A 'BBB' strategy and Tony Evers' hints at running for a 3rd term. Takeaways from the Wisconsin Democratic Party Convention

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin speaks during the Wisconsin Democratic Party 2023 state convention on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at the Radisson Hotel & Center in Green Bay, Wis.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin speaks during the Wisconsin Democratic Party 2023 state convention on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at the Radisson Hotel & Center in Green Bay, Wis.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

GREEN BAY - Democratic politicians, activists and supporters gathered this past weekend for the party’s annual state convention, aiming to energize the base as the state gears up for two high-stakes reelection contests in 2024: President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Attendees went to training sessions, met in small “caucus” groups and visited hospitality suites at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center at the Oneida Casino featuring snacks, drinks and entertainment — including vanilla soft serve from Gov. Tony Evers. The main program, held Saturday night, featured speeches from party activists, candidates and elected officials.

It'll be the Republicans' turn next weekend when the state party gathers for its convention in La Crosse.

Here are some takeaways from the Democrats' program.

Party chairman Ben Wikler has a 'BBB' strategy

Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler.
Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler.

Wisconsin is “in a hinge moment,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Ben Wikler told the audience.

“The fight for the freedom of our entire country rests on what happens in this state,” Wikler said in reference to the 2024 Senate and presidential elections.

Wikler encouraged party activists to go into the coming year guided by an acronym inspired by Biden’s “Build Back Better” slogan. In this case, the “Triple B” stands for “Baldwin, Biden and blue down-ballot wins.”

Republican Party of Wisconsin chair Brian Schimming said the convention represents the party’s “latest attempt to spin their way out of the failed records of Joe Biden, Tammy Baldwin and their party’s state leadership.”

“Wisconsinites do not care about their liberal wishlist, but do care about an economy on the brink while Democrats continue to pursue spending hikes and giveaways,” Schimming said in a statement. “Wisconsin Democrats are eager to hand state taxpayers the bill for massive spending on the federal and state levels while Wisconsin Republicans are working tirelessly to create responsible budgets and cut back on outrageous government spending.”

Democrats still really, really don’t like Donald Trump

While the bulk of the convention was focused on boosting the reelection bids of Biden and Baldwin, a few speakers couldn’t help but mention the recent indictment of Republican former President Donald Trump on counts related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

“Indictments, like impeachments, apparently come in pairs for crooked ex-presidents,” U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan said.

The line was met with some of the most raucous applause of the evening, and subsequent jabs at Trump were received similarly.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore’s reference to the former president was also enthusiastically received.

“I just am so proud of what we have been able to do as Democrats,” Moore said. “We replaced Scott Walker with the best governor ever, Tony Evers. We reelected Tony Evers. We defeated Donald Trump with Joe Biden. We’ve got the ‘Big Mo’ going for us, and we are going to reelect Joe Biden.”

Pocan closed by wishing the crowd a “happy indictment weekend.”

“We're not going to be able to beat the Republicans in impeachment or indictments, but we can beat them with good candidates, progressive values and the hard work that only Democrats can deliver,” he said.

The party is still riding high on the state Supreme Court

“If you are a progressive in Wisconsin,” Pocan said, “you learned that another way to say victory is pronounced ‘Protasiewicz.’”

Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s recent election to the state Supreme Court will give liberals a majority on the bench for the first time since 2008 when she is seated in August. It also improved the party’s electoral record: Democrats have won 14 of the last 17 statewide elections.

“So far, 2023 is foreshadowing 2024, and I think we have a hell of a year coming up,” Pocan said.

Several speakers suggested the ideological shift could open the door to progressive policy changes — including a new set of electoral maps and a repeal of the state’s 1849 abortion ban.

Democrats have been ‘knocked down,’ but Tammy Baldwin says they’ll get back up again

Baldwin, who announced her plans to seek a third term in April, opened by acknowledging that Democrats have been “knocked down more than a few times over the past years and decades.”

She referred specifically to the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the elimination of collective bargaining rights for most public employees in Wisconsin, and changes to voting laws.

However, Baldwin said, she is “as hopeful for our party, for our state and for our country as I have ever been” — in part as a result of Protasiewicz’s victory — “because in Wisconsin, we Democrats know how to win.”

Democrats are bullish on Baldwin

"There’s not an A- or B-level candidate that’s going to be dumb enough to take on Tammy Baldwin, because we will work harder than ever to make sure she’s reelected,” Pocan said during his speech.

Baldwin’s fight for a third term comes after defeating Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson by 5.6 points in 2012, then fending off a challenge from Republican former state Sen. Leah Vukmir with a 10.9-point victory. Several Republicans are considering a 2024 challenge, but none have announced — and on Friday, U.S. Rep Mike Gallagher confirmed he won’t run in this race.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, closed the night with a speech largely focused on Baldwin.

“What I love about Tammy is what you see up here is what you see behind closed doors and leadership meetings and in the caucus and in closed rooms in Washington,” Klobuchar said.

The former presidential candidate touted several of Baldwin’s policy wins, including the provision in the Affordable Care Act allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they turn 26 and the legislation she spearheaded that enshrines same-sex marriage into federal law.

Referring to the Respect for Marriage Act, Klobuchar said, “Your senator did that.”

Could Wisconsin see a 'Three-Term Tony'?

The governor joked during his speech that people started calling him “Two-Term Tony” after he secured a second term in November, defeating Republican businessman Tim Michels by a decisive 3.7-point margin.

“I don’t care what you call me. You can call me governor, you can call me Tony, you can call me ‘Two-Term Tony,’ you can call me ‘Three-Term Tony,’” Evers told the party faithful during his speech at their annual convention.

Asked about “Three-Term Tony,” a campaign spokesman said Evers “hasn’t made any announcements about 2026 yet.”

"He can try to disguise his status as a lame duck governor, but the only nickname that applies to Evers is ‘Taxing Tony’ and Wisconsin taxpayers are well aware of it,” Schimming said in a statement. "If it weren't for state legislative Republicans prioritizing responsible spending, Wisconsinites would be stuck with the Evers agenda: high taxes and high spending."

Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.

DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Democratic Party Convention: 6 takeaways