Republican Tom Tiffany defeated Democrat Tricia Zunker in a special election for Wisconsin’s 7th district on May 12.
The Congressional district covers more than 20 counties in whole or part in a largely rural area, including the northern portion of Juneau County. It has been among the least affected areas of the COVID-19 pandemic, with under 2% of all positive cases in the state and under 2.5% of deaths despite covering more than 18,500 square miles and making up the largest district geographically. Former Representative Sean Duffy occupied the seat from 2011 until September 2019, when he resigned citing family reasons.
Tiffany, a businessman and state representative since 2011, defeated Zunker, an attorney, judge for the Ho-Chunk Nation and a member of the Wausau School Board, by a margin of 57% to 43%. The margin represents an eight point swing towards Democrats from the 2018 election, where Duffy won by a 22 point margin.
“I will do my very best to represent everybody in the 7th Congressional District out in Washington D.C.,” Tiffany said in a victory speech on Facebook. “I have one goal as I go out to D.C., and that is to get America back up on our feet again.”
Former President Barack Obama won the district in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and current President Donald Trump won the district by 21 points in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Tiffany, who was endorsed by Trump, received congratulations from the President in a tweet after results were announced. Vice President Mike Pence canceled a scheduled appearance in the district to boost Tiffany in March due to COVID-19.
“The Republican Party of Wisconsin is proud to congratulate Congressman-elect Tom Tiffany on his victory in Tuesday’s special election,” said Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin Andrew Hitt in a statement after the election. “I am confident that Tiffany will continue to fight for the people of the Northwoods in Washington as he did in Madison. We need more of Tom Tiffany’s northwoods common sense in Washington to help Wisconsin families get through the COVID-19 pandemic and back to prosperity, stop the spread of socialism and lower our healthcare costs while increasing access. Of course, this election should never have been held in May, but Gov. Tony Evers sought to help Democratic chances by suppressing votes and letting the 7th Congressional District go unrepresented for an extended period of time. The Republican Party of Wisconsin looks forward to re-electing Tom Tiffany and President Trump this fall.”
The special election is Wisconsin’s second election in two months, with the primaries held April 7. The April 7 election saw numerous controversies involving a legal battle between Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republicans in the state legislature amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, thousands of voters did not receive absentee ballots or were unable to return their absentee ballots in time, and a shortage of poll workers in some of the larger cities in the state left voters in several hour long lines. Milwaukee had five polling stations in the April 7 election, while normally operating about 180.
Absentee ballots in the May 12 election saw a significant decline compared to the April election. Statewide about 71 percent of ballots were cast absentee in April, while preliminary counts in the May special election indicate about 45 percent of ballots were cast absentee. Wisconsin allows voters to request absentee ballots for any reason.
“I ran on affordable health care, help for our small businesses and family farmers, and protecting our environment, and that message resonated with people throughout Northern Wisconsin,” said Zunker in a statement released after the race was called for Tiffany. “Despite a global pandemic and the lack of universal mail-in voting, we showed what can be done, and we laid the groundwork for this seat to turn blue in November.”
Tiffany will be up for re-election in November.
Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.