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Two distinctly different candidates are running in the May 12 special election for Wisconsin’s 7th District Congressional seat, formerly held by Republican Sean Duffy. The Reader recently posed identical questions to the two candidates. Here are their replies.
Q. Why should voters send you to Washington, and why do you want to represent them?
Tricia Zunker: I’m the proud daughter of a 30-year union member (USW Local 2-224), the granddaughter of a dairy farmer, and a first generation college graduate who also went on to earn a law degree. I’m where I’m at today because of opportunities I was given, and I want to ensure other people have those opportunities as well. I’m a supreme court justice for my tribe, Ho-Chunk Nation, Wausau school board president, a professor, an attorney, a solo parent, and I’m looking forward to serving you in Congress.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: President Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” That’s why I am running for Congress – to defend freedom and our Wisconsin way of life. I want my daughters, Karlyn, Lexie and Katherine, to have the same opportunities my siblings and I did to earn the American dream. The Northland needs a leader who has proven they will provide effective leadership and who will work to get rea results for our communities. I will be a champion in our nation’s capital for the critical infrastructure projects vital to the prosperity of our community, such as the Nemadji Trail Energy Project, the Husky refinery, and the Port of Superior. 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.
Q. What skills do you bring to the job?
Tricia Zunker: I’m a supreme court justice for my tribe Ho-Chunk Nation, Wausau school board president, a professor, and a solo parent. I’ve spent years serving my community in a number of ways. I know what it means to listen to facts, science, and legal reasoning when making a decision, and I know how to work with others to come to consensus.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: My experiences – from growing up on the farm, as a father, as a small businessman, and as a public servant – help me understand and support the hardworking people of Northern and Western Wisconsin during tough times.
When our state faced a troubling economic future, I stepped up and ran for public service. Red tape and regulations were crippling businesses. Taxes were too high. Wisconsinites were losing their jobs, and our state had multi-billion-dollar deficits. It wasn’t easy to put our state on the right track. Democrats fled the state, and our Capitol saw protests unlike ever before. None of that deterred me from making the right decisions for my daughters, family, neighbors, and our community.
Using the work ethic my parents taught me, I worked with my colleagues to cut taxes by $13 billion and help more Wisconsinites get to work than ever before. Right now – especially in the face of this public health crisis and its ripple effects – our district needs a leader who is ready to work for them on Day One and enact commonsense policies.
I helped Wisconsin navigate its way out of the Great Recession to become prosperous. We need a leader who has proven they will provide effective leadership and who will work with President Trump to get real results for our hardworking families in rural America.
Q. What is the most important thing voters should know about you that they won’t learn anywhere else?
Tricia Zunker: I’m a hard worker, I worked hard to be the first person in my family to graduate college and then law school. And I will work incredibly hard for the people of this district.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: I have the values and leadership 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 promises. Wisconsinites can count on me not just because of my words but because my words come with action. I won’t apologize for or compromise our Wisconsin values – I’m pro-gun, pro-life, pro-America, and will always put Wisconsin first.
Plus, I’m a dam man. I serve as the dam tender on the Willow Flowage in Oneida County.
Q. By virtue of the office, a Congressional representative should be the face and heart of the people he or she represents. What do you see as the five main priorities among the portion of northern Wisconsin you hope to represent? And how would you effectively give voice to your constituency in the cacophony of Washington, D.C.?
Tricia Zunker: I’m going to put aside partisan politics and advocate for what’s best for this district and everyone in it, whether they voted for me or not. My top priorities are advocating for affordable health care, lowering prescription drug costs, additional help for our small businesses and family farmers, expanding access to rural broadband, and making sure our beautiful lands stay protected.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: Our top priorities are:
1) Provide Wisconsin families with the bridge necessary to safely get us through the COVID-19 pandemic and back to prosperity.
2) Stopping the creep of socialism into our country and protecting the American dream for future generations.
3) Lowering the price of health care and increasing access.
4) Securing more free and fair trade deals for Wisconsin farmers.
5) Delisting the gray wolf.
In addition, I will be a champion in our nation’s capital for Superior and our Northland communities. Superior is a critical junction for infrastructure here in the United States, and I will work everyday to ensure its continuedsuccess. This includes completion of the Nemadji Trail Energy Project, rebuilding the Husky refinery, and making sure the Port of Superior gets its fair share of federal funding. These are vital infrastructure projects for the prosperity of the United States. Unfortunately, my opponent is endorsed by the Sierra Club which has sued to stop the Nemadji Trail project, and supports policies that will jeopardize the reconstruction of the Husky refinery. But I, along with the people of the Northland, know how important these projects are, and I will ensure your voice is heard in Washington D.C
Q. Should we be open for business? Can you see any federal options you would support to help right the economy once the pandemic has cooled down, even if things must remain closed for longer than expected?
Tricia Zunker: I believe we need to listen to the scientists and medical experts about how to reopen safely. I know many people are eager to get back to work, but we need to make sure we follow a process that keeps us from making the pandemic any worse. And I believe the federal government needs to do more to help small businesses and family farms impacted by this crisis, and I will do that in office.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: We can and must do both: control the spread of the virus and begin opening our economy back up. We must also work to provide Wisconsin families, workers, and businesses with the bridge necessary to safely get us through these tough times and back to prosperity. That is why I voted for the recent emergency COVID-19 legislation that will help protect Wisconsinites during this public health emergency. But we must also implement a more precise, regional plan to reopen our economy, rather than a shotgun, lock-down approach. Such a plan has been recently outlined by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House virus task force coordinator.
Q. Should the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate change agreement? Where do you stand on the continued rolling back of environmental regulations?
Tricia Zunker: I believe we should rejoin the Paris climate agreement. We need to take action to address climate change, and making sure our beautiful waters and lands stay protected will be a priority of mine in office. I will oppose rolling back environmental regulations that will expose our lands to corporate greed.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: Like all Wisconsinites, I value our national resources and believe we should work to manage them responsibly.
However, these efforts must be balanced with the negative impacts they also have on rural families.
International deals like the Paris Climate Accord hinders the prosperity and growth of our economy here at home, while doing next to nothing to actually help the environment. Deals like this and radical policies like the Green New Deal threaten to jeopardize the Nemadji Trail Energy Project and would surely halt the reconstruction of the Husky refinery. These are critical infrastructure projects for our county and are the heart of our prosperity in the Northland, and they must be protected. Moreover, when our dairy farmers, small businesses, and manufacturers are already struggling with too much government red tape, the answer cannot be to send more costly, crippling regulations their way.
Should we reduce the amount of oil and gas we use? Absolutely. We, as private citizens, 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.
Q. Is there a solution to the mess that is American health care?
Tricia Zunker: I believe we need to make health care more affordable and accessible. I will work to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act, I will make sure pre-existing conditions stay protected, and I will support a robust public option.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: Socialists like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to enact a cookie-cutter Medicare for all plan that would bankrupt taxpayers with its $34 trillion price tag. For those seniors on Medicare, it completely guts the current program and will result in Medicare for none.
There’s a better way to help Wisconsinites get the health care they need. With more freedom, choice, competition, and transparency, Americans will get better access to health care at lower costs. As a small businessman, I’ve seen these free-market principles in action.
I will work to hold drug companies accountable with high transparency. Transparency will help lead to lower prices on prescription drugs and health care, and by inserting competition into health care, we can lower costs.
Providers will have to compete for patients’ business, resulting in higher quality and lower costs.
To do this, we need the federal government out of the way. By giving states the power to create innovative
solutions, we can come up with ways to help the neediest of the needy. Before Obamacare, Wisconsin had one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country. Unfortunately, Obamacare made us get rid of our high-risk insurance pool that many people with pre-existing conditions loved, and now we have fewer health care choices and skyrocketing costs.
Q. Is there any one issue you would like to tackle while in office?
Tricia Zunker: There’s many issues we need to tackle like expanding access to affordable health care and providing help for our small businesses and family farmers, but one area we particularly need to address is expanding rural broadband access. This pandemic has shown more than ever how important having internet access is to work, start a business, use virtual learning opportunities or access telemedicine.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: My first priority will be to provide 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 and increase access. I’ll champion delisting the gray wolf. I’ll fight to build a border wall so we can fight against the influx of drugs that are scourging our neighborhoods. I’ll take my work ethic learned on the farm to Congress, and help lead the fight for 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.
Q. Please sum up the reasons why you are the better candidate.
Tricia Zunker: I have the moral fiber, work ethic and experience to get the job done in Congress and I’m going to take office and advocate for every person in this district, whether they voted for me or not. I’m going to put partisan politics aside and work to make sure people have access to affordable health care, and that small businesses and family farmers have the help they need. On the school board I’ve worked with people who have differing viewpoints than me to get things done, and that’s what I’ll do in office. I’ll also prioritize constituent services.
Sen. Tom Tiffany: There is a clear distinction in this race. My opponent supports radical policies, such as the Green New Deal, that will cripple the economy of the Northland. Her agenda threatens the livelihood of local communities.
Superior is a critical transportation hub for our prosperity in the future, and we must fight to protect it. I will be a tireless advocate for our infrastructure projects that are so important, not just to Superior, but to America. TheNorthland can count on me because my words come with a record of never compromising on our shared values and always putting Wisconsin first.