Wisconsin’s 1st District candidates differ sharply on gun safety and abortion rights

Bryan Steil

Update 11/6/23: A spokesperson for Diane Anderson said in an email that she supports background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, red flag laws, and a serious reexamination of Trump’s tax cuts for the rich.

Wisconsin Republican U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil has already drawn multiple Democratic challengers for 2024, all of whom significantly differ with the incumbent on key policy issues.

Though Wisconsin has eight representatives to the U.S. Congress, just two of their districts are remotely competitive due to a heavily gerrymandered redistricting map. One of those is Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, which has voted about three points more Republican in recent years than the country as a whole.

Steil is seeking his fourth term as representative for the southeastern Wisconsin district, which runs from Janesville to Racine.

The filing deadline for challengers is not until June 2024, but three Democrats have announced that they will seek their party’s nomination to challenge Steil next year.

Rep. Bryan Steil

Since his election to Congress in 2018, the Janesville native has amassed a solidly right-wing voting record.

“I am proudly pro-life,” says Steil’s campaign website issues page. “We must work to cherish and protect the sanctity of life at its most vulnerable stages. The recent Supreme Court ruling was a victory for life and returns these important decisions back to the people and their elected representatives in the states.”

According to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s congressional scorecard, he has a career score of 0, indicating that he voted against sexual and reproductive health and rights at every single opportunity. On Sept. 28, he voted for an appropriations bill that contained a provision that would have banned access to abortion drugs through the mail, even in states where abortion is legal.

Steil’s official House page says: “I am a strong advocate of our Second Amendment rights. I am also a gun owner. Our right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution and responsible gun ownership is an important part of the Wisconsin way of life. I will continue to support the right to bear arms for all law-abiding citizens and I will actively watch for any legislation that may infringe on this right.”

In 2020, the National Rifle Association’s political arm endorsed him as “a strong defender of the Second Amendment,” noting his opposition to background checks, his support for a national law to overrule state concealed carry laws, and his opposition to limits on high capacity magazines and assault weapons. Steil has received $1,000 contributions from the NRA’s PAC in each of the last two campaign cycles.

In the last Congress, he voted against expanded background checks, a red flag law to temporarily disarm those found by a court to be an immediate danger to themselves or others, and a bipartisan compromise that included modest provisions to disarm convicted domestic abusers and enhance background checks for gun buyers under age 21.

Steil also is a co-sponsor of the TCJA Permanency Act, a bill that would make permanent the temporary provisions of President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed tax rates for the wealthiest individuals while actually raising them for about 10 million families. He co-sponsored similar legislation in 2022.

The Democrats

Diane Anderson 

The Racine, Wisconsin, resident filed as a candidate on Sept. 18. Anderson’s campaign website promises “Quality healthcare that is affordable, accessible, equitable, and that keeps decision making among individuals and healthcare providers, especially when it comes to a womans right to choose,” “Strong world class economy that provides contemporary living-wage jobs, promotes products made in USA & keeps family time a priority,” and “Decision making that not only meets but exceeds equitable basic human needs for physical & psychosocial safety.” Anderson’s campaign did not immediately respond to an American Independent Foundation inquiry about the candidate’s views on gun violence and tax policy.

Anthony Hammes

Hammes is a trustee on the village board in Caledonia, Wisconsin. He declared his candidacy on April 25. In what is identified on his campaign page as Hammes’ latest speech, he noted his support for reproductive rights and gun safety legislation: “I believe in equal rights for all. Women must have the right to choose what’s best for their healthcare needs. We must do more to combat climate change, economic stability and support our public schools. And we must protect our social security and implement common-sense gun laws.” His campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry about his position on tax policy.

Lorenzo Santos

Santos, the deputy emergency management coordinator for Racine County, Wisconsin, filed to run on Aug. 12. A section of his website issues page about reproductive rights says: “A woman’s right to choose is between her and her doctor, not between her and lawyers or legislators. Reproductive rights include a woman’s right to choose when or if she will have a child as well as access to contraceptives that allow greater family planning ability.”

A section on guns says, “I believe in the second amendment and I am also a strong proponent of common sense gun control.” In an email, he told the American Independent Foundation that he backs universal background checks, supports red flag laws “and effective enforcement of them,” and opposes making permanent Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.