Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy has resigned his northern and central Wisconsin congressional seat, effective Sept. 23, and, with a special election looming, state Sens. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) and Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) both say they are giving serious consideration to running.
Duffy surprised the political world this past week with his resignation. On Facebook, the congressman said he needed to spend time and help take care of his family.
“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 in the Aug. 26 Facebook post. “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 last day will be Sept. 23, he wrote.
“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,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Tiffany told multiple media outlets he was considering a run for the soon-to-be-vacant seventh congressional seat, and he said in a statement a decision and announcement would be forthcoming.
“Since Sean’s announcement, I’ve been receiving a number of calls asking about what’s next,” Tiffany said. “I plan to talk to my wife Chris and my daughters, and my future plans will be announced soon.”
Tiffany also thanked Duffy for his service to the state.
“Sean has been a great advocate on behalf of the constituents of northern Wisconsin,” he said. “I have enjoyed working with him on a number of issues, and he will be missed. My wife Chris and I send Sean, Rachel, and the Duffy family our very best as they begin a new chapter.”
Petrowski also wished Duffy and his family well and said he, too, would consult with his family.
“Over the past two days I have received hundreds of phone calls, texts and emails asking me to run for the 7th Congressional District seat,” Petrowski said. “The amount of support pouring in is both overwhelming and heartwarming. This is not a decision to take lightly, and I will be discussing options with my family over the next couple of weeks.”
Well-wishes for Duffy and his family poured in from around the state.
U.S. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) said he understood Duffy’s decision.
“We are all saddened by the news that Sean and Rachel Duffy’s soon-to-be-born baby girl will experience significant health challenges,” he 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.”
Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Ben Wikler also wished Duffy and his family well.
“The Democratic Party of Wisconsin sends its well wishes to the Duffy family as they face the medical challenges ahead,” Wikler said. “During the fight against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I worked closely with the families of children born with congenital heart defects. Nurturing these children is a full-time job, and one that takes great emotional strength from the families who love them. I will be hoping for the best for Sean and Rachel as they prepare to welcome their child to the world.”
Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) said he hoped that Duffy would remain politically active in coming years.
“His dedication to the party as well as his constituents of the Northwoods is unmatched,” August said. “Over the years he has accomplished a great deal and we are thankful for his service.”
August said he and Duffy had been political allies for years, but they had also become good friends.
“I know he and Rachel have not arrived at this decision easily, but I trust that it is the best decision for their family at this time,” he said. “Knowing Sean and Rachel, I look forward to their continued involvement in the conservative movement in our state.”
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce said Duffy had been a great friend of the business community and would be sorely missed. Local representatives Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) and Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) also offered their best wishes and thanked Duffy for his service.
In his Facebook post, Duffy said that, next to marrying his wife, his service in Congress has been the highest honor of his life.
“Together, we have engaged in the most important battles of our time: protecting freedom of speech and religious liberty, taking care of our veterans, defending the unborn, and saving American jobs and American capitalism,” he wrote.
But after eight-and-a-half years, Duffy said the time had come for him to focus more on the reason he fought those battles: family.
“As you all know, raising a family is hard work,” he wrote. “It’s especially true for one as large and busy as mine. Being away from home in Washington four days a week is challenging and for that reason, I have always been open to signs from God when it comes to balancing my desire to serve both my family and my country.”
Duffy said he would be forever grateful for, and humbled by, the faith and sacred trust voters put in him, and for the prayers they have offered.
“We hope they keep coming!” he wrote. “I will miss being your Congressman, but I am also looking forward to having more time with my family, being home for more birthdays and hockey games, and having time to enjoy and care for our new baby girl, who is already so loved by our family.”
The congressman gave special thanks to his chief of staff, Pete Meachum, his district director, Jesse Garza, and the rest of his district and Washington staff.
“They are the reason you have enjoyed the best and most attentive customer service this district has ever had to resolve your federal issues and problems,” he wrote. “I am so proud of what they do and have full confidence they will continue to seamlessly provide these valuable services during the coming transition.”
Richard Moore is the author of the forthcoming “Storyfinding: From the Journey to the Story” and can be reached at richardmoorebooks.com.