MADISON (AP) — Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump who was on the cast of MTV's "The Real World" before he went into politics, announced Monday that he is resigning from his Wisconsin congressional seat to spend more time with his family.
Duffy, 47, posted on Facebook that he recently learned that his ninth child, who is due in October, has a heart condition and "will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications."
Duffy, who was on "The Real World: Boston" in 1997, plans to resign Sept. 23. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will call a special election to fill the vacancy and is researching options for when to hold it, said the governor's spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff.
The fifth-term congressman represents Wisconsin's 7th District, which covers all or parts of 20 northern and northwestern Wisconsin counties and is the state's largest congressional district, geographically. It has grown more conservative since Duffy took office in 2011. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney carried the district with 51% of the vote, compared with 48% that went to then-President Barack Obama. In 2016, Trump won it by 57% to 37% over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"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." — U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy
Duffy has been widely mentioned as a possible candidate for U.S. Senate or governor in 2022. Duffy leaves Congress with about $2.4 million in his campaign fund, based on the most recent report that ran through June 30.
In his resignation announcement, Duffy said being away from his family for four days a week to serve in Congress is "challenging" and "I have always been open to signs from God when it comes to balancing my desire to serve both my family and my country."
"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," Duffy said. "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."
Duffy replaced 15-term Democratic Rep. Dave Obey, who announced his retirement 10 months after Duffy entered his first race for the seat. Duffy had been a district attorney for eight years before being elected to Congress.
Duffy met his future wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, on the set of MTV's "Road Rules: All Stars" in 1998. Together, they have eight children, and Duffy announced in May that she was pregnant with their ninth child.
State Sen. Tom Tiffany, a Republican who lives in Duffy's district, was one of the first to release a statement after the retirement was announced, thanking Duffy for his service and wishing him luck.
Tiffany issued a second statement later Monday, saying he'd been receiving a "number of calls asking about what's next," a nod to questions about whether he may run for the seat. He said he planned to talk to his family and announce his plans soon.
Long-time representative of the 5th Congressional District, Jim Sensenbrenner said that he understands "the challenging times ahead for the Duffy family," saying the Duffys "are family to me." The 21-term congressman said in a release, "I have seen them overcome many challenges before, I am confident that they will undertake this one with prayerful and humble hearts."
Republican State Rep. Glenn Grothman who is serving his third term in the 6th Congressional District released a statement following Duffy's announcement:
“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. 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.”
Newly appointed State Representative of the 1st Congressional District, Brian Steil, a Republican of Janesville called Duffy an "unwavering champion for Wisconsin families."
.@RepSeanDuffy is a great friend, an unwavering champion for Wisconsin families, and most importantly, a devoted husband and father. He has been a great ally in Congress and will be sorely missed. I wish Sean, @RCamposDuffy, and their family nothing but the best. pic.twitter.com/oyG97Waxft— Bryan Steil (@RepBryanSteil) August 26, 2019
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer tweeted that Duffy was right to put his family first. He warned that any Democrat who tries to take the seat will have to defend what Emmer called that party's radical open border agenda, socialized health care and "lust for impeaching President Trump."