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Complaints raise concerns with nomination papers for Trump-endorsed candidate

Former Green Bay alder accuses Tony Wied of failing to ensure his nomination papers meet the letter of the law

A sign for Republican congressional candidate Tony Wied outside of a campaign event Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in De Pere, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Complaints filed Thursday against former President Donald Trump’s pick for the 8th Congressional District claim canvassers used fraudulent tactics to get people to sign nomination papers for candidate Tony Wied.

Tony Theisen, a former Green Bay city council member, filed the complaints with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. He alleged those circulating papers for the Republican candidate and former gas station chain owner misled people to believe they were providing signatures for “housing for the homeless” rather than Wied’s nomination papers.

“These fraudulent signature-gathering tactics violated Wisconsin law and affronted the Republican Party’s commitment to the rule of law and election integrity,” Theisen wrote.

The challenges were made as Wied seeks to qualify for the ballot in the congressional seat left vacant when former Rep. Mike Gallagher stepped down.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Wied when he entered the race in April, and Donald Trump, Jr. rallied on his behalf in De Pere on Tuesday. Candidates were required to submit two sets of nomination papers by June 1 for the regular election and the special election that was called by Gov. Tony Evers after Gallagher announced his early retirement.

In the complaints, Theisen said he witnessed two people collecting signatures for Wied under false pretenses at the Green Bay Farmers Market on May 25. He said the nomination papers violate state law that requires circulators to obtain signatures from voters in the district, knowing they signed papers with “full knowledge” of their content.

Since the two people allegedly misrepresented nomination papers, Theisen said the Wisconsin Elections Commission should conduct a thorough investigation and refrain from certifying the signatures until its review is complete.

Republican congressional candidate Tony Wied speaks Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in De Pere, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

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The former Green Bay alder argued state codes and statutes say no signatures may be counted if nomination papers are deficient on their face. The burden is on the challenger to show that information on nomination papers are insufficient, and Theisen said he could clearly see that the nominating papers had Tony Wied printed on them.

Wied is one of three Republican candidates running in the 8th Congressional District race. Former state Sen. Roger Roth and state Sen. Andre Jacque are also vying for Gallagher’s seat. Last year, Theisen and Jacque sued the city of Green Bay and Mayor Eric Genrich over the use of audio recording devices in city hall. Theisen has also circulated papers for Jacque’s campaign.

On Friday, Jacque told WPR the allegations are disturbing, adding he hopes it’s examined very seriously.

“I’ve fought for voter integrity in my entire career in the Legislature, including standing with President Trump following the 2020 election,” Jacque said. “Since the bombshell complaint, there have been other citizens confirming the facts of the complaint. I think people deserve answers.”

Sen. Andre Jacque
Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, has proposed legislation in Wisconsin that would ban gain-of-function research on potential pandemic pathogens at institutions of higher education and would require disclosure to the Department of Health Services prior to beginning research of any kind on potential pandemic pathogens. He is seen during Gov. Tony Evers’ State of the State address at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Feb. 15, 2022. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

A spokesperson for Wied’s campaign said in a statement the complaints show career politicians will do anything to stay in power.

“Just like the Democrats are trying to do to President Trump, Andre Jacque and his allies are trying to remove the Trump-endorsed Conservative from the ballot. This is nothing more than dirty political games and Wisconsin voters will see right through it,” the spokesperson said.

Theisen said he identified one circulator who was responsible for 425 signatures across the two sets of nomination papers. If the signatures were removed, Wied would still have enough to meet the minimum requirement of 1,000 valid signatures to be on the ballot. Theisen said he believed the individual was responsible for 197 out of 1,773 signatures submitted on Wied’s papers in the regular election, as well as 228 out of 1,670 signatures on papers for the special election.

Several people on the “Greater Green Bay Society of the Llama” Facebook page claimed they had similar experiences at the Green Bay Farmers Market, including Green Bay resident Sam Rowe. She said she was there that day and ran into an older woman who asked her if she wanted to help homeless people get off the streets.

“Of course, I said, ‘Yes.’ She handed me a clipboard and asked for my information, so I started filling out,” Rowe said.

Rowe, a Democrat, said she was almost done filling out her information when she noticed Tony Wied’s name on the papers.

“I did not mean to give my signature for him, but that’s what happened,” Rowe said. “I regretted it as soon as I did. It felt a little dishonest.”

Republican congressional candidate Tony Wied speaks Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in De Pere, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Other challengers in the race also weighed in on the allegations, including Roth.

“Anyone who talks to voters in the 8th District understands the importance of election integrity, which is why I am proud of how our campaign collected our signatures — through hard work and grassroots volunteers — to get on the ballot,” Roth said in a statement.

Kristin Lyerly is an OB-GYN and the only Democrat in the race. Madeleine Buchholz-Kneeland, Lyerly’s campaign manager, said in a statement that a commitment to fair, safe and secure elections matter.

“If these allegations prove to be true, it is incredibly disappointing that Mr. Wied and his team would choose to deceive his neighbors and potential constituents in his path to achieving ballot access, rather than discuss his motivations, platform, and priorities,” Buchholz-Kneeland said. “The people of Northeast Wisconsin deserve for their representative in Washington to lead with integrity and compassion, rather than lies and duplicity.”

The commission granted preliminary approval of signatures on nomination papers for all four candidates.

Challenges have been filed regarding nomination papers for 11 candidates seeking to be on the ballot this fall, including complaints filed against Tony Wied. The Wisconsin Elections Commission is set to meet Monday at 10 a.m. to review the status of those challenges and whether candidates will qualify to be on the ballot.