Republicans head into state convention to debate endorsing candidates, priorities for next year

NOW: Republicans head into state convention to debate endorsing candidates, priorities for next year

MIDDLETON Wis. (CBS 58) -- Will the Republican Party of Wisconsin endorse one of its four candidates running for governor? That's the big question heading into the party's annual state convention this weekend.

At the Marriott Hotel in Middleton, Wisconsin, Republicans will host their weekend-long convention to air their grievances over a host of issues, including whether to endorse candidates running for statewide elections.

Paul Farrow, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said he expects members to approve a resolution that will place a "no-endorsement" option on delegates' ballots.

It will be the first time in over a decade the party will consider changing the convention's rules to allow delegates to choose not to endorse candidates after members of the grassroots put pressure on party leaders arguing the tradition is exclusionary.

Farrow said it's possible some candidates might not secure the party's endorsement, which could impact campaigns who rely on their support and resources.

"If we don't get an endorsement, the candidates continue on as they would anyways towards the primary," Farrow said. "What we will be doing from the party perspective is supporting the Republican theme as we go forward until we have candidates after the August 9 primary."

In order to secure the party’s endorsement, candidates must receive at least 60 percent of delegates' votes at the convention.

Republicans are also split on the best pathway to win in November in a year the party is supposed to have an edge with a Democratic governor and president in office.

One continuous debate that is expected to consume the convention is the fallout of the 2020 presidential election.

Some Republicans are pushing party leaders to overturn Joe Biden's victory in the battleground state, a move that is legally impossible. Others rather put the focus on election integrity in hopes to appease those who are frustrated with how the election was carried out.

Biden's victory in Wisconsin has been upheld by courts, non-partisan reviews and recounts.

All four Republican candidates for governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson, State Rep. Tim Ramthun and Tim Michels, are running as outsiders in some fashion against the GOP-establishment.

They argue something needs to change after Republicans lost the last 11 out of 12 statewide elections.

Farrow said, "What I think it is, people have defined establishment and don't know what the definition is. "When they're talking about the establishment, what they're talking about is lack of leadership and their concern is we haven't seen leadership," he said.

The party will also vote on their priorities for next year, including resolutions that call for imposing the death penalty for those who kill police officers and hand counting ballots on election day.

Democrats argue those themes won't benefit the party this fall.

"It's interesting they are coming to Dane County and they are not going to make a lot of headway for the lack of values their party stands for," said Rep. Mark Pocan, (D-WI 2nd).

Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin said the GOP convention will be a "dumpster fire" to "showcase how extreme and self-serving every single GOP candidate on the ballot is."

The GOP convention runs May 20-22. Democrats will host theirs in La Crosse on June 24-26.

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