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Robin Vos, top Wisconsin lawmaker targeted by Trump, wins GOP primary

The powerful Assembly speaker faced repeated calls from Donald Trump to overturn his 2020 loss. Trump endorsed Vos' primary opponent days before the vote.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks to the media on Feb. 15, 2022, in Madison.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks to the media on Feb. 15, 2022, in Madison.Andy Manis / AP file

Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, narrowly survived a primary challenge Tuesday after he became the target of former President Donald Trump's ire, The Associated Press projected.

At 10:45 a.m. ET Wednesday, Vos' lead over Trump-backed challenger Adam Steen was less than 3 points. Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Vos in recent weeks after he refused to overturn the 2020 election in the state.

Vos, the longest-serving speaker in Wisconsin history, told the AP that the win proved that lawmakers "don't have to be a lapdog to whatever Donald Trump says."

That Steen could make the race as close as it was, having been endorsed by Trump only one week before primary day, showed that Trump's influence and that of election denialism remain strong in the critical presidential swing state.

For months, Vos was under pressure from Trump and under criticism broadly from his right flank for not having pursued the decertification of the 2020 election in the state, which President Joe Biden won by more than 20,000 votes.

Vos said last month that Trump called him after the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision earlier in the month restricting the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in future elections.

The ruling said a decision in 2020 by the Wisconsin Elections Commission expanding the use of drop boxes because of the coronavirus pandemic was “unlawful,” and Trump — who has repeatedly advanced evidence-free claims that the boxes contributed to widespread fraud — pressed Vos to decertify the results.

Vos told WISN-TV of Milwaukee that he declined and that he told Trump it would be unconstitutional. Trump responded by railing against Vos on his Truth Social platform, saying election integrity "seems to mean nothing" to him. In endorsing Steen, Trump accused Vos of "constantly fighting America First efforts and policies."

"It was a RIGGED Election," Trump wrote. "A lot of people will be voting against Vos on Tuesday, and for very good reason. A do nothing RINO!!!" (Republican in Name Only).

Vos has long resisted Trump's efforts to upend the election. In June 2021, Vos hired former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to oversee a review of the election. Although Gableman said later in a report that legislators should consider decertifying the 2020 vote, Vos said there was no constitutional power to do so. A state judge said last month that Gableman had found "absolutely no evidence of election fraud" in his report.

Gableman also backed Steen, who campaigned on decertifying the election, and both men appeared at Trump's Wisconsin rally last week.

Speaking with the AP, Vos said, "This election was only about one topic.

"It was only about whether or not we could decertify the last election and overturn it," he said. "This was only a referendum on overturning the election, which is unconstitutional."

First elected in 2004, Vos became speaker of the Assembly in 2013. He will not face a Democratic challenger this fall.

Vos won after a Trump-backed challenger defeated Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers this month in a state Senate primary. Bowers, who testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, also refused to bow to pressure from Trump and allies to overturn the 2020 vote.