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A second Republican, wounded Afghanistan war veteran Jason Church of Hudson, has entered the race to fill the vacant 7th Congressional District seat.

Church, 30, who lost both of his legs in a 2012 bomb explosion in combat, announced his candidacy Tuesday — the day after Republican Rep. Sean Duffy stepped down to deal with a family medical issue.

“I never wanted to get into politics. I wanted to serve my country in uniform,” Church said Tuesday in an interview with the Leader-Telegram. “That was something I couldn’t do in that capacity anymore (after the injury), so I feel like this is a way I can continue serving, by running for Congress.”

Church joins state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, as the only announced candidates so far in the GOP primary on Dec. 30.

Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that the special election to replace Duffy will take place Jan. 27.

Church, who grew up mostly in Menomonie and graduated from Menomonie High School in 2007, went on to play football and join the ROTC program at UW-La Crosse before enlisting in the U.S. Army and being deployed to Afghanistan. He retired as a captain.

After enduring 21 surgeries as part of his long road to recovery, Church attended law school at UW-Madison and eventually made his way back to western Wisconsin, settling last year in Hudson, where he has worked as northwest regional director for Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

Church, who walks with the aid of prosthetic legs, believes his military experience, including the resiliency he showed while recovering, would be an ally in the House of Representatives.

“I feel like my ability to think and react under fire is an asset I can bring to Congress,” he said.

Throughout the recovery process, people across northern Wisconsin took care of him and his family, Church said.

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“What I realized when I got back here is although the Taliban took my legs, America’s enemies did not extinguish my desire to serve,” he said. “It’s still there. It’s still burning in me. I wanted to find a way to give back to communities that had given me so much.”

Church pointed to three issues that are priorities for his candidacy: reforming the nation’s immigration system, protecting the rights of gun owners and passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“I support the president and building the wall down there (along the U.S.-Mexican border),” he said. “We need to have more border security, more funds quite frankly for an overloaded judicial system that cannot handle the level of people coming into the country and the deportation proceedings that are in front of their courtrooms right now.”

The issue also is personal for Church, who has been navigating a complex visa process “the right way” with his fiancee from Brazil and bristles when seeing so many people exploiting current immigration laws.

Church also opposes gun control measures being pushed by some Democratic presidential candidates in the wake of mass shootings, including a proposal by Beto O’Rourke to take away people’s AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic rifles.

“To me this signifies really what the Democrats are about — limiting our Second Amendment rights,” Church said. “They were not put in the Constitution for us to go hunt 12-point bucks. They were to hold government in check in case of tyranny.”

He also supports President Donald Trump’s tough stance against China on trade and said a priority, if elected, would be to advocate for passage of the USMCA.

Church added that he believes in term limits to limit the negative impact of career politicians and said his goal is to serve four two-year terms in Congress.

The 7th District, which encompasses much of northwestern Wisconsin, is comprised of all of Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Clark, Douglas, Florence, Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Polk, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Taylor, Vilas and Washburn counties and part of Chippewa, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe, and Wood counties.

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