A wealthy businessman with tea party ties confirmed Sunday that he is mounting a primary challenge to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, saying that after donating to the Wisconsin Republican’s past campaigns he feels “betrayed” by the speaker on trade deals and immigration.
The businessman, who is not yet revealing his identity, promised that his run will “shake up the establishment in a profound way,” according to a political consultant close to the prospective candidate.
The emergence of a viable Republican challenger in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District is the culmination of a months long recruitment effort by tea party activists who say they were double-crossed by Mr. Ryan when he passed a $2 trillion spending package late last year.
Eric Odom, a conservative activist and political consultant in Wisconsin, confirmed with “100 percent certainty” that a local business leader would be running to oust Mr. Ryan.
“I’ve had the privilege of attending multiple meetings with this individual, during which he has expressed his sense of betrayal by Speaker Ryan. He has a strong desire to see real representation for the people of the district versus a congressman who represents special interests in Washington,” he said.
“It’s very personal for him,” Mr. Odom added. “He intends to run a full-scale candidacy that will shake up the establishment in a profound way.”
He acknowledged that it won’t be easy to defeat Mr. Ryan, who was the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, currently ranks as one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington and has more than $5 million in his campaign war chest.
The businessman is prepared to put a substantial amount of his personal fortune into the campaign, Mr. Odom said.
“He was pushed to the edge and betrayed,” he said.
While it’s often an uphill run, there is precedent for a tea party challenger toppling a member of the House Republican leadership. Eric Cantor, while serving as majority leader, lost his seat in a Richmond, Virginia, suburb in a 2014 primary upset to tea party-backed Dave Brat.
However, Mr. Ryan’s predecessor as speaker, John A. Boehner, easily defeated a tea party-backed primary challenger the same year in Ohio. At the time Mr. Boehner faced widespread opposition from conservatives and a revolt in the House Republican conference, which ultimately prompted him to resign in October.
Still, the discontent on the home front for Mr. Ryan is part of the ongoing tension between conservatives who want aggressive action to implement a right-wing agenda and party leaders who have taken a measured approach.
Mr. Ryan’s campaign team previously shrugged off talk of a primary challenge. A spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about confirmation that a viable candidate was getting into the race.
Mr. Ryan came under fire from conservatives shortly after he took the job of speaker in October and almost immediately pushed through the $2 trillion spending bill, which renewed popular tax breaks and increased the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.