Wisconsin Democrats gear up for 2021 virtual convention

NOW: Wisconsin Democrats gear up for 2021 virtual convention

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin Democrats will kick off their annual state convention this weekend, rallying their base ahead of next year's 2022 midterm elections.

For the second year in a row, the Democratic State Convention (June 5-6) will be virtual due to the pandemic.

Party leaders say they’ll be focusing on the future after an unprecedented global pandemic and historic rates of unemployment. 

“(Republicans) are looking backwards and Democrats are looking forward, getting shots in arms and getting money into people’s bank accounts and making a difference in people's lives,” said Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. 

After a string of victories, winning the last 10 out of 11 statewide races, Wikler said they hope to carry that momentum at this year's convention. 

“We are very conscious, midterm elections can be very tough, so we are not taking anything for granted,” Wikler said. 

Democrats are expected to discuss their plans for an economic revival as Republican lawmakers are often putting blame on extra weekly unemployment benefits as the reason behind a workforce shortage. 

Governor Tony Evers, who will be delivering remarks on Saturday, is expected to tout his Badger Bounce Back Plan which includes spending federal stimulus aid on small businesses, tourism and broadband expansion. However, when it comes to using state resources to help the economy recover, Republicans often reject Evers’ plans. 

For weeks, Republicans on the budget committee have rejected the governor's spending proposals. 

“The governor continues to tout this budget that had a slew of far-left proposals he knew Republicans wouldn’t support,” said Anna Kelly, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. 

But political experts say Democrats are becoming more aggressive in fighting back against GOP opposition. 

“What we're seeing in this midterm election year is a much more active Democratic party, sort of being the counter voice to the Republican Legislature and Senator Ron Johnson,” said Mordecai Lee, UW-Milwaukee political science professor emeritus.

This year's convention will also be different because Democrats have an ally in the White House, Wikler said. Instead of focusing on former President Donald Trump, a top target of Democrats will be Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has yet to decide whether or not he will seek a third term. 

“We want to make sure every Wisconsin voter knows Ron Johnson voted against their stimulus checks and voted against vaccine support and relief,” Wikler said. 

Besides the state’s top Democrats speaking over the weekend, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro will be Saturday night’s keynote speaker.

Sunday includes speeches from Democrats running in the U.S. Senate primary.

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