La CROSSE — Gov. Tony Evers on Saturday promised Dem activists that he will do everything in his power to protect abortion access in Wisconsin and warned his GOP challengers want to divide the state with their extreme policies.

Speaking to the state convention a day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1973 ruling that guaranteed access to an abortion, Evers told the party faithful he was “acutely aware of the weight of this moment and what’s at stake for the future of our state if we’re not successful.”

Evers chided GOP lawmakers for rejecting his call to rescind the state’s 1849 abortion ban that doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest. He said the law only includes a “narrow and confusing” exception for the life of the mother. The Republicans running against him either support the law as is or want “to take it even further.”

“I don’t think that a law that was written before the Civil War, or before women secured the right to vote, should be used to dictate these intimate decisions on reproductive health,” said Evers, who touted his vetoes of anti-abortion bills over the past three years.

Evers also torched his GOP opponents for running what he called “a scorched earth campaign to divide our state.” He said former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefsich wants to “hire mercenaries” for her campaign and uses violent language threatening election officials, while construction exec Tim Michels wants to “get rid of marriage equality and take away a woman’s right to choose.” Evers also took a jab at Michels over his residences in Connecticut and New York City, saying he “hasn’t spent much time in Wisconsin since he last ran for office in 2004.”

“The Republican primary is a race to see who can be the loudest, most divisive, most radical candidate,” Evers said. “To put it simply: Wisconsin deserves better.”

Evers’ speech comes a year after he formally kicked off his reelection bid as Dems met virtually for their 2021 state convention. This weekend’s meeting in La Crosse was their first in-person convention since 2019, when nearly 1,400 delegates, alternates and registered guests gathered in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, to celebrate the party’s wins in the 2018 elections.

This weekend, meeting in the state’s 12th largest city, party leaders sought to rally the faithful amid poor polling numbers for President Biden and facing the traditional headwinds as the party in power in the Whie House. Party officials said there were more than 1,000 delegates and guests who had registered as of this afternoon.

Evers ticked off his accomplishments during the first three years of his term and poked fun at his image of not being the “flashiest guy in the room.” Evers said some people underestimate him.

“Just ask Scott Walker about that,” prompting a short chant of “Tony! Tony! Tony!”

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