Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 16, 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ scheduling mess in the 7th Congressional District grows messier the longer he drags his feet.
The Democrat’s lack of action is putting campaigns in a bind and leaving the district without congressional representation at a pivotal time in the nation’s history.
State Sen. Tom Tiffany, one of three Republicans running for the seat left empty by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy’s departure nearly a month ago, said his campaign has heard nothing from the governor.
“They’ve had 30 days to get this in place. They botched the rollout, but the people of the 7th Congressional District want to have representation in congress and they should,” the Hazelhurst Republican said.
Evers originally scheduled the general election for Jan. 27, with a primary on Dec. 30. He claimed he wanted to set the dates as quickly as possible so that the district wouldn’t be left unrepresented for long.
The governor was forced to retreat when he learned that his schedule would violate federal election law regarding military and overseas voters. His unprecedented schedule would have placed the election days on Mondays — not the traditional Tuesday. And he failed to take into account that the dates coincided with Hanukkah and Kwanza.
So Evers is supposed to reschedule. When he will do that remained unclear on Tuesday. Even the state Elections Commission remains in the dark.
“We have not heard anything official about new dates for the 7th CD election – it’s up to the governor’s office to issue a new executive order to change the dates,” Riley Willman, elections administration specialist, told Empower Wisconsin Tuesday in an email.
“I have no idea if this was driven by politics or incompetence but neither one is an excuse,” Tiffany said of the election-scheduling mess. “I know we are without representation here in the 7th Congressional District, and we are talking about an important issue that is front and center, which is impeachment.”
“I think the 7th Congressional District should have a voice in the impeachment process,” Tiffany added.
The other Republican candidates include retired Army Captain Jason Church and Edgar resident Michael Opela Sr. Two Democrats, businessman and former Green Party congressional candidate Lawrence Dale and Tricia Zunker, associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court and president of the Wausau School Board, recently threw their hats in the ring.
Juston Johnson, consultant for the Church campaign, accused the governor and Democrats of political pandering.
“The Democrats, led by Gov. Evers, have dragged their feet (on rescheduling the election) to recruit, in their mind, viable candidates on the left,” Johnson said.
Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff blamed the scheduling glitch on conflicting state and federal election law, making it an “impossible situation” to set the primary date, according to the Associated Press. She said the governor is in consultation with both the state and federal departments of justice to set the new date, but that the general election won’t likely occur until April or May.
The date change and lack of clarity moving forward is causing real headaches for candidates too. The Tiffany campaign has already collected hundreds of nomination paper signatures listing the original election date. It’s not clear whether those signatures will be valid and it’s impossible for campaigns to produce literature until a new date is set.
Willman said the Elections Commission’s legal team is determining how a date change might impact nomination signatures, “but without knowing the exact details of the pending executive order we cannot issue any guidance at this time.”