Tricia Zunker ~ Running to flip a red seat Blue
Update: Tricia Zunker lost the May 12th special election, but is running again to flip this seat in November.
"I believe we're more alike than we're different. People want someone who will listen to their concerns, who will advocate for affordable health care and lower prescription drug prices and economic security for their families. I am the only person in this race who is going to do that." - Tricia Zunker, candidate, U.S. House of Representatives, District 7
WHO IS SHE?
We are thrilled to feature Tricia Zunker as the first in our series of “Women to Win.” Tricia is running for Congress to be a voice for the industrious workers and farmers of northwest Wisconsin. She is committed to running a grass-roots campaign. Brought up by her mother, a proud union member for over thirty years, and her father, a laborer with special carpentry skills, she has learned the value of hard work and struggle.
After becoming the first member of her family to graduate from college, Tricia went to law school and became a practicing attorney and law professor. Based in Wausau, WI, Tricia teaches law remotely at three universities. She teaches non-traditional students, helping them achieve goals that would not be attainable in the typical classroom setting.
Tricia aims to prove that representation matters. She would be the first woman to represent Wisconsin’s 7th district, as well as Wisconsin’s first Native American Congressperson. Since being elected by her people in 2013 (and again in 2017), she has served as Associate Justice of the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court. Last year, she was an organizer for the first Central Wisconsin Indigenous People’s Day Powwow In Wausau. Tricia also led a statewide campaign to retire Native American mascots from schools.
She is also president of the Wausau School Board, which she has served on since 2018. On the school board, Tricia works hard to ensure high quality education for all students, regardless of background or economic status. She advocates for policies that boost staff morale and treat teachers with the professionalism they deserve.
Tricia also serves on the ACLU of Wisconsin Board of Directors, where she fights for the protection of tribal sovereignty, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and women's reproductive rights.
What inspired her to run?
“I decided to run for office because I felt called to serve. I'm the proud daughter of a 30-year union member, the granddaughter of a dairy farmer, and the first person in my family to graduate from college. 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 first started considering this office when I was working on issues around child poverty, specifically skyrocketing food insecurity in my community, and was completely unimpressed by then-Rep. Duffy's response.”
WHAT IS SHE FIGHTING FOR?
What are the key voter concerns in her district?
“I’m running for a district that geographically covers a third of Wisconsin. I’ve put thousands of miles on my car driving around this district, but some of the things I talk about everywhere I go are the need for affordable health care, the need for lower prescription drug costs, and the need for broadband access. This pandemic has underlined just how much wireless has become a utility in today’s economy, and far too many people don’t have access.”
What issues are most important to Tricia?
“I'm the first person in my family to graduate college. I am where I am today because of the opportunities that I was given, and it's really important to me to make sure other people have those same opportunities. I think that means making sure they have access to affordable health care, broadband, and that we're expanding educational opportunities.”
Healthcare: Tricia advocates for Medicare for those who want it. While she fights for equal access to quality, affordable health insurance, she also wants to make sure that Northern Wisconsinites, including union-members, can enjoy the private insurance which they have worked hard for. Tricia also believes that mental health must be included in discussions about healthcare, so people are encouraged to seek the treatment they need. Further, she believes Big Pharma must be taken on in order to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Tricia also defends a woman’s right to choose and will fight to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Pertaining to her district, Tricia wants to make hospitals and medical services accessible to rural communities, so that critical medical needs (including maternal and emergency healthcare) can be met.
Farm Crisis: Tricia is fighting to invest in the hardworking farmers at the core of both our economy and Wisconsin’s 7th district. The current trade war is hitting this group with immense stress and hardship. She advocates for fair, competitive markets, as well as enforcing trade agreements. Tricia wants to support family farms, provide access to timely loans, and end predatory lending practices. Further, she believes we must ensure access to mental health assistance to farmers in need.
Education and Children: In order to ensure all students have fair opportunities for successful futures, Tricia fights to adequately fund public schools. This includes making sure no student goes hungry. Further, higher education must be made accessible and affordable. As such, we need to encourage affordable community colleges and trade schools, as well as take on the student debt crisis. Educators must also receive pay and work conditions that reflect the important work they do. Careers in skilled trades and the technical field should also be encouraged. Tricia also fights for common sense gun reform to end school shootings.
Standing up for Working People and Protecting Equality: In order to combat politicians who cater to corporate interests over working class Americans, Tricia will fight to create and protect well-paid union jobs in Wisconsin. She will fiercely defend not only equal rights for these workers but also equal opportunity. Tricia is fighting for women, LGBTQ+ members, and other minority communities to receive equal pay for equal work, proper legal treatment in the workplace, and paid family leave.
The Economy and Infrastructure: Tricia is fighting to build a diverse and energetic economy in Northern Wisconsin. To strengthen the middle class, she would focus on small business owners, farmers, manufacturing, and education and career training. Tricia wants to put money in people’s pockets, first by raising the minimum wage, and second by creating good-paying jobs. She also calls for an end to unfair tax breaks to large corporations. Instead, she will push for smart tax policies that will allow the implementation of a real infrastructure plan to fix old and broken roads, bridges, and water systems.
Criminal Justice Reform: Tricia is fighting for the future of nonviolent drug offenders and the minority community members affected by disproportionate incarceration, many of whom she believes should be released. Tricia will address overcrowded prisons. She believes a solution is legalizing recreational marijuana in appropriate amounts, which could be taxed and invested back into communities. She is committed to addressing the opioid crisis, domestic and gun violence, and the murdered/missing indigenous women crisis. Further, Tricia believes incarcerated citizens should have access to mental health assistance and humane treatment. Humane treatment is also needed at the border, where families should be allowed to stick together.
With Earth Day coming up, what is Tricia’s perspective on climate change?
“I believe we have an obligation and a duty to protect the environment for generations to come. I intend to work hard to ensure we have clean air, clean water, and that our beautiful lands stay protected. And I'm so honored to have the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters & the Sierra Club behind my campaign.”
Tricia is running to represent Wisconsin’s 7th congressional district, the largest geographical district in the state. Winning her primary with 89% of the vote, Zunker now faces opponent Tom Tiffany (R) in the special election to fill the vacancy left by Sean Duffy (R). This special election is currently scheduled to take place on May 12th.
When Republicans took control of Wisconsin in 2010, the 7th district was gerrymandered. As a result, the seat was held by Republican Sean Duffy for the past ten years. Prior to that, Democrat David Obey represented the district for over forty years.
Because of Wisconsin’s status as a battleground state, this special election will be one to watch. Tricia’s win would signify weakness in Trump’s re-election campaign, prove Democrats’ ability to reach rural voters, and provide Democrats with early traction.
Tricia has the full support of her party. Tricia won her primary with 88.8% of the vote, while her opponent, Tom Tiffany (R), won with a little over half. Tricia is also the first candidate to receive the endorsement of her would-be predecessor, David Obey for this election since Obey himself stepped down. Tricia has also been endorsed by former presidential candidate, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker.
Tricia believes the political climate in Wisconsin is ripe for her to reach typically Republican voters as well. Her future constituents are tired of the gridlock in Washington. She is the only candidate in the race committed to working in a bipartisan manner to get things done.
Tricia knows her opponent is afraid of her. In a district that does not usually get much national attention, large Republican donors have thrown their support behind Tiffany. However, Tricia believes her team is stronger on the ground; her message has been spread far and wide. Further, the transition to a virtual campaign has been smooth and effective. At the moment, her fundraising is going towards expanding the campaign with more TV ads in the three media markets for her district.
Tricia has new voters on her side. She has been working hard to get out the vote of her fellow Native Americans; 11 of whose tribes are federally recognized in Wisconsin. Further, her campaign has garnered the support of immigrants and other minorities, who feel left behind by Trump and the Republican party.
As a voice for the working class and a champion of equal rights, Tricia Zunker understands the interests and issues pressing both Wisconsinites and Americans. The election is an opportune moment to flip a Red seat Blue, and Tricia Zunker is the candidate that could provide Democrats with early traction in a key battleground state.
Does Tricia feel optimistic about the political climate in Wisconsin, given the recent Democratic presidential primary/Supreme Court Election?
“Absolutely, we saw much smaller margins in places that are traditionally Republican. We think if we can keep the momentum going we'll flip this seat on May 12.”
What is the current state of her congressional race?
“Right now we're really focused on getting the word out about this race and making sure people know how to safely vote absentee. Every day we're seeing more and more people excited about this race and asking how they can get involved.”
How does she envision her path to victory?
“Before this pandemic, I put thousands of miles on my car driving around this district meeting people, and I believe we're more alike than we're different. People want someone who will listen to their concerns, who will advocate for affordable health care and lower prescription drug prices and economic security for their families. I am the only person in this race who is going to do that.”
Are there any fun facts about Tricia?
“I collect Ho-Chunk baskets. My grandma and her parents and siblings made Ho-Chunk baskets and sold them by the side of the road to make ends meet. I collect them because not only are they beautiful, but they also signify perseverance and resilience of my relatives. Without their efforts, I would not be here. And that is why it is so important for me to use my voice to help provide opportunities for others”
HOW CAN I SUPPORT HER?
If you would like more information, to get involved, or to help support Tricia’s campaign, please visit: