in Congress, they either need to get around Trump or get out.

Nick Bogani (Chief of Staff for TPUSA at UW): I feel like conservatism in Wyoming is a lot weaker than it could be. Half of the Republicans voted with the Democrats with this [spending] bill. So I think that's very weak and they could definitely improve upon that. We just need to focus on our unity and we have to stand on principle as well.

Anne Lucus (Member of Conservative Coalition 307): I'm becoming more hopeful about it. Like, many of the folks who are active in politics right now or who are newly active, I think that we have a lot of younger people who are starting to realize that we need to get involved. We need to start talking. And I'm hopeful now.

Scott Smith (Representative of House District 5): It's really a grassroots movement here in Wyoming. The current state? I would say we need to gain a little bit more traction and keep making progress towards conservatism. So a little way to go yet.

Allen Slagle (Representative of House District 307): I feel the current state is pretty good with conservatism in Wyoming, except for our legislature. Our legislature isn't very good as far as conservatism goes. I mean, it's getting better and it's increased the last three elections, but I would like to see it better than what it is now.

John Winter (Representative of House District 28): The conservatism in Wyoming is quite good amongst the population, however, in the legislature, it is not. Well, I'm hoping that with our new speaker that he's going to have a big influence on people.

John Bear (Representative House District 21 and Chairman of the Freedom Caucus): Well, I feel much better about the Wyoming Republican Party than I do the National Republican Party. I think that they're going astray in a couple of areas. I think that the grassroots conservatism is excellent in this state. I'm proud to be a representative here. I think that our representative, our legislature, is far from being conservative at this point. But there's been changes and I'm hopeful that that will continue to change to be a better representation of what the people of Wyoming are.

Jordan Uplinger was born in NJ but has traveled since 2013 for academic study and work in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He gained experience in a multitude of areas, including general aviation, video editing, and political science. In 2021, Jordan's travels brought him to find work with the Wyoming Conservation Corps as a member of Americorps. After a season with WCC, Jordan continued his Americorps service with the local non-profit, Feeding Laramie Valley. His deep interest in the national discourse on class, identity, American politics and the state of material conditions globally has led him to his current internship with Wyoming Public Radio and NPR.
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