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State Democratic Party Chair on decision to run again: 'This is a fight for the future of democracy'

Political Reporter Charles Benson talked with Ben Wikler about the state of politics and his decision to run again for party chair.
Ben Wikler
Posted at 9:40 AM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 10:41:08-04

MILWAUKEE — It seems like the election cycle never ends in Wisconsin. There's always another election.

Democrats have been a roll since 2016, winning more statewide elections than Republicans.

Ben Wikler is one reason why and he just announced he wants to stick around for more. Wikler may not be a household name - but he is a Twitter phenom.

The Democratic Party Chair has 153,000 followers. That's more than the party's two most recognized elected leaders: Tony Evers at 107,000 and Tammy Baldwin at 150,000.

Political Reporter Charles Benson talked with Wikler about the state of politics and his decision to run again for party chair.

Benson: Did you know that?

Wikler: I think that doesn't speak well of how much time I spend messing around on Twitter.

It's not just social media, Wikler spends a lot of time helping Democrats get elected and raising money - more than 100 million during his leadership since 2019.

"That comes from making the argument that what happens in these elections, in this critical kind of hinge moment in our state's history, in a state that's the hinge for national politics, that what happens in these moments is going to affect everyone everywhere forever," said Wikler. "And it's really not an exaggeration."

Well-versed in Wisconsin politics, Wikler knows we live in polarized times - especially around redistricting. The Republican-drawn maps for Assembly and Senate have helped Republicans hold a majority control in the legislature for more than a decade.

The conservative-leaning state Supreme Court approved the maps 4-3 over strong objections from Democrats who argued they were unfair.

Republicans deny the maps are skewed. "Make no mistake, their agenda is not about removing partisanship from politics, it’s all about tilting the field in their favor," said Rachel Reisner, WisGOP Communications Director.

Wikler believes the current maps add to the state's partisan divide.

"I think the if elected officials across Wisconsin have to compete to actually win a majority of the votes, it will bring some common sense back to our politics," Wikler said.

Politics were at the dinner table growing up in Madison where his views were shaped at an early age.

"When I was in high school, I got to volunteer for Tammy Baldwin's first run for Congress. My godmother is a woman named Ada Deer who ran for Congress when I was 11. Every time I saw the political process at work, it made me more excited and more inspired."

Wikler's own journey landed him with Democratic organizations like He spent years with Al Franken, helping the then-comedian and political pundit write books and produce a nationwide talk radio program before Franken was elected to the US Senate.

He's now raising a family and running the state's Democratic party. Wikler just announced he wants to hold onto that role if the party faithful re-elects him in June.

Benson: Why do you want another two years?

Wikler: This is a fight for the future of democracy.

Wikler downplays any talk of someday running for public office. Right now, he says there's too much to do.

"My focus right now is April 4, and then 2024. We've got so many fights to win. So, I will be tweeting ad nauseam, and the folks who want to follow along, it's @BenWikler."

Brain Schimming is the chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. TMJ4 will be sitting down with him in the coming days to get his take on the state of politics.