By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Monday endorsed Joe Biden for president, a move that comes after the first-term Democrat declined to endorse anyone in the primary and just two weeks before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee.
Evers, in a statement announcing the endorsement, promised to do everything he could to get Biden elected. President Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes, making him the first Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984 to win the state.
Both sides are targeting Wisconsin as one of the few swing states that could determine the election.
“It has never been more important to have steady, experienced, and empathetic leadership in the White House,” Evers said. He said Biden would lead with “kindness, respect, and compassion.”
“I know Joe is the kind of leader who will bring us together rather than finding reasons to tear us apart,” Evers said. “As president, Joe will unite our country to not only tackle this pandemic, but build back better than before.”
Evers, the former state superintendent for schools, won election in 2018 as part of a Democratic sweep of statewide offices. Biden came to Wisconsin to campaign for him and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin then.
Anna Kelly, spokeswoman for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin, noted how long it had taken Evers to endorse Biden.
“It’s no surprise that it took this long for Tony Evers to fall in line and endorse Joe Biden,” she said. “Evers knows that no one is excited about their underwhelming presidential candidate.”
Kelly said that Biden and Evers will be “putting their socialist policy proposals on full display in Milwaukee in a couple weeks so voters can see what they’re really about, and soundly reject it in November.”
Biden, who has not been to Wisconsin since the coronavirus outbreak, has promised to make the trip to Milwaukee to accept the nomination in person. While the convention will still be based in Milwaukee from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20, it is being scaled back, attendance is limited to around 300 and most of the speeches will be done remotely.
Security at the convention, where protests are expected, has been a concern with news that more than 100 police agencies said they would no longer participate in part because the Milwaukee Police Department has been told not to deploy pepper spray or tear gas at demonstrations in the city.
The Wisconsin National Guard, along with federal law enforcement, was to be a part of the security force that was to number around 1,000 officers.
Evers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an interview Monday that he was confident there would be enough security at the event. Evers also said he would be “actively involved” in the convention, but it wasn’t clear whether that meant in person or virtually.