Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District Preview

While much of the attention has gone to a close battle in California’s 25th Congressional district, a second special election will also take place tomorrow in a geographically massive Northern Wisconsin district. The 7th District opened up last September when Republican incumbent Sean Duffy resigned to spend more time with his family. This jumpstarted a long special election process that resulted in a February primary after a series of court battles over election timing delayed the initial primary. This is the only opening in Wisconsin’s delegation, where the Republicans currently hold a 4–3 advantage.

Current composition of Wisconsin’s delegation. WI-07 pictured in yellow

This district should be fairly easy to hold for Republicans on paper, as it has recently one of the reddest in the state, perhaps second only to the 5th district. Most of the counties in the district, all of which are predominantly rural, saw a notable shift in 2016 towards Donald Trump and the Republicans, proving to be a key contributing factor to Trump’s victory.

2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. WI-07’s red/orange color indicates 20% margin.

However, the rightward trend of this district is a very recent occurrence. This district, although slightly different at the time, was held by Democrat Dave Obey as recently as 2010. While no Democrat has carried this district since Obey, some have come fairly close. In 2018, Tammy Baldwin lost this district by just 5 points while winning by 10 statewide.

2018 Senate race between Baldwin and Leah Vukmir. Light orange coloring in WI-07 signifies 0–10% margin

Over-performing Baldwin will be tough for any Democrat, but Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker will have to do just that to flip this seat. Zunker has an interesting background, as she is a member of the Ho-Chunk nation and serves as a trial judge there. Zunker is definitely a strong nominee and has fundraised quite well. However, this is still a solidly Republican district and the odds aren’t very much in her favor. The Republican nominee is Tom Tiffany, a State Senator who represents the Northeastern part of the district in the legislature. Tiffany is a decent candidate, who despite not being viewed as particularly exciting, has fundraised fairly well and gained widespread support among business interests. The circumstances around the election are odd as well, with in-person voting going on as planned despite Wisconsin being under a stay-at-home order until May 26. While most voters will likely vote absentee, it seems likely that a decent number will vote in person, making the electorate hard to predict. Zunker seems likely to outperform recent trends in the district and perhaps run within single digits, but I would not expect anything but a victory for Tiffany.

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