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Speaker asks governor to move congressional special election

September 27, 2019

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Friday “respectfully demanded” that Gov. Tony Evers reschedule a congressional special election because the primary would fall during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Evers called the 7th District special election for Jan. 27 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation on Monday of Republican Sean Duffy. The primary is Dec. 30, which Vos noted in a letter to Evers is the final day of Hanukkah.

“I respectfully demand that you find a new date for the upcoming special election in Wisconsin,” Vos wrote.

Evers’ decision to hold the special election in January avoided potentially boosting GOP turnout in a state Supreme Court election in April, the same day as Wisconsin’s presidential primary where Democratic turnout is likely to be high. Both the primary and general election for the special election Evers called would be on Mondays, moves that avoid having the primary on New Year’s Eve.

Evers said he was calling it that early because he wanted to fill the seat as quickly as possible. He did not immediately respond to the Vos demand.

Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, who is Jewish, questioned why Vos was making the request given that the Assembly has been scheduled to meet on Jewish holidays in the past.

“Vos isn’t Jewish and has, from my knowledge, never cared about Jewish issues until now,” Brostoff said. “He’s never even reached out to me once, even when he scheduled things on holidays previously.”

The original legislative schedule, set by Republicans, had the Assembly scheduled to meet on Yom Kippur, which begins on the evening of Oct. 8. The Assembly voted unanimously to change the schedule so it would not meet on that day, but the Senate did not.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a liberal-leaning campaign finance watchdog group, agreed with Vos that the special election primary should not fall during Hannukah.

“Having a primary during the holidays just isn’t cool,” wrote Executive Director Matthew Rothschild, who is Jewish. He said holding the primary on a Monday during the holidays would be “anti-democratic” because it’s likely to result in extremely low turnout.

Duffy’s final day in Congress was Monday, the same day Evers announced the special election dates. He stepped down because his ninth baby, due next month, was diagnosed with a hole in its heart that will require his time and attention.

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