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STORY BY DAVID SIDERS

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Published on February 17, 2021 3:38 AM

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Rohn Bishop at his home in Waupun, Wisconsin. | Narayan Mahon for Politico Magazine
For Rohn Bishop, chair of the Republican Party in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, a low point in the party's post-election civil war came one snowy December morning in the small town of Waupun.

Republicans were challenging ballots cast in two heavily Democratic Wisconsin counties, Milwaukee and Dane, based on a variety of technicalities. It was part of Trump's broader effort to overturn the results of the election, perpetuating his false claim that it had been stolen. Bishop, who manages the auto detailing operation at a GM dealership and has been party chair since 2017, was one of the few state or county party officials anywhere to break ranks—first on Twitter, then on the radio and in the press.

His own party, he said, was "trying to disenfranchise people."

It was heresy in Bishop's Trump-supporting county. Fond du Lac has long seen itself as not just another midwestern Republican stronghold, but the symbolic heart of the party: It's home to the town of Ripon, the sentimental birthplace of the GOP. Bishop takes that heritage seriously. His oldest daughter, Reagan, is named for the former president. That morning in December, sitting down at a coffee shop with his wife, Jennifer, and their two daughters, he picked up a message on his phone. It was from Jim Kiser, a former county supervisor and former party official who'd known Bishop for years.

"I don't want you calling me back," Kiser told him. "I don't want to have anything to do with people that are such traitors to the conservative movement … So, when you see me, don't say, "Hi.' Just walk right on by as though I don't exist."

He said, "I don't want to talk to you ever again."

It kept coming. A donor who wrote the party a check for $500 — a substantial sum for the small county party — demanded Bishop return the money. On social media and email threads, Republicans called him an "idiot," an "asshole" or — the one that bothered him the most — a "RINO," for Republican In Name Only. ("A lot of these people who like to call you a "RINO,' they don't do anything," Bishop said. "They listen to talk radio all day and they think they're Karl Rove.") Bishop's supporters, including elected Republicans in the county, began hearing talk about an effort to unseat him as party chair.