By Jim Ellis
May 13, 2020 — Wisconsin Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany, as expected, easily won the special congressional election last night in the Badger State’s northwest 7th District with 57.2 percent of the vote from a huge voter turnout universe of just under 192,000 individuals. The Democratic nominee, Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker, was a consensus candidate for the special, but she raised less than $500,000 for the race and the national Democratic institution did little to assist her from the outside.
Once the vote tally is finalized, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will certify the result and Tiffany will be sworn into the House of Representatives to complete former congressman Sean Duffy’s (R-Wausau) term. Duffy resigned from office in August of last year for family reasons and the seat has been vacant ever since.
The 7th District occupies 21 central and northwest Wisconsin counties and parts of five others. For more than 40 years, former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D) represented the district. Rep. Duffy won the seat for the first time in 2010 after Obey chose to retire after serving 21 terms in office. Since the 2010 election, the district has moved toward the Republicans, and Tiffany’s victory seems to cement the seat as safe territory for the GOP.
The congressman-elect now will enter the regular 2020 primary scheduled for Aug. 11. The candidate filing deadline is June 1, but it is unlikely he will see much competition in either the primary or general election considering last night’s strong performance.
The state of Nebraska held its regular 2020 primary yesterday, and nominees were chosen for the fall election.
The Nebraska ballot featured the presidential primaries, even though both parties have settled on their nominees. President Trump notched over 91 percent of the Republican primary vote over former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who was still on the ballot despite suspending his campaign weeks ago. Former vice president Joe Biden, still the Democrats’ unofficial nominee, recorded just over 77 percent of the vote.
First-term Sen. Ben Sasse captured 75 percent in the Republican primary against two minor candidates as he now stands for a second term in November. In a field of seven Democratic candidates, none of whom are running a major campaign, local Omaha business owner Chris Janicek, topped the field with 31 percent of the vote in the multi-candidate field. Sen. Sasse should have little trouble winning re-election in November.
The most interesting Nebraska primary yesterday came in the Omaha anchored 2nd Congressional District. There, 2018 Democratic nominee Kara Eastman, who held incumbent Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillon/Omaha) to a 51-49 percent victory in 2018, took better than 61 percent of the vote in a three-way primary.
Eastman topped Ann Ashford, the wife of former one-term US Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), by almost a two-to-one margin, which exceeded expectations. Minor candidate Gladys Harrison lagged behind with just 6.7 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Rep. Bacon had minor Republican primary opposition, and he scored 91 percent of the 2nd District GOP vote. Expect the general election to again be highly competitive.
First District Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Lincoln) was unopposed in the GOP primary. He will face the Democratic winner, state Sen. Kate Bolz, in a slightly more competitive campaign than the voters have seen in quite some time. The 1st generally plays as a safe Republican seat but containing a state capital and major university the electorate could begin straying closer to the Democrats.
The expansive western district, which occupies approximately three-quarters of the state’s land area, has been a safe political haven for seven-term Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Gering/Grand Forks). He will have little trouble winning again in November after being re-nominated against four Republican opponents with 82.6 percent of the vote. Marijuana legalization activist Mark Elworth was unopposed in the Democratic primary and opposes Rep. Smith in the general election.