Republican state convention kicks off in La Crosse

Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and Paul Ryan are among the speakers at the convention

The Republican state convention is kicking off in La Crosse Friday.

It’s the first time the annual gathering has been in the city since 2009.

The convention is expected to bring more than 1,000 Republican officials from across the state.

The topics of discussion are up in the air, but this weekend is the kickoff of the 2016 campaign so the weekend has plenty of importance to the Republican Party.

For convention Chairmen Julian Bradley, choosing La Crosse was a no-brainer.

“There is no better place than La Crosse to really show off the grass-roots effort that it took to have the success we had in 2014,” Bradley said.

But for University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political science professor Joe Heim, La Crosse seems like more of a strategic location for Wisconsin Republicans.

“If you look at the voting in Western Wisconsin and particularly the La Crosse area, we have been trending Democratic in recent years, major statewide elections, we have been leaning that way,” Heim said. “The Republicans would like to do a little bit better in Western Wisconsin.”

Heim said with Democrat Russ Feingold entering the race for the U.S. Senate against Republican Ron Johnson this week, it makes for an even more interesting weekend at the Republican convention.

“Feingold’s announcement for running for the U.S. Senate against Ron Johnson is certainly going to get their attention,” Heim said.

Heim said during the weekend, all big-name Wisconsin Republicans will speak to the crowd, talking about the important issues for the upcoming election.

He said no matter what side of the aisle, it’s important for the parties to have this type of convention.

“Well, I think both parties find it useful to rally the troops at the annual convention,” said state Rep. Steve Doyle. “It’s good to have a chance to find out what similarly minded people have to say, what they think.”

Bradley said this weekend is also about celebrating the successes Wisconsin Republicans had in 2014 and building on that for 2016.

“In order to be successful in 2016, we’re going to have to amp up, rather, ramp up all of those efforts from 2014 to another level,” Bradley said.

Bradley said he expects there to be a lot of discussion on the state budget and Feingold entering the U.S. Senate race.

The event kicks off at 8 a.m. Saturday, and during the day folks will hear from Gov. Scott Walker, Johnson and Rep. Paul Ryan.