Conducted during a Big Horn County GOP precinct caucus in Lovell, a straw poll to gauge public opinion for a Republican candidate in the next presidential election showed Mitt Romney at the top with 81 votes followed by Rick Santorum with 7, Ron Paul 6 and Newt Gingrich 0.
Approximately 120 persons packed the Lovell Fire Hall meeting room for the annual north-end caucus held by the county Republican Party on Tuesday night, Feb. 21. The assembly began close to 7:30, instead of 7 as scheduled, due to the large turnout. Only the 94 registered voters in the audience could cast straw poll ballots, and the conclave included a significant number of young persons and other spectators.
Greybull resident Dave Mattis, who directed the caucus as county Republican Party chairman, stated that the turnout was considerably larger than anticipated.
“Twenty to 25 would be a lot based on past experience,” he told the assembly, “so this is great. It’s a good indication of the interest in the election and the concerns that people have.”
Following some procedural motions approved unanimously by voice vote, the straw poll ballots were distributed and collected. That was followed by Mattis opening the floor to review platform planks and resolutions as prepared by the Platforms & Resolutions Committee. As well, audience members could offer proposals for new items.
Recommendations and revisions approved by participants, and the ballot results, will be submitted to the county convention set for Tuesday, March 6, with a “carry-in” dinner at 6 p.m. followed by the meeting beginning at approximately 7 at the Basin City Arts Center. From that event, planks and resolutions will be forwarded to the state convention.
The north-end caucus lasted until nearly 9:30, and the crowd by then had dwindled to around 50 persons. At various times some apparently disgruntled attendees left the gathering due to disagreements with the proceedings. As one woman left, she said, “I’m outta here; do what you’re going to do.” Some proposals for planks and resolutions from the audience caused considerable debate, causing votes by a count of hands because the voice votes were too close to call. Additionally, the meeting was prolonged a number of times by persons calling for points of order and disagreements on wording and intent plus “friendly revisions” and amendments. And there were situations in which items appeared to be redundant, resulting in discussion and voting to retain them or not.
In the “Crime and Law” plank listing, there was unanimous approval that the county GOP “believes in the U.S. Constitution as it was written and intended by the Founders.” Preceding that, there was a 40-23 disapproval by hand vote on a motion to change “Constitution as it was written” to “as prescribed in the Bill of Rights.”
Under “Land, Agriculture and Environment” there was a unanimous OK for a woman’s motion that “Obama’s czars be removed from office,” and that “new regulations need Congressional approval.”
A resolution offered by the Platforms & Resolutions Committee under “Education” was revised from basically reading that “sex education in the schools should teach (sic) abstinence as their first and most important part of sex education.” Stated one audience member, “That isn’t written good.” The unanimously approved revision notes that when schools address sex education “abstinence must be taught.” One woman observed, “It works every time.” Another “Education” plank, this from the audience with revisions, was approved by a show of hands and deals with telling the federal government to stay out of education, as it is a “state and local issue.”
Under “Health and Society” a plank was approved with one man voicing disapproval that, “The Big Horn County Republican Party believes that marriage is defined as the union between one man and one woman.”
The plank category “Immigration and (Illegal) Immigrants” stirred a groundswell of debate by audience members and heartfelt commentary by two naturalized citizens. The ultimate result was that a unanimous vote occurred for enforcing existing laws in connection with illegal immigrants. The man and the woman who spoke each received applause for their impromptu comments concerning the difference between being a legal immigrant who contributes to his or her community, pays taxes and undergoes strenuous screening vs. illegals who cost the taxpayers money in the areas of medical care, education and law enforcement.
Under “Government and Budgets,” a man proposed that the state should mint its own gold and silver coins to be ready for “when the dollar collapses.” He also proposed that each community have seven years worth of rations in community food storage facilities and that the state’s investments of some $15 billion be shifted to within the state. There was considerable discussion and a hand count had to be taken with the result a defeat of 30-11 near the conclusion of the caucus.
There were a number of other planks and resolutions either revised, added or deleted during the caucus. They will be made available at the county convention.
By Bob Rodriguez