Washington watches Wisconsin special election primary

WASHINGTON (Gray DC/AP) -- Voters in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional district have not had a voice in the U.S House of Representatives since former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) resigned in September. Tuesday, voters will take to the polls for a special election primary, the next step toward filling the WI-07 vacancy.

Associate Professor Mark Rom discusses Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional district special election primary from inside of his Georgetown University office. (Source: Gray DC)

As you most likely learned in school, the House of Representatives is made up of 435 members. Currently, 232 are democrat; 197 are republican; and one is registered as an independent. There are also five vacancies, including the WI-07 seat.

The Republican primary features a battle between state Sen. Tom Tiffany and retired Army Capt. Jason Church. The Democratic primary matches Tricia Zunker, president of the Wausau school board, against Lawrence Dale, who didn’t mount an active campaign.

Georgetown University Associate Professor Mark Rom says while, ultimately, the outcome of this race won’t change which party controls the house, it could play a pivotal role in national politics down the line. 

“Perhaps the Republicans will make inroads in the House,” said Rom. “Perhaps they will get close to a majority. If they are close to a majority, this seat could be quite important in determining who has power.”

Outside groups spent at a record clip on behalf of both Church and Tiffany, making it the most expensive congressional primary in state history.

In a race that’s drawn in significant outside spending, Rom says he expects district voters will seek-out a candidate who will follow in Duffy’s footsteps. But, he adds, that could all change based on voter turn-out.

“Special elections are low turn-out elections, so the candidate who is best able to mobilize supporters and get them to take the time to vote is likely to prevail,” said Rom.  

Duffy represented the 7th District for nearly eight years before retiring this past September to spend more time with his family. He and his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, were reality TV personalities who met on MTV’s “The Real World.”

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