Laurel White

Wikler Is New Democratic Party Chair

MoveOn leader Ben Wikler defeats David Bowen, will replace Martha Laning.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jun 3rd, 2019 10:26 am
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Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin Democrats have chosen former national party activist Ben Wikler as their new state party chair.

Wikler will replace former party leader Martha Laning, who was first elected to the role in 2015.

Laning oversaw a devastating election year for Democrats in 2016, but redeemed herself in the eyes of many after Democrats swept statewide office elections in 2018.

Wikler recently returned to Wisconsin, having spent several years in Washington, D.C., as a director for MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group.

He ran his campaign for party chair with a slogan of “FIRE: Fight, include, respect, empower,” saying he would use years of experience as an organizer to help Wisconsin retake control of the state Legislature.

“I’ve spent my whole life in this work,” Wikler said in his remarks before the state party convention on Saturday.

Wikler used his speech to recall his own advocacy work in support of the Affordable Care Act in 2017, and complimented state Democrats for their own efforts calling their Congressional representatives and protesting.

“And that became the rocket fuel for the 2018 campaigns. Tammy Baldwin’s landslide, Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes ending the Scott Walker dark ages, because you fought,” Wikler said.

He also called on Wisconsin Democrats to continue engaging in advocacy efforts between elections. He mentioned Democrats’ push to accept a federal expansion of Medicaid in particular, as well as movements to bolster union rights.

Wikler received the votes of 1,006 of delegates, while his opponent, state Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, received 233.

In his remarks, Bowen called on the party to change up its grassroots advocacy efforts. He said the party needs to end a practice of “parachuting” organizers into unfamiliar communities, rather than deploying trained activists in their own communities.

Wikler will lead the party as the state prepares to welcome the Democratic National Convention in 2020.

He, along with his vice chair, Felesia Martin, will also serve as superdelegates during the convention’s presidential nominating process. That means they can support whichever candidate they would like, regardless of who Wisconsin voters chose in the primary election.

Wisconsin Democrats Elect Ben Wikler As New State Party Chair was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Categories: Politics

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