MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin's Democratic governor announced Monday that the special election to fill Republican Sean Duffy's congressional seat will be held in January, a move that avoids potentially boosting GOP turnout in a state Supreme Court election next spring.
Duffy's House district, in mostly rural central, northwest and northern Wisconsin, is the heart of President Donald Trump country, so holding the special election during the already-scheduled April 7 election could have benefited conservative Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly's chances. That also is the day Wisconsin Democrats cast their presidential primary ballots.
Duffy's final day in Congress was Monday. He made a surprise announcement last month that he would not finish out his fifth term because his ninth baby, due in early October, was diagnosed with a hole in its heart that would require more of his time and attention.
Gov. Tony Evers set the election for Duffy's seat for Jan. 27 with a primary on Dec. 30, saying he wanted to hold it "quickly" to ensure people in the district "have a voice in Congress."
Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, accused Evers of making a "desperate move" to "shield his party from rural voters during the spring election."
Whoever wins the special election to replace Duffy would serve through the end of 2020 and have to run and win again in November 2020 to serve a full two-year term. Under the dates of the special election, the seat will be vacant for about four months.
Duffy, 47, a former lumberjack and MTV reality show star, was elected in 2010 representing the 7th Congressional District. He made a surprise announcement last month that he would not finish out his fifth term because his ninth baby, due in early October, was diagnosed with a hole in its heart that would require more of his time and attention.
"I don't think our founders ever envisioned that to come to this chamber should be a lifetime sentence," Duffy said in his farewell speech on the House floor last week.
Duffy was one of Trump's most vocal supporters, frequently appearing on national news shows to defend the president. He also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Senate or governor in 2022.
In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney carried Duffy's district with 51% of the vote, compared with 48% that went to then-President Barack Obama. In 2016, Trump won it by 57% to 37% over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany is the only announced candidate and has closely aligned himself with Trump. Jason Church, an Army veteran who lost both his legs in Afghanistan and now works for Sen. Ron Johnson, also is considering a GOP run, as is Cuban-born Wausau thoracic surgeon Fernando "Fritz" Riveron.
On the Democratic side, those considering a bid include state Rep. Nick Milroy, of South Range; state Sen. Janet Bewley, of Mason; former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, of Chippewa Falls; Wausau attorney Christine Bremer Muggli; and Margaret Engebretson, a political newcomer in 2018 who ran against Duffy and got 38% of the vote.