‘Real World’ contestant-turned-GOP congressional candidate catches a break with Obey retirement

Alex Pappas | Political Reporter

Wisconsin Rep. Dave Obey will not seek reelection, a huge break for Republicans and Sean Duffy, the insurgent GOP candidate of “Real World Boston” fame who’s challenging Obey for the seat.

The Wisconsin congressman is chairman of the House appropriations committee, and his absence from the race certainly makes the seat much more competitive for the GOP.

“People are yearning for different representation,” Duffy, 38, said during a conference call with reporters. “And now they’re gonna get it.”

Asked if he thought his campaign is responsible for Obey’s withdrawal from the race, he said, “If I was to guess, I’d guess that was one of the considerations.”

Duffy said the campaign will “still be focused on the same issues,” like balancing the budget and reducing the country’s $13 million debt.

Duffy serves as Ashland Count district attorney and wasn’t yet born when Obey took office in 1969. His campaign thus far has been about ousting Obey, a congressman who has been in office for too long and who, being chair of the appropriations committee, was a chief author of the stimulus bill.

“The bottom line is he landed in Washington before we landed on the moon,” Duffy, a Republican, told The Daily Caller in March.

The NRCC gives Duffy credit for Obey’s withdrawal from the race, as spokesman Tom Erickson said “It was Sean Duffy and his grassroots-powered campaign that forced Dave Obey into retirement.”

“As the architect of the Democrats’ failed stimulus package, Obey knew he stood no chance against Duffy’s message of  bringing fiscal responsibility back to Washington. With Obey no longer an obstacle, Sean Duffy is well on his way to becoming the next Congressman from Wisconsin’s Seventh District,” he said.

Duffy’s campaign has caught several breaks over the last few weeks, including a front-page story in the New York Times that credited him giving Obey his first serious competition in years. He also won an online contest hosted by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC that will allow Duffy to fundraise from the PAC’s e-mail list.

Called by Politico, Duffy, who had not yet gotten wind of the announcement, was incredulous at first. “Is this a prank call?” Duffy asked.

Duffy is a three-time world Lumberjack champion. He was appointed Ashland County’s district attorney and has won re-election since. He spent 1997 as a houseguest on MTV’s “Real World Boston.” He married a fellow reality TV star he met on another MTV show and the two have six children together.

“People aren’t concerned about a reality show from 15 years ago,” he said when asked what role his television experience plays in the race, claiming those in his district rarely mention it.

According to the New York Times, Democrats are already eying a number of potential replacements, including state senators Pat Kreitlow and Julie Lassa and state representative Donna Seidel. The filing deadline is July 13 and Wisconsin’s primary is set for Sept. 14.

Obey’s office did not return requests for comment from The Daily Caller. But Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chair of DCCC, said in a statement that, “Chairman Obey would have won re-election again had he run.”

“We are confident that a Democrat who shares Chairman Obey’s commitment to making progress for Wisconsin’s middle class families will succeed him as the next Representative of Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District,” he said.

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