MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Backers of former President Donald Trump filed a petition Wednesday seeking to recall Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos from office, citing Vos’ opposition to Trump and his not moving forward with impeaching the state’s top elections official.
The effort faces a high bar for success, but it points to continued anger among Trump’s most ardent supporters in battleground Wisconsin over his loss in the 2020 election and how Vos responded to it.
Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 but lost to President Joe Biden by a similar margin of about 21,000 votes in 2020. The result has withstood two partial recounts, numerous lawsuits, an independent audit and a review by a conservative law firm.
Wisconsin is once again expected to be one of a handful of swing states in this year’s presidential election.
Vos is the most powerful Republican in the state Legislature, who drives the GOP’s agenda both in the Statehouse and beyond. He was first elected in 2004 and is the longest-serving Assembly speaker in state history, holding the post since 2013.
Vos has faced heat from the right — including Trump — over the 2020 election results and how elections are run in the state. Vos refused attempts from Trump and his supporters to decertify Biden’s win.
But under pressure from Trump, Vos did launch an investigation into the 2020 election results led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. His probe uncovered no evidence Biden had lost. Vos ultimately fired Gableman after Gableman endorsed Vos’s opponent in the 2022 election.
Vos faced a primary challenge in 2022 from Adam Steen, who was backed by Trump and argued that Vos hadn’t done enough to overturn the 2020 election results. Vos won the primary by a mere 260 votes before cruising in the general election, winning with 73% of the vote.
Vos said the recall effort comes from the same people who tried to oust him in 2022.
“The effort today is no surprise since the people involved cannot seem to get over any election in which their preferred candidate doesn’t win,” Vos said in a statement. “This recall is a waste of time, resources and effort.”
The recall petition filed by Burlington, Wisconsin, resident Matthew Snorek alleges that Vos is “blocking fair elections” and that he “misled” the Assembly over his intentions to impeach Meagan Wolfe, the state’s top elections official. It also quoted Vos’ comments from 2022 to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he would “try as hard as I can to make sure Donald Trump is not the nominee.”
The recall petition also references Vos’ prior support for absentee ballot drop boxes.
State law allows Vos to begin fundraising unlimited amounts of money now that he is the target of a recall effort.
Vos has faced criticism for not impeaching Wolfe, a move that a handful of the Legislature’s most conservative members have called for. Last fall, a conservative group led by Steen spent more than $100,000 on television and radio ads in the Milwaukee market threatening to either recall Vos or launch a primary challenge unless he removed Wolfe.
Vos reiterated in a December interview that he was not in favor of impeaching Wolfe, saying there was not enough support in his caucus to do that. Vos has said he wants to see Wolfe replaced, but a judge last year blocked the Legislature from taking steps to remove her.
Wolfe has been a target from those who falsely believe that Trump won Wisconsin in 2020.
Vos did float the possibility of impeaching Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal whose win last year took majority control away from conservatives, but he’s since backed down from that threat.
Those behind the effort have until March 11 to submit 6,850 signatures from voters in Vos’ southeast Assembly district to force the recall election. That is more signatures than the total votes cast against Vos in his 2022 reelection win, which shows the enormity of the task facing petition circulators.
Steen got 4,824 votes in the primary. He ran as a write-in candidate in the general election and, combined with Vos’s Democratic challenger, got 5,607 votes.
Snorek, the petition filer, ran for Burlington town chairman in 2021 but lost.
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