Lyerly has eye on Gallagher’s Congressional seat

Doctor focusing on health rights, turning 8th District blue
By: 
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

A Democrat has joined the growing list of people seeking to claim the 8th Congressional District seat formerly held by Mike Gallagher, and she made a visit May 15 to Shawano in the hopes of bringing her fellow Democrats locally out of hiding.

About 50 local residents came out to meet Kristen Lyerly, who currently is not facing any challengers in the August primary but is waiting to see if she will face Andre Jacque, Roger Roth or Tony Wied come November. Lyerly admitted to being surprised to see so many Democrats, not only in Shawano, but on other campaign stops she’s made recently, as the district has long been under Republican control.

“We’re sometimes afraid to be who we are because of our surroundings, but we don’t have to be,” said Lyerly, a first-generation college student in her family and the mother of four boys. “If ever there was a time to talk about the things we care about, now is that time.”

Lyerly said her family grew up in Kaukauna, and her family has been in northeast Wisconsin for six generations.

“We’re dairy farmers. We’ve worked for the paper mills,” Lyerly said in describing her roots. “You are my people.”

On the top of the list of concerns for Lyerly, an obstetrician and gynecologist, is the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which reverted the decision of abortion rights to the states instead of federally protecting them.

“As a doctor, I’ve been doing a lot of advocacy work for my entire career,” Lyerly said. “Women’s health is always on the ballot, whether it’s payment or access to contraception or abortion, the hard one to talk about. By the way, you don’t have to talk about abortion with people. You can talk about freedom to make your own, personal health care decisions. You don’t have to use hard words. You can talk about it on the level where you feel comfortable.”

Lyerly said her advocacy work has allowed her to hear many deeply personal stories about their health, from pregnancy to menopause to cancer, and that is why she’s always sided with people, not government, deciding how to handle their own care.

“When the Dobbs (v. Jackson) decision happened, that was devastating, even for those of us who are past our child-bearing years,” Lyerly said. “With young people, you look at families and you look at decisions people have made in their lifetime, and you recognize whether you’re men or women, reproductive health affects the rest of our lives, and this Dobbs decision taking this away from us and forcing people to do things for political reasons doesn’t make sense.”

Lyerly previously tried running for the Wisconsin Assembly in 2020 and lost, noting that it was a different time then with the pandemic and the gerrymandered maps, but electing liberal Supreme Court justices in 2020 and 2022 showed that northeast Wisconsin’s red roots were turning to blue in her view.

“What (former Gov.) Scott Walker did all those years ago, we were sick of it, and we were going to use our voices and our votes to change it,” Lyerly said. “If ever our voices mattered, it’s this year. We’re all in this together.”

Lyerly reiterated how local votes mattered when she referred to school districts having to organize referenda for capital needs or operational overrides of state-mandated budget caps.

“We can’t fund our schools without referendums, and that’s all local and statewide leadership,” Lyerly said.

Gov. Tony Evers recently announced a special election will be held at the same time of the general election to allow the 8th District to have a representative for the last two months of 2023, so Lyerly is running in both elections.

“All of us working together, this is how it’s supposed to be,” Lyerly said.

lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com