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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MINOCQUA - Every year thousands of kids go hungry. 

On Saturday nearly 600 volunteers from the Northwoods decided to help feed some of those children. 

The "Food for Kidz" organization, invited people to Lakeland Union High School, to help package non- perishable goods.

 The packages will be donated worldwide and to nearby food pantries.

Within the past eight years volunteers have packaged one million meals.

 Last year was the first year the organization started donating to local food pantries. 

This year volunteers will give 30,000 meals to the Northwoods community.

"It's just the recurring exuberance of the people that come in and do the packing we have many, repeat people that come year after year," said "Food for Kidz" Co-chairman John Breiten. 

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MINOCQUA - By the time most of us finish breakfast, we already start planning what to eat for lunch.

For some kids all around the world, that next meal sometimes never comes.

The Food for Kidz Minocqua committee will lend a helping hand to change that Saturday morning.

Lakeland Union High School's common area will transform into a full-blown assembly line.

Food for Kidz volunteers will pour and pack ingredients into plastic bags.

The goal is 175,000 packed meals.

Food for Kidz needs more volunteers by tomorrow to meet that goal.

"If you haven't experienced this, come out and try it and you'll go away with just a great feeling," said Food for Kidz co-chair John Breiten.

Kids and adults of all ages are welcome to walk in to volunteer.

The food packages will be shipped off to anywhere from Honduras to Mozambique.

Some special meals will be set aside and sent to local communities in the Northwoods.

"It's just a great, fun community event. I think the kids especially take something away that they are giving beyond themselves," said Food for Kidz sponsor and Lakeland Union High School Spanish teacher Karen Roerich.

Walk-in volunteers are welcome to attend either packing shift tomorrow morning.

The first shift is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The second shift is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

If you can't make it out to Lakeland Union High School Saturday, donations are always welcome.

Call John Breiten at 715-686-7570 for more info.

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RHINELANDER - A simple grooming process many people take for granted helps keeps John honest with himself.

"You can't think too far ahead, at least that's the situation I find myself in," John said.

Convicted of drunk driving seven times, John -- who Newswatch 12 is only identifying by his first name -- faced a harsh reality when he ended up in prison after three arrests in just 13 months.

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WAUSAU - People often leave unused prescriptions in their cabinets at home. But Wisconsin's Attorney General hopes you turn those prescriptions in Saturday to help solve a growing problem.

October 22 is Wisconsin's Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Attorney General Brad Schimel said more people die from accidental drug overdoses in Wisconsin than from car crashes.

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RICE LAKE - The Merrill football team doesn't feel it got the respect it deserved when WIAA playoff brackets came out last weekend. The Bluejays shared a Great Northern Conference championship.

But they were pinned to a number 8 seed, the lowest in the bracket, and travel to face top-seeded Rice Lake in a Division 3 Level 1 game Friday night.

Recent history doesn't favor Merrill in the playoffs. It has lost six straight playoff openers, dating to 2009.

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WAUSAU - Scott Walker faced a tough crowd at times in Iowa during his failed presidential bid. Now, an undercover video released this week may show those protesters were planted on purpose.

The Journal Sentinel reported the videos show activist Scott Foval bragging about disrupting a Walker rally in Iowa. Those videos were released by conservative activist James O'Keefe.

Foval talks about bringing people out of state into Wisconsin, but doesn't give a reason why.

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MILWAUKEE - Wisconsin's utility regulator is planning to spend more money on energy projects in rural areas, including a plan to help underwrite the use of systems that convert cattle manure into electricity.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the systems known as manure digesters also help farms manage waste, which has become an increasingly controversial issue in Wisconsin as the size of dairy farms grows.

Wisconsin Public Service Commission officials say they're considering spending $10 million to $20 million on manure digester technology.

The commission also voted Thursday to authorize at least $7.7 million in funding for rebates for solar, wind and geothermal projects around the state that would keep a rebate program in place for energy consumers.

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