Speaker Robin Vos’ Republican challenger drops out of Assembly race

The announcement from Andrew Cegielski leaves Vos without an August primary opponent

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, is seen during a convening of the Assembly
Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, is seen during a convening of the Assembly at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Jan. 25, 2020 in Madison, Wis. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

Less than two weeks after announcing his candidacy, the lone Republican challenging Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in the August primary has dropped out of the race, leaving the powerful speaker without an organized GOP opponent.

Andrew Cegielski, who identifies as a conservative writer, announced on social media early Tuesday morning he is dropping his candidacy due to “circumstances beyond my control.”

In a Facebook post, Cegielski said his candidacy came “only after I failed to recruit other candidates who might have faired (sic) better against Robin in the Republican primary.”

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The announcement came hours after the Wisconsin Elections Commission verified candidates for the August primary. Cegielski said his name will therefore appear on the ballot, but urged supporters to “please abstain from voting for me.”

Vos, who is facing a separate recall effort, has faced criticism from some in the far right of his party for being insufficiently supportive of former President Donald Trump.

An initial recall against Vos failed earlier this year after the Wisconsin Elections Commission found organizers failed to gather enough signatures. A second recall petition is pending before the WEC, though it remains unclear whether organizers collected enough signatures this time around.

Matt Snorek delivers petitions aimed at recalling Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, at the Wisconsin Elections Commission, in Madison, Wis., on March 11, 2024 Anya van Wagtendonk/WPR

But the lack of an organized GOP primary opponent in Vos’ strongly Republican Assembly district increases the odds that he will remain in power, according to Mark Graul, a veteran Republican campaign operative.

“Speaker Vos has really shown himself to be, in many ways, the leader of the Republican Party in Wisconsin,” Grail said. “And that’s why you’re seeing other Republicans don’t want to step up and run against the guy, because what do you run against him on?”

In the November general election, Vos still faces Kelly Clark of Sturtevant, who plans to run as an independent, and Democrat Alan Kupsik of Lake Geneva.

Vos, the longest-serving Assembly speaker in state history who has helped craft the Republican agenda for more than a decade, faced attacks from some pro-Trump Republicans when he declined to try to decertify the results of the 2020 election, in which President Joe Biden narrowly won Wisconsin.

Numerous court decisions, audits and an investigation ordered by Vos have affirmed the outcome of that election.

Two years ago, Vos narrowly survived a primary challenge from Adam Steen, an opponent backed by former President Donald Trump, defeating Steen by just a few hundred votes. He went on to handily defeat Steen’s write-in campaign in the general election.

Over the last legislative session, Vos continued to be criticized by some in his party who wanted him to oust the state’s nonpartisan elections chief, Meagan Wolfe.

Graul argued that intra-party fighting is “counterproductive” in an election year when Democrats — empowered by new legislative maps that whittle down Republicans’ gerrymandered advantage — are mounting a concentrated challenge for legislative power.

“This tilting at windmills, infighting and spending resources and time and energy at Republicans like Robin Vos is just really counterproductive to what most conservatives and most Republicans should be focused on,” he said.

In a statement, Vos said his campaign plan for the summer “will not change.” He said he will knock on doors in his new district to share “my vision for the future, as well as my solidly conservative record so that we can continue to lead the opposition to the liberal ideas Democrats are trying to impose on Wisconsin.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is expected to decide later this month whether the recall election against Vos can move forward.