Wisconsin Democrats gather in Milwaukee for state convention

MILWAUKEE -- After the April State Supreme court election led to a letdown for state Democrats, following last fall’s sweep of Democratic candidates into statewide offices, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin rallying its members this weekend at its annual convention for what it sees as a decisive interim ahead of the city hosting the Democratic National Convention, and the 2020 general elections.

Gov. Tony Evers, along with US Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Gwen Moore, addressing the hundreds of delegates at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino Saturday evening. Evers, who defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker last fall, taking a swipe at the drought of a seated Democratic governor addressing the party confab.

“Holy mackerel,” said Evers. “Well, I guess it’s about time we had a keynote speaker at convention who’s a Democratic governor from Wisconsin.”

Tony Evers

Evers echoing planks put forward by party office candidates and delegates, protecting the Affordable Care Act, fixing roads, and ensuring the state’s economy works for all Wisconsinites. But not shying away from the work that needs to be done to ahead of the 2020 presidential election and state supreme court race.

“First, we shouldn’t be afraid to have a spirited primary so long as, when all is said and done, we remember we’re all on the same team,” Evers said. “And second, our message has to be about the issues—it cannot be solely about the things we’re fighting against, it has to be about what we’re fighting for.”

Democrats saw historic gains in the five statewide elected offices on the ballot, including the governor’s office, last fall. However, the rallying of party faithful Saturday comes just months after liberal-backed Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer lost the race for the state supreme court to conservative-backed Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn.

The party already setting its sights on the 2020 state supreme court race, with Marquette University Law School professor Ed Fallone and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky addressing delegates Saturday afternoon.

Ed Fallone

"We can all see the corroding effect of big money on our judicial system. It is time for us to restore a sense of justice and honor to our courts," said Karofsky. "I’m truly astonished the fundamental rights of women are still under assault."

"My friends, the first three words of the constitution are we the people, they are not we the corporations, or we the powerful, or we the special interests," said Fallone, who lost in the 2013 supreme court race to Patience Roggensack, who was re-elected as Chief Justice this past April.

With the city of Milwaukee preparing to host the next year’s Democratic National Convention, amid a widening democratic presidential field, Mayor Tom Barrett urged those filling the convention hall to push forward.

Mandela Barnes

"So I feel good, you should feel good, and you should continue to work because what we showed in 2018, with Tony Evers, and (Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes), and (U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin), and everyone else, is if we get our voters out there, we will win these elections," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin slated to elect new party leadership Sunday. Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, and former MoveOn.org senior advisor Ben Wikler vying for party chair. Both driving the need to protect and expand healthcare coverage, union rights, and respecting the broadening, diverse membership within the state party.

Tammy Baldwin

“We’re at a moment right now where I think Democrats are looking for real progressive ideas, policies, solutions,” said party delegate Awais Khaleel.

Khaleel, who lives in Madison, said he hopes whomever the 2020 democratic presidential candidate is – and those seeking state and local offices – embrace real solutions for real problems facing Wisconsinites. And that candidates need to campaign in the places they hope to get votes.

“It’s not a hot take here in Wisconsin: Secretary (of State and 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary) Clinton didn’t show up during the general (election). And that made a huge difference. People need to show up. Showing up is the first step, but need to actually talk about what people are really going through and tell people, show people, how you’re going to make their life better.”

Some delegates seeing optimism ahead of the 2020 election cycle, but recognize the difficulty of taking on progressive policies, such as healthcare for all, when there are more attainable, short-term solutions. Khaleel and delegate Robyn Anderson, from Sturgeon Bay, in agreement that advancement of the party’s policies means reaching out to all communities -- and people -- across the state, and having lasting conversations with them.

“Everybody needs help with: healthcare, representation, and looking at our laws to be sure they’re fair for everyone and we’re not imprisoning people we shouldn’t be,” said Anderson. “Healthcare for all is a great idea. It’s going to take time. Meanwhile, Obamacare for the middle class is expensive and we really need to look at that, and figure out how we help people now with their healthcare.”