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OB-GYN Kristin Lyerly launches campaign for open 8th Congressional District seat


OB-GYN Kristin Lyerly launches campaign for open 8th Congressional District seat

Apr 05, 2024 | 6:45 am ET
By Baylor Spears
OB-GYN Kristin Lyerly launches campaign for open 8th Congressional District seat
Dr. Kristin Lyerly announces her candidacy in Wisconsin's 8th Congressional District on April 4, 2024. | Photo via Kristin For Wisconsin. Used by permission

The race for Wisconsin’s open 8th Congressional seat, which U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher will vacate this month, began taking shape when the first Democrat announced her candidacy Thursday.

Green Bay OB-GYN Kristin Lyerly launched her campaign for the seat Thursday morning at Hinterland Brewing Company in Green Bay. She started off her speech by saying she has spent much of her career and life working to advance the health and wellbeing of women and families in Wisconsin.

“I’ve been frustrated — frustrated with the fear and anger that have divided us in recent years, frustrated with the loss of our personal freedoms,” Lyerly said at the event. “We’ve been waiting for a long time to hear some good news, I’m excited to share with you that today I am announcing my candidacy to represent the people of northeast Wisconsin.” 

Lyerly is the only Democrat to enter the race so far. She and two other potential candidates, Alicia Saunders and Kelly Peterson, have been in consultation about their plans. Saunders and Peterson have decided  to run for state legislative seats, Lyerly said.

Two Republicans, current state Sen. Andre Jacque and former state Sen. Roger Roth, have announced their campaigns for the congressional seat already. Republican consultant and Trump ally Alex Bruesewitz has also said he is considering a run for a seat. 

Lyerly’s entrance into the race comes about two weeks before Gallagher’s resignation takes effect. She told the Wisconsin Examiner that she has been “toying with the idea” of running since at least a year ago, but that it is “a tough district and Gallagher was a popular congressman.” 

Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District leans Republican. Former President Donald Trump won the district by about 16 percentage points in the 2020 election, the same year President Joe Biden won the state of Wisconsin by a single point. During the 2022 election cycle, Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson won the district by 18 points.

Gallagher has won the seat four times. In his most recent reelection campaign, there was no Democratic challenger. 

Lyerly said that the departure of Gallagher creates a path for a Democrat like her to win.

“As things have changed, as division has grown and as MAGA extremism has become more hostile and more extreme, the people of northeastern Wisconsin are not resonating with what’s happening with their party, and even people who identify as conservatives and Republicans don’t feel like their party is their party anymore,” said Lyerly, who noted that she is a sixth generation Wisconsinite. “That creates a path, even in an +16 R district, for someone like me, who grew up in the district, who voted Republican as a young person, who is Catholic, who has conversations with regular people.”

Lyerly said during her launch event that she will bring her perspective as a mom, as an OB-GYN and as a member of the northeastern Wisconsin community with her on the campaign trail. She said that she will put families first by fighting for affordable health care, better education, a cleaner environment and economic opportunities. 

“I promise to advocate for all of the constituents of northeast Wisconsin in the same way that I advocate for my patients — with care, compassion and a perspective that is uniquely theirs,” Lyerly said. “Here in Wisconsin, we know that issues aren’t black and white.” 

Lyerly’s entrance to politics started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that political barriers between her and patients were making it harder to practice medicine. Her frustration led her to launch a failed challenge against Republican state Rep. John Macco in 2020. 

Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, Lyerly has become increasingly outspoken on abortion access and reproductive health issues. 

Lyerly moved her practice to Minnesota because she said it wasn’t safe to provide OB-GYN care in Wisconsin. She also became a plaintiff in Attorney General Josh Kaul’s successful lawsuit challenging the state’s 1849 law, which was widely interpreted as banning abortion in almost all cases in Wisconsin, until a Dane County judge ruled that it applied to feticide, not abortion. 

Lyerly said abortion access will be a pivotal issue in the race, especially on a national level. 

“Abortion is health care and health care is a human right,” Lyerly told the Examiner. “These are deeply personal issues that may not be talked about in public, but [people are] definitely having conversations in private and they’re voting.” 

However, Lyerly said it won’t be the only issue or her main focus on a district level. She noted that from her experience as a doctor she knows that many issues factor into individual health, including access to clean water, clean air, healthy food and health care.  

“There are so many other things that make us healthy that legislators on the state and federal level have the ability to pull levers on,” Lyerly said.