Two Democratic candidates have joined the race for northern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, while dates have yet to be scheduled for a special election and primary to fill the seat.
Lawrence Dale, a Vietnam veteran and current Michigan resident, and Wausau School Board president and attorney Tricia Zunker both announced their candidacies Monday. They join Republicans Jason Church, Michael Opela Sr. and Tom Tiffany in the upcoming special election, which is being rescheduled after the U.S. Department of Justice said the original date picked by Gov. Tony Evers conflicted with federal law.
Zunker was elected in 2018 to the Wausau School Board. A practicing attorney and professor, Zunker is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and has served as associate justice to the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court since 2013.
Dale said he lives in Michigan near Hurley but plans to move into the 7th Congressional District before the election. He ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2014 as a Green Party candidate. He has been a health insurance salesman since 2011.
Zunker announced her candidacy in Aniwa, while Dale made his announcement at the state Capitol in Madison.
Both Democratic candidates took aim at Republican President Donald Trump in their announcements.
“The policies of the Trump Administration are endangering our democracy and the principles upon which our country was founded,” Dale said in a statement. “We must defeat the Trump Administration and its corruption at the polls in this special election and again in November and restore the strength of our democratic institutions.”
Zunker, who toured a Marathon County ginseng farm following her announced candidacy, in a statement described family farms as the “backbone of our economy” and said she plans to “fight for agriculture and trade policies that will better their lives, not put them in the perilous situation so many of them find themselves in right now.”
“Rural economies are fueled by our farming industry, and it’s vital they have reliable markets to succeed,” Zunker said. “Donald Trump should put an end to this trade war immediately if he truly cared about community.”
Candidates are running to fill the seat left vacant by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, who resigned after eight years on Sept. 23, citing complications with the baby his wife was due to deliver.
Evers had originally scheduled a special election for Jan. 27, putting the primary on Dec. 30. But he later canceled that date after it was determined it would violate a federal law that requires at least 45 days between a primary and general election to accommodate overseas absentee ballots. That conflicts with state law, which requires just 28 days between a primary and election.
State law does allow a special election to be held concurrently with the April 7 spring election, with the special primary then held to coincide with the Feb. 18 spring primary. But that would leave the seat vacant for about six months.
Evers has not yet provided new dates for the special election and primary. Officials with his office did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment Monday.
The winner of the special election will serve through the end of 2020 and will have to run again in the November 2020 election in order to serve a full two-year term.
Wisconsin’s 7th District covers all or parts of 20 central, northern and northwestern Wisconsin counties and is the state’s largest congressional district geographically. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney carried the district with 51% of the vote, compared with 48% for then-President Barack Obama. In 2016, Trump won it 57% to 37% over Democrat Hillary Clinton.