State Sen. Tom Tiffany Easily Wins in 7th Congressional District Special Election on Tuesday

State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker, in the special election in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District on Tuesday. With 100% of the vote counted, according to the New York Times, Tiffany trounced Zunker 57% to 43%.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Tiffany thanked his supporters but also acknowledged the difficulty of campaigning during Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” for both him and his opponent.

“I want to recognize my opponent, Tricia Zunker. Tricia called me a few minutes ago and I want to commend her on running a good race,” Tiffany said. “It was really difficult circumstances in the last two months here, with the shelter-in-place that really can’t go out and campaign. This is one of the most unusual campaigns I’ve been through and I just want to recognize Tricia for all of the hard work that she put into this election.”

Governor Tony Evers declined to move the date of the election despite his “Safer at Home” order because of the rural nature of the district and the precautions taken to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. The Wisconsin National Guard provided 250 members to assist at the polls for this election.

The special election follows the controversial April 7 election which Evers did attempt to postpone at the last minute after saying he wouldn’t. Despite fears to the contrary, including by RightWisconsin, no increase in the amount of Coronavirus cases could be linked to the Spring Election.

Tiffany said he had one goal for representing the district in Washington D.C.

“That is to get America back up on her feet again,” Tiffany said. “This is a real blow that we’ve taken the last couple of months.”

Tiffany said the country went from “humming,” with business leaders expecting a very good year, to the current economic situation due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

“But we’re Americans. We’ve been through difficult times,” Tiffany said. “We know how to go out and turn things around. We will do that again and I will dedicate myself to get America back up on her feet again.”

In a social media statement to supporters, Zunker said she was proud of the campaign she ran.

“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,” Zunker said. “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.”

Democrats last held the seat in 2010 when long-time Rep. Dave Obey (D) retired after nearly 42 years in office rather than face Rep. Sean Duffy (R), a popular former reality television star and Ashland County District Attorney. (Unlike Zunker, Obey had an A rating from the National Rifle Association, showing the importance of gun rights in the district.) Duffy defeated former state Sen. Julie Lassa (D), Obey’s handpicked candidate to replace him, beginning the GOP’s hold on the district.

The change in the district’s politics became even more evident in the 2016 Wisconsin GOP Presidential Primary when Donald Trump won the district despite losing statewide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Trump would win Wisconsin on his way to winning the White House that year, with the GOP gains in the 7th Congressional District overcoming the GOP’s lower vote percentages in the traditional Republican strongholds of Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee Counties.

The election was never in doubt as Tiffany led the evening’s vote tallying from wire to wire. Instead of wondering who would win, the question quickly became the size of Tiffany’s victory. Democrats are seeing the 14-point loss as an improvement over previous elections.

However, Republican strategist Joe Handrick posted on Twitter that the 10th District state Senate seat, held by Sen. Patty Schachtner (D-Somerset), looks even more vulnerable for Democrats now.

Tuesday’s special election in the 7th district became necessary with the resignation of Duffy in September due to his daughter’s illness.

Evers first attempted to schedule the special primary election for December 30 and the general election for January 27. However, when that scheme to keep turnout low ran afoul of federal law, Evers scheduled the primary to coincide with the Spring Primary Election but pushed the special general election to Tuesday, past the April 7 Spring Election to keep Republican turnout down in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

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