GOP Leaders Talk Image OverhaulSubmitted: 05/05/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm

ROTHSCHILD - Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wants a bold image overhaul for his party.

We spoke with him and other state leaders about how they're going to do it at the Wisconsin Republican Convention that wrapped up today in Rothschild.

"This is not a time to sulk, this is not a time to sink, this is not a time to drown your sorrows. This is a time to take stock; figure out what it is to improve on," says Congressman, and 2012 vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

Take stock is exactly what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus did. In March he presented what he called an "autopsy" of the party following nationwide losses including the White House.

"We haven't run a decisive presidential race in 24 years. So what's going on? I want to talk to you about that," Priebus said to the crowd at the convention.

In the report he offered blunt criticism of the party's image. It said the majority of poll respondents viewed the GOP as a party of "stuffy old men" that is "out of touch" and even "scary".

"I think it was spot on the money. I think what Reince did was a sobering assessment of what did we do right, what did we do wrong, where do we have room for improvement? If you don't win a national election you need to do that kind of analysis," says Ryan.

"Sometimes I think our party hasn't done a good enough job of trying to reach out. And I think that's what we need to focus on, is opening up our arms as wide as we can, listening to folks who might not agree with us on every single issue," says Robin Vos, Speaker of the Assembly.

The report says the party needs to be more inclusive and connect with more female, youth, gay and minority voters. But the question is, how? Do they need to figure out how to become more moderate on issues that are important to those voters?

"I think it's a matter of kind of what our moms used to say, 'It's not what you say, but how you say it'. And I also think it's a matter of using grace and love in your tone, which is a pretty good rule to live by. I think we all try to do that in our lives. But I think in politics you have to be reminded that love and grace is part of the conversation," says Priebus.

One of those ongoing conversations on immigration reform. Ryan is a vocal supporter; to the point of publicly disagreeing with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner at the convention this weekend.

So if some republicans want to meet democrats in the middle on an issue other republicans aren't willing to bend on-- will the infighting just be more destructive?

"There are a lot of other issues like this that have to be solved, that have been very difficult. And that's why we have got to start talking to each other," says Ryan.

Looking forward, Wisconsin republicans agree the state is the model the national GOP should follow if they want to get back into the White House.

"I think Wisconsin's really a leader for the rest of the country. We have been doing a good job of broadening our coalition," says Vos.

"I think the Republican Party of Wisconsin, nationally, has shown how republicans ought to conduct themselves," says Ryan.

"They've shown the rest of the country how to get it done, and we want to do what Wisconsin's doing all over America," says Priebus.

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MERRILL - This weekend Northcentral Technical College hosted its fourth annual Fire and EMS University for firefighters across Wisconsin.

It provides training on firefighting and EMS techniques at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill.

In a simulation training exercise, firefighters have their hoods covering their face so they couldn't see anything when they entered a basement. They had to feel a fire hose and use teamwork to get around and save a dummy.

Firefighters from all over Wisconsin can come to the all-day event. They came to refresh their skills, teach and learn new techniques.

"We put out some classes that are very interesting and not run every day and if it applies to their department they'll send people," said Dean of the Public Safety Division of Northcentral Technical College Doug Jennings.

The school keeps adding other training tools as well. Just this year they added more training features, such as a simulator that allows law enforcement to practice driving trucks, squad cars and EMS vehicles.

On Saturday the students also trained with the aerial ladder.

"We are the only fire department in Lincoln County with an aerial ladder," said Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone. "And so most of our firefighters have to operate our aerial ladder. And so we felt this truck operation aerial ladder operations is a great class for them to come and see."

UST Fire Apparatus brought a new aerial ladder truck for the students to practice with, and teachers from southern Wisconsin and St. Louis, Mo., also came to help coach.

Firefighters say they want to constantly re-educate themselves.

"It's great to get the extra practice," said Dean Johnson from the Town of Wausau Fire Department.

Northcentral Technical College also offers semester schedule curricula for law enforcement and fire science. 

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MERRILL - Merrill residents might have heard a lot of music in town today.

Merrill High School hosted the Merrill Marching Invitational. Three high school marching bands took over the football field at Merrill High School Sunday.

Antigo, D.C. Everest, and Merrill high schools all showcased their musical creativity.

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MILWAUKEE - A published report says unauthorized improvements have been made to a footpath on state land that a donor to Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to buy.

A spokesman for business executive Elizabeth Uihlein acknowledged that workers at her adjoining property may have cleaned up the trail slightly.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Z18WU8 ) reports those who have seen the trail say the improvements are significant.

Uihlein is seeking to buy 1.75 acres along Rest Lake, where the footpath is located. But a tentative deal with the Department of Natural Resources was put on hold after critics raised questions.

A DNR spokesman says the agency inspected the site on Thursday and found an "established trail." He declined to say whether the department had talked to Uihlein or her representatives.

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NEKOOSA - People in Nekoosa could go back in time this weekend.

Volunteers at Pointe Basse recreated a historical camp that portrayed the lives of people from the 1700s and early 1800s.

Volunteers from all across the U.S. had a piece of history to share.

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EAGLE RIVER - Eagle River hosted its 36th annual Cranberry Fest during October's first weekend.

Organizers say the weather this year brought in many more visitors.

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RHINELANDER - Harvest Hoedown started Saturday at noon at the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander.

The event featured a hay maze, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and live music all afternoon.

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VILAS COUNTY - In July, Karen Wessel gave her life to save a boy from drowning in Vilas County's Star Lake.  Now she is being recognized for her heroism.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Wessel as one of 22 recipients of the Carnegie medal.  It's presented to people who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while trying to save the life of another.

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