, ,

Green Bay businessman enters congressional race with Trump endorsement

The former owner of Dino Stop is 1 of 3 Republicans vying to succeed Mike Gallagher

Clouds and a blue sky are seen behind the Wisconsin State Capitol
The Wisconsin State Capitol on Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Green Bay businessman Tony Wied entered the race to succeed Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher Monday night, a day after former President Donald Trump endorsed Wied and said other candidates should drop out. 

Wied owned Dino Stop, a local chain of dinosaur-themed gas stations and convenience stores, which he sold in 2022.

He joins two other Republicans vying for the northeast Wisconsin congressional district seat — DePere state Sen. Andre Jacque and former Appleton state Sen. Roger Roth.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

For Trump, the endorsement is the latest of many in Wisconsin, where he’s gotten involved in races for offices ranging from U.S. Senate to governor to the state Legislature. He’s also famously feuded with some of Wisconsin’s most prominent Republicans, including former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville.

In a statement, Trump said Wied has his “Complete and Total Endorsement.”

“Tony is running against RINO Roger Roth, who is a ‘clone’ of Paul Ryan, and no friend to MAGA — He should drop out of the Race NOW,” Trump wrote. “As your next Congressman, Tony will work hard to Unleash American Energy, Stop Inflation, Secure our Border, Support our Military / Vets, and Protect our always under siege Second Amendment.”

In his announcement speech, Wied echoed much of the former president’s platform. 

“Our border is under siege with drugs and criminals just pouring in unchecked. Our national debt is crippling and it’s growing by the second. Every 100 days, we’re going further into debt, $1 trillion,” Wied said. “Meanwhile, our adversaries abroad, they’re just taking advantage of our weaknesses.”

“I don’t need this job to make a living,” Wied continued. “I am doing this job to serve, to make a difference, to secure our border, to get our spending under control, and to give our next president, Donald J. Trump, an ally he’ll need in Congress to deliver the change Wisconsin voters so desperately want.”

Former Pres. Donald Trump speaks to supporters Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

It’s unclear why Trump chose to endorse so early in the race. Roth endorsed Trump when he announced his candidacy in February and reiterated that support in a statement Monday.

“As the only veteran in this race, I know what it means to serve,” Roth said. “My wife and I look at our country, and for the sake of our children, know we have to fight to preserve and protect what makes America great. I will win this race and help win Wisconsin for Donald Trump this November.”

Jacque made no mention of Trump in a statement responding to the endorsement, but he called himself “the grassroots conservative candidate in this race.”

“I don’t really know anything about Tony Wied other than when I knocked on his door and he put my sign in his yard,” Jacque said. “I’m proud to be the strong conservative candidate for this seat, with the proven track record of standing up for conservative values and common sense across the board.”

David Helpap, an associate professor of political science at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said Roth and Jacque will have to be careful how to contend with Trump.

“The other two that are in the race have to sort of balance, do I stay in the race? And then to what degree can I actually criticize or critique this individual who received the (Trump) endorsement without alienating some of the folks that I’m hoping to receive their votes?” Helpap said. 

Gallagher distanced himself at times from Trump, but voted in line with the former president about 87 percent of the time, according to a running tally by the website FiveThirtyEight

“Mike Gallagher, you know, wasn’t necessarily afraid to break with his party,” Helpap said. “But at the same time, he also was a very typical Republican.”

Lyerly running for Democrats 

Gallagher’s departure from Congress leaves a rare open seat, which Helpap said could leave both parties trying to compete for it. Gallagher won each election by more than 25 points and a Democrat hasn’t won in the district since 2008. 

The Cook Political Report rates the seat “solid Republican.”  

Kristin Lyerly, an OB-GYN, is the only Democrat running in the race as of now. When she announced her campaign last week, she made clear she’d make abortion an issue in the race.

“I will work tirelessly to ensure that every woman in our state has access to reproductive care, including safe and legal abortions, essential services like maternity care, and mental health support,” Lyerly said in a statement.

Helpap said the race would be an uphill battle for Democrats, given the partisan breakdown of the district, but he said running in an open seat would be easier than running against an incumbent. He said reproductive rights has worked well as an issue for Democrats the past few campaign cycles.

“So I think there’s a favorable situation,” Helpap said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not gonna be difficult.”