GREEN BAY, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans met in Green Bay Saturday for the Republican Party of Wisconsin 2016 Convention to hear stump speeches from politicians and cast delegates for the presidential elections.
U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble chaired the convention and introduced speakers such as state Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Gov. Scott Walker.
Delegates unanimously endorsed Sen. Ron Johnson in the U.S. Senate race and did not discuss the presidential candidate.
Gov. Walker talks education
Walker used his speech to highlight the “Wisconsin Comeback,” grassroots campaigns and party unity.
“The Republican party is alive and well in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
He discussed multiple decisive issues that have come up during his turn, such as abortion restrictions and Act 10. He said last year, Wisconsin had the second highest ACT score and third highest graduation rate.
He also talked about the recent discussions surrounding the UW System.
“I get a kick out of Democrats of late who talk about how we need to do more about student loan debt,” Walker said. “We froze tuition … four years in a row for the first time in our state’s history. That makes higher education more affordable for college students.”
He also said tuition for UW System schools went up 118 percent in the 10 years before the freeze. Walker said that when former Gov. Jim Doyle cut $250 million from the system, no faculty complained because universities were allowed to raise tuition.
“Apparently it was okay for the students to pay for that,” he said. “We froze tuition, they jacked it up ... The University of Wisconsin-System right now, its overall budget is the largest they have ever had in the history of the state of Wisconsin.”
Walker said the discussions were not about tuition or affordability, but rather were about his “audacity.”
.@GovWalker says the UW-System discussion is really about him having "the audacity" to question "jobs for life" tenure.— Cardinal Politics (@CardPolitics) May 14, 2016
“It’s about the fact that we, meaning me and the Republicans in the legislature, actually had the audacity to question whether or not we should continue to have jobs for life tenure, and instead said maybe it’s time to have a bit of accountability,” he said.
Alex Walker brings attention to College Republicans
Walker’s son Alex also spoke, but focused instead on the U.S. Senate race between the incumbent, Johnson, and former Sen. Russ Feingold. The younger Walker is the chair of College Republicans at UW-Madison as well as the vice chair of the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans.
“Our message to our campus is simple,” Alex Walker said. “Russ Feingold wants to be dependent on the government when you graduate. Ron Johnson wants you to get a job when you graduate.”
He said Wisconsin College Republicans are hosting the Midwest College Republicans Conference in Madison. Alex Walker also said College Republicans hopes to debate with College Democrats at UW-Madison and meet with students in the run-up to November.
The College Republicans efforts will not be limited to Madison, however. Alex Walker said they are working to bring College Republican chapter to Viterbo University and Lakeland College, in addition to reviving chapters at UW-Stout and UW-Platteville.
Party unity behind Johnson, not Trump
A common point between Alex and his father, along with all the other speakers, was repeated words of support for Johnson and a lack of the word “Trump.” Most speakers in the morning session mentioned the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Scott Walker said nothing about Trump while speaking of party unity.
“The Republicans in this hall and across this state are overwhelmingly united,” he said and paused, “behind Ron Johnson to be our United States Senator. That needs to be our clear focus.”
Alex Walker also did not say whether College Republicans would back the presumptive nominee.
“There’s a lot of time between now and the convention where we are going to have to discuss just where everyone’s at,” Alex Walker said. “We are united on one thing: Senator Ron Johnson. That’s going to be the main focus for us here in Wisconsin.”
Pastor Joe Medina, the only morning speaker to mention Trump, talked about Johnson’s reaction to Trump’s comments on hispanics. He said Johnson put out a press release saying he did not accept Trump’s comments, a day after Johnson asked Medina how he could address the comments.
Afternoon speakers were similarly quiet in regards to Trump. However, U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said despite voting for Ted Cruz in the primary, he will vote for Trump. Johnson did not mention Trump by name during his speech, but did say Wisconsin’s 10 electoral delegates must support the Republican presidential nominee.
The convention ended with State Attorney General Brad Schimel Ribble, who will be retiring at the end of his term.