A trio of ambitious elected officials, a pair of farmers, a former Marine with close ties to Gov. Scott Walker and a convicted federal felon are vying for votes as Wisconsin residents get ready to winnow down a crowded field of congressional candidates in the state’s Aug. 9 primary.
Barring partisan challenges or findings that candidates lack enough viable signatures, it appears candidates in six of the state’s eight congressional districts will find themselves in primary battles for the right to advance to November’s general election.
The messiest race looks like northeastern Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, where Republican incumbent Reid Ribble’s decision not to seek re-election has led no fewer than six major party candidates to declare they’re running the race.
The line-up is a colorful one.
The Democratic field included Jerry Kobishop, a Sturgeon Bay-based country singer who advanced to the second round of auditions on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2015.
But Government Accountability Board records showed he didn’t file any nomination papers by the deadline, so he’s out of the running.
That leaves Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson as the lone Democrat in the race. Nelson, a former legislator, staged a one-man sit-in in the Assembly chamber for five days in 2007 in an effort to push Republicans and Democrats into agreement on the state budget. GAB records showed he had filed 1,459 signatures, 459 more than the 1,000 names congressional candidates need to get on the ballot.
The Republican side features former Hilbert Village Board member Gary Schomburg; Terry McNulty, who runs a survey business in Forestville; current state Sen. Frank Lasee of De Pere, and Mike Gallagher of Green Bay, a former Marine who served as national security adviser for Walker’s short-lived presidential campaign last summer. McNulty, Lasee and Gallagher all filed more than 1,000 signatures, according to GAB records; Schomburg filed only 906.
Meanwhile in northwestern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, three Democrats are fighting for nomination. The field includes Mary Hoeft of Rice Lake, a communications instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County; Ethel Quisler of Wausau, who provides services for the disabled; and Marathon County Supervisor Joel Lewis. Hoeft and Lewis had filed enough nomination signatures with the GAB to get on the ballot. Quisler had filed nothing.
The 7th’s Republican incumbent, Sean Duffy, faces a primary challenger in the form of Donald Raihala of Superior. Raihala ran as a Republican for the same seat in 2014, after running for the seat as a Democrat in 2010. GAB records showed Raihala turned in his nomination signatures but didn’t indicate a total.
In southeastern Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District, Democrats Sarah Lloyd, a Wisconsin Dells farmer, and Michael Slattery, a Maribel farmer, will square off in hopes of facing Republican incumbent Glenn Grothman in November. Both filed enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Three other congressional incumbents face longshot challengers.
Williams Bay inventor Paul Nehlen will try to unseat Paul Ryan, the House speaker who represents south-central Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, in a Republican primary. Nehlen reported raising no money during the first quarter of the year; Ryan raised $9.1 million. Nehlen’s campaign said he filed about 1,810 nomination signatures.
Wisconsin Democratic Party treasurer Ryan Solen and Janesville plumber Tom Breu were set to face each other for the Democratic nomination in the 1st. Solen had filed 1,044 signatures. GAB records showed Breu had filed his signatures as well but didn’t include a total.
In western Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Ron Kind faces a challenge from former high school teacher Myron Buchholz of Eau Claire. Whoever wins the primary wins the seat; no Republicans have declared their candidacy in the district. Buchholz faces an uphill fight against Kind, though; he raised $20,000 in the first quarter compared with Kind’s $1.6 million. GAB records indicated Buchholz filed nomination signatures but didn’t include a total.
Incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore will face former state Sen. Gary George in a primary in southeastern Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District. George was sentenced to four years in federal prison after he was convicted of a felony in a kickback scheme in 2004. GAB records didn’t show how many signatures George filed. Nothing prevents felons from running for Congress.