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WisGOP convention spotlights abortion, higher education, immigration and national security

WisGOP convention

WisGOP 2024 convention in Appleton, Wis. on May 18, 2024. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

WisGOP convention spotlights abortion, higher education, immigration and national security

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There may have been a few empty seats, but there was no lack of voices as the 2024 Republican Party of Wisconsin State Convention kicked off in Appleton on Saturday.

Elected officials from Washington, D.C., to Madison spoke about issues impacting Wisconsinites, ranging from abortion and immigration to the University of Wisconsin’s failure to enforce the law and condemn anti-Semitic behavior on the Milwaukee and Madison campuses.

Opening remarks were given by Brian Schimming, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

“Are we going to do what it takes to save America?” Schimming asked the audience.

Foreign policy

Speaking on the Federal legislative panel, Sen. Ron Johnson, Rep. Van Orden and Rep. Bryan Steil tore apart the Democrats’ responses and failure to condemn anti-Semitism and enforce state law during recent protests.

“We must stand with Israel. I stand with Israel,” said Van Orden, as the room applauded.

State affairs

Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney led a panel discussion with state legislators.

Rep. Mark Born (R – District 39) joined Devin LeMahieu (R – District 19), who serves as majority leader of the Wisconsin Senate, addressed a number of issues.

Before starting the panel discussion, Toney noted, “Today is the end of police week here in the United States. During Police Week we honor law enforcement officers that have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Last year saw its most deadly year since 2020 with four of our police officers murdered in the line of duty,” Toney said.

Toney named the officers who lost their lives recently from the northwoods of Wisconsin to Milwaukee and then offered a moment of silence in honor of their memory.

Toney also stressed the importance of the upcoming Wisconsin Supreme Court race next year, as conservatives have an opportunity to regain major control of the court.

Toney said, we need Supreme Court justices who make decisions based on the law not personal preferences. The audience responded with applause.

Born and LeMahieu denounced the University of Wisconsin System for the way it treated Jewish students, the university’s failure to condemn anti-Semitism, and UWM and UW-Madison’s failure to enforce the law with the pro-Palestinian protesters.

“It’s weird to see how they (UW) run things. They will punish someone on campus for using the wrong pronoun, but they won’t enforce the law when it comes to protests. They won’t protect the Jewish students to make them feel welcome on campus. Their priorities are out of whack with Wisconsin,” Marklin said, noting, “We will continue to control those purse strings so they can focus on what’s important.”

“Right now they (University of Wisconsin) are failing us,” he added.

As previously reported, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student was quoted saying, “It makes me feel like I’m not wanted in Wisconsin or on Earth.”

After the panel concluded, journalists interviewed various elected officials.

Steil issued a statement that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Madison’s failure to enforce state law, “encourages bad behavior.”

“Jewish students have a right to be safe … what they are doing is allowing these students to be threatened,” Steil added.

Constitutional Amendments

Toney asked the legislators about constitutional amendments.

“Why did we have to resort to constitutional amendments on issues that are so important to Wisconsinites? Whether it’s giving crime victims more rights … cash bail … or Zuckerbucks, why has it gotten to that level, where we seem unable to address those issues?” asked Toney.

In response, LeMahieu said, “Our Supreme Court is making up the constitution as it goes. The more clearly we lay out what is a constitutional right … we will continue to look at things that we can pass that are common sense.”

Toney said the recent constitutional amendments passed means “our conservative values are alive and well here in Wisconsin.”

Fiscal challenges

Marklin and LeMahieu also discussed fiscal responsibility.

“Don’t Minnesotaize us,” said LeMahieu, requoting another official. LeMahieu made allegations of the Evers’ administration turning a surplus into a deficit and raising taxes.

Public Safety

Toney expressed gratitude to the Legislature for its role in ending Wisconsin’s constitutional crisis by increasing pay for public defenders and district attorneys.

“Thank you for what you’ve done for law enforcement and public safety,” Toney said, noting the current prosecutor vacancy rate across the state is now down to around 5%.

During Johnson’s remarks, he stressed the importance of the Republican party remaining united to “fight and defeat the ideologies and policies of the radical left that are destroying this county.”

Johnson said, “The open borders present a clear and present danger to this nation.”

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman agreed and went one step further, claiming Biden Administration policy is assisting the Mexican drug cartels. No specific examples were provided to substantiate that allegation.

During the afternoon sessions, U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde discussed a growing problem with border security, which he said has resulted with an influx on Fentanyl trafficking.

“The Vietnam War went on for 19 years. We lost 58,000 Americans  … and we are losing almost double that today every single year. Where are the protests? Where is the media?” Hovde asked.

Citing terrorism in the Middle East and the invasion of Ukraine, Johnson said, “the world is in flames because of Democrat governance.”

According to Johnson, there is even a greater threat to the United States.

“The greatest threat facing America today is our horrible division,” Johnson said, noting instances when Americans are united.

“Whether there are fires, tornadoes or hurricanes … or something like 9/11 … as Americans we come together just like that,” Johnson said, noting he believes President Biden and former-President Barack Obama’s policies have intentionally divided us.


Johnson urged the party to remain united to protect the right to life (pro-life).

“Within the Republican Party, we have a broad spectrum. … I think we all agree that life begins at conception, want to protect life,” Johnson said.

“I completely respect that. But that’s not where probably most Americans, most Wisconsinites, and probably even most Republicans land,” Johnson added.

Several items were available for purchase at the WisGOP 2024 Convention in Appleton. Staff Photo Steve Schuster

Media Criticism

A conservative media panel took aim at the mainstream press for “sanitizing” stories during the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between Dan Kelly and Janet Protasiewicz.

The conservative media also was critical of the recent mainstream coverage of the UWM Pro-Palestinian protesters.

A panelist said the mainstream media described the protests as “peaceful … or they (pro-Palestinian protesters) were just delivering food, or praying” when in reality they were chanting anti-Semitic slogans, graffitied sidewalks and walls, and erected illegal tents.

“The things I described did not make most, if not all media reports,” the panelist said, noting “the media is censoring things.”

The Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to the Wisconsin Democrat Party and University of Wisconsin on Saturday requesting comment; no response was immediately received.


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