By Jim Ellis
Feb. 21, 2017 — Timing is everything.
The man commonly viewed as the most likely opponent to first-term Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) next year won’t run. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) released a statement saying it is “not the right time” for him to undertake a statewide venture.
In a public statement covered by his hometown newspaper, the Wausau Daily Herald, Rep. Duffy said, “After much prayer and deliberation, Rachel and I have decided that this is not the right time for me to run for Senate. We have eight great kids and family always comes first. … I’ll continue to work my heart out for the families of the 7th District, and I’m excited about the great things we will accomplish with our united Republican government.”
While the congressman did not formally announce for re-election, the gist of his statement suggests that he is not retiring from elective politics.
Several prominent Republicans are looking at the Senate race, and many will continue to engage in serious contemplation especially since Duffy will not be among the field of candidates.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and businessman and former US Senate candidate Eric Hovde have all been mentioned as potential Baldwin opponents. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is also among those commonly discussed, and he has certainly not closed the door on a run. It is presumed he would do so as a Republican and not challenge the senator in the Democratic primary.
Sen. Baldwin is one of 10 Democratic senators standing for re-election in 2018 who represent a state President Trump carried. In Wisconsin, as is the case with eight of the remaining nine such places, the other senator is a Republican; in this case, newly re-elected Sen. Ron Johnson (R). The Wisconsin Senate race will be one of the top GOP conversion targets in the nation.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) confirmed as the Office of Management & Budget director means the special election to fill his vacancy in the House is now underway.
South Carolina election law mandates the special election calendar. The primary election will be the 11th Tuesday after the vacancy becomes official (May 2, in this instance), any run-off would occur on the 13th Tuesday post vacancy (May 16), with the general election on the 18th Tuesday in the vacancy period. Therefore, the special general will be held June 20, the same day former Georgia Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Roswell) vacant seat will be filled.
Seven South Carolina Republicans have already announced their congressional candidacies. House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, state Rep. Ralph Norman, and former SC Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly look to be the most prominent in the field of candidates so far.
No Democrats have yet come forward to run. The party leaders’ top choice, state senator and former two-time gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden), has already said he will not become a congressional candidate.
The winner of the eventual Republican run-off will be the heavy favorite to win the special general election.