Local Republicans shift strategy to engage young voters

Teton County’s GOP is bringing conservative activist Charlie Kirk to its annual fundraising event this Friday.
Conservative activist Charlie Kirk speaks to students nationwide. Local Republicans are bringing him to Jackson to help the party engage youth. (Gage Skidmore/CC by 2.0)


Teton County’s GOP is bringing a controversial figure to Jackson Hole to help engage local youth. The move comes after the party was unable to get many conservatives elected to local offices last November.

Charlie Kirk will be the keynote speaker at the party’s annual fundraising event, the Patriots Dinner, this Friday.

The local Republican party is hosting its annual fundraising event at the Four Seasons. (Courtesy of Teton GOP)

The 29-year-old talk radio host leads the national conservative youth group, Turning Point USA, and is known for his ties with former President Donald Trump and frequent appearances on Fox News.


Turning Point also runs a “Professor Watchlist.” According to the website, the project’s goal is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Teton GOP chair Mary Martin described Kirk as an advocate for free speech and said she hopes he’ll help the party better engage local youth. 

“We recognize that we have a lot of young voters in Teton County,” Martin said. “There’s a need for us to become more aware of how to have meaningful conversations.”

Conservatives in office

Reaching young people is just part of the Teton GOP’s strategy for what the party referred to on the Patriots Dinner event page as an “unprecedented 2024 election.” It’s preparing to use “out-of-the-box strategies and fresh tactics” to elect conservatives.

The goal of the dinner is to raise $150,000 to fund these future strategies. 

During the 2022 election season, the Teton GOP invested heavily in local candidates. The party gave each local conservative candidate $15,000 and left “golden tickets” at residents’ doorsteps. These packets included information about local Republican candidates, and some included free gift cards and gas cards.

Ultimately, local voters elected one Republican, Rep. Andrew Byron (R-Hoback), who told KHOL he’s excited for the Friday event.

In the wake of the November election, Martin said the party realized it needs to be more “explorative” with its messaging. 

“The young people are the hope for our community’s future,” Martin said. “They’re the hope for my future.”

Martin said she is unsure what exactly their strategies moving forward will be but is excited to get advice from Kirk, who speaks at high schools and colleges nationwide.

Connections to Jackson

According to Martin, Kirk has ties to Jackson and visits frequently.

“He has a heart for Teton County and Wyoming,” she said.

Kirk launched Turning Point in part thanks to seed money from late Jackson conservative businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess.

Kirk’s group was also involved in local elections in 2020, placing ads endorsing conservative candidates and attacking progressive ones.

The leader of the local Democrat party, Maggie Hunt, said she fears big money coming into local politics.

Rather than focusing on youth, Hunt said the Teton Dems want to appeal to all generations, with some focus on residents from thirty- to fifty-years-old, since she said issues in the state most directly affect that age group.

“We just feel like the role of the political party, certainly in local elections … is to foster community, foster inclusiveness,” Hunt said. 

Hunt said she doesn’t think local young people will welcome Kirk with open arms.

“I don’t believe that the youth in our community are open to that kind of messaging,” she said.

Martin, from the Teton GOP, said she found several local young people to attend Friday’s event, offering them free tickets. 

For the general public, tickets for the sold-out event at Teton Village’s Four Seasons went for $500 a piece.

Want More Stories Like This?

Donate any amount to support independent media in the Tetons.

KHOL 89.1 Jackson Hole Community Radio Membership Support Ad

About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

Related Stories

Pin It on Pinterest