In this update:

  • Election Updates
  • Administration Updates
  • Legislative Updates

Election Updates

First RNC debate held in Milwaukee

Eight candidates for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination participated in the first RNC debate on Wednesday in Milwaukee. Former President Donald Trump chose not to attend, opting instead to participate in a 1-on-1 interview with Tucker Carlson on “X”, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Questions asked by the debate’s moderators covered topics such as abortion, the war in Ukraine, inflation, climate change, Donald Trump, and more. Throughout the debate, several of the candidates including former VP Mike Pence, former NJ Gov. Chris Christie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Hailey disputed positions taken by political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy. Comments made by Mr. Ramaswamy that prompted the most backlash included his assertion that he was the only candidate on the stage who wasn’t “bought and paid for,” that climate change was a hoax, and that he would pardon former President Trump.

Despite the candidates’ contrasting views on a federal law limiting abortion and the best way to address climate change, there were some areas of consensus. All candidates, except former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former Gov. Christie, indicated they would support former President Trump if he were selected as the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. Another area of consensus among the majority of candidates was their support for former VP Pence’s actions on January 6, 2021, when the former VP chose not to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Moreover, all candidates, except Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Mr. Ramaswamy, said they were willing to continue providing Ukraine with funding and military aid to defend itself against Russia.

The candidates who participated in the debate are listed below. To watch the full debate click here. The next RNC debate will be held Sept. 27th at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California.

Candidates who participated in first RNC debate:

  • Ron DeSantis
  • Vivek Ramaswamy
  • Nikki Hailey
  • Tim Scott
  • Mike Pence
  • Chris Christie
  • Doug Burgum
  • Asa Hutchinson

State and national media look to Michael Best Strategies for debate analysis

With this week’s GOP Primary Debate hosted in Milwaukee, state and national media outlets looked to our team of Strategies professionals for analysis on the debate performances and the 2024 election.

Chairman of the Board of Advisors Reince Priebus appeared on a Fox News spotlight about the 2024 election, where he was interviewed by Brett Baier on Fox News on Wisconsin absentee and early voting. Watch Priebus’ election spotlight here.

Partner Bill McCoshen appeared on NBC15 where he spoke with Michelle Baik on how candidates are spending and raising their dollars. Watch the interview here.

Principal Evan Zeppos spoke with TMJ4 on his advice to the candidates on the stage. Read the full article here.

Associate Alesha Guenther appeared on TMJ4 where she spoke about what young people are looking for in the GOP debate. Watch the interview here.

Biden campaign announces new ad buy in lead up to RNC debate

President Joe Biden’s campaign announced a 16-week, $25 million advertising campaign that focuses on “President Biden’s economic agenda that is lowering costs for the middle class, creating good-paying jobs, and bringing back American manufacturing.” The ads will run on broadcast and cable TV in seven states — including in Wisconsin in the Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Madison media markets. “This historic buy ensures that the President’s message reaches all Americans where they receive their news, and sends a clear sign that we are investing in an aggressive, meaningful, and effective paid media strategy,” said Biden campaign spokesperson Julie Chavez Rodriguez. “While Republicans duke it out in Milwaukee over their divisive and unpopular agenda, President Biden is amplifying his winning message and leadership as a president for all Americans.”

Watch the ads here:
“Fought Back”
“First Day”
“It’s Us”

Administration Updates

Evers creates new task force on workforce and artificial intelligence

On Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers (D) announced that he had signed Executive Order #211 creating the Governor’s Task Force on Workforce and Artificial Intelligence. According to the press release, the task force will “gather and analyze information and produce an advisory action plan to identify the current state of generative artificial intelligence’s (AI) impact on Wisconsin’s labor market and develop informed predictions regarding its implications for the near term and future.” Gov. Evers said the taskforce will better prepare the state’s workforce for any challenges associated with AI and also prepare key industries to increase efficiency by leveraging the new technology. “Establishing this task force will be critical in understanding, adapting to, and capitalizing on the transformations AI will bring, ensuring Wisconsin’s workforce and industries remain steady, stable, and robust in the face of technological advancement,” said Gov. Evers.

The release notes the new task force will be administered by the state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and will be chaired by DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek or a designee. Members of the task force will be appointed by the governor and will include Department of Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld or a designee, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes or a designee, representatives from the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College Systems, and other individuals from state and local government, the business community, educational institutions, organized labor, the technology sector, and other relevant industries.

Legislative Updates

Vos establishes four new task forces

On Thursday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) announced the creation of four task forces: the Speaker’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence; the Speaker’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity; the Speaker’s Task Force on Truancy in K-12 Education; and the Speaker’s Task Force on Human Trafficking. Speaker Vos said the task forces are bipartisan in nature and each will have an Assembly Republican chair and an Assembly Democratic vice chair. “These are important issues to our state that our Assembly members and the public would like addressed,” said Speaker Vos. “The task forces will travel around Wisconsin obtaining input and innovative ideas in order to compile recommendations.” According to the press release, the task forces will begin this September with the hope of completing work before the end of the year. Details on the task forces are as follows:

Speaker’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence
Chair: Rep. Nate Gustafson (R); Vice-Chair: Rep. Steve Doyle (D)
Objective: The task force will study the transformative potential of artificial intelligence while ensuring its responsible and ethical deployment. The Task Force shall consider the use of AI tools by the public and private sectors, including automated decision tools, facial recognition, and generative AI. With AI’s growing impact on various sectors, the task force will drive informed policy discussions for a future that balances innovation with societal well-being.

Speaker’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity
Chair: Rep. Karen Hurd (R); Vice-Chair: Rep. Robyn Vining (D)
Objective: The task force will study circumstances contributing to childhood obesity, including physical activity, nutrition, medical and other root causes and factors. Through research-driven initiatives and community engagement, the task force aims to combat obesity and its associated health risks among children, fostering a generation of healthier citizens.

Speaker’s Task Force on Truancy
Chair: Rep. Amy Binsfeld (R); Vice-Chair: Rep. Dora Drake (D)
Objective: The task force will work to identify root causes of truancy and implement effective interventions. The members of the task force will examine the relationship between truancy and student academic success, evaluate the current practices to hold parents and schools accountable for student attendance, and increase awareness and resources, ensuring every child has access to quality education and a promising future.

Speaker’s Task Force on Human Trafficking
Chair: Rep. Jerry O’Connor (R); Vice-Chair: Rep. Jodi Emerson (D)
Objective: The task force’s goal is to create a society where the safety and well-being of every person are
paramount and where exploitation has no place. The task force will explore innovative solutions to combat human trafficking through prevention, supporting and empowering survivors, and prosecuting traffickers.

Wolfe will not attend Senate committee confirmation hearing

Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe will not appear before the Senate Committee on Shared Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection on August 29th. The public hearing had been scheduled to consider Ms. Wolfe’s reappointment as the state’s top elections official. During a June WEC meeting, all three Republican members of the elections commission voted to re-nominate Ms. Wolfe for another four-year term so that her nomination could be considered by the full State Senate, which would likely vote down her confirmation. The three Democratic commissioners abstained from the vote — leaving the motion short of a majority — with the intent of stopping her nomination from going to the Senate, thereby keeping Ms. Wolfe in place as the WEC administrator. Despite the outcome of the June vote, Senate Republicans passed a resolution that Ms. Wolfe had been legally reappointed as WEC administrator and scheduled the public hearing with the Senate’s elections committee.

However, in a letter sent to the Legislative Council director on Wednesday, Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) argued “WEC has not appointed a new administrator, and there is no WEC administrator appointment before the Senate.” AG Kaul pointed to state law that requires the WEC administrator to be “appointed by a majority of the members of the commission.” He contrasted this language to language in a similar statute governing the removal of the WEC administrator that requires “a majority of all members of the commission voting at a meeting of the commission”. Arguing that only three commissioners voted to re-nominate Ms. Wolfe and not the four legally required to constitute a majority of the body, AG Kaul said no reappointment had been made. The AG also cited a recent state Supreme Court ruling that held “a holdover appointee may legally remain in office following the expiration of the appointee’s term, and the expiration of the term does not create a vacancy in office.” According to that ruling, any position appointed by the governor can remain in place until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

In a statement shared with media outlets, Ms. Wolfe cited AG Kaul’s letter as justification for her decision to not attend next week’s public hearing. “Given the position taken by the Department of Justice, which is representing the WEC, I won’t attend Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing,” said Ms. Wolfe. “As the state’s chief election official, engaging with lawmakers is a critical part of my role, and I look forward to discussing the good work of the Commission with them in the future.”

A statement from Republicans concerning Ms. Wolfe’s decision has not yet been released.

LeMahieu names new chief of staff

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) named Ashley Czaja as his new chief of staff after current chief Jenny Malcore left the Majority Leader’s office to join Kwik Trip’s government relations team. Ms. Czaja has worked in the State Senate since 2015 and has served as Sen. LeMahieu’s deputy chief of staff since December 2020.

LFB releases final summary of FY 23-25 budget

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released the final edition of the comparative summary of executive and legislative action on the 2023-25 Wisconsin state biennial budget. Click here to read the full document.

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