The field of candidates for Wisconsin’s two open congressional district races gained clarity on Tuesday, with one Republican state senator entering the race to represent his northern Wisconsin district and another prominent Republican bowing out of the running in a southeastern Wisconsin race.
Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany on Tuesday said he will seek to replace outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy to represent the 7th Congressional District, covering much of northern Wisconsin. His announcement came as Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, a prominent Republican and potential gubernatorial candidate in 2022, said he wouldn’t seek to replace outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner when he retires in early 2021.
Tiffany’s widely expected announcement, which came a day after another possible GOP candidate for the seat — Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon — bowed out, gives clarity to the list of candidates who are seriously considering a run to represent the Republican stronghold. Shortly before the announcement, Republican strategist Luke Hilgemann said he won’t run to represent the district.
Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Barron, among other Republicans, hasn’t ruled out a bid. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Jason Church, a retired Army officer who earned a Purple Heart after losing both legs in Afghanistan, is seriously considering a bid.
Duffy, who has represented the 7th Congressional District since 2011, said he will resign in late September to help care for his soon-to-be-born ninth child, who has a heart defect. Because Duffy is resigning, a special election will be called, likely for early next year, to fill his seat. Gov. Tony Evers has yet to announce exactly when it will be.
On Tuesday, Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, made his bid official as he began a two-day tour.
He said he worked to combat budget deficits, high unemployment and “deep pessimism” while in the Legislature, and that he’ll be able to make difficult decisions while representing the district in Washington.
“I don’t plan to go to Washington looking for a fight, but I can guarantee I will never back down from one,” Tiffany said in a statement. “Now more than ever we need to stand up to preserve our freedoms and our bedrock values. As we all know, it’s a swamp out there and we need someone who won’t waver when it comes to doing what is right for Wisconsin.”
Tiffany said he’ll be an “ally” to President Donald Trump and prioritize border security, Second Amendment rights, and advocating against abortion and limiting the size of government.
Potential Democrats include Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, and Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason, among others.
Democrats immediately tore into Tiffany’s announcement.
“Toxic Tom Tiffany has a habit of losing elections, letting polluters write legislation to give themselves tax breaks, and slashing health care for seniors,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Ben Wikler said in a statement. “Wisconsin Republicans love gerrymandering, but it’s hard to gerrymander your way out of a record like that.”
Farrow on Tuesday said he won’t run to replace Sensenbrenner in suburban Milwaukee’s 5th Congressional District because he wants to prioritize issues specific to his region.
“Ultimately, I cannot serve in Washington, D.C., when the issues I am most passionate about hit much closer to home,” Farrow said in a statement. “I truly value the opportunity to lead as Waukesha County executive, and remain passionate about service to my home county and our great state.”
Farrow’s announcement comes a day after Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, announced he also wouldn’t pursue a bid for the seat in the strongly Republican district.
The list of Republicans considering a bid to represent the 5th Congressional District in southeastern Wisconsin is long, and includes Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau; former Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield; Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield; Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee; former Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson; and Matt Walker, the son of former Gov. Scott Walker.
Democrat Tom Palzewicz, an entrepreneur and Navy veteran who lost to Sensenbrenner in 2018, is also running.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.