Candidate answering call to public service
Tricia Zunker is facing Lawrence Dales for the Democratic nomination for the 7th district
Tricia Zunker said she is running for office because she believes in public service. She is running as a Democrat for the 7th Congressional District seat previously held by Rep. Sean Duffy.
Zunker grew up in Wausau and is the first generation of college graduates in her family graduating from UW-Madison and then UCLA law school, which she chose for its indigenous law program wanting to bring that knowledge back to Wisconsin. Since returning to Wisconsin she was elected to serve as an associate justice on the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court and was reelected to that position in 2017. In 2018, Zunker was elected to the Wausau School District board of education and is currently the board president. In addition, Zunker is a college professor teaching courses at three insitutions remotely from her home working with nontraditional students.
Zunker says she learned the importance of hard work and a fair day’s pay from her family. Her mother comes from a strong union background as a member of USW Local 2-224 for over 30 years, including serving over a decade as union secretary. Her father was a laborer with specialty carpentry skills and her grandfather farmed in the town of Easton near Wausau while serving 36 years in the Army Reserves and retiring as a master sergeant.
Zunker is a solo parent who said she made the decision to move back to Wisconsin with her son in order to be able to be closer to her grandfather who died last year. She said she is grateful for the time her son got to spend with him.
Beyond her work in the school district and with the Ho-Chunk, Zunker has been active within Marathon County working with the Wausau mayor to have the city recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and forming a nonprofit that worked to bring a pow wow back to the area.
Zunker visited The Star News on Tuesday to talk about why she is running and address issues in the coming election.
Zunker said she is an advocate for healthcare reform and says she would combat predatory pricing particularly for life-sustaining prescriptions such as insulin. She said people should not have to choose between dying and going broke when it comes to paying for prescriptions.
She said she would support national caps on drugs such as insulin, noting that she feels the $100 per month cap recently imposed in Illinois was too high.
“People are being forced to ration their medication and that is just plan wrong,” she said.
Beyond that she would like reforms regarding treatment of mental illness, especially among inmates, something she said could have a direct benefit on reducing crime.
“ Jails and prisons house more mentally ill individuals than hospitals. We need to get them the help they need,” she stated in her campaign materials.
She also cited the rising number of suicides among farmers and the need to get them the help they need.
Agriculture and trade With her family farming background, Zunker said more must be done to help farmers and the rural communities they are part of. She said the focus needs to especially be on family farms.
“We need to do more for small and mid-size farms,” she said.
She praised the idea of taking a hard line against the predatory trade practices of China, but tempered that with the damage tariffs are causing for ginseng farmers and others who rely on Asian markets to sell their products.
“We need to get tough on China but not at the expense of farming and manufacturing jobs,” she said.
She said things like the expansion of broadband would help farmers and other business owners to be more competitive, noting there was also a safety issue with having increased broadband access.
“We need to support our small businesses when we support our small business we support our farmers,” she said.
Campaign finance reform
Zunker is a proponent of campaign finance reform. She taught about the issues with campaign finance reform in her constitutional law classes but as a candidate, needing to raise money, she is seeing another side of it noting the negative influence it can have on campaigns.
“I appreciate each and every donation,” she said, noting her campaign relies on individual and local contributions. A contrast she said noting opponents that have received “dark” money from political action committees.
Zunker said she supports capping the amount of money that can be spent on a political campaign.
With her involvement in the Wausau School District, the 13th largest district in the state, Zunker said she has become more aware of the needs of schools and that there needs to be more support of schools from the national level.
“We need to invest in our future and that means investing in children and education,” Zunker said.
As part of this, she said there needs to be great value placed on those who work in public education.
She said she thinks the federal government must reprioritize how money is being spent. “We shouldn’t be spending on never-ending warn in Afghanistan,” she said, noting that money could be better spent on schools and education.
Military, veterans and security
Zunker said she has a deep respect for veterans and those in the military and said the government needs to remember that the soldiers sent to fight in wars are human beings. “These are human beings, we cannot use our service people as collateral,” Zunker said.
She talked about her cousin who was deployed to the Middle East region following increased tensions with Iran. Her family is not able to know where he is at and they worry for his safety.
Looking to future national security threats, Zunker said she feels that the biggest security risk deals with cybersecurity. In particular she worries about the security of the country’s election equipment and if they are free of tampering by foreign powers.
This is especially important in presidential elections because of the broad powers of the president to make appointments and influence policy and many levels.
She said she believes all voting machines should be made in America.
Zunker will face Lawrence Dale in the February 18 Democratic primary and if successful will face the Republican candidate in the May 12 special election.