When U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy announced last fall he was resigning from his seat representing the 7th Congressional District, it surprised many people.
Duffy, R-Wausau, said he decided to step down to spend more time with his family, including a ninth child who was going to be facing some health issues.
Duffy's seat will be filled in the April 7 general election. Four candidates are running for the seat: two Republicans and two Democrats. A primary will be Tuesday, Feb. 18, to narrow the field to one candidate from each party.
On the Democratic side, Wausau school board member and law professor Tricia Zunker will face Lawrence Dale, an independent insurance agent from Eagle River.
On the Republican ticket, State Sen. Tom Tiffany of Minocqua is squaring off with U.S. veteran Jason Church of Hudson.
Each of the four candidates responded to an identical questionnaire sent to them in early February. Here are their responses.
1) Why are you the best candidate to represent the 7th Congressional District? Talk about your qualifications and background that shows you are the best candidate.
Dale: My focus is on diversifying the 7th's economy and keeping it green. My platform calls for a Green New Deal that will attract new farmer businesses by building a series of small slaughter meat processing micro facilities to exploit high demand, value-added family farm-raised meat products. I completed a feasibility study for such a facility(s) which was vetted and found to be commercially viable by an agriculture economist.
Zunker: I was born and raised in Wausau. I am a member of the HoChunk Nation. I come from generations of dairy farmers. I grew up in a strong union household. I am a first generation college graduate with a degree from UW-Madison. I earned a law degree from UCLA. I am associate justice on the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court, currently in my second elected term. I am also president of the Wausau school board. I teach law classes at one law school and two universities from my home office in Wausau. I am a solo parent with an amazing nine-year-old son. I have a demonstrated record of public service and have been a hard worker my whole life. I refuse to accept corporate PAC money and will be accountable only to the people. I'm ready to get to work.
Church: While leading men in combat, I had to make life or death decisions knowing that my choices affected someone's loved one. I'm not afraid to go to Washington, D.C., and make tough decisions on behalf of Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District. I know that a bill is more than words on a page, it's people's livelihoods.
Tiffany: As a husband, father and small businessman who grew up on a small family farm with my seven brothers and sisters, I am uniquely qualified to look out for Wisconsin taxpayers and families to ensure their voices are heard at the U.S. Capitol. Actions speak louder than words. I've worked to cut $13 billion in taxes, defund Planned Parenthood and protect our 2nd Amendment rights. I've done it at the State Capitol, and I will bring the same action to Congress.
2) If you had been in Congress, based on what you have read and observed, would you have voted to impeach President Trump? Do you believe he made a "perfect call" to the Ukraine president and did nothing improper?
Dale: The evidence was overwhelming to impeach and remove Trump from office for bribing a foreign government to interfere in our 2020 election and using the withholding of U.S. military aid to accomplish this end (thereby undermining American security interests in the Ukraine). The fact that no witnesses or documents were allowed by the U.S. Senate's "Kangaroo Court" trial illustrates that the Republican majority have put party before country and violated their oath to be impartial.
Zunker: It is disappointing to see the proceedings devolved into partisan politics. Each and every one of those leaders took an oath to uphold the Constitution — which is the supreme law of the land — and that oath should have been upheld. Here, facts did emerge which required a vote in support of further fact-finding, as a matter of constitutional duty.
Church: The Democrats have been calling for President Trump's removal since the day he was elected. I would not have voted for his impeachment. Democrats wasted years trying to impeach the president instead of working for the American people.
Tiffany: No, I would not have voted to impeach President Trump. Impeachment has always been Democrats' attempt to undo the president's fairly won election, not actual wrongdoing. I am confident Americans will see through this sham and re-elect President Trump this November because of the president's record of defeating terrorists, passing good trade deals and sparking economic growth.
3) If elected, what would you do to help farmers who have struggled recently? Changes to tariffs? More federal aid?
Dale: My number one objective once elected to Congress would be to enact legislation for a moratorium on any further expansion of industrial dairies and factory farms in general. The Republican leadership and Biden Democrats have greased the skids and consciously abused their power to destroy family dairy operations by manipulating the raw milk market in favor of their campaign financing backers, big agribusiness.
Zunker: I will advocate for access to competitive markets, incentives for use of sustainable, renewable energy, elimination of predatory business practices that hurt our small and mid-sized farmers, funding for mental health assistance for our farmers and broadband access that is needed throughout the 7th District. And we must support our small businesses because when we support our small businesses, we support our farmers.
Church: We need to reevaluate our trade agreements to make sure our farmers are able to sell their products to open foreign markets. The USMCA was a huge victory in that regard as dairy farmers are now able to sell more products to Canada. As President Trump negotiates future phases of a new trade deal with China, tariffs will be lessened and farmers will see more relief.
Tiffany: As I've talked to farmers over the last year, I continue to hear they want greater access to broader markets. I'll work with President Trump to build on the successes of the USMCA trade deal and phase one of the China deal to provide Wisconsin farmers more opportunities to sell their products to people around the world. For too long, our farmers have suffered because we have let other countries take advantage of us with costly tariffs on American goods. In Congress, I'll work to right these wrongs.
4) What health insurance changes would you support?
Dale: I support Bernie Sanders and the Medicare for all plan (M4A). This would make health care a right, not a privilege. No more deductibles, co-pays, HMOs or patching up Obamacare. M4A would be paid for by a wealth tax on Wall Street that has made a fortune putting together deals that shipped over 50,000 good paying manufacturing plants to China and Mexico as it threw 3.5 million Americans out of work.
Zunker: Health care costs are out of control. We need accessible, affordable health care and need to ensure people with pre-existing conditions are covered. We must also ensure affordable mental health care. The cost of prescription drugs continues to skyrocket and we must take on Big Pharma and lower the cost of prescription drugs. We must also ensure that rural hospitals and related necessary services are properly funded.
Church: Finding ways to increase competition is essential for fixing health insurance in the United States. In Congress, I will support the purchase of insurance across state lines and price transparency.
Tiffany: Socialists like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to enact a Medicare for all plan that would bankrupt taxpayers with its $34 trillion price tag and result in Medicare for none. Instead, we should insert more choice, competition and transparency into health care so that Americans can get better access at lower costs. As a small businessman, I've seen these free-market principles in action as they help create significant savings and improve health outcomes.
5) With the national debt now over $22 trillion, what changes would you support to reduce the debt?
Dale: We reduce the national debt by closely examining expenditures, especially in the Pentagon budget that can be cut without undermining our national security. Nor can we continue subsidizing the oil industry or continue letting the banking industry, big pharmaceutical and other companies like Amazon avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Zunker: We need to close corporate tax loopholes. We also need to make sure the millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share in taxes. And we need to bring our servicemen and women home. We should not be spending money on never-ending foreign conflict.
Church: Our top spending priority should always be our national defense, and a crippling national debt threatens that. We need to enact pro-growth policies, like lower taxes, so that families and businesses can thrive.
Tiffany: One of the reasons I became a citizen legislator was to address the state's crippling budget deficits, and in Wisconsin, my colleagues and I managed to eliminate our state debt, cut taxes by $13 billion, and now we have the highest rainy day fund in state history. The federal government has a spending problem, and we can start to address this by eliminating fraud and abuse in our welfare programs and ensure only the neediest are getting a hand up. Furthermore, we must look at systemic changes that would impact spending. We can do this by relocating some federal agencies out of the swamp and into the country, closer to the people they regulate, and removing outdated requirements that substantially and artificially increase the cost of every building project that uses federal dollars.
6) Should the U.S. continue to spend money on building a wall along the southern border with Mexico? What could or should be done differently?
Dale: No wall on the border. We need to crack down on U.S. employers who fail to ensure that their job applicants are in the U.S. legally. And give the Dreamers legal status.
Zunker: No. This is a waste of resources. We must prioritize our spending. I also do not support separating children at the border. What is happening at the border is inhumane.
Church: Building a wall along the southern border is essential for stopping illegal crossings and for the security of our country. The wall is just one component of comprehensive immigration reform. We need to remove incentives for illegal immigration and abolish sanctuary cities.
Tiffany: A nation without borders is not a nation. Yes, we should support President Trump and his efforts to build the wall on our southern border to stop the scourge of drug and human trafficking that affects Wisconsin families. I have the support of several local county sheriffs because they know I will work hard to combat the drug epidemic and curb human trafficking. Innovative reforms, such as repealing the Davis-Bacon law that artificially increases the cost of building the wall, should be implemented so that it can be built economically.
7) What are top issues for you if you are elected?
Dale: Moratorium on industrial dairies/factory farms and supply management policy to save the remainder of our family-run dairy operations. Medicare for All, Green New Deal for the 7th to include developing hemp production. Legalize marijuana to create more green businesses and prevent the criminalizing of a substance that has no medical or scientific evidence that it is harmful. Universal background checks on all firearm sales, and a ban on the sale of assault rifles. Free Universal Pre-K. Free quality child care for working parents. Free state university and public trade school education; Reimbursement and forgiveness of higher education-related debt.
Zunker: We need affordable accessible health care. We need to take on Big Pharma and drastically lower the cost of prescription drugs. We need to protect the environment. And we need campaign finance reform so we have representatives who are accountable to the people and not the corporate interests.
Church: Strengthening our economy and military and supporting our veterans are some of my top issues. Dairy farmers in Wisconsin have been struggling, but the USMCA and trade renegotiations with China are helping alleviate this stress. As a veteran, ensuring the security of our country and the health of our returning military personnel is extremely important to me.
Tiffany: My top issue is stopping the creep of socialism into our country and ensuring that the opportunity I had as a kid to reach for the American Dream remains for our children and grandchildren. To ensure this, we must also work on decreasing taxes, lowering the federal debt, and requiring congressional approval of burdensome regulations, as we did in Wisconsin. Another top priority of mine — that significantly impacts northern and western Wisconsin — is delisting the gray wolf so that Wisconsin can manage its currently out-of-control predator population.
Occupation: Former Military Officer
Education: B.S. Political Science, UW-La Crosse; M.A. Security Studies, Georgetown University; J.D., Wisconsin Law School
Prior elected experience: n/a
Family: Fiance, Bella Barbosa
Occupation: Judge; law professor
Education: J.D., UCLA School of Law; B.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Prior elected experience: President, Wausau School Board (current); associate justice, Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court (current, second term)
Family: Single; 1 son
Occupation: Former small businessman running Wilderness Cruises for two decades, dam tender, state legislator
Education: B.S. in agricultural economics from UW-River Falls in 1980
Prior elected experience: Town of Little Rice supervisor, 2009-2013; state Assembly 2011-2013, state Senator 2013-present.
Family: Wife, Chris; three daughters.
Address: Eagle River
Occupation: independent insurance agent
Education: M.S. in industrial relations with a focus on economics, University of Oregon; bachelor's degree in government, Ohio University
Prior elected experience: No prior elected office; served as a Bernie Sanders delegate from Vilas County in 2016 and a Green Party protest candidate for Congress in 2014
Family: single, no children
Park Falls' synchronized skating team made a strong showing at the Badger State Winter Games in Mosinee on Feb. 1, coming home with gold medals after besting five other teams on the ice.
Also skating that day in the level three bracket were teams from Stevens Point, Manitowoc, Medford, Weston, and Pittsville.
The Price Icicles team is made up of 11 members, ranging from ages 12 through 22, and is coached by Nancy Risch. The team includes Liliana D'Amico, Ashley Hilgart, Alexandria Kirch, Olivia Negri, Marissa Niehoff, Maia Oswald, Brook Pember, Caitlin Pesko, Kristina Peterson, Alison Smith, and Mallory Smith.
The girls skated in a two-minute routine choreographed to music, demonstrating numerous technical skills as well as artistic flair, all while remaining in perfect sync — from hand position to head turns to each skating stroke. The team has been rehearsing the routine — which Risch says is one of the most challenging the Icicles have taken on — once a week since early November, with the performance finally clicking into place in the 11th hour, days away from the competition.
The Price Icicles will compete once more this winter, skating in the Black River Falls Compete USA Competition on Saturday, Feb. 15. This will be the first time the team has competed in Black River Falls.
One of the most interesting elements of competitive skating is that coming from a small town is not necessarily a disadvantage, according to Risch, who said that skaters' success is determined by natural skill and time spent practicing.
Risch has been involved with the Price Ice skating club since her daughter was a youngster, and decided to take on the role of coach when the synchronized skating team was formed.
"It's fun," she said. "I really enjoy working with the kids."
The Price Icicles will demonstrate a classic routine from years past at the Park Falls Recreation Arena during the annual skating show, which will be held the first weekend in March, with performances starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 8.
Logging scheduled for the section of Phillips School forest encompassing a volunteer-built trail system located in the Town of Worcester has raised concerns from a group of citizens who recreate on the school-owned property.
Discussions regarding logging this segment of school forest — along with another section located along the Elk River — began back in July 2019 with the school forest committee. Bids were received, and a contract was signed with the Hayward logging company Future-Wood on Feb. 3, authorizing cutting to begin immediately and be completed two years from now on Aug. 1, 2022.
For the 24-acre section of forest land located along the river, all trees two inches in diameter at 4 1/2 feet above the ground will be harvested, except oak, pine, and spruce.
For the section that includes the Phillips trail system, the timber harvest will thin 70 acres of the existing pine stands by about a third, increasing spacing and removing any unhealthy trees. The vast majority of aspen, jackpine, scotch pine, and white birch is also slated for logging, along with any additional trees marked in orange.
Areas that are predominantly aspen stands will be more heavily logged, while others will be more lightly thinned.
The $109,106 earned by the scheduled logging will go into the school forest fund, which funds all related projects. The majority of the funds will be put toward the construction of an outdoor classroom — possibly beginning this summer — providing a facility for students to participate in a variety of outdoor learning opportunities.
The idea for an outdoor classroom dates back nearly 20 years, according to school forest coordinator Dave Scholz. In 2001, rather than sell off their school forest property, the district decided to take advantage of the various parcels for outdoor educational opportunities. In an effort to determine how best to offer these opportunities to students, teachers were surveyed to assess why they weren't already using the school forests.
According to Scholz, the majority of the responses pointed toward the lack of bathrooms and an indoor facility to get kids out of the elements.
Since funding for an outdoor classroom must be raised through regular management of the school forest, logging has taken place on many of the
school forest parcels over the years. From 2005-15, the district planted over 7,000 tree seedlings in the Worcester forest.
To date, $43,000 of school forest funds have been spent developing the school forest, according to Scholz.
The school forest trail, which has been built by a combination of volunteers and students over the course of several years, offers residents free access to ski, snowshoe, hiking, and biking trails.
These trails were constructed by members of the Flambeau Nordic Ski Club over the course of several years, along with the help of many other volunteers and students. The school district encourages public use of the forest, provided it does not interfere with educational priorities. The trails are used annually to host the Phillips Flurry Snowshoe Race, and receive regular use from outdoor enthusiasts. The maintenance of the trails is conducted regularly by volunteers.
The logging contract stipulates that trails should be kept free of brush and waste, and the wood roads will need to be bladed smooth by Aug. 1. It also specifies that no logging operations are allowed between Aug. 1 and Feb. 1 for the consecutive years the project is ongoing.
"The pine thinning will be mainly in the area of the single-track trails," said Joe Grapa, who serves as the district's consultant forester. Grapa added that the majority challenge of the harvesting process will be maintaining the integrity of the trails.
Although the logging contract is already signed and states logging may begin at any time, Grapa said that a pre-sale meeting will be held with the contractor before logging begins in order to consider the details of how to best preserve the trails. All single-track trails will be flagged so that logging crews can easily see where they are.
"There are places that won't be perfect. You are running equipment and machines. There will be some rehab required," Grapa cautioned. "The goal is to have the presale meeting and do the best you can."
Grapa said that the goal would be to prevent as much damage as possible to avoid significant trail reconstruction needs in the future.
"The goal is to have a healthy forest, and sustainable forest management for an outdoor education facility is a pretty neat idea," said Grapa.
Post harvest, the district has agreed to set aside funds to go toward any trail reconditioning needs.
The extent of the logging contract — which calls for the removal of approximately 1,800 cords of wood — has raised concerns for some local citizens, who attended an advisory meeting of the school forest committee on Feb. 4 to voice their opinions.
Several community members, school board members, and school employees were also in attendance.
Many different interests and priorities were discussed, ranging from maintaining the trails and community usage, to the health and diversity of the forest, to prioritizing student usage of the forest property.
School committee member Ron Kendziera said he would like to see the district explore other options, possibly staggering the logging over a period of years.
"I'm concerned with the level of logging," he said. "It seems to be fairly aggressive. The community has become very accustomed to using the trail system."
District administrator Rick Morgan responded that while staggering the logging was an option the district had considered, the bids for the project would decrease and there would be a longer period of time that logging equipment would be in the school forest.
"Within just a few years, it's not like you're not going to know it's been logged, but it will look considerably better," said Morgan.
DNR forester Rich Windmoeller also commented, "There are many reasons to manage forests. One way to manage forests is to leave them alone. Other areas are managed more intensively. This is a different situation. This is an educational forest, and it can be a working forest. There's a goal here that I have to applaud, and that's reaching for the outdoor classroom. Therefore, harvesting more because of that goal, I think is important. If I was going to manage this 200 acres without that goal, then I'd say let's do it in smaller chunks and do it in three to five year periods. In this case, where you do a larger harvest, you can probably wait for 10-12 years."
"Forests are managed for a lot of different reasons," commented Bob Dural, who works as a high school science teacher for the district, as well as serving on the school forest committee. "Part of it is to make money, part of it is for wildlife, part of it is for aesthetic value, and part of it is for people to go out and enjoy. We're trying to meet everyone's needs as best as we can."
Dural noted that the logging process is one which could be used educationally, giving students the chance to see sustainable forestry in action on school property.
One community member questioned how much slash would be left in the forest after the logging was completed.
Grapa responded that the quantities of slash would vary throughout the harvesting area, and some would be used as a surface for the logging machines to traverse on, with the aim of limiting damage to the soil.
School board of education member Kevin Rose suggested that the district consider utilizing specialized mats to prevent damage to areas where machinery will be crossing the trail. Fellow board member Marty Krog also commented that district administration can communicate with the logging crew to limit the areas machinery crosses the trails.
A handful of community members questioned how that would be enforced, since those details are not specified in the logging contract.
Morgan responded that the logging operation would be closely monitored in order to ensure the best job possible is accomplished. Grapa noted that the more limitations put on a property, the less likely the district is to receive competitive bids.
One community member voiced her concern that the attractive elements of the trail would be impacted long-term by the extent of the logging, resulting in reduced usage of the trail system.
"We have a purpose and it is not short-lived," replied Scholz. "I snowshoe, I ski – I love that place. I think it's important for you to know that everyone on our forest committee are silent sports advocates. None of us want to see a clear-cut school forest."
The discussion regarding the school forest logging will continue at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, at the school business services committee meeting, which will be held in the high school conference room.
The school forest committee is scheduled to meet again Feb. 26.