A Northwoods state senator will be the next representative of the 7th Congressional District.
According to preliminary results, Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, was winning by about 15 percentage points at 9 p.m. with about 147,000 ballots counted. Several election analysts had already forecast a victory for the Republican based on the returns.
The special election was called after Republican former Rep. Sean Duffy resigned in September. Tiffany faced Democrat Tricia Zunker, the Wausau School Board president and a Ho-Chunk Supreme Court justice.
Tiffany campaigned on a promise to be an ally to President Donald Trump, emphasizing his closeness to the president and steadfast support throughout the eight-month campaign.
Voters found protective barriers, hand-sanitizer stations and strict social distancing requirements at the polls. Across the district's 700 municipalities, about 250 Wisconsin National Guard members assisted at polling locations.
The sprawling 7th Congressional District comprises all or part of 26 counties, including much of central Wisconsin and the Northwoods and all of northwestern Wisconsin. It has been a conservative stronghold, and voted for Trump by more than 20 points in 2016.
The global pandemic that struck in the middle of the campaign forced Tiffany and Zunker and their supporters to shift to online organizing events and virtual get-out-the-vote efforts. On Saturday, the Trump campaign boasted that volunteers had made more than 1 million phone calls to voters in the district supporting Tiffany’s campaign. The president has tweeted his endorsement of Tiffany several times in recent weeks.
Zunker had called for the election to be held entirely by mail, but Gov. Tony Evers did not push for a change. Both campaigns promoted absentee voting.
Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news.