The Washington director of the liberal activist group MoveOn has become the first declared candidate to be the next chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
Ben Wikler announced his candidacy on Twitter late Thursday. He seeks to succeed Martha Laning, who recently announced she isn’t seeking a third term as party chairwoman.
The next party chairperson will lead into the critical 2020 presidential cycle, in which Wisconsin will be ground zero for the national fight for the presidency.
Wikler is a Madison native who recently moved back after living in the Washington, D.C., area. A series of Twitter posts announcing his candidacy notes his past campaign work for Tammy Baldwin, Ed Garvey and Russ Feingold, and his frequent trips back to Wisconsin in recent years to protest Act 10 and do door-to-door canvassing during the 2016 campaign.
Wikler’s Twitter thread said he is “running not simply to defeat the GOP. We’re running to build the kind of party we believe in.”
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It also said he wants to empower and build the 72 county party units and empower local volunteers “with cutting-edge technology, training and support.”
Wikler said his running mates will be, for first vice chairwoman, Felesia Martin, a Milwaukee County Board supervisor who served as a national co-chair of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Wikler’s running mate for second vice chairwoman will be Lee Snodgrass of Appleton, chairwoman of the Outagamie County Democrats and a candidate for state Senate in 2018.
Randy Bryce, a 2018 congressional candidate, national social media figure and union activist from Racine, and state Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee, the party’s vice chairman under Laning, have said they’re considering bids to lead the party in the state.
State Rep. JoCasta Zamarippa, D-Milwaukee, will not run after her name was floated as another possible candidate, a spokeswoman for Zamarippa said Friday.
Kelda Roys, a former assemblywoman and gubernatorial candidate, previously said she was considering running for the position.