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Donald Trump endorses Robin Vos’ challenger in Republican primary

The decision by Trump is the latest foray in a long-running feud with Vos, the Wisconsin Legislature's most powerful Republican

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has been mum on the Republican majority’s plans for legislation if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to an abortion. He is seen at the Wisconsin State Capitol in 2020 in Madison, Wis. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

Former president Donald Trump has endorsed the primary opponent for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, taking his long-running public feud with the powerful Wisconsin Republican to a new level.

In a statement released Tuesday, Trump pledged his “Complete and Total Endorsement” of Adam Steen, accusing Vos of being a RINO, which stands for “Republican In Name Only.”

“Although Vos claims to be a Republican, he is constantly fighting America First efforts and policies,” Trump said in the statement. “Our great slogan, Make America Great Again, is not exactly high on his list!”

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Trump has frequently criticized Vos for not doing more to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin, a step election law experts say would be unconstitutional and impossible.

His statement Tuesday revived some of those long-running disputes, attacking Vos again for not doing more to “right the wrongs” of the election after the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently ruled that drop boxes are not legal in Wisconsin.

“Vos let the big Supreme Court victory become just another story,” Trump said.

But while Trump’s arguments with Vos are long-running, and well-known, this was the first time the former president had pledged his support for Steen, a political unknown outside the 63rd Assembly district.

“Adam Steen,” Trump said, “is a motivated Patriot, dedicated to making Wisconsin Great Again.”

Vos responded with a statement saying Trump’s statement changed nothing in the race, and again rejecting the idea that the Legislature could somehow undo Trump’s loss.

“As a conservative, I believe in upholding the constitution. That’s why I won’t take the impossible step to overturn the 2020 election,” Vos said. “My opponent is singularly focused on winning this primary so he can overturn the 2020 election.”

Vos said the only endorsements that mattered to him were from the voters of Racine County.

“I will continue to knock on doors and discuss the issues they care about,” he said. “Instead of focusing on the past, they are focused on the future goals of improving election integrity, fighting inflation by reducing our tax burden and supporting police who will enforce tough-on-crime policies.”

While Trump’s statement Tuesday was focused on the 2020 election, it also marked the first time he’s attacked Vos so publicly on other issues.

His statement attacked Vos for his past support of efforts to increase transportation revenue to pay for roads in Wisconsin through the gas tax and toll roads.

“Robin Vos supports substantially increasing Wisconsin’s gas tax, a terrible move that will seriously hurt the State’s residents,” Trump said. “He is also demanding the turning of Wisconsin’s public highways into toll roads as an easy, but painful, way of raising funds.”

Vos had voiced support for increasing the gas tax as recently as 2019 after the Legislature spent the better part of a decade arguing with former Gov. Scott Walker over how to pay for roads. Vos voiced support for adding toll roads in Wisconsin a decade ago, a position later supported by other top Wisconsin Republicans.

While Vos has recently been portrayed as a political villain by a vocal segment of the GOP base, until recently, he did most of his fighting with Democrats.

In 2020, Democrats waged an aggressive general election challenge against Vos, who still defeated Democratic challenger Joel Jacobsen by a margin of roughly 17 percentage points. Vos did not have a primary challenger in 2020.

Trump’s endorsement comes days before he’s scheduled to visit Wisconsin to campaign for Tim Michels in the race for governor.

At a debate on Monday, Michels joined other the Republicans running for governor in declining to endorse Trump should he run for president again in 2024. But Michels changed his position in a tweet Tuesday night.

“I can’t wait to see everyone at the Trump Rally on Friday!” Michels tweeted. “And for any liberals in the media wondering, if President Trump runs again in 2024, I will proudly endorse him.”