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Rep. Mike Gallagher Leaves GOP, Wisconsinites In The Lurch

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) speaks on the floor of the House.
Image CreditWKOW 27 News

Conservatives are angry that Gallagher’s poorly timed resignation will leave the district without representation for the better part of a year.

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U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher’s decision to leave Congress — and leave his fellow Republicans and his Wisconsin constituents in the lurch — isn’t sitting well in conservative corners.

Well into his fourth term serving Wisconsin’s reliably red 8th Congressional District, Gallagher has ticked off a lot of constituents not because he is leaving, but because he is leaving at a really crummy time. It’s not just Gallagher’s constituents. Many Badger State conservatives and Republicans around the country aren’t happy with Gallagher’s timing. 

“I can tell you that members are surprised. Some are very much disappointed in the way the departure is being handled,” Alex Leykin, chairman of the Ozaukee County GOP, told me. 

Leykin said he recently spoke at an event with a local party member who worked with the congressman on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. “He likes him very much and was very respectful of [Gallagher], but that member definitely felt betrayed,” Leykin said. 

Extremely Bad Timing

Gallagher announced last month that he would not seek reelection to the seat he first won in the Trump-led red wave of 2016. Last week, he stunned Republicans in announcing that his last day would be April 19. His departure alone would effectively leave already razor-thin Republican control of the House with a meager one-vote majority. But his decision to exit after Wisconsin’s spring election on Tuesday will leave the 8th Congressional District without House representation for the better part of a year. 

Wisconsin election law requires the governor to schedule a special election to fill the seat, but only if the vacancy occurs before the first Tuesday in April. 

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has called on Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to quickly push her resolution for Gallagher’s expulsion. That’s not happening. The backbone-challenged Johnson reportedly was privy to Gallagher’s plans to resign. He had nothing but praise for the establishment Gallagher, who, just days before announcing he wouldn’t seek another term, surprised his Republican colleagues by voting against the impeachment of border-busting Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

Gallagher, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran, is reportedly parlaying his congressional House Armed Services Committee cred for a job in the defense industry. Forbes reports that Gallagher, who led the congressional bill that could ultimately ban TikTok in the United States, is taking a position with U.S.-based surveillance company and defense contractor Palantir. 

‘Betrayed the American People’

A small army of RINOs, or “Republicans in name only,” defended the congressman’s decision to leave. 

Former state Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, who served as majority leader under GOP boss Robin Vos, carped to Wisconsin Public Radio that Congress needs more Gallaghers and fewer Greenes. 

But there are plenty of Republicans in Gallagher’s district who are somewhere between disappointed and disgusted. 

“The Republican Party of Brown County is profoundly disappointed with Congressman Mike Gallagher’s recent decision to resign from Congress effective in April,” the local party based in the congressman’s backyard said in a statement. At the time, party officials were trying to figure out next steps, but like other county GOP operations, Brown County was urging Gallagher to serve out his term and “fulfill the promises he made to his constitutions who elected him.” 

While he has coasted to victory in his four runs for Congress, Gallagher is seen as an establishment man at best, a member of the “Uniparty” hellbent on stopping Trump at worst by many grassroots conservatives in the district. He ran afoul of some Trump supporters in 2020 when he knocked the president for saying the election was stolen for Democrat Joe Biden. 

Gallagher, a hawk on U.S. military aid for Ukraine and elsewhere, remains at odds again with Trump and many conservatives on the drawn-out European war. And the congressman earned the ire of some of his constituents last June when he voted for a horrendous debt ceiling deal. He joined 148 Republicans and 165 Democrats in supporting the agreement. 

“The biggest frustration is that so many of his constituents here in this county, and I’m sure other counties are experiencing the same thing, [they] are just thoroughly disgusted,” Oconto County GOP Chairman Ken Sikora said on the “Regular Joe” radio show in Green Bay, as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin gleefully recorded. 

Two Republicans have jumped into the race for the 8th — State Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, and Roger Roth, a former GOP state senator from Appleton. Alex Bruesewitz, a Trump-aligned political consultant who has never held public office, is edging closer to an announcement. Last month, Bruesewitz said Gallagher “betrayed the Republican Party and the American people with his vote to side with Mayorkas,” according to Spectrum News. 

A new Cygnal poll obtained by Breitbart News shows Bruesewitz leading the field at 36 percent, followed by Jacque with 15 percent, and Roth, Gallagher’s “handpicked replacement,” at 12 percent.

‘Resign as Soon as Possible’

Jacque has joined a chorus of Republicans urging Gallagher to leave his seat by Tuesday so the 8th District can have a special election within the next couple of months. 

“I think there’s a lot of palpable frustration out there from folks who haven’t gotten a satisfactory explantation as to why this particular timing is being followed,” Jacque told me Thursday afternoon. “Given some of the questions raised about Congressman Gallagher’s new employment, I think it would be beneficial for him to resign as soon as possible for new representation to occur.” 

But even if Gallagher did bow out in the next few days, there’s no guarantee that far-left Gov. Tony Evers will schedule the special election within the next couple of months. 

Nobody knows the Democrat’s political games better than U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany. Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District congressman ultimately replaced former Rep. Sean Duffy in May 2020 — over seven months after Duffy resigned. Evers delayed that election for months after botching the initial primary and general election schedule and considered delaying it further amid his unconstitutional Covid lockdowns. 

“We’ve seen what Gov. Evers would do. Is there any doubt in your mind he wouldn’t push it back as far as possible?” Tiffany told me Thursday. 

The northern Wisconsin Republican said he wasn’t surprised by Gallagher’s decision to leave Congress. Gallagher, 40, is married with two young children, and his rise in the GOP as chairman of the House’s powerful Committee on China has commanded more of his time away from home this session. 

As for speculation from some that Gallagher is exiting Congress next month to stick it to the Republican-controlled House and ultimately to Trump, Tiffany said, “I hope that’s not the case.” 

While Gallagher has publicly stated that he’s “worked closely with House Republican leadership on this timeline,” Tiffany said Gallagher did not talk to him about his decision to leave. Jacque said he’s heard the same from other members of the Wisconsin Republican congressional delegation. 

Whatever Gallagher’s motives, not telling his closest colleagues that he’s preparing to run for the exit is kind of a dick move. 


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