Julian Bradley

Julian Bradley

Julian Bradley is young, black, a one-time professional wrestler, and the new face of the Republican Party in western Wisconsin.

A former Democrat, Bradley, 32, has made a couple of forays into politics but in the past two years has quickly risen through the party ranks, first as vice chairman and now chairman of the La Crosse County GOP. He is also the party’s incoming vice chairman of the 3rd District.

Party leaders in western Wisconsin praise Bradley — a large man with a halogen smile and even larger hair — as an energetic and charismatic leader.

“I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like him,” said Maripat Krueger, the outgoing 3rd District chairwoman “He’s got a real skill of being able to listen. In politics a lot of people like to talk. He expresses himself quite well, but he knows when to listen.”

Brian Westrate, an Eau Claire party leader, cites Bradley’s “larger than life personality.”

“That’s charisma,” Westrate said. “You either have it or you don’t. He has it.”

For the past month, Bradley has been touring college campuses in western Wisconsin, telling his story and working to counter the stereotype that the Grand Old Party is just a bunch of old, rich, white men.

The message dovetails nicely with national party chairman Reince Priebus’ strategy for reaching out to minorities, but it’s a personal one that Bradley has taken on himself to deliver, taking time off from his day job as a customer service supervisor at CenturyLink and squeezing grueling drives through often crummy weather into his class schedule at the UW-La Crosse, where he’s closing in on his degree in political science.

“I’m proud of what he’s doing – he’s taking his own initiative and own money and story to try and make a difference,” Westrate said. “He’s doing this all on his own.”

Big dreams

His own story begins in Maryland – he was born in Baltimore and lived in Lexington Park until age 11, when he moved to La Crosse.

The youngest of three siblings, Bradley was raised by his mother, a civil rights activist, community organizer and lifelong Democrat. He remembers when he was 7 going door-to-door with his mom as they campaigned for Michael Dukakis.

He was infatuated with Jesse Jackson, and from an early age his ambitions matched his outsized personality.

When he was about 9, Bradley wrote an acceptance speech for when he was elected president, said his older sister, Krista Stark.

The Bradleys were big fans of Bill Clinton, too, and when the president spoke in La Crosse, Julian got his picture on the cover of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, 50 miniature American flags stuck in his giant afro.

Bradley also grew up watching professional wrestling, and as a teenager would stage matches in his sister’s back yard. By the time he graduated from Central High School in 1999, Bradley’s mother was in poor health, and he didn’t have the money for plan A, go to college, become a lawyer and eventually enter politics.

He moved instead to Philadelphia and enrolled in wrestling school.

“I decided I would go into wrestling and make a million dollars and buy my mom a house,” he said. “That was my 15-year-old plan.”

He made his debut in Aug. 28, 1999, as Kris Krude.

“I was the ladies’ man,” he said with a wry grin. “Hot Chocolate.”

Bradley never made the million dollars. He worked day jobs to make ends meet and helped out with a friend’s bid for the Pennsylvania statehouse before hanging up his tights in 2006.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said.

Besides making him comfortable in front of crowds, wrestling prepared him for other aspects of politics.

“Playing a heel prepared me for being a Republican in La Crosse County,” he said. “It taught me not to take things personally.”

A change of party

Bradley’s political transformation began in 2002, during an argument with his mother over abortion.

Bradley said he’d always been pro-life; his mother said she was personally against abortion but believed women should have the right to choose. When he made a flippant comment about her being willing to commit murder, she snapped back that he sounded like a Republican.

The insult backfired.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Register for more free articles.
Stay logged in to skip the surveys.

Bradley took a notebook to the library and began researching party platforms, hoping to prove that he was a better Democrat than she. He came out wondering if he was actually a Republican.

“She smartened me up that that was part of the Republican platform,” he said.

He found himself drawn to the free-market philosophy and the party’s historic ties to African Americans.

“I was shocked that the GOP was the abolitionist party,” he said.

He joined the party, but his involvement stopped there as he worked through some of his own stereotypes — of the GOP as a party of rich, white people.

“You look around — there’s not a lot of Republicans that look like me,” he said. “You start questioning.”

It’s a stereotype that continues to follow him, and part of what motivated his “Shattering Stereotypes” speaking tour.

John Medinger, a former Democratic state representative and current aide to Sen. Tammy Baldwin, had Bradley in his local government class at UW-L.

“He was one of those students that stood out from the rest, not just because he was an African American with a huge afro,” said Medinger, who invited Bradley out for coffee.

Like so many, Medinger assumed Bradley was a Democrat.

“He reminded me once again that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” he said.

Even today, Bradley doesn’t shrink from his past — either as a wrestler or a Democrat.

“I’ll never run away,” he said. “Nothing changed in me — just the label.”

He’s still a fan of Clinton for working with Republicans to achieve a balanced budget.

And despite their political differences, Bradley said his mother, who died in 2009, remained proud of him for being active in his community.

“She instilled service in me,” he said. “As long as I’m involved — for the right reasons. That was always so big to her.”

And he’s managed to earn respect even from some who don’t share his ideology.

“With Julian, you can’t dislike him,” Medinger said. “He’s a good messenger for the Republican Party .… Maybe if there were more Julian Bradleys in the party, they’d win more elections in western Wisconsin.”

Democrat Cheryl Hancock worked with Bradley on a fundraiser when she headed the local chapter of the American Red Cross and said she also found him to be open minded and willing to work across party lines.

“He gives me hope that someday the two parties can work together with a common goal,” she said, “even though we disagree on the best route to get there.”

Delivering the message

In 2010, Bradley ran for state Assembly. He lost in the primary but remained active in the party, where he’d met Bill Feehan, who said he was impressed by Bradley’s intelligence and sense of humor.

When Feehan decided to run for chairman of the party the next year, he asked Bradley to run as his vice chairman, citing their shared vision of a more active and engaged party with a younger, more diverse leadership.

Bradley became chairman when Feehan stepped down last year to run for the state Senate, and has carried on his goal of making the party more involved with community events — such as raising money for the Salvation Army or running a bipartisan Toys for Tots drive.

“Traditionally you see us during even numbered years,” he said. “Otherwise you don’t hear from us.”

As chairman, Bradley has yet to deliver the votes — Democrats carried the county in the last presidential election as well as the recall of Gov. Scott Walker, and they hold all three of its seats in the Legislature — but he has helped turn out an active volunteer base.

And Bradley’s speaking tour is bringing more attention to the area and the party and helping accomplish some of the goals laid out by Priebus, said Sue Lynch, past president of the National Federation of Republican Women.

“Julian is a great person to get that message out,” she said. “That only helps in recruitment.”

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

(59) comments

The Observer

While Mr. Bradley is true that the Republican Party was the abolition party, he should remember that this was back in the 1850s, almost 170 years ago.  All he need to is look to see who comprises much of the Republican Party faithful and candidates (David Duke, anyone?) nowadays to see that the party has experienced a polar shift over that length of time.


Interesting, this has been the number one read story for almost a week. I wonder why?

Mike Hammer

If this is an honest question and not merely rhetorical, I will give you an answer. You have heard the expression "If it bleeds, it leads". This takes into account the nature of the human mind that practices management by exception; that is we are predisposed to immediately focus on that which is out of sequence or order, or has some sensory anomaly in order to to protect us from danger. Certainly a black man as a rising star in the Republican Party falls under the category of an anomaly. In reality, it has no discernible effect on our political landscape.

Mike Hammer

Julian Bradley appears to be a well-spoken and idealistic fellow. As usual, sooner or later he will bump into the belly of the beast and realize the true nature of party politics. Until then, it's nice to imagine, is it not?


No disrespect intended but Mr Bradley looks like a throw back to the 1970's

Mind of Minerva

Sounds like a flip-flopper to me!


“Playing a heel prepared me for being a Republican in La Crosse County,” he said.


So Republicans are trying to 'pursuade' minority voters, instead of 'suppress' them as usual? This is awesome, and things are looking good for dems in 2014 & 2016 with Reince Prius behind the helm. The GOP primary was a trainwreck- Prius couldn't even help Romney or Thompson win Wisconsin. Now the backbone of the Republican party (racist/sexist good 'ol boys) will be divided over their field game.....this keeps getting better and better- .......and it's an insult to real wrestling (folk/freestyle) this guy is calling himself a former pro-wrestler. That comical.

Mike Hammer

How right you are to point out weaknesses of the Republican effort. Thank God for the crippling stupidity of the left which is quickly yanking the Democratic party into a deep ditch.
If you truly had a sense of humor and not just a slanderous bent, you would see the antics of your fellow libs as hysterical. I will be kind and not catalogue recent foibles. Good luck with your myopia. Reality can sting, and it is closer than you think.


I don't know where it says you have to support 100% of all liberal issues or 100% of all conservative issues. I can be pro-life and pro-higher taxes on the rich at the same time, and that's the vibe I get from Julian. It's okay to support the right things a party is trying to do and oppose the negative things, regardless of the party involved. One of the big problems with today's Republican party is that you have to goose-step to their tune 100% or you get rejected. That's not a valid approach for either party, and other than the 2010 election, the unpopularity of that all-or-nothing approach has shown up in a lot of elections.


Julian has been "working to counter the stereotype that the Grand Old Party is just a bunch of old, rich, white men." That might be a challenge.

That being said, though, I like this guy. He's not totally block headed like so many GOPer's, he has good common sense, and my impression is that when he helps a group, he's not just doing it for political reasons. He's doing it because he wants to. Forget his color, his size and his Afro. If the GOP had more people like Julian, a LOT more people, they'd start getting new members into the party and more of the people back who have left the Repuclican party (like me) cuz it stands for nothing but money.


Grandpa, Thank you for leaving the Party! Those who are real GOP members in LaX have the temperament Julian exhibits. Those with his temperament have a thin hold on control of the Party. Cheryl Hancock says it might be good to work with conservatives. Conservatives are around in every workplace. She really would like it if the old guard returns who represents your temperament since Julian is hard to demonize. Even the Tribune reporter after interviewing Julian over a 5 day span could not find much negative to report. We think it might be good to work with democrats if they would be interested in providing programs which build dignity in people rather than programs which allow democrats to pat themselves on the back for having such big hearts for recognizing the short comings of their base. Grandpa, just vote for conservatives like Julian, they are all over the ballots. We don't need your money or your membership.

Mike Hammer

"We don't need your money or your membership". That is among the most offensive statements I have read in Tribune comment history, and that is saying a good bit. Apparently there has been a death and you have been left in charge. I wasn't aware that Republican was an exclusive club that required money or membership other than registering and voting. Politics have driven you to psychosis characterized by delusions of grandeur. Say hello to your fellow poo-bahs in this mythical Parthenon of Republicanism, and thank you for doing an excellent job of illustrating the point of GrandpaS.


Thanks Trib for this article...is was nice to get a more personal view into who Julian is, I have heard his name, but did not know anything about him. I was going to wish him "good luck" but he seems to be a man who makes his own luck - Good for Him!


If insanity is truly doing the same thing over and over again expecting different result; why would you continue to stick to the same system that has failed to deliver a single electoral position time and time again?

Whether you agree with their policies or not, the Dems in this part of Wisconsin run a very formidable ground game and the Republicans are going to need to really change in order to remain relevant. Having Bill Feehan's first mate steering the ship isn't exactly the "fresh face" they need.


Julian seems like a nice guy. But when you are selling horse manure it doesn't matter how pretty the package is, it is still horse manure.


What a outstanding young man! I wish you much success!


Julian. True that the Dem Party in WI is energized. After the Walker WRS Cuts and the Recall Petitions. gathered. Petitions that the Dem Party is using to their full advantage. Also the anger still that has not healed that someone had the gall to cut their both Employer/Employee contribution that they had received for over two decades. Paid for by all of us. You have your work cut out for you. You need to up your game from recent. You also counter the mantra from the Dems and repeatedly given isolated coverage by the Tribune. With no alternative opinion. In the real world Julian you are judged by performance, and that means profit. In their real World profit has nothing to do with it, it is not about the children, and they are self-serving people. That do not care about private sector burden, and their prima dona a##es! You need to break the cycle of the isolated media coverage in lacrosse Julina. Until you do it will be the status quo next time around as well.


I'm surprised more black people haven't gotten tired of being taken for granted by Democrats. They elect a black president and then black unemployment skyrockets (http://www.deptofnumbers.com/unemployment/demographics/#race). Probably not the hope and change they had in mind.

David Lee

You don't realize that web site you posted is a republican pac site do you? Is that the hope your bringing?


Doesn't really matter when the data is accurate. Here is the graph from the BLS which shows the same thing...(http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/images/2011/ted_20111005.png). What say you now?

David Lee

What I say now is why are you using 3 year old data? Your slim bit of credibility is rapidly disappearing.


LOL, are you serious? The data is relevant for the time period I was speaking about, that data for those years doesn't change over time so its relevancy never diminishes. Get back to me when you actually have an argument.

Here is a more recent graph for your viewing displeasure, enjoy:

Mr Bluejeans

No need to remind you that it wasnt only the "black unemployment" that went up. I also probably dont need to remind you that the economic crisis wasnt created by "a black president", - though under his leadership the loss of 700THOUSAND jobs/month has been turned into job creation in the face of unremitting Republican opposition. Funny that these same Republicans are just now realizing that they have a "black problem" of their own creation - marginalizing them by stupid, trickle down/voodoo/Laffer curve policies that benefit only the white upper class. The resulting wealth disparity hurts those on the bottom, usually blacks. They have Republicans to thank for that.


Obama has been in office over 4 years and blacks still have over 13% unemployment, a rate never seen while his predecessor was in office.

Mike Hammer

Mr Bluejeans:
It is painful to read a defense of Obama's fiscal incompetence in these naïve and cliché terms. It is awkward and rather scary. I believe that you believe what you wrote, and I find that disturbing.


You got a lot to learn son.


Spoken from an anonymous poster? LOL!!!!

Buggs Raplin

Julian appears to be a pleasant young man, but where does he stand on things that matter such as the 2nd Amendment, the heinous immigration 'reform' attempt, the securing of our southern border, the global warming hoax, and the 'monster' that is American foreign policy.


I have been impressed .in many ways. I'm an independent, vote for the issue, not party. Good Luck, I admire your tenacity


What, Corgi?!?! You're an independent and vote for the issue, not the party?!? Are you not aware that that's not allowed anymore? What the heck are you thinking??

But seriously, that approach is a welcome breath of fresh air. Do the right thing, not your party's thing.


While I commend him for his involvement in this dirty game he's a very misguided young man. Just like LAXTEA

The Veteran

lookout You think he is misguided because he does not believe your liberal BS ,arrogant on your part I think.You show us all why he does not follow along the party line like a sheep like you appear to.


Your a funny guy. Throwing around that word liberal BS. If Republicans or Dems do something I don't like I let them know in no uncertain terms by telling them, not writing in some newspaper blog. This use of this word you call liberal BS that you use, you must think that hurts people when you write that crappp. Others use the words conservative Nazi style government politicians and their followers when talking about Republicans. NO one will ever agree with anything our politician's do or say and people will always keep calling the other side some stupid name thinking their the big man on the block for saying it. Your what's wrong with America today.


Your and You're.

Learn the difference.

Mike Hammer

If you are going to persuade others with your alleged honest and direct style, you should practice it here to develop some credibility. I would place your comment directly under the heading "natty natty boo-boo"


Does he know that it was the Democratic party that was willing to lose the south over supporting a voters right not to have a poll tax. Is he aware it was the Democratic party that supported the Federal Law mandating the right for people of different races to marry? If he looks at the laws the Democratic Party supported, he may change his mind. The major changes in civil right happened because of the Democratic Party. The Republican Party of Abe Lincoln was a different party than it is now.


While neither party has been even close to perfect in their support for civil rights, the Republican's record is immeasurably better than the Democrat's--long ago and today.


Examples please.

Check the facts

Yes, we are waiting for some factual examples.

Do continue...


See all of mine listed above.

I challenge you to prove your claims about the liberals.

Mind of Minerva

I think the last Republican to accomplish anything in the way of civil rights was Abraham Lincoln....150 years ago!


See all of mine provided above.

Buggs Raplin

Does he know that Barack Obama insisted on the right to imprison Americans indefintely without due process?

Tim Russell

Obama insisted on it- LOL!
And it's not indefinite as you imply. And it's not just any American.

Buggs Raplin

Tim, as usual you got it wrong. Maybe you should do a, little research before giving input. You won't look so foolish.

Tim Russell

People arrested as a result of the AMFU can only be held in jail until the end of hostilities. Your claim that people arrested can be held in prison forever or that any law says that they can be held without trial forever is erroneous.

David Lee

You mean just like bush?

Buggs Raplin

Yep, like Bush; they are team, after all, but gullible liberals can't see it, because...because...because... they're gullible.

David Lee

RE: Buggs Raplin - "Yep, like Bush; they are team, after all, but gullible liberals can't see it, because...because...because... they're gullible." You calling anyone gullible is hysterical. Thanks for the laugh.

Buggs Raplin

Yep, both Bush and Obama are Neo-Cons. Not very funny if you're someone who, loves the Constitution, but apparently David Lee does not.


Actually Walter Ashby Plecker and John Powell, the fathers of anti-interracial marriage laws (and two VERY racist men) were both Democrats with Walter serving in the VA legislature. In point of fact the history of anti-interracial marriages in the US is almost exclusively driven by Democrats.

Rep. Andrew King (D-MO) proposes a U.S. constitutional amendment banning all marriage between whites and people of color in every state throughout the country. It will be the first of three such attempts.

Rep. Seaborn Roddenbery (D-GA) makes a second attempt to revise the U.S. Constitution in order to ban interracial marriage in all 50 states.

Sen. Coleman Blease (D-SC), a Ku Klux Klan supporter who had previously served as South Carolina's governor, makes a third and final serious attempt to revise the U.S. Constitution in order to ban interracial marriage in every state.

In 1967 the SCOTUS was conservative. The decision to end anti-interracial marriage laws was unanimous.


Minor detail, JJtruth, but we didn't have 50 states in 1912. More importantly, I would again encourage people to rent the movie, "Lincoln." According to that, and I'm guessing homework was done on the two different party stands before the movie was made, the Dem's WERE the party that fought abolition and rights for "Negros" in general. Back then, the Dems were the block-heads and the Republicans were the progressives. Talk about a 180 degree reversal.


Actually both parties were progressive in the early 1900's but more democrats were. And both parties embraced the sudoscience called eugenics.


Oh, I'm sorry. In all 46-48 states depending on what part of 1912 you want to argue about.

Again, a totally useless correction given the subject matter being discussed. I've given historical proof that the Dems, not the Republicans were the driving force behind continued attempts at segregation and racial inequlity. Grandpa S, then uses a popular movie to further support my claim but closes with a TOTALLY unsubstantiated claim that there has been a 180 degree reversal at some point since the late 1800s.

Granpda S. Would you care to back up your claim? I encourage you to explain how it was a Republican president (not the first black president) who has had the most diverse cabinet in the history of our nation. Also how it was a Republican President who nominated the first black man to be a member of the SCOTUS who was then vilified and attacked with lies by the MSM and the left. Or how it was that it was a Republican President who nominated the first woman to serve on SCOTUS.


On what evidence do you base your statement claiming that the 1967 SCOTUS was conservative?


So, rather than discuss the overwhelming evidence that racism and bigotry are a foundational part of the Democrat Party history you chose to question my suggestion that the court was conservative when it unanimously voted to end bigoted laws against inter-racial marriage.

Sounds about right from a liberal. Let's not examine the truth or history, let's argue semantics.

Mind of Minerva

JJtruth, you do realize that the southern Republicans of today are the new Dixicrats don't you? LOL!

Remember how Newt and the boyz battled over those Southern state primaries?


Hmmm bit of revisionist history Tecnomom. I lived through the civil rights era, Look at the actual vote count by party.
By party
The original House version:[16]
Democratic Party: 152–96 (61–39%)
Republican Party: 138–34 (80–20%)
Cloture in the Senate:[17]
Democratic Party: 44–23 (66–34%)
Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)
The Senate version:[16]
Democratic Party: 46–21 (69–31%)
Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

Yes there were Republicans Like Barry Goldwater who supported equality and Civil rights but voted against it as certain provisions violated the constitution. And LBJ's comments do not shine a pretty light on the Democratic party.

Mr Bluejeans

"As chairman, Bradley has yet to deliver the votes" - sounds like a bright future. Good luck on that one.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.