MIDDLETON, Wis. (AP) – Republicans in Wisconsin are meeting on Saturday to consider whether to endorse a candidate in the hotly contested gubernatorial race, as some have argued they shouldn’t pick a frontrunner until the August primary in the US. state of the battlefield.
The top candidates in the gubernatorial race had to present their pitches for endorsement to more than 1,500 delegates attending the annual convention in the Madison suburb of Middleton. But first, those delegates must decide whether to include a “no endorsement” option as suggested by a gubernatorial candidate and other activists.
Earning approval requires the support of 60% of delegates.
Party approval is important because it unlocks funding for the state party, which can then spend as much as it wants on the winner. Being united is all the more important against an incumbent such as Governor Tony Evers in a race that is a top priority for Democrats nationwide.
The Republican Party has endorsed candidates since 2009 and winning that support was crucial to U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s victory in his first race in 2010. Johnson, who is up for re-election this year, was due to address the convention ahead of speeches of approval.
The gubernatorial candidates are former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who polls show is the frontrunner; construction company co-owner Tim Michels; business consultant and former Marine Kevin Nicholson; and State Representative Timothy Ramthun.
Nicholson pleaded for no endorsement, but he still wants his name considered.
Whether there is an endorsement or not, voters will decide who advances to face Evers in November. The primary is August 9.
Defeating Evers and re-electing Johnson are top priorities for Wisconsin Republicans this year. But divisions within the party have been a distraction; Some Republicans have called for the ousting of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for failing to sufficiently pursue Donald Trump’s voter fraud allegations.
All of the GOP gubernatorial candidates have questioned the legitimacy of President Joe Biden‘s victory in Wisconsin.
Ramthun, whose gubernatorial campaign is focused on decertifying Biden’s 2020 victory, recently said Vos should be prosecuted for his election response.
Trump will weigh heavily on the two-day convention. He endorsed no one in the gubernatorial primary race, but all of the leading candidates except Nicholson met with him to try to get his blessing.
In addition to the governor’s race, Republicans will vote on endorsements for statewide races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer. The state Democratic Party convention will be held June 25 in La Crosse. Democrats do not condone.
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