UPDATE: Elijah Behnke won the Republican Primary and advanced to the general election.
John Nygren is an American insurance and financial services agent, politician, and lobbyist. A Republican, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly for nearly 14 years, serving from January 2007 to December 2020.
Nygren has represented the district — which includes portions of Marinette, Oconto and Brown counties — since 2006 and served four terms as co-chair on the powerful Joint Committee on Finance.
His retirement allowed Governor Evers to order the special election to be held on April 6, 2021, coinciding with the statewide 2021 spring election. If a primary is necessary, it will be held on Feb. 16, 2021.
Circulation of nomination papers for candidates must be filed by 5 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2021.
The recent 2020 election saw Nygren take the district with over 68% of the vote, defeating Democratic challenger Karl Jaeger by over 11,000 votes.
Nygren defeated a 2020 Republican Primary challenge by local activist Andi Rich in 2020.
I came into activism in 2009 as a board member for the now defunct Wisconsin / Madison NORML chapter and since 2010 Nygren has either been unopposed or won re-election with sizeable margins.
Four Republicans say they will seek the 89th Assembly District seat vacated by John Nygren.
If all complete required candidate filings, there would be a Feb. 16 primary election between Debbie Jacques of Green Bay, Mike Kunesh of Marinette, Elijah Behnke of Marinette, David J. Kamps of Coleman and Michael Schneider from Marinette.
Jacques, who ran unsuccessfully for the Green Bay City Council in 2018, announced her candidacy on Facebook, saying she wants to be “your voice” in Madison.
According to the Green Bay Press Gazette Jacques owns and manages Under the Lights of Lambeau, a Packers-themed rental property on Oneida Street near the stadium.
Jacques lives in the other half of the duplex, which is not in the district. However, she said she’s been looking to expand the business and move to the Howard-Suamico area. She would only need to reside in the district by the time of taking office.
Mike Kunesh said he believes he can leverage his business experience and community involvement to benefit northeast Wisconsin.
A licensed real estate agent since 1991, Kunesh has owned Place Perfect Realty in Marinette and Green Bay since 1999.
He’s served on the boards of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the National Association of Realtors, the Wisconsin Association of Realtors, Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission, the Tri-County Area United Way, the Town of Peshtigo Plan Commission and the Marinette Menominee Chamber of Commerce.
Mike Kunesh provided this brief statement on cannabis reform to me: “So at this time prior to further educating myself, I am for medicinal marijuana and no position on recreational that I can declare.“
A Village Trustee for 6 years, a former union representative and shop steward, Michael Schneider from Marinette (Campaign Facebook) has also indicated he is going to run for this seat. On Feb 7th I did chat with Schneider for Assembly and he gave me this as his stance on marijuana reform: “I am open to having a discussion about medical marijuana, but there’s a lot to fetter out. As to recreational use, I haven’t heard a good argument for legalizing it.”
Local Elijah Behnke is a small business owner and resident of the district, his Campaign Facebook page indicated he is going to seek a seat at the table, through the 89th Assembly Special Election. Behnke did request more information and provided this brief chat message back “Shouldn’t be opening up people to bad habits! But medical is an option.”
David J. Kamps of Coleman filed nomination papers with the commission on Jan. 8, the final day to do so. Kamps could not be immediately reached nor did I find a campaign Facebook page for him.
If I can verify a stance on marijuana reform from either Republican candidate I certainly will. If you are in the district, please reach out to the Republicans and let them know marijuana reform is important to you.
Karl Jaeger is the Democrat on the ticket for this race. In the past years our chapter Northern Wisconsin NORML has conducted many outreach meetings to the Marinette County area where this candidate lives.
I contacted him and he had a great knowledge base about the need for marijuana reform by stating “it’s definitely a conversation that needs to happen. My house is just a couple of miles from the Michigan border and it seems a touch ridiculous to me that something can be legal there and a felony just across the bridge.” He added, “everyone knows that Big Business has great representation in Madison–it’s the everyday people of Wisconsin who need it. I will put people first and represent the citizens of Wisconsin. I will work to make Wisconsin a place where our children want to stay and raise their own families.“
The campaign of Karl Jaeger earned an A+ rating from and endorsement from The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Wisconsin’s 89th Assembly District Legislative Map
The Assembly’s 89th District includes portions of the following counties:
- Marinette: the cities of Peshtigo and Marinette; the villages of Pound and Coleman; all of the towns of Pound, Grover, Peshtigo and the southern third of Lake.
- Oconto: the city of Oconto; and towns of Little River, Oconto, Stiles, Abrams, Pensaukee and Little Suamico.
- Brown: the village of Suamico and the east side of the village of Howard.
Special Election April 6th, 2021