TOWN OF BRIGHTON — Saturday’s annual Republican Fall Fest was both a goodbye to House Speaker Paul Ryan and a call to the faithful to help stave off a “blue wave” on Election Day Nov. 6.
The annual event drew more than 350 people to Brightonwoods Orchard for 2 ½ hours of talks by Republican politicians and hopefuls, from Gov. Scott Walker to Ryan, the closing speaker who is retiring from politics after this term. Their overriding message — apart from praising and thanking Ryan — was that Republican candidates could be vulnerable this fall unless every supporter gets to work rousing others to join the cause.
Walker started by acknowledging a Marquette University poll that shows him trailing Democratic challenger Tony Evers, 49 percent to 44 percent. If Evers wins, Walker claimed, he would raise property taxes, income taxes on farmers and manufacturers and the gasoline tax by as much as $1 per gallon.
“That would cost the typical family with two vehicles $1,200 a year,” Walker said. “That wipes out your family vacation.”
He urged supporters, “After the Packers game, talk to the folks at church in the morning, wherever it might be. If we are committed to win, we’ve got to commit to doing more than just sitting here.”
That message was repeated by speaker after speaker.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch disputed the notion that, if Obamacare is dismantled, people with pre-existing medical conditions will lose health insurance coverage.
“If this Obamacare lawsuit goes through and if we get to kick Obamacare to the curb as we should, Gov. Scott Walker and your legislative team will come in and pass protections immediately, and people with pre-existing conditions will be covered here in Wisconsin as they have been,” Kleefisch promised.
Among the speakers was Bryan Steil, the Republican contender for Ryan’s 1st Congressional District seat, who is facing Democrat Randy Bryce of Caledonia. “We need your help; we can’t do this alone,” he told the crowd.
“My opponent wants you to know that I have a business degree and a law degree,” Steil said. “True. In fact, I can think of nine times that a law degree would have come in very handy for my opponent,” a reference to Bryce’s nine arrests that that drew laughter.
Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff for President Donald Trump and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, told the crowd he’d spoken to Trump an hour earlier. “And he told me to tell you that they told him the same thing in October of 2016 as well about Wisconsin, and he came back and won Wisconsin, won Michigan, won Pennsylvania and shocked the world when we elected Donald Trump president of the United States.”
Ryan, the event’s keynote speaker, said, “It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve you, to be a part of this … fighting right alongside with you to fight for these ideas.”
“We have proven our principles work,” he said. “They worked when they were founding this country; they work today.”
Ryan continued, “I also see a left that is enraged, a left that has gone off the rails — but a left that is motivated. And so we cannot allow this (Republican) complacency to occur. … We are going in the right direction in this country, and we do not want to take this hard left turn.”