First Democrat enters race for open Wisconsin congressional seat in Republican district

Apr 4, 2024, 8:37 AM | Updated: 9:24 am

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A doctor who performs abortions became the first Democratic candidate in Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District on Thursday, entering the race for the open seat created after the surprise retirement of Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher.

Kristin Lyerly, an obstetrician and gynecologist, launched her candidacy two weeks before Gallagher plans to step down. Because of the timing of his resignation, there will be no special election.

For now, Lyerly is unopposed in the Democratic primary to be decided Aug. 13. Democrats fielded no candidate in the 2022 election.

Two Republicans, state Sen. Andre Jacque and former state Sen. Roger Roth, are running and a third is expected to get in the race next week. Republican consultant Alex Bruesewitz planned to make an announcement Monday. Bruesewitz, 26, was born in Wisconsin but currently lives in Florida. He would have to move back to Wisconsin to run for the seat.

Lyerly made clear that she would make abortion a central issue in the race.

Lyerly was one of the plaintiffs in a Wisconsin lawsuit that succeeded in keeping abortions legal after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. She performed abortions across Wisconsin, but temporarily moved her practice to Minnesota after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“As an OB/GYN, I have been attacked first hand by MAGA extremists targeting a woman’s right to make her own health choices,” Lyerly said in a statement. “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.”

Gallagher was elected four times to serve northeast Wisconsin. His early departure leaves Republicans with a 217-213 majority in the House, meaning they cannot afford to lose more than one vote on a party-line vote.

Gallagher found himself at odds with former President Donald Trump and his supporters. He also angered fellow Republicans last month by refusing to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Jacque, Roth and Bruesewitz are all Trump supporters and oppose abortion.

The district is solidly Republican, but Democrats have vowed to make it competitive.

Trump won the district by 16 points in 2020, even though he lost the state by less than a point to President Joe Biden. Gallagher won reelection three times by no fewer than 25 points. The district includes the cities of Appleton and Green Bay, Door County and covers mostly rural areas north through Marinette.

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