Tiffany, Zunker compete Tuesday for 7th Congressional seat vacated by Sean Duffy
Roughly 70,000 absentee ballots already have been returned for Tuesday’s 7th Congressional race, the second election being held in Wisconsin during the COVID-19 pandemic with the assistance of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Overall, approximately 111,000 requests for absentee ballots were made by the 420,000 registered voters in the Congressional district that includes 21 northern and western Wisconsin counties and a portion of five others, according to Reid Magney, a spokesman with the Wisconsin Election Commission.
The election pits Tricia Zunker, president of the Wausau School Board and an associate justice for the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court, against two-term Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Minoqua, who also owns and operates Wilderness Cruises on the Willow Flowage.
If elected, Zunker, a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, would be the first Native American elected to Congress in Wisconsin and the third nationally.
Magney said the state is better prepared for Tuesday’s election than it was for the April 7 statewide election.
“We are not in the middle of court. We don’t have changing rules and changing deadlines in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election,” Magney told UNN Friday. “On April 7 we were doing a lot of stuff the Saturday and Sunday before the election. With this election, the clerks who have requested help know exactly when help (National Guard members) are arriving and what they will be doing. I expect things will run much more smoothly because of that.”
On April 7, 2,400 National Guards troops were deployed to 71 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to assist with elections. Many poll workers decided they did not want to risk contracting COVID-19 by working election day, creating a lack of workers and poll site consolidations that warranted the assistance of the Guard to staff election locations.
At least 52 people tested positive for COVID-19 after either voting in-person or working the polls April 7, according to the state Department of Health Services.
On Tuesday, 250 troops will assist on election day, according to Capt. Joe Trovato with the Wisconsin National Guard.
Tiffany and Zunker are running in Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat vacated by former Republican Rep. Sean Duffy who stepped down in September to spend more time with his family and an infant daughter with health complications.
Duffy followed long-time Democrat U.S. Rep. Dave Obey who held the seat for nearly four decades before retiring in 2010. Since then, that part of the state has been voting solidly Republican. In 2016, President Donald Trump won the district by 20 points.
In a debate last week hosted by Wisconsin Public Radio, Zunker repeatedly referred to Tiffany as a “rubber stamp for Trump’s policies” due to his views on opposing universal background checks prior to the purchase of a firearm, support of renegotiated trade deals, and ceding environmental control to states.
The candidates clashed on how undocumented agricultural workers should be treated, with Zunker advocating for their healthcare needs to be met in the United States, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tiffany argued it is the job of their home countries to cover their healthcare needs.
The candidates also did not agree on how the country’s healthcare system should operate in upcoming years. Tiffany said Medicaid for all will lead to Medicaid for none, while Zunker said the Affordable Care Act needs to be expanded and improved upon, with an ongoing focus on covering people with pre-existing conditions.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Many, but not all, municipalities have created curbside options for some voters to fill out their ballots without leaving their vehicles while others drop off already completed absentee ballots. Registration can also be done at the polling place with proper identification. Check your local clerk’s office for the latest information.