The results of Tuesday’s election in Wisconsin’s 7th District race were not exactly what Tricia Zunker was hoping for when she threw her hat in the race back in October.
Zunker, a Democrat, was defeated by Wisconsin Sen. Tom Tiffany, R- Minocqua, during the May 12 special election to replace former Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy. Tiffany carried 59% of the vote according to preliminary results and won all but three of the 26 full and partial counties that make up Wisconsin’s 7th District.
“Zunker’s race is a bellwether for what’s happening in Wisconsin and throughout this country in response to the Trump administration’s handling of this pandemic,” her campaign wrote in a statement Tuesday night. “Zunker shows that Wisconsin is trending blue for the fall.”
However, it was Tiffany who was already launching his next campaign on his website to retain the seat in November because he was only elected to fill the remainder of Duffy's term. Zunker did not respond to a question about whether she would run again in November.
For the first time since 2012, a Democratic candidate for Wisconsin’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives garnered more than 40% of the vote in a district that elected Trump by 20 points.
But the counties Zunker won — Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas — should come as no surprise after the 2016 presidential race. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won all three counties, just with smaller margins.
In those three counties, fewer voters headed to the polls Tuesday than in the 2016 presidential election, but Republican-leaning voters sat out Tuesday’s election in greater numbers than those casting ballots for Democrats. Fifty of the 66 communities across the three counties voted similarly Tuesday along party lines as the 2016 presidential election.
The town of Agenda in Ashland County, Lake Nebagamon in Douglas County and the Mason in Bayfield County favored Tiffany this week, but voted for Clinton in 2016.
“Throughout this campaign, one thing was made resoundingly clear: The people of our district want a strong, experienced voice who will take some Northwoods common sense to Washington, D.C.,” Tiffany said in a prepared statement. “Someone who will work with President Trump to get our families safely through these rough times and back to prosperity. That has always been my promise to you, and I am ready to hit the ground running on Day One.”
Thirteen municipalities in Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties favored Zunker despite handing Trump a victory in Wisconsin in 2016.
“I ran on affordable health care, help for our small businesses and family farmers, and protecting our environment, and that message resonated with people throughout Northern Wisconsin,” Zunker said. “Despite a global pandemic and the lack of universal mail-in voting, we showed what can be done, and we laid the groundwork for this seat to turn blue in November.”
Fewer than half of voters in Ashland and Douglas counties and only two-thirds of Bayfield County voters cast ballots in the special election Tuesday when compared to the 2016 presidential election.
How Douglas County voted
*Trump won in 2016.
**Clinton won in 2016.