By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany launched his bid for Congress in a conservative, rural northern Wisconsin district on Tuesday, promising to be “the ally President Trump needs to keep moving our country forward.”

Trump easily won the district in 2016 by 20 points, but the special election to replace resigning U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy could be an early test of Trump’s standing in Wisconsin. The date of the election has yet to be set, but it’s likely to be early in 2020.

Tiffany is the first candidate to get in the race but numerous other Republicans and Democrats are considering it.

A member of the Legislature since 2011, Tiffany cast himself as a “proven conservative.”

“I’m running for Congress to be the ally President Trump needs to keep moving our country forward,” Tiffany said in a statement. “He needs help to secure our borders, to stop the left’s obsessive march towards Socialism, to protect our 2nd Amendment rights, to protect the unborn, and to get the government off our backs so we can all prosper.”

Democrats branded him as “Toxic Tom Tiffany,” pointing to his record in the Legislature that included sponsoring a bill in 2013 easing environmental regulations to make it easier for mining company Gogebic Taconite to open a giant open pit mine in Iron County, near the shore of Lake Superior.

Tiffany led the charge for the project, saying it would bring hundreds of jobs and boost the struggling economy. But the mining company backed out in 2015, saying the project was not feasible.

Other Republicans who had been thinking about getting in the race dropped out ahead of Tiffany’s announcement. Both state Sen. Jerry Petrowski and Republican strategist Luke Hilgemann bowed out this week.

Jason Church, an Army veteran who lost both his legs in Afghanistan and now works for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, is considering running as a Republican. Church, who received his law degree last year, works for Johnson as his northwest regional director.

Republican state Rep. Romaine Quinn, of Barron, is considering a run as is Cuban-born Wausau thoracic surgeon Fernando “Fritz” Riveron.

On the Democratic side, those considering a bid include state Rep. Nick Milroy, of South Range; state Sen. Janet Bewley, of Mason; former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, of Chippewa Falls; and Wausau attorney Christine Bremer Muggli.

Duffy is resigning on Sept. 23 to spend more time with his family ahead of the birth of his ninth child in October. Gov. Tony Evers has not said what the dates of the special election will be.

Wisconsin’s 7th District covers all or parts of 20 northern and northwestern Wisconsin counties and is the state’s largest congressional district geographically. It has grown more conservative since Duffy took office in 2011. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney carried the district with 51% of the vote, compared with 48% that went to then-President Barack Obama. In 2016, Trump won it by 57% to 37% over Democrat Hillary Clinton.