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Donald Trump Jr. returns to Wisconsin to stump for Trump-endorsed congressional candidate

The former president's son framed Republican Tony Wied as political outsider in three-way GOP primary race

Donald Trump Jr., left, stands with Republican congressional candidate Tony Wied, right, after a campaign event Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in De Pere, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

At a rally in De Pere Tuesday evening, Donald Trump Jr. made it clear that Republican former President Donald Trump has found his candidate in the race for Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District.

Trump Jr. returned to the state to attend a private fundraiser and a rally for businessman Tony Wied, who is competing in a three-way GOP primary for the district. 

Wied is running against state Sen. André Jacque, R-De Pere, and former state Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, in the August partisan primary. The only Democrat running in the 8th District is Dr. Kristin Lyerly, an OB-GYN from the Green Bay area. The seat is vacant after the abrupt resignation of Republican former Rep. Mike Gallagher.

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During the rally, Wied, Trump Jr. and other speakers railed against “career politicians” and framed Wied, the former owner of a gas station chain, as a political outsider. They also railed against the Biden Administration’s handling of the economy and the southern border.

“We don’t need the career bureaucrats that have never signed the front of a paycheck,” Trump Jr. said. “We want the people who understand exactly what it means to have people, families, their well-being (and) their livelihoods dependent on their success each and every day.”

Wied received Donald Trump’s endorsement when he entered the race in April, even though the other two GOP campaigns had each made statements supporting the former president.

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

Beyond Trump Jr. and Wied, voters heard from Alex Bruesewitz, a Trump ally and 2020 election denier. Bruesewitz, a Wisconsin native who lives in Florida, contemplated moving to the state to run for the 8th District seat prior to Wied launching his campaign.

While some speakers avoided overtly criticizing Wied’s opponents, Bruesewitz did not. He called Roth and Jacque career politicians, trying to connect them to Republicans like Liz Cheney and Paul Ryan, both of whom have said they will not vote for Trump in November.

“What I like about Tony is that, I think eight weeks ago, he probably wasn’t even thinking about running for Congress,” Bruesewitz said. “All of these other guys in the race, it’s been their whole dream, not because they want to serve you but because they want to serve themselves.”

The rally was held just days after a jury in New York found Donald Trump guilty of falsifying business records in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump, who was convicted of 34 felonies, is the first former president to be a convicted felon.

The same day as Trump Jr.’s visit, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed felony forgery charges against three people in connection with a scheme to submit a slate of false electors in support of Trump to overturn the 2020 election. A statewide canvas, partial recount and multiple court decisions and audits have shown that Trump lost.

Donald Trump Jr. speaks in favor of congressional candidate Tony Wied, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in De Pere, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

During the rally, Trump Jr. reiterated popular Republican claims that his father’s felony conviction was part of an effort to weaponize the government against the former president and his allies.

“What they’re doing to my father, you think it stops with him? Let me assure you … if they can do it to him, they can do it to anyone,” he said.

Donald Trump faced charges in New York state, not connected to the Justice Department of Democrat Joe Biden. The federal Justice Department has also brought gun and tax charges against the president’s son, Hunter Biden, according to NPR. A jury was seated in one of those cases this week.

Wied has embraced the former president’s endorsement, including it on his yard signs. Trump’s endorsement was a big component of Wied’s speech, where he said he would bring “America First leadership” to Congress.

“We need an ally in Congress that will stand with President Trump and deliver for each and every one of you,” Wied said.

Wied also said he wanted to address issues like inflation, border security and federal spending, and leaned into his experience running a business.

“In business, you learn a lot,” he said. “You learn how important it is to treat people respectfully, to find common ground in a mission, to deliver for your customers (and) to solve problems, rather than just winning arguments. But most importantly, what I’ve learned is that you never quit.”

In a statement, Joe Oslund, communications director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, criticized Trump Jr.’s visit, saying it’s proof that Wied is running “to be little more than a fully-owned Trump family subsidiary.”

“Tony Wied would rubber stamp all of the chaos and corruption Donald Trump brought to DC, from attacks on our democracy to handouts for the wealthy and big corporations,” Oslund said. “The 8th District deserves an independent voice in Congress.”

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

8th Congressional District Candidates weigh in

All three GOP candidates have continued to publicly support Trump after his conviction. Roth avoided criticizing the former president when commenting on Wied’s event Tuesday, while Jacque’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Roth highlighted his service with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, saying he’s the “only veteran in this race.”

“Running for Congress is more than a job,” he said. “It isn’t a hobby, nor a place to hang out once you’re retired and bored. It’s a place that needs changing and disruption. The voters know that I can make an impact on day one.”

From the opposing party’s perspective, Lyerly said in a statement that it was no surprise that Trump surrogates would choose to visit northeast Wisconsin. She said the road to the White House runs through the 8th Congressional District.

“I am hopeful and confident that come November, our community will put first the best interests of our friends, families, and neighbors, electing candidates who will fight to make health care more affordable, protect Social Security and Medicare and boost job creation,” Lyerly said.

The 8th District has been a reliably Republican district for more than a decade. The last time a Democrat won the district was in 2008.

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