A Republican is succeeding a Republican in a special 7th District Congressional election held Tuesday in Wausau. Republican Tom Tiffany, a state senator since 2013, defeated Tricia Zucker by a relatively large margin, with Tiffany pulling in 57% to Zucker’s 43%.
Tiffany is replacing Sean Duffy, who stepped down from his seat in Congress in September of last year. By resigning before the end of his term, Tiffany forced the special election.
Zunker, who is 39 (Tiffany is 63) is the president of the Wausau School Board and an associate justice for the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court. She is the first Native American woman to run for Congress in Wisconsin since Ada Deer lost to Republican Scott Klug in 1992.
Several things make the election noteworthy for people outside of the district. First, big money once again seems to have helped the Republican winner. According to an article in the Wausau Herald, Tiffany raised more than $1.3 million for his campaign, easily topping Zunker’s total of $350,000.
Second, because all members of Congress are up for reelection this fall, Tiffany will seek reelection on Nov. 3. In politics, incumbents, which Tiffany is thanks to the special election, typically do better than challengers.
Third, despite losing to Tiffany, Zunker’s losing margin (14 points) was closer than the 20% margin Republican Donald Trump won by in 2016.
Fourth, before the district was gerrymandered in 2011 by the Republicans, the 7th Congressional District was home to former Democrat David Obey.
Finally, the district was also another test of how people vote during the pandemic. More than 91,000 absentee ballots were returned in the district, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. But more than 114,000 people requested one. It is not clear why almost 23,000 people who requested absentee ballots (vote by mail) did not submit their ballots. One answer may be they ultimately decided to vote in person, despite the pandemic.