MILWAUKEE (SPECTRUM NEWS) – As coronavirus continues to hit some of the biggest cities the hardest, the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee is cutting its staff by more than half through layoffs and transfers.
The latest decision is fueling uncertainty about whether the Democratic National Convention will happen in person, but both political parties are changing the way they campaign in an era of social distancing.
Due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee is restructuring its team of 31 staff members in the following way:
- 14 staff will be continuing their work with the Host Committee
- 11 staff have been offered positions with either the 2020 Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) or as organizers for the party
- 6 staff have been laid off
The Host Committee plans to provide health insurance coverage for the laid-off employees through August and will continue working to help connect employees to alternate positions.
“The entire nation is facing the unprecedented challenge of responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and unfortunately, the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee is no different,” Raquel Filmanowicz, CEO of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, said. “In this climate of uncertainty, we must adjust our plans to match the new reality we’re facing as a nation. We are proud of all that the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee has accomplished and grateful for the contributions of everyone on our team. As we work to help our staff transition through this difficult time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to hosting a successful and safe Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee this August.”
Two separate organizations are helping to prepare for the convention in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, which is making the staff cuts, recruits volunteers, raises funds, secures in-kind donations, and provides convention-related facilities and venues for the convention. The Democratic National Convention Committee is responsible for planning, managing and conducting the convention. It is ultimately responsible for nominating the next Democratic presidential candidate.
“The Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee has played an instrumental role in helping us prepare for a historic convention this summer, and we are grateful for the contributions of everyone on their team,” Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said. “We are committed to doing everything we can to support the employees who are transitioning as the Host Committee makes adjustments to continue their important work in light of this unprecedented global pandemic.”
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler says whatever form the convention takes, it will still be uniquely Wisconsin and Milwaukee-centered.
“If there’s not a convention with the same tens of thousands of people all coming in, we plan something very different,” Wikler said. “I think the Host Committee is adapting to the shifting situation to make sure that it’s doing the most effective thing to launch our nominee.”
The Republican National Convention, which is also scheduled to be held in August in Charlotte, North Carolina, is moving ahead with planning despite coronavirus. Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair Andrew Hitt says he wasn’t surprised to hear about organizers in Milwaukee making changes though.
“Everybody’s doing the best they can to make sure that they can plan and pull off a convention that’s meaningful, that resonates with the American people and speaks to them, so, you know, it doesn’t surprise me that there are changes,” Hitt said.
Coronavirus isn’t only affecting the national nominating conventions. The way candidates from both parties campaign are changing too with more digital events to get their message out.
“We’re already doing virtual events every week with the Trump campaign as we move forward here, so you’re going to see those events grow,” Hitt said. “You are going to see those events grow with more surrogates, more popular surrogates, like the president himself.”
Democrats like Wikler are also finding new ways to connect with voters in these quickly changing times.
“This is a real period of innovation and testing to find out the things that are the most effective to motivate, mobilize and persuade people in a virtual environment, and I think, you know, we’ve invented a bunch of new stuff in the last few weeks alone and I think the pace of innovation is just going to keep rising because the stakes are so high in Wisconsin maybe more than any other place in the country,” Wikler said.
The Democratic National Convention was originally scheduled for July 13-17, but will now be held the week of August 17.