He's compared House Speaker Paul Ryan to Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold, suggested deporting all Muslims from the United States and put out a campaign ad featuring him riding on a motorcycle.
Paul Nehlen, 47, is challenging Ryan for his seat as representative of Wisconsin's first congressional district. And he may have a power player on his side: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who told the Washington Post earlier this week he was "just not quite there" on endorsing the speaker and thought Nehlen had run "a very good campaign."
Nehlen is a senior vice president at Neptune Benson, a water filtration firm, and the owner of a small consulting company called Blue Skies Global LLC, according to his website. He has at least two patents and helps out with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit for military families. He's lived in Wisconsin for two years and is married to a woman named Gabriela.
"It is time for all Wisconsin voters to make themselves heard in the open primary on August 9th," Nehlen's team wrote in a recent news release. "It is time for all Wisconsin voters to demand honest government, decent government and proper government that respects the people, serves the people and honors the people. If we send Paul Ryan back to Congress, we all know what the result will be."
Ryan took a famously long time to endorse Trump earlier this year, and Trump fought back this week, suggesting that maybe the tycoon was wavering on his support for the GOP leader (though Trump's running mate later said otherwise). Trump even tweeted about Nehlen.
Now in the spotlight, the businessman has received attention for some of his more controversial stances. On Monday, for example, Nehlen asked a radio host in Chicago "Why do we have Muslims in this country?" because of their alleged connection to Sharia law. He went on to say he was "suggesting we have a discussion about" deporting them, ABC News reported. Nehlen added he thought mosques should be monitored, too.
It's doubtful Nehlen can pull off a win: Ryan has been in office since 1999. Ryan has raised nearly $15 million for his campaign, while Nehlen has generated less than $1 million, according to Politico. A poll from May put the speaker 70 points ahead of Nehlen.
Some pundits have compared Ryan to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his seat in Virginia in 2014. Others aren't so sure.
“You don’t have to outspend the guy; you just have to catch him at a moment of vulnerability,” Wisconsin analyst Charles Franklin told the New York Times. “It seems to me that Nehlen has made a considerable splash through his campaign, but it does not seem that he has quite the advantage that the Cantor situation provided for.”