Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2010, 2nd term.

Born: October 3, 1971, Hayward

Home: Ashland

Education: St. Mary's Col., MN, B.A. 1994; William Mitchell Col. of Law, J.D. 1999.

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1999-2000; special prosecutor, Ashland Cnty., 2000-02.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Catholic

Family: Married (Rachel Campos-Duffy) , 6 children

Republican Sean Duffy won the seat of retiring Democratic stalwart David Obey in one of 2010’s most bitterly disappointing races for the Democratic Party. In 2012, he overcame his widely-publicized remark that he “struggles” on his $174,000 annual House salary to hold onto his seat.

Duffy hails from the sparsely populated, thickly forested northern end of the state, the 10th of 11 children. He became adept at the local craft of lumberjacking, eventually earning multiple world-champion titles in the 60-foot and 90-foot pole speed climb. In college, he studied business marketing, earning a degree in 1994. On a lark after graduation, Duffy joined the cast of MTV’s The Real World: Boston, one of the earliest reality-TV series. The program brought young people with diverse backgrounds together to live as roommates, with the aim of spurring lively confrontations. Duffy was cast as the conservative in the show, and he frequently sparred with a liberal roommate. Around that time, he met his future wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, who had been cast as the conservative foil in the Real World season taped in San Francisco.

Eventually, Duffy enrolled in law school in Minnesota. With degree in hand, he moved back to Wisconsin to work for his family’s law firm for a short time before becoming a prosecutor. In 2002, Republican Gov. Scott McCallum appointed Duffy as Ashland County district attorney. In that role, he boasted a 90% success rate in jury trials and prosecuting child sex offenders. Duffy was serving his fourth term when he resigned to challenge Obey in the 2010 election.

Then, Obey unexpectedly announced that he would not seek reelection, removing himself as a ready target for Duffy and his conservative, anti-government message. Instead of facing the 72-year-old Obey, an old-time appropriator who had been in Washington for four decades, Duffy drew as an opponent a young Washington outsider like himself, Democratic state Sen. Julie Lassa.

In his campaign, Duffy made an issue of the government’s big-spending ways and, specifically, the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that Obey, as Appropriations chairman, had helped push to passage. Duffy was adept at raising money, and he ran as an unabashedly family-values and small-government conservative. Rachel Campos-Duffy wrote a book in 2009 titled Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood, which she calls “a love letter to at-home moms.” The couple has six young children.

Lassa accused Duffy of supporting deep cuts in entitlement spending after he embraced Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan. She campaigned as a champion of the middle class, calling for a first-time home buyers’ tax credit, a payroll tax holiday for businesses that hire new workers, and a 10% pay cut for members of Congress until the unemployment rate dropped. But Lassa, despite strong backing from national Democrats, had difficulty connecting with voters, giving stump speeches that were heavily reliant on notes. By contrast, Duffy was at ease and even charming in a crowd. He even overcame an unflattering video clip that was circulated of him dancing on a pool table in his underwear at a “toga” party. On Election Day, Duffy won, 52% to 44%.

In the House, Duffy has backed his party on big votes, especially on fiscal issues, but has shown greater independence on matters that touch on his district. He refused to join most other tea party-backed freshmen in 2012 in voting to end subsidies to rural airports and to defund National Public Radio, which maintains a strong audience in non-urban regions. He formed a close friendship with South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy, a fellow freshman and ex-prosecutor, and the two cosponsored each other’s legislation aimed at reining in spending.

From his seat on the Financial Services Committee, Duffy challenged Ben Bernanke at a February 2013 hearing about the Federal Reserve chairman’s assertion that looming automatic spending cuts would harm economic growth. Duffy responded that a 2% cut in the federal budget would not be devastating, and said, “Mr. Chairman, that doesn’t make sense to me.” But nothing brought Duffy more attention that his attempt to show empathy with an economically struggling constituent at a 2011 town hall meeting. When the man pointed out that Duffy’s salary was “three times what I make,” Duffy responded, “If you think I’m living high off the hog, I’ve got one paycheck … I struggle to meet my bills right now.”

Democrats jumped on the comment, contending that it illustrated how out of touch Duffy was, and launched an aggressive attempt to unseat him. His Democratic opponent, Pat Kreitlow, a former state senator, raised a respectable $1.2 million. But Duffy drew on the financial industry’s largesse and took in more than twice that amount to win, 56%-44%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3365

(202) 225-3240

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1208
Washington, DC 20515-4907

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3365

(202) 225-3240

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1208
Washington, DC 20515-4907

DISTRICT OFFICE

(715) 298-9344

(715) 298-9348

208 Grand Avenue
Wausau, WI 54403-6217

DISTRICT OFFICE

(715) 298-9344

(715) 298-9348

208 Grand Avenue
Wausau, WI 54403-6217

DISTRICT OFFICE

(715) 392-3984

(715) 392-3999

823 Belknap Street Suite 225
Superior, WI 54880-2942

DISTRICT OFFICE

(715) 392-3984

(715) 392-3999

823 Belknap Street Suite 225
Superior, WI 54880-2942

DISTRICT OFFICE

(715) 808-8160

(715) 808-8167

502 2nd Street Suite 202
Hudson, WI 54016-1546

DISTRICT OFFICE

(715) 808-8160

(715) 808-8167

502 Second Street Suite 202
Hudson, WI 54016-1546

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 538
Wausau, WI 54402-0538

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 538
Wausau, WI 54402-0538

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Ryan McCormack
Legislative Correspondent

Agriculture

Ryan McCormack
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Andy Taylor
Legislative Director; Deputy Chief of Staff

Education

Andy Taylor
Legislative Director; Deputy Chief of Staff

Environment

Ryan McCormack
Legislative Correspondent

Finance

Rachel Goldberg
Committee Designee

Homeland Security

Andy Taylor
Legislative Director; Deputy Chief of Staff

Labor

Andy Taylor
Legislative Director; Deputy Chief of Staff

Military

Ryan McCormack
Legislative Correspondent

Rules

Lindsay Gill
Legislative Correspondent

Andy Taylor
Legislative Director; Deputy Chief of Staff

Small Business

Andy Taylor
Legislative Director; Deputy Chief of Staff

Technology

Ryan McCormack
Legislative Correspondent

Telecommunications

Ryan McCormack
Legislative Correspondent

Transportation

Ryan McCormack
Legislative Correspondent

Veterans

Lindsay Gill
Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Sean Duffy
Votes: 201,720
Percent: 56.15%
Pat Kreitlow
Votes: 157,524
Percent: 43.85%
2012 PRIMARY
Sean Duffy
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Sean Duffy
Votes: 132,551
Percent: 52.11%
Julie Lassa
Votes: 113,018
Percent: 44.43%
2010 PRIMARY
Sean Duffy
Votes: 41,032
Percent: 66.07%
Dan Mielke
Votes: 21,075
Percent: 33.93%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (52%)

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