Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers hopes to translate anger over the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in votes this fall, as he pledges to fight in every way possible against a 173-year-old abortion ban.
Evers, who won election in the battleground state four years ago by just over a percentage point, told The Associated Press ahead of his Saturday appearance at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention. that abortion will inspire major independent voters to back him and other Democrats.
“Anytime you take half the people of Wisconsin and make them second-class citizens, I have to believe there’s going to be a reaction to that,” Evers said.
Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race is expected to be one of the most contested in the country this year. It’s a priority for Democrats given Wisconsin’s swing state prominence in the 2024 presidential election. Evers is also the only thing standing in the way of the Republican-controlled legislature. During his first term, he issued more vetoes than any other governor in modern history.
Democrats running to face Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson will also speak at the convention on Sunday in La Crosse. Five Republicans are running for a chance to face Evers. Wisconsin’s primary is Aug. 9.
Evers told the AP he is confident abortion will be a winning issue for his party, as polls have consistently shown that about 60% of Wisconsin residents support it being legal in most or all all cases.
“You can’t ignore the fact that we now have politicians making decisions for women and their health care,” Evers said. “So we’ll talk about it a lot.”
Evers vowed to do everything he could to evade the state abortion ban that was passed in 1849 but has not been in effect since Roe v. Wade of 1973. That includes supporting lawsuits to overturn it, not appointing district attorneys who would enforce it, and commuting jail terms for anyone convicted under it, Evers said.
“We look at everything,” he said.
Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Paul Farrow said Evers’ stance on abortion only appealed to “his activist base and went against the will of the people.” He downplayed the court’s decision on the election.
“All they really did yesterday was 50 years ago a bench of activists took a decision that was unconstitutional and put it on the line, so they’re correcting that” , Farrow said. “Does this change the political landscape? There is a standard that people have. Republicans know we’re pro-life.
In addition to abortion, Evers said his re-election campaign and his message to Democrats will focus on first-term successes, including using federal money to fix roads and support small businesses. Evers said he will also highlight the issues if the Republicans win, “including voter suppression and voting rights.”
Evers is a supporter of the bipartisan Wisconsin commission that oversees elections, but all of his Republican opponents want to get rid of it. Evers also vetoed a series of bills that would make it harder to vote by mail in the state.
President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes, a result some Republicans refused to accept even as he withstood two recounts, multiple lawsuits, an independent audit and even a review by a conservative group.
Republicans hope to exploit discontent over gas prices, inflation and crime to bring down Evers.
No governor from the same party as the incumbent president has won an election in Wisconsin since 1990. A Marquette University Law School poll this week showed Evers slightly ahead of his Republican opponents, while Johnson was roughly tied with every Democrat running against him.