By Jim Ellis
Feb. 20, 2020 — Wisconsin Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) and Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker (D) won their respective party primaries Tuesday night and now head to the special general election scheduled for May 12. The winner of the succeeding contest replaces resigned Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) in WI-7 who departed Congress earlier in the year for family reasons.
Sen. Tiffany recorded a 57-43 percent win over Army veteran Jason Church who was previously a staff member for Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). Church, who lost both legs in Afghanistan, made military service the centerpiece of his campaign. Sen. Tiffany was originally elected to the state assembly in 2010. He won his state Senate seat in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016.
Zunker was an easy winner on the Democratic side, amassing a landslide 89-11 percent victory margin in a race where she became the obvious consensus candidate early in the process.
Sen. Tiffany now becomes the heavy favorite to win the seat in May. The northern Wisconsin region has transformed into a dependable Republican area after this district laid in Democratic hands from early 1969 all the way to the beginning of 2011 in the person of former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey.
Over his five elections here, Rep. Duffy averaged 57.9 percent of the vote. President Trump carried the 7th with a 58-37 percent majority, which was a substantial upgrade over Mitt Romney’s 51-48 percent performance. The Republican trend has clearly grown as the decade progressed.
Turnout in the primary election greatly favored the Republican candidates. When the final count is tabulated, the combined GOP participation factor looks to be well over 76,000 as compared to the Democratic total of just over 40,000 votes. The turnout ratio is another factor that provides Sen. Tiffany with a major advantage heading into the special general election.
Resources heavily favored Tiffany and the Republicans, as well. Through the Jan. 29 pre-primary reporting period, Sen. Tiffany had raised almost $720,000. This compares to Church’s $658,000-plus and Zunker’s $145,000. Whether the national Democrats put any money into this special general is an open question at this point, but the party leaders taking a pass here would not be a surprising decision.
The 7th District occupies most of northern Wisconsin, encompassing 21 counties and parts of five others. The district borders both Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Minnesota’s eastern border. The CD’s largest city is Wausau at a population of just under 40,000 while Marathon County has over 135,000 inhabitants.
The next special election will occur on March 3 in California’s 25th District where voters will begin the process of replacing resigned Rep. Katie Hill (D). Six Democrats, five Republicans, and one Independent are vying for the seat. If anyone scores an outright majority, that individual is immediately elected. If not, the top two finishers regardless of party affiliation and percentage attained advance to a May 12 special general election, the same day that WI-7 will be settled.
Voters in Maryland’s 7th District will likely acclaim Kweisi Mfume in the special general election scheduled for April 28 in the safely Democratic inner city Baltimore district. Mfume won a crowded Democratic primary on Feb. 4, which virtually guarantees his election. He will take office soon after the special general election concludes. The death of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore) caused this vacancy.
The special election to fill the NY-27 vacant seat between Republican state Sen. Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Democratic local official and 2018 nominee Nate McMurray is also scheduled for April 28. Rep. Chris Collins (R) resigned this seat after pleading guilty to an insider trading charge.
The remaining opening, California’s 50th District, will be vacant for the rest of the year, as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) says he will not send the seat to a special election. The regular term jungle primary is scheduled for March 3.