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Republicans called for unity at their annual state convention

Speakers at the 2016 convention included Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General Brad Schimel and Sen. Ron Johnson.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman deemed the legal battle over transgender bathroom rights as the latest sign of America’s moral decline during his speech at the state GOP convention on Saturday.

After contrasting a study from the 1960s that found 86 percent of women said they wouldn’t have sex with a man they planned to marry with Vice President Joe Biden saying transgender rights is the civil rights issue of our time, Grothman said, “We do have a moral decline in our country.”

Grothman also hailed the days when a character from the 1970s TV show M.A.S.H. wearing a dress was a comedy routine. The character, Cpl. (and later Sgt.) Klinger, wore women’s clothing so that he would be judged mentally unfit for military service.

“A lot of us see America changing a lot,” Grothman said. “It’s not just the political world that’s changing. It’s the moral world that’s changing.”

Schimel running again

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel announced he’s running for re-election in 2018 during his speech Saturday at the state GOP convention.

Schimel is almost midway through his first four-year term as the state’s top law enforcement official. His predecessor J.B. Van Hollen served two terms.

In his speech he highlighted his support for several Republican priorities, including protecting gun ownership and the state’s voter ID law, which has been upheld in federal court but continues to face legal challenges, including a trial in Madison starting Monday.

“I am proud to defend this governor and this Legislature and what they’re doing to move our state forward,” Schimel said.

Democrats targeted

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, highlighted three state Senate seats held by Democrats that Republicans are targeting in the November election.

They include seats held by Julie Lassa of Stevens Point, Dave Hansen of Green Bay and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse. The challengers, respectively, are Patrick Testin, a 29-year-old wine salesman from Stevens Point who lost a 2012 Assembly race to Democrat Katrina Shankland, Green Bay lawyer Eric Wimberger and former Sen. Dan Kapanke.

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Fitzgerald called Kapanke’s decision to run against Shilling, who defeated Kapanke in a 2011 recall election, “a game-changer for us.”

“It really puts the focus on somebody that cannot be taken lightly,” Fitzgerald said.

Republicans hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate. Democrats are targeting an open seat being vacated by Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, and seats held by Sens. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, and Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst.

Retired Oconto Falls superintendent Dave Polashek is running against Tiffany. River Falls City Council member Diane Odeen is running against Harsdorf.

Fond du Lac County Republican Party chairman Dan Feyen, Oshkosh businessman Mark Elliot, a Republican, and Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a Democrat, are running for Gudex’s seat.

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