Republicans gear up for state convention, election integrity and targeting suburban voters on the agenda

NOW: Republicans gear up for state convention, election integrity and targeting suburban voters on the agenda

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republicans across the state are gearing up for their annual state convention this weekend, with a theme of "Defend America." 

It will be the first time Republicans host a convention since President Donald Trump's defeat in the 2020 presidential election. It will be held on Saturday, June 26, in the Wisconsin Dells.  

Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin Andrew Hitt said, beyond looking ahead to 2022 there will be an emphasis on election integrity as the party continues to fight election laws with legislation and investigations into issues raised during Wisconsin's 2020 presidential election.  

"We need to have confidence in our elections as a country and a state," said Hitt. "We have to move forward to rebuild that confidence." 

Top Republicans have already approved a nonpartisan Legislative Audit to review the 2020 election and recently hired retired police officers to investigate unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud. 

Hitt said they will also focus on reversing Democrats' statewide victories in 2018 and 2020 by attacking President Joe Biden and Governor Tony Evers, two key Democrats blocking GOP priorities.   

"As we go forward, we want to continue to talk about the mismanagement, the incomitance and failures of the Evers administration," said Hitt. "I think [Evers'] only accomplishment is to blame the Republican Legislature for everything." 

Republicans often criticized Evers for a backlog of unemployment claims during the pandemic which had some people waiting weeks, months for a check, and not encouraging schools to reopen sooner.  

During the convention, President Trump will also be a theme as the party will tout his accomplishments and anger over his defeat. While some Republican lawmakers shy away from Trump, others continue to raise questions about "irregularities" raise during the presidential election. In Wisconsin, election officials identified only 27 cases of potential voter fraud out of 3.3 million votes cast in November. So far, there've been no charges brought forth of widespread voter fraud.   

Democrats argue rhetoric that the election was stolen is dangerous and say it's a key factor behind why Americans are divided.  

"These outrageous conspiracy theories that the whole thing was a fake is attacking our democracy," said Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. "The Republican party is in tatters and their leadership is trying to divide us by race, geography, in order to distract us from moving forward." 

Republicans will also try to gain some momentum after losing two statewide races in 2018 and 2020. A key target in 2022 will be suburban voters, Hitt said, after Trump did not perform well in areas outside the city of Milwaukee. 

"We have huge support in the rural areas, but there's no doubt the president didn't perform as well as we needed with suburban voters," Hitt said. "We also have to continue to work to get a permeant shift with rural voters who often hold Republican values such as pro-life and Second Amendment rights." 

The convention will include speeches from U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and members of Wisconsin Congressional delegation. It also includes a roundtable with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu.  

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