Wisconsin 7th District
In the late 19th century, thousands of migrants traveled the rail lines radiating northwest from Chicago and Milwaukee to settle the northern reaches of Wisconsin, the most thickly settled land this far north in the United States and east of the Mississippi. What attracted them was not cropland—there are no industrial-size wheat farms as in the Red River Valley of North Dakota—but trees, iron and cows. This was one of America’s largest virgin timberlands, and the river towns are still dotted with paper mills. Farther north, iron brought Finns and Italians to the port of Superior, Wis., next to Duluth, Minn., and to smaller towns on the chilly lake, like Bayfield near the Apostle Islands. The cleared forest lands became dairy farms. Dairy cattle, properly cared for, thrive in these northern uplands, and the sons of Wisconsin dairymen, many of them immigrants from Germany and Norway, moved their dairy herds even farther north towards Canada. Small cities grew, and some became home to big enterprises. Wausau has paper mills, Wisconsin Rapids has Stora Enso paper, and Stevens Point has Sentry Insurance; these three cities have continued to generate new businesses and jobs and have retained a highly skilled workforce. But the number of dairy farmers in the region is in sharp decline; some farmers have turned to potatoes, vegetables, cranberries and even ginseng. Wausau, which the 1980 census found to be the most ethnically homogeneous city in the nation, now has a sizeable immigrant community. Many Hmong refugees moved there in the 1980s, and as of 2007, 9% of the city’s population was Asian.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This area makes up Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, which stretches from Stevens Point in the south to Lake Superior in the north. The politics of northern Wisconsin and the 7th District have a rough-hewn quality, a lumberjack-populist flavor. Ancestrally Republican, the area favored the progressivism of the La Follettes. Today, the Superior and Stevens Point areas are heavily Democratic, though Wausau’s Marathon County and many of the smaller counties have leaned Republican. The district was closely divided in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Democrat Al Gore carried it 47.5%-46.8%, Democrat John Kerry 50.1%-48.7%. In 2008, Democratic nominee Barack Obama beat John McCain here 56%-42%, winning 18 of the 20 counties in the district.