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Republicans say congressional races will boost 2020 turnout

MADISON — The sons of former Republican rivals Scott Walker and Mark Neumann are considering entering what could be a crowded race for a Wisconsin congressional seat that the state GOP chairman predicted Thursday will boost turnout and help President Donald Trump’s reelection efforts.

Matt Neumann and Matt Walker are among those eyeing a potential run for the 5th Congressional District, which covers the conservative northern and western Milwaukee suburbs. The district is at the heart of Wisconsin’s conservative base and numerous other Republicans are also considering running.

Matt Neumann’s father Mark was a two-term congressman in the 1990s who ran for governor in 2010 and lost against Matt Walker’s father, Scott Walker. Matt Walker made his interest in the race known last week, while Matt Neumann told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday that he was also considering it.

The race is for one of two open congressional seats in Wisconsin that are currently held by Republicans. The seat is open because U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is not seeking his 22nd term next year. Northern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District is also open, with Republican Rep. Sean Duffy resigning on Sept. 23 to spend more time with his family.

There will be a special election to fill that seat on a date that hasn’t been determined, and whoever wins would have to run again in November 2020 ballot for a full two-year term.

Both races will drive Republican turnout in key areas of the state and help President Trump, Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said at a WisPolitics.com event Thursday. Both he and Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler agreed that Wisconsin will be at the heart of the fight for the White House.

“It’s absolutely going to come down to Wisconsin,” Hitt predicted. “(President Trump) has got to win Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin — along with Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida — is seen as one of the states with a closely divided electorate that could go either way and determine who wins the race for president.

“Wisconsin is the tipping point state in the electoral college,” Wikler said. “Essentially, whoever wins Wisconsin will be president.”

Wikler and Hitt both said they thought the 2020 presidential election would look a lot like 2004, when then-President George W. Bush was running for reelection. Both he and Democratic candidate John Kerry campaigned heavily in Wisconsin and Kerry won by just over 11,000 votes, the closest margin of victory in any state that year, but he lost the election.

Three of the past five presidential elections in Wisconsin have been decided by less than a percentage point. Barack Obama’s blowout wins in 2008 and 2012 were the exceptions. President Trump won by just under 23,000 votes.

There has been a flurry of activity in recent days as candidates decide whether to run for the open congressional seats.

On Thursday, former U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir said she would not run in the 5th district. She was one of the highest profile Republicans considering running there.

Others mulling a run there, in addition to Walker and Neumann, include Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald; state Sen. Chris Kapenga; state Reps. Adam Neylon and Scott Allen; former Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson and Ben Voelkel, an aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

Tom Palzewicz, an entrepreneur and Navy veteran who lost to Sensenbrenner in 2018, is running for the Democrats.

In the 7th district, state Sen. Tom Tiffany is running on the Republican side. Johnson aide Jason Church and Wausau Dr. Fernando “Fritz” Riveron are considering it.

On the Democratic side, those weighing a bid include state Rep. Nick Milroy, of South Range; state Sen. Janet Bewley, of Mason; former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, of Chippewa Falls; and Wausau attorney Christine Bremer Muggli.

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