For the second time this year, Republican Tom Tiffany will square off with Democratic candidate Tricia Zunker for the 7th Congressional District seat.
The seat became vacant in September 2019 when incumbent Sean Duffy stepped down. On May 12, Tiffany received 57% of the vote in a special election, while Zunker obtained 43% of the vote.
The candidates were each asked to answer a questionnaire about their candidacy and goals if they are elected.
Why are you the best candidate to represent the 7th Congressional District? Tell me about your qualifications and background that shows you are the best candidate.
Tiffany: I have the values and leadership, learned on the farm in Elmwood, needed to represent the 7th District. When I got into politics, I did so as a father and a small businessman concerned for my community, and I delivered on my commitments. Wisconsinites can count on me not just because of my words but because my words come with action.
Zunker: I grew up in Wausau in a strong union household. I come from generations of farmers on my mom's side and am Ho-Chunk from my dad's side. I am a first generation college graduate, then went to law school. I was elected to serve Ho-Chunk Nation on our Supreme Court in 2013 and serve in that seat currently. I am also school board president of the Wausau School District and solo parent to a young son. I am deliberate in my work and look to facts, data, expert advice and applicable law as a source of decision-making. I am responsive to constituents and listen to all sides. I am committed to working across the aisle to secure bipartisan solutions that have positive results for Wisconsin households.
Hopefully, by the time the next Congress is sworn in, a COVID-19 vaccine will exist and be approved. What measures can Congress take to help get the vaccine mass produced and available to the public?
Tiffany: Congress should provide the funding to make the vaccine available to those who wish to take it. I believe it's important that we prioritize making the vaccine available to our front-line health care workers and employees of essential businesses.
Zunker: We need to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine. We need to have distribution centers all over the country and make sure that rural areas have equal access. We must make them accessible to people who don't have their own form of transportation as well.
What measures, if any, should be taken by Congress to address climate change/global warming?
Tiffany: Like all Wisconsinites, I value our national resources and believe we should work to manage them responsibly. We must take a common-sense approach to protect our natural resources while ensuring efforts to manage them do not negatively affect those who depend on these resources. As private citizens, we should promote energy efficiency wherever possible, and we are seeing smart consumers looking to do that organically. We should look at all sources of energy, but they should be able to stand on their own in the
marketplace without taxpayer support and government interference.
Zunker: Congress has an instrumental role in addressing climate change and must act swiftly. There must be focus on moving off of fossil fuels and focus on sustainable, renewable energy sources and the good jobs they will bring to Wisconsin. Environmental impact must be considered in all legislation and there should be incentives for small businesses, farmers and households to make decisions that do not cause greater harm to the environment. Campaign finance reform is a critical part of making progress on climate change. Big Oil and the fossil fuel industry have influence in policy through their campaign contributions and it's not right.
What measures, if any, should be taken by Congress to address racial tension or improve race relations?
Tiffany: Our top priority must be maintaining law and order and keeping the peace in our communities. We must prosecute the criminals that are perpetrating the violence and destruction in our minority communities. We must also oppose efforts to defund our police departments, and focus instead on increasing funding for better police training, community policing, and equipment such as body cameras.
Zunker: Congress can take meaningful steps to improve race relations through education; encouraging all levels of government to work together to bridge racial divides; ensuring racial and economic justice with opportunity for all through policy; and reform the criminal justice system by eliminating the "school to prison pipeline."
What ideas or proposals do you have to help small businesses and farmers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19?
Tiffany: I believe the federal government should provide a hand up to our farmers and small business owners. We should provide immediate relief to our small businesses by unlocking funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, along with enacting common-sense liability protections for small businesses, schools, and health care providers.
Zunker: Small businesses who have temporarily or permanently been forced to shut down should be receiving funds to assist them during this time and their employees should receive extended unemployment benefits. Farmers that have been impacted should also receive funds to ensure they stay afloat. No one should go bankrupt or lose their home due to this pandemic, especially when it was avoidable.
What are top issues for you if you are elected?
Tiffany: My top priority will be to continue providing Wisconsin families, workers and businesses with the bridge necessary to safely get us through these tough times and back to prosperity. I'll work to lower the price of health care, increase access, and protect those with pre-existing conditions. I'll continue fighting to delist the gray wolf, and fight for more free and fair trade deals for Wisconsin farmers. And to stop future generations from being saddled with this enormous federal debt, I'll roll up my sleeves to lower out-of-control spending.
Zunker: There are many needs we have here in WI-7 and I'm going to hit the ground running. First, we need to get through this pandemic and get it under control with more testing, PPE, hazard pay and extended benefits to those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. But there are many other needs to address here, including expanding access to affordable health care and making sure people with pre-existing conditions stay protected; lowering the cost of prescription drugs; helping our small and mid-size family farms; protecting the environment; ensuring rural broadband access throughout Wisconsin; and protecting and expanding Social Security.
Why should people vote for you?
Tiffany: I'm a father and a small businessman who is concerned for my community, and I deliver on my promises. I'm also the only candidate in this race with a tested, proven record of standing up for Northern Wisconsin. As a citizen legislator, I've helped pull Wisconsin out of difficult times before and I'll do it again. Wisconsinites can count on me because my words come with a record of never compromising on our shared values and always putting Wisconsin first.
Zunker: I am going to work hard for the people of Wisconsin, whether you vote for me or not. I will prioritize the people here and our needs, not the demands of big corporations. I come from humble beginnings, but there were opportunities my life that I seized upon and it made all the difference. I believe one role of a representative is to make decisions that ensure opportunity for their constituents. I'm also going to bring back the amazing constituency services we had under Congressman Obey (who has endorsed me) to make sure you get the help you need timely.
Hospitalizations in northcentral Wisconsin due to complications brought on by the novel coronavirus grew by 24% during a two-week period from Sept. 23-Oct. 6.
As of Monday, Price County has seen 24 residents hospitalized due to the virus — up by 10 since a week previous.
The Price County Public Health Department does not keep track of the number of current hospitalizations of county residents, according to Public Health Officer Michelle Edwards. Representatives of Marshfield Clinic's Flambeau Hospital have not responded to a request for information regarding current COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The majority of the county residents who have been admitted to the hospital are between the ages of 80-89, accounting for 37%. Those aged 50-59 account for 26%, age 60-69 account for 21%, and age 70-79 account for 16%.
According to information released by the Wisconsin Department of Health Service for the north-central region of the state, 77.8% of hospital beds and 72.2% of intensive care unit beds were in use as of Oct. 6, while 14.7% of ventilators were in use.
Edwards said that, concerningly, her department has begun hearing reports that some locals who are no longer contagious are now developing secondary health issues — including chronic shortness of breath, pneumonia, or infections. Edwards was unable to provide data on the numbers of individuals who are reporting these symptoms.
As of Monday, Price County has seen 253 confirmed cases of the virus, 52 of which were active as of that date. A total of 201 people have recovered and no related deaths have occurred. The county has had 3,227 negative test results.
According to a breakdown of COVID-19 data released by Price County Public Health on Oct. 9, the majority of locals who have contracted the virus are between the ages of 60-69 — a total of 50 people on that date. People age 0-9 account for seven cases, age 10-19 account for 13 cases, age 20-29 account for 21 cases, age 30-39 account for 18 cases, age 40-49 account for 29 cases, age 50-59 account for 38 cases, age 70-79 account for 29 cases, age 80-90 account for 11 cases, and two people older than age 90 have had the virus.
County residents with a Phillips address have made up the bulk of the positive cases (104 as of Oct. 9). Park Falls has had 45 cases, Ogema has had 19, Prentice has had 12, Fifield has had 11, the Brantwood and Tripoli area has had 10,
Kennan has had seven, Catawba has had five, and Price County residents with a Rib Lake address account for three cases while county residents with a Butternut address account for two.
Edwards noted that the geographic region encompassing people with a Phillips address is far wider reaching than the city limits, which may account for the seemingly large case total in that section of the county.
Of those citizens who have tested positive in the past week, Edwards said several were household members of a previously confirmed COVID-19 positive individual. Edwards noted that this is a better outcome than new individuals testing positive in different households, since individuals sharing a house with a COVID-19 positive individual have already been quarantined — hopefully limiting the spread of the virus in the community.
Edwards also noted that it is practically impossible to avoid transmitting the virus to housemates, which makes it unsurprising that it has spread among family members who share a home.
This also simplifies the job of contact tracing as public health employees work to identify anyone a positive individual may have come into close contact with during the period of time they were contagious.
Although Price County Public Health struggled to keep up during the initial onslaught of new coronavirus cases in the county, the addition of two limited-term employees has relieved the pressure on the department's four full-time employees. Three other county employees are also assisting with entering data on a part-time basis.
The number of quarantined Chequamegon School District students has increased since last week, with 39 of CSD's 688 students in quarantine and two confirmed cases of the virus in students as of Monday. The district also had one confirmed case of the virus in a member of staff as of that date, with five members of staff in quarantine.
As of Monday, Phillips School District had no current positive cases in students, although 46 of 743 students were in quarantine. Two staff members had tested positive for the virus and six were in quarantine.
Last week, the Review reported that a visiting consultant to the skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility Park Manor in Park Falls had later tested positive for COVID-19. According to a press release issued by Park Manor on Oct. 9, all residents and staff were tested twice a week for the virus with no other positive cases emerging.
The twice-a-week testing at Park Manor will continue for 14-28 days until the facility has gone without a new positive for 14 days and Price County's positive percentage drops below 10%.
Wisconsin currently has tested 1,697,884 people for the virus, and 152,192 people have tested positive. As of Monday, 29,478 Wisconsinites actively had the virus, while 121,204 had recovered. Statewide, 8,454 hospitalizations and 1,474 deaths have been attributed to the virus.
Regionally, Oneida County had 241 active cases as of Monday, along with 14 current hospitalizations. Since the start of the pandemic, the county has logged 772 confirmed cases of the virus, 511 recoveries, 41 hospitalizations, and five deaths. A total of 10,518 tests have returned negative.
Vilas County currently has 135 active cases and zero current hospitalizations. There have been 359 confirmed cases, 222 recoveries, six hospitalizations, and three deaths. A total of 5,108 tests have returned negative.
Lincoln County currently has 79 active cases. Information on Lincoln County residents currently hospitalized was not available. There have been 439 confirmed cases, 357 recoveries, 34 hospitalizations, and three deaths. A total of 6,096 tests have returned negative.
Sawyer County currently has 48 active cases. Information on current hospitalizations in the county was not available. There have been 284 confirmed cases, 235 recoveries, 11 hospitalizations, and one death. A total of 4,952 tests have returned negative.
Rusk County currently has 35 active cases and zero current hospitalizations. There have been 102 confirmed cases, 66 recoveries, four hospitalizations, and one death. A total of 2,411 tests have returned negative.
Taylor County has had 290 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, resulting in 23 hospitalizations and four deaths. The county has not released information regarding those who have recovered or are currently ill. A total of 3,259 tests have returned negative.
Ashland County has had 197 confirmed cases, resulting in 12 hospitalizations and three deaths. A total of 47 people have recovered. The county's public health department is reporting that 296 people are being actively monitored for the virus. A total of 3,415 tests have returned negative.
Iron County has had 153 confirmed cases, resulting in seven hospitalizations and one death. The county has not released current information on recoveries or active cases. A total of 1,608 tests have returned negative.
County weighs next steps for businesses not following mask mandate
Back in late July when Gov. Tony Evers first issued an emergency order requiring people to wear a face-covering while in a public indoor setting, local law enforcement and administration from both the county and the City of Park Falls met to determine how to handle cases of individuals or businesses disregarding the mandate.
At the time, Price County Public Health created an online complaint form in order to accept citizen reports without burdening law enforcement.
According to Edwards, approximately 21 complaints have been filed, primarily regarding businesses that do not encourage or require customers and staff to wear masks.
The public health department decided to take the tact of education first, Edwards told the Review, and an informational letter was created with the assistance of the District Attorney's office. This letter, which includes an explanation of the Governor's mandate and recommendations by Price County Public Health, has been sent to some local businesses in the past few months.
As of Monday, no further prosecutorial action had been taken. However, Edwards noted that Price County Public Health has now received multiple complaints regarding some businesses that have already been provided with the county's letter.
Edwards said that public health officials would continue to work with the District Attorney's office on a case-by-case basis to determine the appropriate action in each of these instances.