Stuck In The 8th Congressional District

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July 16 Update: Today in the House of Representatives four Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for a resolution condemning President Trump’s tweets urging minority congresswomen to “go back” to the “places from which they came.” Three of the four (Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd of Texas, and Fred Upton of Michigan) are considered to be moderates in competitive districts. As noted in my piece below, Wisconsin’s 8th District is competitive. Incumbent Republican Mike Gallagher likes to portray himself as being independent from President Trump and the Republican leadership. Yet he could not bring himself to vote for the resolution, and instead tried to argue that the matter is a distraction from the real problems facing the nation. Given that Mr. Trump’s lightning rod, divisive statements can only be expected to get worse as we head toward the 2020 elections, Mr. Gallagher will face mounting pressures from some corners to distance himself from the president, and from others to get closer. It remains to be seen if any of this helps Democratic Rep. Stuck as she tries to unseat him. –Tony Palmeri

State Representative Amanda Stuck (Democrat-57th District) announced yesterday that she plans to run for Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional district seat in 2020 against Republican incumbent Mike Gallagher.

Congressman Mike Gallagher is being challenged by State Rep. Amanda Stuck for the 8th congressional district seat. Gallagher (age 35) and Stuck (age 36) identify as millennials, which for them means a dislike of hyper partisanship and a search for bipartisan solutions.

The 8th Congressional District leans Republican, but in the last 25 years has twice elected Democrats. Jay Johnson served one term (1997-1999), while Rep. Stuck’s mentor Steve Kagen served two terms (2007-2011). Given that 2020 will be a presidential election year, voter turnout in the district should be high. In competitive districts high turnout generally benefits Democrats–but there are some caveats: IF Mr. Trump’s support in the state is less enthusiastic than it was in 2016 and IF the Democrats nominate someone who can rally the grassroots, Stuck’s chances of winning will increase.

Congressman Gallagher was first elected in 2016. He has worked hard to cultivate an image as someone who wants to reform a dysfunctional Congress and keep his distance from the Trump Administration even while he is a mostly reliable vote for President Trump and the Koch Brothers. Mr. Gallagher is a US Marine Corp veteran, has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton, two master’s degrees (in Security Studies from Georgetown and Strategic Intelligence from National Intelligence University), and a PhD degree in International Relations from Georgetown.

Congressman Gallagher has branded himself as a champion of civility. Will he and the Wisconsin Republicans walk that talk in campaign 2020?

For her part, Representative Stuck was first elected to the state assembly in 2014 and won reelection without opposition in 2016 and 2018. She’s a mainstream Democrat who has agreed with the Wisconsin AFL-CIO 97 percent of the time. Given that the Democrats have been in the legislative minority throughout her entire tenure, like most of her Democratic peers she’s mostly been a voice in opposition to Republican excesses like the lame duck session power grab. Ms. Stuck served in AmeriCorp for Habitat For Humanity and the American Red Cross. She has a bachelor’s degree and master’s in public administration, both from UW Oshkosh.

In a television interview, Rep. Amanda Stuck claimed that if elected to Congress, she would spend more time in the 8th CD than incumbent Mike Gallagher.

Gallagher (age 35) and Stuck (age 36) identify as millennials, which for both of them seems to mean, in part, a rejection of hyper partisanship and a commitment to “getting things done” across party lines. In fact in May 2018 they sat next to each other while participating in a Millennial Action Project roundtable discussion on workforce development. Stuck is actually co-chair and one of the founders of the Wisconsin Future Caucus, a group of mostly millennial officials who advocate for bipartisan solutions.

It is of course possible that Gallagher and Stuck could face primary challenges and not be the nominee of their respective party for the congressional seat. But assuming that they ARE the nominees, will we witness a millennial generation campaign featuring real efforts to disagree without being disagreeable? Will we finally get a congressional race that is heavy on policy disagreement and light on personal antagonism?

Not likely. When Rep. Stuck announced her campaign, she tried to establish the difference between her and Gallagher in terms of what she opined as his tendency to be Washington focused as opposed to her intention to spend more time in the district. She argued that her status as a mother of four children (and the fact that she was at one time a single mom working her way through college) allows her to identify heavily with the working families of the district.

Stuck insists that Gallagher has not held enough town hall meetings, and that a constituent concerned with what would be the terrible personal consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act received no response from the congressman. Worse, “our congressman voted to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions and has done nothing to lower the cost of prescription drugs while pocketing tens of thousands of dollars from big pharmaceutical and insurance companies.”

For his part, Congressman Gallagher told the Green Bay Press Gazette that he works “tirelessly” for his constituents. The Outagamie County Republican Party said that, “We look forward to contrasting Congressman Mike Gallagher’s record of impact and achievement in Washington with Rep. Stuck’s record of supporting radical leftist policies in Madison.”

I’m not sure that “out of touch tool of big pharma” vs. “radical leftist” is the kind of campaign the Millennial Action Project was hoping for. What’s really unfortunate is that as the race becomes more competitive, the out of state monied interests will hijack the campaigns and before you know it, “out of touch tool of pharma” vs. “radical leftist” will actually seem quite mild compared to the vile attacks we’re almost guaranteed to see.

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About Author

Tony Palmeri

Tony Palmeri is a Professor of Communication Studies at UW Oshkosh. He teaches courses in rhetoric and public advocacy, freedom of speech, the rhetoric of rock and roll, and the communication career capstone. He maintains a blog called "Tony Palmeri's Media Rants." Tony served two terms on the Oshkosh Common Council and ran for state legislature in 1996 and 2004. You can find more information about him at www.tonypalmeri.com

2 Comments

  1. David Hayford
    David Hayford on

    The comment that Rep Gallagher is ” mostly reliable vote for President Trump and the Koch Brothers” is just an unnecessary, cheap, partisan shot. What do Koch Brothers have to do with this race. They are not among the top 20 donors to Gallagher in 2017-18. Sounds like a campaign piece for Stuck

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