May 12 special election: Tiffany, Zunker to face off for Congressional seat
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
WISCONSIN – The stage is set for voters to decide who will represent Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.
Following the resignation of Representative Sean Duffy last September, Governor Tony Evers called for a special election to be held on May 12 to fill the seat. State Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) defeated Republican challenger Jason Church, while Wausau School Board President and Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court associate justice Tricia Zunker bested challenging Democrat Lawrence Dale in the state’s Feb. 18 primary election.
Now, Tiffany and Zunker are set face off to see who will replace Duffy in Congress. To learn more about each candidate, continue reading below.
Republican candidate Tom Tiffany
Tom Tiffany grew up on a dairy farm near Elmwood, Wis., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls with a degree in agricultural economics, according to his campaign website, www.tiffany4wisconsin.com. He has lived in the 7th Congressional District for the last 30 years, where he and his wife Chris have raised their three daughters. Tiffany owned and operated Wilderness Cruises for over two decades, and he has worked as a dam tender on the Willow Flowage for more than 25 years.
Time in State Assembly, Senate
After being elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2010, Tiffany sponsored a bill that tightened voter identification requirements and co-sponsored another that eased requirements for certain mining permits. He also voted to limit collective bargaining rights for public employees, to give a tax credit to small businesses, and to require a two-thirds vote in either house of the State Legislature to increase taxes.
Tiffany voted to implement state legislative maps drawn by Wisconsin Republicans after they took control of the State Legislature in 2010. In 2016, the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the redistricting was an unconstitutional gerrymander that favored Republicans. The maps will be eligible to be redrawn following the 2020 census.
Tiffany was elected to the State Senate in 2012, where he voted to require physicians to perform an ultrasound on patients prior to abortions and to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. He casted a “yes” vote on a bill to allow lobbyists to personally make campaign contributions to a partisan elective state official, a candidate for national, state, local office, or the official’s or candidate’s personal campaign committee between the first day authorized by law for the circulation of nomination papers as a candidate and the day of the general election or special election.
Tiffany voted to repeal punitive and compensatory damages for workplace discrimination, voted to repeal the requirement that an individual be arrested or detained for at least 12 hours before being strip searched, and co-sponsored a bill to allow children of any age to hunt under parental supervision.
In 2017, Tiffany and Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) introduced a bill, later signed by then-Governor Scott Walker, that lifted the state’s moratorium on sulfide mining. The moratorium had required mining companies to demonstrate that there had been at least one mine in the United States or Canada that had operated for ten years and had been closed for ten years without having polluted the environment.
Tiffany was a vocal supporter of mining in Oneida County following the lifting of the moratorium.
A non-binding referendum asking if Oneida County should allow county-owned lands in the Town of Lynne to be leased “for the purpose of metallic mineral exploration, prospecting and bulk sampling and mining” was rejected 11,927 to 7,129 in the Nov. 6, 2018 election after facing opposition from the Lac du Flambeau Tribe and the grassroots organization Protect the Willow.
As a State Senator, Tiffany also cast votes to tighten election recount requirements, increase work hour requirements for welfare recipients, reduce the length of early voting periods, and limit the powers of the State Attorney General.
Tiffany launched his Congressional bid on Sept. 10, 2019.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Tiffany said he was running for Congress “to be the ally President Trump needs to keep moving our country forward. He needs help to secure our borders, to stop the left’s obsessive march towards Socialism, to protect our 2nd Amendment rights, to protect the unborn, and to get the government off our backs so we can all prosper. He needs a proven conservative with a track record of getting things done.”
Issues featured on Tiffany’s campaign website include “draining the swamp,” “securing our southern border,” “defending the 2nd amendment” and “making healthcare affordable.”
The website highlights Tiffany’s support for The SWAMP Act, which would move federal agencies “right into the heart of the country. Lowering costs and moving our agencies away from the swamp to where the problem solvers are – real America.” Tiffany “successfully relocated the Division of Forestry in the Department of Natural Resources from Madison to Northern Wisconsin,” according to the website.
“Tom has always fought for the rights of property owners,” the website states. “In Congress, he’ll fight for your property rights against the bureaucrats in the swamp.”
Tiffany supports building a wall along the United States-Mexico border “first and foremost.”
“Then, there can be a broader discussion about ending chain migration and a merit-based immigration process,” the website says. Tiffany does not support amnesty, which would allow people who have entered the country illegally to be granted legal immigration status.
The website calls Tiffany a “proud National Rifle Association lifetime member with an A+ rating,” adding he “stepped forward and stopped (Governor Tony) Evers’ gun-grabbing efforts” after Evers “proposed restricting people’s 2nd Amendment rights.”
“In Congress, Tom will stop attacks on the 2nd Amendment and champion your ability to fight for freedom and defend yourself against tyranny,” the website says.
According to the website, Tiffany wants to make healthcare affordable “with more choice, competition, and transparency.” He does not support a universal healthcare plan, saying, “…socialists in the House want to enact Medicare for all that would bankrupt taxpayers and result in Medicare for none.”
President Trump endorsed Tiffany on Twitter on April 20, saying Tiffany “is a Great Advocate for the incredible people of Wisconsin (WI07). We need Tom in Congress to help us Make America Great Again!”
Trump also said Tiffany “will Fight for Small Business, supports our Incredible Farmers, Loves our Military and our Vets…He is Strong on Crime, the Border, and Second Amendment. Tom has deep roots in Wisconsin, is a big Tax Cutter, and will help me DRAIN THE SWAMP! Tom has my Complete and Total Endorsement.”
Tiffany has also received endorsements from Duffy, Walker, Governor Tommy Thompson, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Congressman Bryan Steil, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity–Wisconsin, the National Rifle Association, Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, and the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, along with other organizations, state legislators, and county sheriffs from northern and western Wisconsin, his campaign says.
Democratic candidate Tricia Zunker
Tricia Zunker is originally from Wausau, where she currently lives with her son. The first in her family to graduate from college, she earned a Bachelor degree with a triple major from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002 and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Los Angeles School of Law in 2006. After college, she became a practicing attorney.
She was elected as an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court in 2013 and was reelected in 2017. She teaches remotely from her office in Wausau as a professor at the California School of Law, where she serves as Dean of Faculty. Zunker also teaches remotely as a professor at the University of Maryland in the legal studies program and at Colorado State University’s Global Campus in the criminal justice department.
Zunker was elected to the Wausau School Board in 2018 and currently serves as Board President. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.
Zunker launched her bid for Congress in Oct. 2019. She is Wisconsin’s first Native American Congressional candidate in almost 30 years, and would be the state’s first Native American member of Congress if elected.
Issues highlighted on her campaign website, www.triciaforwisconsin.com, include healthcare, “education & children,” “standing up for working people & protecting equality,” “the economy & infrastructure,” environment, campaign finance, and criminal justice reform.
“Healthcare is a right,” Zunker says on the website. “No one should die because they can’t afford to go to the doctor; people should not go bankrupt because they can’t afford their medication. We need to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health insurance and we must empower people to make their own health decisions. I am in favor of Medicare for All for those who want it in the form of a robust public option, and I support measures to increase healthcare coverage.”
Zunker says she believes higher education must be made “accessible and affordable.”
“We need to begin to tackle the growing student debt crisis,” she states. “We need to continue to encourage affordable community colleges and trade schools. We should also be promoting jobs in the skilled trades and technical field.”
Zunker states that children are “entitled to safety, whether that is in school or in society generally.”
“As a mother and school board president, I see our students participate in active shooter drills. This is not the environment we want our students to be learning in,” Zunker says. “The epidemic of school shootings must end. We need common sense gun legislation to protect our children. I fully support the Second Amendment. People should certainly be permitted to defend themselves in their homes and, of course, they should be permitted to hunt with appropriate firearms.”
“We to keep guns out of the hands of people who will use them to hurt others,” she continues. “We have a duty to provide safe schools and safe communities for our children and we are failing right now without common sense gun reform.”
Zunker says she will fight to create “good-paying union jobs here in Wisconsin and oppose proposed laws that hurt workers.”
“The people of Northern Wisconsin wake up every day and go to work, but because of politicians who cater to corporate interests and rig the system against them, working-class Americans have been left behind,” she states, adding, “I will also defend not only equal rights, but equal opportunity. That means access to quality schools, equitable education and employment opportunities, quality and affordable healthcare, and end to discrimination.”
Zunker expresses her intent to “fight for women to ensure that they get equal pay for equal work, proper, legal treatment in the workplace and I will fight for paid family leave,” and says that she will stand up for women’s healthcare. She also states that she is a “strong advocate for our LGBTQ+ community” and that she will “ensure they receive equal rights and opportunities.”
“In Congress, I will also be a voice for our minority and underrepresented communities and give everyone in Wisconsin the opportunity to succeed,” Zunker says. “I will stand up for our marginalized communities and fight hard against policies of continued oppression. And I will be a strong defender of tribal sovereignty, ensuring that we not only protect sovereignty, but strengthen it. We are in this together.”
Zunker calls for the minimum wage to be raised “to increase the money in people’s pockets.”
“We also need to end unfair tax giveaways to big corporations and push for smart tax policies that will allow us to implement a real infrastructure plan to fix our aging and broken roads, bridges, and water systems,” she states.
Zunker states her belief that “we have an obligation and a duty to protect the environment for generations to come.”
“We cannot let corporate mining interests destroy our beautiful lands,” she says. “We cannot let corporations and CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) contaminate our water and lands with unchecked practices. In addition to fighting for our environment, we must also begin to tackle emissions and climate change to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren.”
Zunker says campaign finance is reform is necessary “In order for our government to become more representative, and accountable to their constituents” and claims she refuses to “accept a dime in corporate PAC money.”
Recreational marijuana “in appropriate amounts should be legalized,” Zunker says, adding that prisons are overcrowded as a result of “too many people who are being treated as if they are threats to society for marijuana.” She also states criminal justice “should never be about profit, ever” and that “we need to address the disproportionate rate of incarceration of minority communities.”
Zunker has received endorsements from U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren, former 7th Congressional District Representative Dave Obey, State Senators Janet Bewely and Patty Schachtner, State Representatives Nick Milroy and Beth Meyers, New Mexico Representative and one the two first Native American women elected to Congress Deb Haaland, activist and ironworker Randy Bryce, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers of District 2, IBEW Local 388, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, and the Sierra Club.