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Duffy holds on for easy victory

Margaret Engebretson is all smiles at Vintage Italian Pizza on Tuesday, Nov. 6, as she talks to University of Wisconsin-Superior history professor, Joel Sipress, left, and Jerry Paine as the early tally showed her leading in Wisconsin's 7th District race. (Jed Carlson /

Early returns prompted a jubilant mood at Vintage Italian Pizza early in the evening Tuesday, Nov. 6.

With Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland counties tallied, it looked as though Democratic candidate Margaret Engebretson just might pull off a victory over U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy for Wisconsin's 7th District congressional seat.

But as the night wore on, Engebretson wondered if she would "move the needle at all" as vote totals rolled in from counties to the south and west.

And in the end, she didn't.

Duffy won the Wisconsin's largest congressional district with 60 percent of the vote. Engebretson trailed with nearly 39 percent of the vote, and Ken Driessen, an independent carried a little more than 1 percent of the vote.

The margin was nearly the same as the 2016 election when Duffy held onto the seat against Democratic candidate Mary Hoeft.

"The 7th is 26 counties. There's deep red ones, there's blue ones, so who ... knows," Engebretson said with 18 percent of the vote counted, and the district sliding toward a Duffy victory.

Duffy took 23 of the 26 counties.

"Every day, I wake up and fight my heart out to make sure we have the right policies to make sure not only our country, but our state is more prosperous," Duffy said in a prepared statement released after 11 p.m. Tuesday. "And it is a remarkable honor to represent central, western and northern Wisconsin for another term."

Duffy will serve his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He joined the House in 2011, taking over the seat formerly held by Democrat Dave Obey.

"Two years ago, we were fighting to make sure our workers could go back to work," Duffy said "We thought if we streamlined our rules and regulations, if we could lower our taxes, let you keep a little bit more of your own money, this economy could grow."

After running a long race and putting it all out there — with the help of many working on her — she said she is going to take some time to reflect. She said she was surprised by the results of Tuesday night's election, not just in her own race, but nationwide, because it didn't seem to reflect what she was seeing on the campaign trail in the 7th District, and wondered if party loyalty played a bigger role in the outcome than some had expected.

"As most people know, this was a grassroots, people-powered campaign and it's pretty incredible that someone like me was able to go out there and run for this gigantic district," Engebretson said Wednesday morning. "I think people were just happy to help out and I was grateful for it."