Trump backs rival to top Wis. Republican who won’t decertify

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday endorsed a little-known Republican challenging Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, accusing Vos of doing too little to overturn 2020 election results in the swing state.

Trump called Adam Steen a “rising patriotic candidate” ahead of Wisconsin’s Aug. 9 primary, in which Vos, the state’s most powerful Republican, is heavily favored.

Also on Tuesday, the Trump-backed candidate for Wisconsin governor said he would back Trump for president in 2024, less than 24 hours after he wouldn’t commit to supporting a Trump presidential run. Trump is hosting a rally for gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels in Wisconsin on Friday.

“If President Trump runs again in 2024, I will proudly endorse him,” Michels said on Twitter in a message promoting his rally with Trump on Friday in suburban Milwaukee.

That’s a change from what he said Monday at a televised town hall when Michels was asked whether he would endorse Trump should he run for president in 2024.

“2024? I’m focused on this election right now,” Michels said. “I have made no commitment to any candidates in 2024. What I am focused on is beating Tony Evers.”

Michels, co-owner of the state’s largest construction company, faces former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in the Aug. 9 primary. Kleefisch is endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence who will be campaigning with her on Wednesday, two days before Trump arrives.

The winner of the primary will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November in what is expected to one of the most hotly contested governor’s races nationwide. The winner will be in place in battleground Wisconsin for the 2024 presidential election and will be able to enact, or reject, voting law changes passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Vos has supported a wide array of election law changes that Evers vetoed. But he hasn’t gotten behind decertification of Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes that went to President Joe Biden. Trump has repeatedly pushed for decertification.

But Vos has refused calls to decertify Biden’s win, saying it isn’t possible, even as Trump targeted him on social media earlier this month. Steen has said one reason he decided to challenge Vos was because he wouldn’t take up a resolution to decertify Biden’s win, which has been confirmed by multiple reviews and court decisions.

Vos said in a statement Tuesday that he won’t try to decertify the election results because he believes in “upholding the Constitution.” He didn’t say if he was referring to the Wisconsin Constitution or the U.S. Constitution. He said Trump’s decision to endorse Steen changes nothing and his constituents are focused on the future, not a past election.

“I will continue to knock on doors and discuss the issues they care about,” he said.

Vos has been Assembly speaker since 2013, spearheading almost every major Republican initiative since then. But he’s still drawn fire from Trump for not doing enough to overturn Biden’s victory. He tried to appease Trump last year by hiring a former state Supreme Court justice to investigate the 2020 election and shepherded a package of election reform proposals through the Legislature, though Evers vetoed them.

Trump dubbed Vos a RINO — a pejorative for “Republican in Name Only.”

“The Democrats haven’t even bothered to put up a candidate to run against Vos because he does everything they say — he is their dream candidate — a Republican who does the job of a Democrat,” Trump said in announcing his endorsement.

The Steen endorsement comes as primary voters in Arizona prepared Tuesday to choose between Republican candidates who support Trump’s election fraud lies and those who feel it’s time to move on. Trump has endorsed a slate of contenders in that state who support his falsehoods and the primary results promise to illustrate how much influence Trump still exerts on the party.

Todd Richmond
Todd Richmond
Richmond covers Wisconsin government and breaking news.
Covering Wisconsin politics and news