Successor to be determined in special election to fill the vacancy
Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI07) announced Monday his intention to retire September 23rd. The surprise decision means both parties will scramble to find a candidate to compete for the open seat in a special election, possibly before the end of the year.
“On September 23, I will step down and allow others to step forward to begin laying out their own vision and plans for leading this beautiful district and the most honest, hard-working, family-oriented, patriotic, and God-fearing constituents in America,” Duffy wrote in a Facebook post.
Duffy announced he was leaving congress due to a complication with his wife’s most recent pregnancy with their ninth child.
“Recently, we’ve learned that our baby, due in late October, will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition,” Duffy wrote. “With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now. It is not an easy decision – because I truly love being your Congressman – but it is the right decision for my family, which is my first love and responsibility.”
His wife is Rachel Campos-Duffy, a popular conservative figure and a spokesman for conservative causes on national television talk shows. The two met as “reality” television stars as part of the MTV “Real World” series.
The surprise announcement came the same day Duffy’s re-election campaign announced the re-launching of the campaign website on Twitter.
Duffy, President Donald Trump’s biggest booster in the state, represented northern Wisconsin in a region that swung from being regularly represented by a Democrat in Congress to becoming a base of support for the president in 2016.
In 2010, Duffy announced he was running for congress, intending to take on long-time Democratic incumbent Rep. David Obey. However, Obey retired instead and hand-selected his Democratic successor, then-state Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), over two other Democratic state senators considering a run, Russ Decker and Pat Kreitlow. Duffy won, and Decker and Kreitlow also lost their seats in the Republican wave election.
After the 2011 redistricting, the seat became more Republican. However, Duffy’s campaigning in the district helped pave the way for Trump to make the switch in northern Wisconsin from Democrat to Republican complete in 2016.
Both major parties have already sent out email appeals to fundraise for the open seat. The special election could be seen as a bellwether in what promises to be one of the most competitive states in the 2020 presidential election.
The most likely Republican candidate is Sen. Tom Tiffany (R – Minocqua), a conservative. Tiffany issued a statement Monday thanking Duffy for his service.
“I would like to thank Congressman Sean Duffy for his service to the people of Northern Wisconsin. I wish Sean, his wife Rachel and their family the very best with their future plans,” Tiffany wrote. “Sean has been a tireless advocate for his district and has served this state with honor and distinction. I am proud to call Sean a friend, and he will be greatly missed.”
Tiffany added that he is considering running.
“Since Sean’s announcement this morning, I’ve been receiving a number of calls asking about what’s next,” Tiffany wrote. “I plan to talk to my wife Chris and my daughters, and my future plans will be announced soon.”
Duffy’s Republican colleagues in the Wisconsin delegation also commented on his decision to retire.
“Sean and Rachel Duffy are dear friends and proud patriots. It has been an honor to mentor them and watch them excel, and I thank them for their service and leadership. They and their children are family to me,” said Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI05), the senior member of the Wisconsin delegation. “While it comes as a great loss to the people of Wisconsin, I understand the challenging times ahead for the Duffy family and respect their decision. Sean, Rachel, their unborn child, and the rest of the family are in my prayers. As I have seen them overcome many challenges before, I am confident that they will undertake this one with prayerful and humble hearts.”
“Congressman Duffy has long been a leader who brings real Wisconsin values and common-sense solutions to Washington. He has been a model representative who looks out for his district, because it truly is his home,” said Congressman Glenn Grothman. “In addition to being an expert on the Financial Services Committee, Sean Duffy’s outgoing lumberjack personality will be sorely missed by all of Congress. I wish Sean, Rachel and their children all the best in these trying times and hope to see them back in the Capitol sometime in the future.”
“Since the first time I met him, it was clear to me that Sean Duffy was a great husband, father, and a dedicated representative for the people of Wisconsin,” Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI08) said. “His decision to leave Congress is unfortunate, but Sean’s choice ultimately reflects his commitment to always putting his family first. I will miss serving with him in Congress and will pray for him, Rachel, and their growing family as they begin this next chapter of their lives.”
“Sean is a great friend, an unwavering champion for Wisconsin families, and most importantly, a devoted husband and father. Sean has been a great ally in Congress,” said Congressman Bryan Steil (R-WI01). “His passion for bettering our nation and taking an ax to the issues that matter most will be sorely missed. I wish Sean, Rachel, and their kids nothing but the best and I will continue praying for their family.”
Until Monday’s announcement, Duffy was talked about as a possible successor to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) if Johnson declined to run for re-election in 2022. Johnson has indicated in the past that he would only serve two terms and there is speculation that Johnson may run for governor instead.
Johnson also issued a statement on Monday praising Duffy.
“We are all saddened by the news that Sean and Rachel Duffy’s soon-to-be-born baby girl will experience significant health challenges,” Johnson said. “Family responsibilities should always come first, and I fully understand and respect Sean’s decision to devote his full time and attention to his family. I ask everyone to keep Sean and his family in your prayers.”
Duffy’s decision to not run for re-election may not be the end of his political career. In a Twitter post thanking everyone for their kind words, the 47-year-old hinted there may be a return: