The great Republican shake out

Out with ‘The Establishment’

Three counties contribute the most Republican votes statewide: Waukesha, Milwaukee, and Dane (in that order). All three are in the throes of The Great Republican Shake Out. That happens after a disappointing election, and 2022 was a disappointment here and nationally.

Grabins, Maly

Here in Dane County, two relative newcomers who ran as a ticket have taken over as chairman and vice chairman. Brandon Maly, a slight 23-year-old with one year of experience in Dane County, defeated the chairman of the county Republican party for the last 10 years, Scott Grabins. 275 to 133. Running for vice chair, Chrissi Illgen (active here since 2009) defeated Rolf Lindgren, an awarded party volunteer, 290 to 116. Not even close.

“What’s going on?” Jessica McBride asks. She is co-editor of Wisconsin Right Now. “Some convulsions and change are good when times call for new innovations … but I would say everyone should set aside their internecine feuding for a month.”

The stakes are high: control of the state supreme court in April and unity for the national GOP convention in July 2024.

Put the blame on Dane, boys

Dane County is being blamed for the party’s loss to Gov. Tony Evers. Tim Michels got only 20.7% of the Dane County vote. Evers emerged from Dane County with a 174,277-vote head of steam. Hard to make that up in Forest County. Ron Johnson, by contrast, campaigned here and got 6,000 more votes, helping him win statewide. (Much of it engineered by Brian Schimming, which paved his elevation to state chairman.)

Same story in Waukesha county. Michels emerged from that Republican powerhouse with a margin of votes 22,000 fewer compared with Walker/Kleefisch in 2018. In a state senate district that included parts of all three WOW countries surrounding Milwaukee, Scott Walker won by 20.5 points but Michels carried it by only 4 points.

Back in Dane County, Maly and Illgen recruited maybe 200 new members requiring the annual party caucus to be moved to larger quarters at the Marriott convention center in Middleton — same venue as the state party convention a year ago. Many of those new members looked to be college-age. The young duo put on a well financed campaign; they even mailed full-color campaign cards to members. (Illgen did give the best speech of many fine speeches. If you do politics, you listen to speeches.)


Whereas past leadership had day jobs, young Brandon Maly is, in effect, a full-time political organizer. He’s paid by Turning Point USA, founded ten years ago by wunderkind Charlie Kirk to rally conservatives on college campuses. Kirk has become a national superstar and confidante of the Trump family. Politico calls Turning Point USA, the largest, wealthiest student group in the country and Kirk “the frat-boy handsome fundraising savant who has made it his mission to make the GOP cool.”

Unfortunately, Kirk is a virulent election denier. TPUSA sent 80 busloads of kids to Trump’s 01-06-21 rally. The group crosses swords with Scott Walker’s Young America’s Foundation. Kirk tried to unseat Ronna McDaniel as chair of the national GOP earlier this month but failed. All three Wisconsin delegates voted for the incumbent.

Turning Point USA also claimed another scalp in Milwaukee County. There, Republicans went with a 22 year-old. Hilario DeLeon succeeds longtime chair David Karst (who did not seek re-election). McBride reports a “coup” going on in Waukesha County to unseat chairman Terry Dittrich. That caucus was also scheduled Saturday 02-25-23 but a last-minute legal challenge derailed it. 

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Tim Michels’ backers needed a scapegoat and found him in Scott Grabins, who has built the Dane County party the strongest this dues-payer has seen in 32 years. Hard feelings is the day-after residue among many of the Grabins/Lindgren supporters to what amounts to a hostile take-over. How much and how long, you tell us.

Mr. Maly and Ms. Illgen promised Saturday to get Republicans 30% of the total vote as compared to an average 23% in the November mid-terms. The two conservative candidates for supreme court got only 17.3% combined Tuesday 02-21-23. It’s probably unfair to see what the two new guys can do in just five weeks.

But then, when is politics ever fair?


About David Blaska

Madison WI
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9 Responses to The great Republican shake out

  1. Pingback: The great Republican shake out – Wisconsin Family News

  2. tartanmarine says:

    The people who blame Grabins and Lindgren for poor GOP showings in Dane are ignorant as to how politics works. Party chairs and committees don’t drive GOP numbers. Candidates do. (or don’t!) Which is why Ron Johnson did better than Tim Michaels. In 1972, I was elected to the first of five two-year terms in the Massachusetts Senate, as a Republican from a four-to-one Democrat district. It wasn’t the committees and chairs who drove my victories. It was years of hard work by me and my supporters convincing Democrats and independents, one at a time, to vote for me. In 1972, I won by nine votes. By the 1980 election, my last run before I retired undefeated, I won with 78% of the vote, carrying every precinct in the district. This building effort had a lasting effect. The GOP woman I endorsed was elected to the seat five times, By then, they were used to voting for Republicans.

    Unless we have great candidates who work day and night, who have a feel for the issues that resonate with the voters, and who speak well, we will lose no matter who the chair is.

    I have a lot of political experience. I delivered Nixon literature in 1960. I stuffed envelops for the NJ GOP candidate for Governor in 1963. I worked for Goldwater in 1964 before I joined the Marines and volunteered for Vietnam to fight communists.

    It will be interesting to see if the new leadership can recruit such good candidates, or if those young people who turned out for Maly will be there to do the telephoning, door-knocking, and stuffing envelopes that a campaign requires. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect this change will make a dire situation worse for Republicans locally. At 76 and with health problems, it won’t matter for me.

    Hon. Robert A. Hall
    Massachusetts Senate, 73-83

    Liked by 3 people

  3. billiea25c1eb690 says:

    We need younger people in the party. Many times, I look around Republican Party events and think, we could all be at bingo night at the old age home in 10 years. I’m still looking for the insider Michels supporters who were helping the Maly/Illgen ticket. I functioned as sort of their campaign manager, and I voted to endorse Rebecca Kleefisch at the convention and in the August primary. If the Republican Party doesn’t change, we might as well replace our elephant logo with a dinosaur, because the party will be extinct.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Midvale Blvd. says:

    Grass roots and motivated voters are created by vibrant candidates and in touch with the future, not the past.

    A problem is the leadership at the county level drives away independents. the bigger problem is past leaders that have been rejected are still working the field vs. stepping back.

    Candidates that are fronts for past candidates and leadership loose – aka – Rebecca for Walker and Michaels for Priebus. Wisconsin needs new leaders. Kleefisch is now reloading 1848 for 2026 – her time was 2018 yet Walker decided on a third term and he still seems to be spending more time in Wisconsin then his job in VA. His kid is a campaign manager without a winning record.Lets find the new generation of leadership in candidates and back room bosses.

    This might be a new direction if new leadership and fresh candidates are a result. It isn’t if Walker and Michaels handlers continue to put forward more candidates with their eyes focused on rear view mirror. I didn’t even mention Thompson out of respect but there’s a fork there too.


  5. A Party of One says:

    According to the minutes of the 2022 county caucus, there were 67 voting members present. At last Saturday’s 2023 caucus there were 408. This seems to me to be an improvement. For the sake of unity, I would have liked to see the incumbents recognize that they were going to be beaten handily and withdraw from the race and ask for unanimous approval of Maly and Illgen. I can understand feeling bitter about being defeated, but a declaration of support by Grabins would have been truly classy and unifying.


  6. Madtownforsure says:

    Anyone see the same stats of 9 autos stolen in 12 days here in the biking capital of the states? Sure as he’ll didn’t see it on our local networks, God forbid they would let the head in the sand people.


  7. GOPlady says:

    We have seen young people from out of state come here before to change Dane County elections. They may know how to work on campaigns, but they have no knowledge or experience of how a political party functions. Maly talks about change, which most of us want, but an outsider at age 23 is not a leader who will work for the good of the party, only to better his resume. He has already created a divisive position internally. That helps the opponents. Loyal party members of many years are not celebrating what he has done.G

    Liked by 2 people

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