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Reality TV’s first member of Congress is resigning

Reality TV’s first member of Congress is resigning
Sean Duffy, the former Real World Boston cast member, represents Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, and is resigning Sept. 23, 2019. (Photo via United States Congress)

Sean Duffy, a cast member on The Real World Boston and a member of the the House of Representatives since 2010, is resigning from Congress. He was reelected last year, so he’s leaving halfway through his fifth term. (Details about his record in Congress are below.)

Duffy will step down Sept. 23, he said in a Facebook post yesterday, because his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, is pregnant with their ninth child, who’s “due in late October, [and] will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition,” Sean wrote.

Sean Duffy is the 10th House Republican to announce they will not run for re-election (two Democrats have made similar announcements). A few weeks ago, Fox News reported on a “spate of retirement announcements” of Republicans in Congress, which it said “could be a warning sign that Republican lawmakers are tiring of being in the minority after just a year and a half. It could also indicate a disinterest in serving in Congress during this divisive political moment.”

Sean’s full message to constituents mentioned nothing of current politics and didn’t even use the word “Republican” once. Instead, it mostly focuses on his family:

Next to marrying Rachel, representing you – the people and families of Wisconsin’s 7th District – in Congress has been the highest honor of my 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.

After eight and a half years, the time has come for me to focus more on the reason we fight these battles – family.

As you all know, raising a family is hard work. 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.

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. 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.

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.

I will be forever grateful for and humbled by the faith and sacred trust you have put in me all these years. I am especially grateful for the prayers said on behalf of our family. We hope they keep coming! 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.

A special thank you to my chief of staff, Pete Meachum, my district director, Jesse Garza, and the rest of my loyal and competent district & DC 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. 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.”

After the news broke, Sean tweeted, “I so appreciate all the kind messages from everyone but I’m not dead. Feeling hopeful and looking forward to what the future holds.”

Sean Duffy’s track record in Congress

Former Real World Boston cast member and current US Representative Sean Duffy (right) talking with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in 2017 at  a Rural Prosperity Task Force session
Former Real World Boston cast member and current US Representative Sean Duffy (right) talking with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in 2017 at a Rural Prosperity Task Force session. (Photo by Lance Cheung/United States Department of Agriculture)

Long before Donald Trump used reality TV as a platform to jump into politics (there’s a new book coming out about this), there was Sean Duffy, who actually ran away from his time on reality TV.

His bio on his web site mentions being “a nationally recognized professional lumberjack athlete … and an accomplished logroller,” but does not mention his time on MTV.

Before he ran for Congress, Duffy was first appointed to be the Ashland County District Attorney, and then was elected to that office in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.

He wasn’t the first Real World cast member to run for Congress: season one star Kevin Powell ran for Congress in 2006 and dropped out, but ran again in 2008 and 2010, losing both times.

Duffy was elected as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010, and became a rising star in Congress; he made a significant appearance in this New York Times profile of House leader Kevin McCarthy, which noted his apprehension about voting with fellow Republicans against Obamacare repeal (he eventually did) and against defunding NPR (he did not, because his constituents depend on NPR).

In 2014, Slate asked if he was “Wisconsin’s next big star of conservative politics?” and said that then-“Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus thinks he’s a rising star for the party. And Wisconsin Republicans see him as a potential contender for statewide office.”

News wasn’t always flattering: He was declared to be the fourth-dumbest person in Congress based on the language he used, and in 2011, he told a constituent that his $174,000 year salary left him having to “struggle” to pay bills.

During his time in Congress, “Duffy was the primary sponsor of 7 bills that were enacted” into law, according to GovTrack, an independent website that compiles data about those in government. Those bills were, according to GovTrack:

GovTrack reports that, during 2018, Sean:

  • “Joined bipartisan bills the least often compared to Wisconsin Delegation”
  • “Introduced the 18th most bills compared to House Republicans (tied with 3 others)”
  • “Cosponsored the 2nd fewest bills compared to Wisconsin Delegation”
  • “Supported government transparency the 2nd least often compared to Wisconsin Delegation”

As of this summer, Sean was still actively campaigning for Donald Trump, offering lumberjack-plaid “I Stand with Trump” bumper stickers that also include his name.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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