Tag Archives: Gov. Tony Evers

The Politics of Scheduling

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2019 — Earlier, it was reported that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is going to re-schedule the special election to replace resigned Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau), and now we have more information.

At first glance, we see an instance where a state election law conflicts with a federal statute, which national government officials apparently brought to the governor’s attention after he made public the original voting schedule. Wisconsin special election law creates a 28-day period between special primary and general, while the federal MOVE Act, designed to provide some uniform structure for overseas and military voters stationed abroad, mandates at least 45 days be placed between elections.

The governor is reportedly looking at two scenarios, and both will move the special cycle to a much later time frame. Instead of Jan. 27, the original special general date (the special primary was slated for Dec. 30), the new general will likely either be concurrent with the April 7 presidential and statewide primary, or May 5. Due to the federal law requirements and the current state election calendar, the governor cannot schedule both the special primary and general to coincide with the already-set state election timetable.

Now for the politics: Wisconsin has a regular statewide election in the early part of the even-numbered year where judges and many local officials are elected in addition to other selected officeholder positions. In this particular April 7 election, the same day as the presidential primary, Republican state Supreme Court Judge Dan Kelly is running for a full 10-year term. Key Democratic leaders counseled the governor to schedule the election early so a large Republican turnout from a strong Republican congressional district did not hurt the party’s effort to unseat the high court judge.

On the other hand, Democratic turnout is likely to be very large on April 7 because voters are coming to participate in the presidential primary. Using this reasoning, the Democrats’ chances of upsetting the GOP in the special congressional election would be much greater even though the seat has performed well for the Republicans throughout this decade.

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Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy to Resign

Wisconsin’s US 7th Congressional District

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 28, 2019 — Five-term Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) announced Monday that he is resigning from Congress effective Sept. 23. Rep. Duffy indicated his reason for leaving mid-term is that his wife and his expectant child, their ninth, has already been diagnosed with challenging health issues.

Therefore, his 7th Congressional District will go to special election once Gov. Tony Evers (D) sets the schedule. The congressional vote will likely coincide with the state’s spring election, where statewide and district judges are on the ballot and many localities use the dates to hold their own elections. The Wisconsin calendar pinpoints the Spring Primary for Feb. 18, 2020, while the Spring General election will run concurrently with the Wisconsin presidential primary on April 7.

The Badger State’s 7th CD occupies a full quarter of the state’s land area, beginning on the shores of Lake Superior and stretching to Buckhorn State Park close to Wisconsin’s center. The district covers a large land mass and is populated with small towns spread throughout the 26 counties that it covers or touches. WI-7 contains 21 whole counties and parts of five others. Its largest city, Wausau, which is Congressman Duffy’s hometown, has just under 40,000 people.

The district’s electorate now votes solidly Republican but, before Rep. Duffy was elected in 2010, this seat remained in Democratic hands for 41 consecutive years in the person of former Rep. David Obey (D) who first won in a 1969 special election and retired in the 2010 cycle. The district’s pre-Obey history, however, was solidly Republican. A member of the GOP had represented the seat for 82 of its first 96 years of existence.

Since the Duffy resignation was unexpected, no potential successors are being discussed, but that situation will quickly change.

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