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Milwaukee may be site of Republican presidential primary debate

It would come the same year the city hosts the 2024 Republican National Convention

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaking at a committee meating
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at the committee’s winter meeting in Dana Point, Calif., Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

The Republican Party plans to host a presidential primary debate in Milwaukee in the lead up to its national convention in the city next year, the national committee chair says.

Leaders of the Republican National Committee were in Milwaukee on Thursday to promote planning for the convention, which is expected to draw 50,000 people to the city in July 2024.

Recently re-elected RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said the convention committee is organizing and fundraising for the event. But responding to a question from the media, she confirmed that the party is planning to host a debate during the party primary.

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“You should be able to expect that we’ll have a debate here in Milwaukee,” she said, first laughing and saying she was not supposed to talk about that yet.

McDaniel offered no details about a debate, but said there would be an announcement in coming weeks.

During the event Thursday, McDaniel alluded to Wisconsin’s importance as a swing state in the party’s quest to win the White House in the next election cycle. Wins in Wisconsin were key to capturing the presidency both for President Joe Biden and for his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

But she said the party also hopes to highlight the city.

“I am so excited to bring the world into Milwaukee, not just for the Republican Party, but to help businesses and business owners to highlight a bipartisan effort to do great things for this urban community,” McDaniel said.

Bipartisan legislative support is something that has been in short supply for cash-strapped Milwaukee. City leaders have been repeatedly rebuffed by Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature in attempts to raise money through new local taxes and in their calls for increases in state shared revenue.

At Thursday’s event, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said he has been visiting legislators in Madison repeatedly in recent weeks to lobby for changes that would improve the city’s finances, including the ability to collect local sales taxes from visitors.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get something done here and be able to be in the position, in the first time in decades really, where Milwaukee will be able to draw additional revenue and take advantage of our own economy here,” Johnson said.