Wikler_Hitt_Luncheon

From left to right: WisPolitics.com's Jeff Mayers, Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler and Republican Party Chair Andrew Hitt address attendees at a Madison luncheon Thursday. 

The head of the Wisconsin Republican Party says he has no plans to cancel the GOP presidential primary in the state. 

And Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said Thursday the "topic has never come up" in his weekly conversations with the Republican National Committee and White House. 

Hitt's comments, which came at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison, follow news that Republican party officials in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina have voted to not hold Republican presidential primary races in order to benefit President Donald Trump, who has drawn three challengers. 

The Wisconsin presidential primary is scheduled for April 7, and falls on the same day as the spring general election, when a state Supreme Court race will be on ballots as well. 

Wisconsin state statute is unclear about whether a presidential primary is statutorily mandated for the parties. The language says the state chairperson of those political parties "may certify to the commission that the party will participate in the presidential preference primary."

It then lays out a process for a state nominating committee to put candidates' names on the ballot. Under the statute, candidates would include those who are "generally advocated or recognized in the national news media throughout the United States," though it adds the panel has the "sole discretion" to make that determination. The committee could also "place the names of other candidates on the ballot," per statute. 

State attorneys weren't immediately available to comment on the language. 

RPW spokesman Charles Nichols reiterated later Thursday the party would allow a primary to play out, saying it "provides a great opportunity (for Trump) to contrast everything we’re going to be hearing from the Dems during their primary."

"If there is a primary that is just more of an opportunity for President Trump and the Trump campaign to get their message out to voters," he said. 

Hitt appeared at the luncheon Wednesday with his Democratic counterpart, Ben Wikler. The two told attendees they're already working on expanding outreach in communities and making connections with potential voters in the lead-up to next year's general election. 

Both Wikler and Hitt said they thought the 2020 presidential election would resemble 2004, when then-President George W. Bush won re-election nationally, but lost Wisconsin to Democrat John Kerry after both campaigned heavily in the state. 

Wikler, a former senior adviser at MoveOn, was chosen by Democrats at the state convention earlier this summer to lead the party. Hitt, a former adviser to Gov. Scott Walker, was selected by the Republican Party of Wisconsin to serve as chairman in April. 

Hitt predicted that the open seats in the Milwaukee-area 5th Congressional District and northern 7th Congressional District, both held by Republicans, would be "energetic, competitive races" that would help boost Republican turnout.  

But Wikler said state Sen. Tom Tiffany's candidacy in the 7th, currently held by outgoing U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, would be a boon to Democrats in the area, where Wikler said he's known as "Toxic Tom Tiffany" for his support of a sulfide mining law and other things. 

“(Tiffany is) somebody who Democrats are ready to organize to stop," he said. 

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