Writing in The Dispatch, Andrew Egger reports on the 7th Congressional District Republican Primary and sees two different sides of President Donald Trump. One side of the president is state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) and the other flavor is Jason Church.
As Egger explains, the 7th Congressional District is definitely Trump country, embracing the president even during the Republican presidential primary in 2016 when the rest of the state went for Sen. Ted Cruz.
He quotes yours truly on how the once-progressive bastion of northern Wisconsin became the reliable vote generator for Trump.
“There’s a lot of people up there that have been hit hard in the last couple of recessions. … They’ve now embraced the Trump agenda out there,” James Wigderson, who runs the conservative blog RightWisconsin, told The Dispatch. “It is very blue collar up there, and they moved from Obama to Trump rather easily, just because of the nature of the people that are up there—it’s not dominated by universities. It’s not dominated by big cities.”
Of Tiffany, Egger wrote about the senator’s legislative record:
In the legislature, Tiffany was an enthusiastic ally of the Walker agenda, which he credits for helping to turn the state’s economy around. It’s the backbone of his pitch to voters: You could trust me to push hard for a conservative agenda in Madison, so you can trust me to push hard for a conservative agenda in Washington. Tiffany is endorsed by a number of prominent state Republicans, including both Walker and Duffy.
Meanwhile, Church has a different message.
As a political neophyte, Church lacks Tiffany’s solid legislative CV. But in his messaging, he’s leaned into the contrast: waving off Tiffany’s decade of work in the state legislature as “being a machine politician.” In his telling, what the district needs isn’t just someone who will go to Congress and vote for conservative policies. It’s someone who is ready to go and wage war for the soul of America against the likes of young progressive lawmakers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. It’s someone, as Church repeatedly said to me, who’s willing to be a little “boisterous.”
“There’s an issue in Washington, and in fact in Madison in general too,” Church said, “that if we just continue to try and elect people who move up the ladder, if what we’re trying to do is just work within a party system of self-promotion, we’re not going to bring the new energy and vibrance needed into Washington.”
Tiffany embraces the low-regulation, low-taxes reformer, side of Trump.
In Tiffany’s telling, Donald Trump is a model free-market, small-government, pro-business conservative: “I just look at the actions of the president, the tax cuts. I’ve seen how it’s turbo-charged the economy. I see it right here in Wisconsin, the regulatory reform that is near and dear to my heart, because I’ve worked on those issues. When I hear ‘drain the swamp,’ I think about the regulatory stuff, with all those alphabet agencies that you have out in Washington, D.C., that put so much red tape that strangles businesses large and small, that puts great restrictions on our economy.”
It’s not surprising that Tiffany plays up those elements of the Trump agenda. “In the case of Tiffany, it’s playing to his strengths because that’s the type of thing that he does in the state legislature,” said Wigderson, who has endorsed Tiffany in the race. “Tom Tiffany is definitely a small-government conservative; he’d have been very comfortable as a conservative under Ronald Reagan.”
Meanwhile Church has embraced union interests, once anathema in GOP primary politics, and Trump’s culture battles.
“I’ll tell you why I’ve supported him from day one,” Church said. “And that’s because President Trump identified something that we all here in northern Wisconsin have felt for a long time. And that is that our culture was under attack. I mean, people like Omar and AOC, when they start pushing things like multiculturalism and intersectionality, what they’re really doing is they’re pointing a finger at someone here in Tomahawk, someone here in Bloomer, in Hudson, in Wausau. And they’re saying, ‘You’re what’s wrong with America.’”
Egger asks, will the race signal an end for a preference among Republicans for Scott Walker-style reforms of government?
“Tom Tiffany helped create and pass an aggressive fiscal-conservative agenda that turned Scott Walker into a national conservative hero,” Egger wrote. “It’ll be up to the district’s voters to determine whether that’s a pro or a con.”