Change is needed in Washington, D.C., says Tricia Zunker.

Zunker is running as a Democratic candidate for the Special Election of the Wisconsin 7th Congressional District seat, vacated by the resignation of Sean Duffy.

Zunker, who is endorsed by the Wisconsin Democratic Party, stopped by the St. Croix County Democratic office in Baldwin Saturday before making stops in Hudson and New Richmond.

The primary election is Feb. 18 with the General Election May 12.

“When I’m elected, I’ll be the first Native American, specifically, Ho-Chunk, representing Wisconsin in Congress,” Zunker said. “I would also be the first Woman representing the Wisconsin 7th, which is long overdue.

“I would also double the population of single parents in Congress…We need to achieve a government that is reflective of society.”

Zunker was born and raised in the Wausau area. She has the background of union membership and dairy farmers on her mother’s side and Ho-Chunk on her father’s side.

She graduated from UW-Madison and was then accepted to UCLA Law School. She explained to the crowd Saturday she wanted UCLA because of its Indian law and tribal legal development program.

Which would come in handy for the first big election in Zunker’s life. In a special election in 2013, while still practicing law in California, she flew back to Wisconsin to campaign for Associate Justice on the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court.

“There are 11 federal recognized tribes in Wisconsin and Ho-Chunk is the only one without reservation land,” Zunker explained, noting she had to travel different parts of the state, one week after another.

She won the special election and was reelected to the position four years later.

Now, back in Wisconsin and specifically the Wausau area, it led to the second biggest election.

Zunker found it “heartbreaking” that students who were on the free/reduced lunch meal in the School District had no idea when they’re getting their next meal over the weekend before returning to school Monday.

Not getting the responses she wanted on a federal level, she decided to try and make a difference on the local level by campaigning for a seat on the Wausau School Board. She was elected in 2018 and now serves as its President.

Zunker is campaigning for this election on three central issues – Healthcare, the Farm Crisis and Education.

“Healthcare is a right – no one should die because they can’t afford to go to the doctor,” she said. “Lowering the cost of prescription drugs is a top priority so no one goes bankrupt because they can’t afford their medication.”

As for the farm crisis, she says, “Our rural communities are enduring hardship and stress at alarming rates. We must fight for fair, competitive markets and enforce our trade agreements.”

And finally, for education, she believes, “Higher education must be made accessible and affordable. We need to begin to tackle the growing student debt crisis. We need to continue to encourage affordable community colleges and trade schools. We should also be promoting jobs in the skilled trades and technical field.”

She also told the crowd, she hasn’t or won’t accept PAC money.

“I’ll be accountable to the people and the people only,” she said.

Running for the 7th District seat was something which was on Zunker’s mind for a while she said. The 2022 election was her first thought, but after a month of thinking, she changed her mind and decided the time was now.

The special election was caused when Duffy, the incumbent in the District since 2011, resigned last year so he could spend more time with his family as his ninth child, who was born in October, had a heart condition.

Zunker’s challenger in February will be Lawrence Dale of Eagle River. The Republican primary will also have two people on the ballot – State Sen. Tom Tiffany of Minocqua and Jason Church of Hudson.

Whoever wins in May won’t have long to celebrate the win. They’ll have to run again in November with the rest of the United States House of Representatives.

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