Retired Republican Senator Leads Effort to Smash Local Tea Party
Sen. Al Simpson (R-WY) retired from the Senate in 1997, but he is now celebrating another political victory in his state.
The retired senator ran and won his election as a member of the Republican precinct committee in his hometown of Cody, Wyoming, together with his wife Ann.
Both Simpsons earned a majority of the vote, effectively pushing out Tea Party Republicans in the precinct.
“We decided we’d start over,” Simpson explained in an interview with Breitbart News. “We did that about forty years ago when we started in politics.”
Although he retired from state politics long ago, Simpson indicated he was annoyed with Tea Party conservatives criticizing his record as a conservative, and had grown increasingly alarmed at the tone of the local Republican party.
Together, the Simpsons now have the ability to influence the conversation, particularly the direction of the Republican party in Wyoming.
“I’m not against anybody, I just want to be in the room,” he said. “I just want to be there for the debate.”
Simpson said that he respected the Tea Party for calling for less debt, less spending, and less government, but he was deeply disturbed about the party’s direction.
“People here in the county, there was just some very extremist views coming, mostly social issues,” Simpson said.
Abortion, he explained, while terrible, was a “deeply intimate and personal decision” for a woman that the government should not be involved in. He also signaled his support for gay marriage.
Simpson indicated that he was looking forward to his new role in the party.
“It’s a treat, I mean I love the party, hell I’ve been in it since 1952,” he said. “I’ve been called a leftwing nut and a rightwing nut, so I ought to get in there and see where the party is.”
To the Tea Party, Simpson represents what’s wrong with with the old guard of Wyoming Republicans.
“Al Simpson, go away,” Robert J. DiLorenzo, the founder of the Big Horn Basin Tea Party said shortly in an interview with Breitbart News.
Members of the Tea Party called for Simpson to renounce his party affiliation, accusing him of straying too far from the party platform.
“If he spent half the amount of time that he spends attacking the Tea Party and spent that time attacking liberal and progressive policies, we might get somewhere,” DiLorenzo said.
An overwhelmingly Republican state, Tea Party conservatives point out that they need to be vigilant to keep liberals from masquerading as Republicans to get elected.
DiLorenzo pointed out that Simpson was part of the problem by only paying “lip service” to Wyoming Republican ideals.
“Our platform is identical to the Republican state party platform, it’s identical the only difference is that we actually mean it, and they don’t,” he said.
Tea Party activists in the state were very aware of Simpson’s role in the public feud with the Cheney family at an event at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center when Liz Cheney was challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).
Cheney eventually dropped out of the race, but Simpson was one member of the Republican establishment that publicly opposed her candidacy.
Now, Simpson has muscled his way back into the political conversation.
“All right. How nice. Good luck,” DiLorenzo said, reacting to Simpson’s coup. “It’s kind of bizarre.”
Simpson’s win was the culmination of an effort to “take back” the local Republican party from people he considered too extreme.
Earlier in the year, Simpson invited DiLorenzo for a lunch, so that they could sit down and discuss their differences.
Simpson explained during the meeting that he was tired of the Big Horn Basin Tea Party maligning his record.
“That’s what I do, I’ve always done that,” he explained to Breitbart News about the lunch. “If those guys are after my ass, I like to go visit with them.”
But the lunch didn’t go well as Simpson demanded that the Tea Party learn to compromise, and DiLorenzo criticizing Republicans like Simpson for hurting the party.
“We’re in this situation we’re in because you and your cohorts have done nothing but compromise for the last forty years,” DiLorenzo told Simpson during the lunch, citing the exploding national debt, and an increasingly bigger government.
Simpson told DiLorenzo he was tired of the Tea Party representatives taking shots at his political record.
“Don’t start using phrases about me if you don’t know who the hell I am,” he said.
After the lunch, Simpson launched a local coalition of Republicans who vowed to “take back” the local Republican party from the Tea Party extremists.
But the area Tea Party group viewed the idea as ludicrous.
“Take the Republican party back from who? Republicans?” DiLorenzo asked. “Give me a break.”
In spite of his local political victory, Simpson said that he has no intention of seeking state or national office again.
"No, hell, I have no desire to do that, I just want to be in the room when they’re talking and tell them where I’m coming from,” he said.
“I think I’ve gone about as far as I can go,” he said, quoting the song “Kansas City” from the musical Oklahoma!.
But DiLorenzo and his team of activists have no intention of backing down in the fight to keep Wyoming conservative.
“We’re not going to permit Wyoming to go by the way of Colorado, we’re just not going to permit it,” he said.