Primary election results: Tiffany, Zunker to face off in 7th Congressional District
Incumbent Justice Kelly, Dane County Circuit Judge Karofsky vying for state Supreme Court seat
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
WISCONSIN – Republican Tom Tiffany and Democrat Tricia Zunker will face off in the state’s 7th Congressional District in a special election on May 12, while incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly will go up against Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky for a ten-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7.
7th Congressional District
In the race to fill the vacant seat in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, Republican State Senator Tom Tiffany and Wausau School Board President Tricia Zunker, a Democrat who is also an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court and a law professor, emerged victorious in their respective primary elections held on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The two will face each other in the May 12 special election that was called by Governor Tony Evers after Republican Representative Sean Duffy resigned in September.
Tiffany, 62, of Minocqua, defeated challenger Jason Church, an Army captain and former staffer for Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, with roughly 58% of the vote, receiving 43,769 votes with 99.72% of precincts reporting. Church, a 30-year-old Hudson resident, tallied 32,287 votes, about 42%.
In a statement following his victory, Tiffany thanked his grassroots volunteers and everyone who voted for him. Tiffany also said he will work to bring his business experience to Congress, “where Nancy Pelosi and her radical allies need some Wisconsin common sense.”
“Now, it’s time to rally together and win on Tuesday, May 12,” Tiffany said in the statement. “President Trump needs strong reinforcements in Congress who will work to stop socialism and defend freedom. I’m running for Congress to keep America great. We must ensure our children and grandchildren can grow up with the same freedom and opportunity that we did.”
Zunker, 39, of Wausau, soundly defeated 71- year-old Eagle River businessman Lawrence Dale, earning 35,564 votes to Dale’s 4,473, a roughly 89% to 11% margin with 99.72% of precincts reporting.
“I am deeply humbled by this outpouring of support. This is incredible,” Zunker said in a speech posted on social media following her win. “We are one step closer to sending the first Native American to represent Wisconsin in Congress, and the first woman ever to represent this district. Representation matters, and we must seek to achieve a government reflective of society. And, we are one step closer to reclaiming this seat and having real representation for the people, not the corporate interests.”
Zunker went on to thank her campaign volunteers, supporters and family.
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly will square off against Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky for a decade-long term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7.
With 98.84% of precincts reporting, Kelly received 352,860 votes, roughly 50%, followed by Karofsky with 261,721 votes, approximately 37%. Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone tallied 89,181 votes, about 13%. Fallone previously made an unsuccessful bid for the state Supreme Court in 2013.
The impending showdown between conservative Kelly and liberal Karofsky will potentially impact the ideological balance of the state’s highest court. A Kelly win will maintain the current conservative majority of 5 to 2, while a Karofsky victory will whittle that majority down to 4 to 3. Conservatives have held a majority on the court since 2008.
Kelly was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2016 by then-Governor Scott Walker to replace retiring Justice David Prosser. Kelly has since voted with the conservative majority to uphold lame-duck laws that restrict the powers of Governor Evers and received an endorsement from President Donald J. Trump in January.
Karofsky, who has held the Dane County Circuit Court Judge post since 2017, previously served as an assistant attorney general at the Wisconsin Department of Justice and as a Dane County deputy district attorney. She has received endorsements from former Governor Jim Doyle and state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet.
In a statement, Kelly acknowledged “the power of our grassroots volunteers” as a key to him earning the most votes in the primary, saying it would give him the momentum necessary to win in April.
“Tonight’s results prove that Wisconsinites are passionate about preserving their constitution and upholding the rule of law on their Supreme Court,” Kelly said. “This has been my commitment to my bosses — the people of Wisconsin — since I came to the court, and I am so thankful for their support.”
Karofsky pointed to Wisconsinites’ desire for a Supreme Court that is free of “corruption and special interest” as a contributor to her advancing to the April election.
“I look forward to traveling across Wisconsin, talking to voters, and making our case,” Karofsky said in a statement. “My opponent and his special-interest allies will throw every bit of mud they can, but I have the record, the commitment to the rule of law, and the toughness required to win this race.”
In the City of Merrill District 1 Aldermanic race, incumbent Paul Russell earned the most votes with 138. His challenger-to-be on April 7, Becky J. Meyer, tallied 63 votes, followed by Gary Broesch with 52. Russell and Meyer previously faced off in the July 16, 2019 Recall Election, when Russell defeated Meyer 150-91.
Gerald Anderson (89 votes) and Wil Losch (72 votes) will face off for Rhinelander’s 5th District alderman seat. Jason Dailey garnered 60 votes.
Lakeland Union School District’s referendum was rejected by a 3,073 to 2,402-vote margin. Edgar School District’s referendum was also voted down, with 530 voting against and 453 voting in favor.