County Chair Race Involves Moon Landing Denier

"May their days be long and full of happiness; may their children be many and full of health; and may they live in peace... and freedom." 
- The Quiet Man, 1952

While Washington D.C. debates the causes and consequences of the violence of the supporters of President Donald Trump at the Capitol, a pair of Wisconsin Republicans are attempting to steer the party in a more peaceful direction.

John Foote and Kevin Barthel, members of the Oconto County Republican Party, are asking the party to consider a resolution at their county party’s caucus on Saturday.

“The Resolution is intended to make a statement on where we think the Republican Party should be on the issue of political discourse and the use of political violence, especially given today’s challenging political environment,” said Barthel on Friday.

The draft the party will be considering condemns the use of violence to achieve political ends.

“…all political parties have a civic responsibility to promote their ideals in as productive a way as possible,” the resolution states. It adds, “…all violence and all actions that may condone violence to attain political ends are destructive to our governance as well as our democratic way of life.”

Also on the plate for attendees is an election for county party chairman, with the incumbent Barb Finger facing a challenge from Leah Merriman. The county caucus was scheduled for earlier in the year but was delayed due to the last-minute challenge by Merriman to Finger, requiring the county party to have a nomination committee meeting first.

Merriman is a newcomer to the Oconto County GOP. Her Facebook page uses a Pepe the Frog profile picture, usually an Alt-Right symbol which is considered racist and anti-Semitic. Merriman also has a Facebook post endorsing the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was a hoax as well as another Facebook post on December 30 calling for the state legislature to throw out the presidential election results for Wisconsin.

“Not only should you fear the ones who put you in such an office, you should fear God, whom you took an oath before, to support the Constitution of the US, and the Constitution of our state,” Merriman posted on her Facebook page.

In the same post, Merriman warned of consequences if the legislature didn’t do as she wanted.

“If you do not do the job you were elected to do, you surely put the entire state at risk of lawlessness and anarchy,” Merriman posted just seven days before the attack on the U.S. Capitol. “If our legislators cannot even bring themselves to confront the most malicious attack against our very right to govern ourselves by electing representatives, then the entirety of the rest of the law becomes unenforceable and moot.”

“Stand up against this tyranny, now. I shudder to think of what the consequences will be if you do not,” Merriman added.

Her belligerent statements stand in stark contrast to the resolution being offered by Barthel and Foote. However, her statements are similar to the one which helped cause the resolution for non-violent politics to be written.

According to Barthel and Foote, the resolution was in part inspired by the response to a violent statement posted by the former chairman of the St. Croix County Republican Party, John Kraft, on the party website. Kraft had posted, “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

“It’s time to stand and be counted as a conservative warrior in the on-going fight to preserve our Constitutional Republic,” the website statement continued. “We need to start local by eliminating leftist tyrants from all local and County positions in the future April elections.”

After the website comments were reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kraft was forced to resign as chairman and the website was changed.

The St. Croix Party issued a statement January 15 regarding the change to the website and party leadership:

While we remain committed to forthright discussion of political ideas and differences, that discussion must be within the confines of civil discourse, without the perception of intimidation, accusation, or threats. We oppose violence as a method to achieve political goals.

We will continue to actively support the goals of the Republican Party and communicate in a civil manner.

To survive and thrive as the Republic which our Founding Fathers created for us, all political parties have a civic duty and responsibility to conduct ourselves in a civil manner and to condemn all violence and actions that could be interpreted to condone the use of violence to achieve political ends. To maintain any credibility, ALL political parties should immediately join us in condemning the violence of the past year, ongoing violence, and incitement to it.

Barthel and Foote liked the wording of the statement and asked permission from the St. Croix GOP to use it for their resolution.

The resolution by Barthel and Foote will be considered by the Oconto County GOP Caucus on Saturday, February 13.

If the resolution by Barthel and Foote is passed by the Oconto county GOP membership on Saturday, it will be considered by the Congressional District Caucus, and then possibly the state GOP will consider the resolution at its May convention.

Foote said on Friday that he hoped the resolution could be a step towards restoring civility and decency in politics. “These last events aside, even Madison has been far less productive this past decade or two than would have been possible if people treated each other with a little more personal consideration and focus attacks on arguments more so than on people or personality.”

The resolution is below:

2021 Republican Party of Oconto County Wisconsin Proposed Resolution 2021: Statement on Political Discourse

Whereas, our Founding Fathers created a Republic wherein political progress is attained through discourse in the marketplace of ideas; and

Whereas, all political parties have a civic responsibility to promote their ideals in as productive a way as possible; and

Whereas, failure to make a good faith effort to achieve consensus serves only to divide and harm us; and

Whereas, all violence and all actions that may condone violence to attain political ends are destructive to our governance as well as our democratic way of life.

Now, Therefore Be It Resolved that the Republican Party of Oconto County, in caucus assembled:

  • Supports free, open and civil discourse in the political arena which serves to uphold Republican goals in a unifying rather than a divisive manner, and without the perception of threats and physical intimidation; and
  • Opposes violence as a means to any political end; and
  • Condemns all political violence of the past year, be it by members of political parties or organizations in support of political parties or their agendas; and
  • Condemns any ongoing or future violence, as well as incitement to same, used as a method to achieve political ends.