Outside spending on GOP 7th Congressional races doubles in final days before primary

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- SuperPACs have more than doubled their spending on the Republican congressional races for Wisconsin’s 7th district in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s primary, pitting establishment-backed state senator Tom Tiffany against army veteran Jason Church.

7th Congressional Candidates Jason Church, Tom Tiffany, Dec. 12, 2019 (WSAW Photo)

In the past seven days, outside spenders have dumped almost $1.5 million into ads backing Tiffany and Church, driving the total spending up to almost $2.7 million overall since the beginning of the year, according to Political MoneyLine which tracks election spending using data from the Federal Elections Commission.

Neither candidate has pulled a major financial advantage from outside donors: outside spending supporting Church totals about $1.2 million, with Tiffany drawing roughly the same. The remaining $300,000 is split in ads attacking each candidate, where Church has a slight lead at about $184,000 spent in his opposition.

SuperPACs lining up behind Tiffany include the Koch brothers-founded Americans for Prosperity organization, as well as groups funded by other national heavyweight conservative Republican donors. Among others, Church has attracted the With Honor Fund, whose top donor by far is Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and which spent about equally on both Republican and Democrat veterans in the 2018 election cycle.

At its last report, campaign fundraising for both candidates trailed outside spending (which is independent of the candidates), with Tiffany raising about $719,000 in comparison with Church’s $653,000.

Democrat candidates Tricia Zunker and Lawrence Dale remain far behind financially, with Zunker raising about $145,000 for her campaign and Dale failing to report any financial disclosures yet to the FEC. Zunker has not yet attracted outside spenders; historically in the deeply-red 7th Congressional district, outside spending for Democrats in recent elections has been nonexistent or insignificant.

Church and Tiffany have largely differentiated themselves on personal rather than ideological differences, with both forging a political pathway that aligns heavily with the Trump administration. Tiffany, who is backed by former Gov. Scott Walker and former seat holder Rep. Sean Duffy, typically cites himself as a “proven conservative”, while Church focuses primarily on his military background and “outsider” status, despite having worked as a former staffer for Sen. Ron Johnson. Church has not earned the endorsements of any elected Wisconsin officials, but touts endorsements from other veteran congressmen and women.

Tiffany’s track record as a representative and senator in Madison has featured support of Walker’s sweeping Act 10 that significantly reduced collective bargaining rights for most government employees and drew widespread opposition, prompting a recall election. Tiffany was also largely responsible for pushing the Mining for America act, which eliminated some restrictions for the mining industry in Wisconsin.

The district, which spans 20 counties and covers more area of the state than any other Congressional district, voted for President Donald Trump by 20 percentage points in 2016. That’s a shift from the pre-2010 census redistricting, when the district’s majority vote went to Pres. Barack Obama in 2008 and was represented for years by longtime Democrat congressman Dave Obey.

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