Rep. Sean Duffy’s last day—special election date set

By: - September 23, 2019 3:56 pm
US Rep Sean Duffy official portrait

U.S. Rep Sean Duffy

Gov. Tony Evers announced he will order a special election to fill the seat in the 7th Congressional District left open as Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) officially steps down at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept 23.

The governor issued an executive order setting the election date for Jan. 27, 2020. The primary election, if there is one, will be on Dec. 30, 2019.

“Our rural communities have been directly affected by unproductive trade wars, political attacks on healthcare and public education, and economic uncertainty because of the volatility we’re seeing in Washington, D.C.,” Evers said in a statement announcing the election. “The people of Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District deserve to have a voice in Congress, which is why I am calling for a special election to occur quickly to ensure the people of the 7th Congressional District have representation as soon as possible. I thank Rep. Duffy for his service and wish him and his family all the best.”

The January election date is not ideal, according to at least one Democrat, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth).

“If you have a primary or a general around Christmas … you get terrible turnout because real people don’t think about primary elections, they think about the holidays,” Pocan said in a conversation with reporters on Sept. 4, during which he was asked what would be the best election date in the 7th district for Democrats. 

The best way to schedule the election, he said, was to “piggyback” the dates on already-scheduled elections, with a primary in February and a general election in April. “You don’t want to add elections,” Pocan said. “We like elections; most people don’t.”

“If you start putting a bunch of elections, especially at Christmas time or in other months, you’re not going to get turnout and that doesn’t benefit anyone,” Pocan added. “You should want as many people as possible to participate.”

Pocan made headlines earlier in the year when he suggested it was unlikely that a Democrat would win Duffy’s seat. In the Sept. 4 conversation with reporters he elaborated: “I’m not saying it’s impossible.” President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been sinking in Wisconsin, Pocan noted, and that could be a factor.

Tom Tiffany, the first Republican candidate to declare he is running for the seat, is an outspoken Trump supporter. No Democrat has announced yet.

“It’s a gerrymandered district,” Pocan said. “If they have a big primary and everyone wants to be to the right of the next person on the right, eventually you fall off the ledge. That could affect the race. It depends who the Democratic nominee is — are they someone who can have some name ID, raise some money, do what you need to do? And then It depends when the election is, as we’re watching Trump kind of going downhill.”

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is the author of "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" which won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel award from The New Press. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.