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November 21, 2019

10/19/2019 7:30:00 AM
Tiffany fundraising haul makes senator the frontrunner
One major Democrat says she won't run

State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) is the early frontrunner in the race to take Sean Duffy's place in Congress, based on the first fundraising numbers released in the seventh congressional district race.

Tiffany announced this week his campaign had raised almost $242,000 in its first three weeks.

"I am proud to announce that our campaign is off to an incredibly strong start," Tiffany said. "The great support we received in September is humbling, and I am thankful for the generosity of so many grassroots conservatives who are joining our team. Support for our campaign continues to grow every day as Wisconsinites work to secure our borders, fight for fair trade deals, and defend our Second Amendment rights."

Tiffany announced his candidacy for Congress on Tuesday, Sept. 10, and the Federal Elections Commission third-quarter reporting period ended on Monday, Sept. 30.

So far, Tiffanys's competition for the seat is minimal. One potentially major GOP challenger, state Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), has said he will not seek the seat.

"Can I make a greater difference representing my constituents in Washington? After giving it considerable thought and talking to other legislators, the answer is no," Petrowski said in announcing he would not run. "While I would relish the chance to overcome the constant gridlock in Washington, D.C., I know that I will have a larger impact on the people I represent by continuing to serve in the state Senate."

So far on the Republican side, only former war veteran Jason Church has thrown his hat into the ring. Church is a retired Army captain.

Church, who lost his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, says he responded to a call to serve his country in 2012 and is doing so again.

"Wisconsin's 7th District is made up of hardworking Americans who understand sacrifice and caring for their neighbors in need," Church said in announcing. "They rallied around me when I came home from Afghanistan and it would be my honor to return the favor and fight for them in the United States Congress."

Democrats in and out of the race

Competition is threadbare on the Democratic side as well, with state Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) saying last week that she would not run.

"I'm appreciative of the kind words of support I've received from friends and fellow Democrats in the North," Bewley said. "It is always flattering to be considered as a potential candidate for a seat like the 7th congressional district, but at the end of the day I have to consider what is best for both my constituents in northwestern Wisconsin and for myself. Therefore I have decided not to run in the special election called for by Gov. Evers."

Lawrence Dale, a self-described businessman and a Vietnam veteran, has announced. He lives in Michigan but says he will return to his home state of Wisconsin.

Also running on the Democratic side is Wausau school board president Tricia Zunker.

"I'm running for Congress to be a voice for the people of northwest Wisconsin - people like the family farmers and working people I come from," Zunker said. "My Wisconsin roots run deep. For generations, my family has worked this land and been a part of the fabric of this community."

Zunker says she has become increasingly frustrated watching what is happening in Washington, because Wisconsin isn't getting a fair deal.

"Washington isn't getting the job done for families paying too much for health care, farmers who are being squeezed by the ongoing trade war, and seniors who are struggling to cover the rising costs of prescription drugs," she said.

Zunker has pledged to not take contributions from corporate political action committees so she will be accountable to the people of Wisconsin rather than Washington lobbyists.

Bewley praised Zunker's entry into the race.

"I'm very pleased to see that a Democrat has recently announced their candidacy for this important seat," she said. "I've had the pleasure of talking with Tricia Zunker in the past and have been impressed with her grasp of the issues facing our northern cities, villages and towns. I find it all the more fitting that the candidate running to be the first Native American congressperson from Wisconsin chose to announce her candidacy on the first ever 'Indigenous Peoples' Day' here in this state."

When's the election?

Evers originally called for a primary on Dec. 30, with a general election on Jan. 27, 2019, but that plan - which was assailed by Republicans as politically motivated - was derailed by a conflict with federal election law.

The federal law requires 45 days for overseas and military voters to send in their ballots, so Evers said he would select new dates. That was more than two weeks ago, and Republicans say the governor's true motivation is voter suppression, both in the original dates he picked and in refusing so far to align the special election with the state's spring elections, which Republicans have urged him to do.

Seventeen GOP lawmakers, including local representatives Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) and Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), expressed those sentiments in an Oct. 11 letter to Evers.

"We are pleased that you retreated from your original call for December and January election dates," the lawmakers wrote. "Your selection violated federal overseas military ballot requirements, and put the election on Mondays instead of Tuesdays, on Hanukkah as well as in the middle of Christmas and New Year's Day. Your original decision was so ill-conceived there can be no other explanation for it but an intention of voter suppression."

In their letter, the lawmakers also threw the governor's words back at him, reminding Evers that when he originally called the election, he said rural communities had been impacted by unproductive trade wars, political attacks on public education and health care, and economic uncertainty, and he said people of the seventh district deserved to have a voice in Washington, "which is why I am calling for a special election to occur quickly to ensure the people of the 7th congressional district have representation as soon as possible."

"Are these no longer your concerns?" the lawmakers asked.

Late Friday, Evers' office issued a press release outlining a revised plan for the special election.

According to the release, Evers will issue a new executive order on Oct. 19 amending Executive Order #46 with revised dates for the special election. The special election dates will be as follows: Nomination papers will still be due on Dec. 2, 2019. The special primary will occur on the same day as the spring primary, Feb. 18, 2020.

The special election will occur on May 12, 2020.

"The new dates are based on federal law, portions of state law not preempted by federal law, and on consultations with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Wisconsin Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Justice," the release states. "The Elections Commission also solicited feedback from clerks throughout the 7th Congressional District. Per the Elections Commission, signatures collected on already-circulated nomination papers will remain valid."

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