With few challengers officially declared in the races for Wisconsin’s seats in the U.S. House, congressional matchups are far from finalized a year-and-a-half out from the November 2020 elections.
The most high profile announcement so far has come from Democratic state Rep. Amanda Stuck, who’s looking to unseat GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher in northeastern Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District.
The Green Bay Republican’s seat is one of five House districts held by GOP representatives, while the remaining three are occupied by Democrats. No statewide elections are on next year's ballot.
So far, the Cook Political Report’s House Ratings label just one of those eight seats as competitive: Democrat U.S. Rep. Ron Kind’s 3rd District covering southwestern and western Wisconsin.
While the seven other seats are rated as “solid Republican” or “solid Democratic,” the La Crosse Democrat’s district is one of 18 rated as “likely Democratic,” seats that aren’t considered competitive currently “but have the potential to become engaged,” the report’s website.
No GOP candidates have officially filed with the Federal Elections Commission to challenge Kind, and it isn’t clear whether Republican Steve Toft, who ran last year, will get in the race again this time around. A contact from his 2018 campaign didn’t return a call seeking comment.
But back in the 8th District, Stuck said the ratings aren’t deterring her in a newly launched bid for office.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough race, there’s no doubt,” she said. “But I don’t think people should make decisions about serving their community based on whether it’s tough or not.”
Stuck, an Appleton Democrat who was first elected to the Assembly in 2014, officially announced her plans to run for Congress last weekend. In an interview this week, she said she wanted “to be a voice for families like mine in Washington” and criticized Gallagher for not spending enough time in the district listening to constituents.
Gallagher, though, countered he has put constituents' "interests above partisan politics" by pushing for bills "to strengthen the economy, improve our national security, and reform Congress so it works better for taxpayers."
"The people of Northeastern Wisconsin know me and what I stand for. I always put them first, and I look forward to asking for their support next November," he said in a statement.
A previous campaign contact for Brown County Assistant District Attorney Beau Liegeois, who challenged Gallagher last cycle and lost by nearly 30 percentage points, didn’t return a call asking if Liegeois was planning to run again for the seat.
In her bid for Congress, Stuck, 36, is leaving a reliably Democratic seat, which she said she wants to ensure falls to someone “who’s going to still be here for (my constituents) fighting at the state level.” That led her to discuss her plans to run with Lee Snodgrass, who previously ran for state Senate against Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, in 2018 and gauge Snodgrass’ interest in another legislative bid.
Shortly after Stuck officially launched her congressional campaign, Snodgrass, communications director for Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes, announced her state Assembly run for the 57th district.
Snodgrass, 50, said she learned how to allocate her time and engage with voters during her state Senate bid, lessons she plans to hold onto this cycle. She added while the Assembly district is one-third of the size of the state Senate district seat she sought, she pledged she wouldn’t put it one-third of the effort this cycle.
“I’m going to do 100 percent of the work,” she said.
In other congressional district races:
The four other GOP-controlled seats are also all rated as “solid Republican” by the Cook Political Report. But that hasn’t deterred some from mounting or considering challenges to those incumbents.
First-time candidate Matt Boor, for example, is running against U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, in the eastern 6th District, a seat Democrat Dan Kohl, the nephew of former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, sought last cycle. But Grothman prevailed with a winning margin of more than 10 percentage points.
The only House Democratic candidate officially registered with the Federal Elections Commission this cycle, Boor, 40, works in business development for manufacturer Broadwind Energy, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also previously worked as a teacher for Lakeshore Technical College in the wind energy program and was an employee at General Electric.
Touting his campaign slogan, “Return to Reason,” Boor said his candidacy’s theme is just one component of his bid, which was also motivated by his interest in foreign policy issues and desire to better address the issues facing rural Wisconsin.
“Essentially what I want is to bring back reasonable dialogue, bring back a certain level of discourse when we speak to each other,” he said.
Melissa McClintick, the only Wisconsin GOP congressional candidate registered with the FEC for 2020, is challenging Grothman from the right.
A lead medical coder at Aurora Health Care, per her LinkedIn profile, McClintick on her campaign Facebook page wrote she’s running to bring “fresh ideas” to office and “take back our government.”
“For too long, everyday Americans have had to sit on the sidelines and watch as career politicians screw up our country,” she wrote.
In the sprawling 7th District, which includes northern and western Wisconsin and is represented by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, of Wausau, no official challengers have yet emerged.
Duffy in 2018 easily defeated Democrat Margaret Engebretson, an attorney and first-time candidate, winning by more than 20 percentage points.
Engebretson, through a spokesman, said she hasn’t yet made a decision about running in 2020.
There also aren’t declared challengers in the 1st and 5th Districts, which are held by first-term Rep. Bryan Steil and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, dean of the state’s congressional delegation. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement in 2018 led to a flurry of activity for the 1st, which ultimately stayed in GOP hands.
And Sensenbrenner, of Menomonee Falls, easily beat back his most recent challenge from Tom Palzewicz, who operates Action Coach in Elm Grove and was also a first-time candidate last cycle.
Republican challengers also haven’t officially declared their intentions to run against Democratic U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore. Pocan, whose district covers the Madison area, didn’t face a challenger last cycle, while Moore defeated Milwaukee delivery driver and Republican Tim Rogers, a first-time candidate for office.