Politics|Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, a Tea Party Favorite, to Leave Congress
WASHINGTON — Representative Sean P. Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin and one of the most recognizable faces of the Tea Party wave of 2010, announced Monday that he planned to resign from Congress next month, citing health complications of a baby he and his wife are expecting in October.
The imminent departure of Mr. Duffy is another blow to the Republican Party’s struggle to rebuild after crushing losses that swept it from power in the House. The announcement by Mr. Duffy, a former county prosecutor better known for his turn in the late 1990s as a star of the MTV reality show “The Real World,” follows a rash of retirements in recent weeks that have underscored the challenges and tribulations facing Republicans now serving in the minority.
For Mr. Duffy, the decision was deeply personal, he said Monday in a Facebook post. The lawmaker, who has eight children with his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, said they had recently learned that their ninth child, due in October, would have “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,” Mr. Duffy wrote. “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.”
The decision is expected to prompt a special election, to be set by Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers.
Yet Mr. Duffy’s departure is unlikely to tip the political scales: His northern Wisconsin district, once competitive, is now regarded as solidly Republican. Mr. Duffy won re-election there last fall by about 20 percentage points, and President Trump had a 20-point advantage there in 2016.
Mr. Duffy has been among the most vocal Republicans in his support for the president, rarely missing the chance to attend Mr. Trump’s rallies in Wisconsin and often taking his side publicly when he is criticized.
This year, Mr. Duffy introduced legislation to give the president more power to exact tariffs as retaliation for other countries imposing tariffs on the United States. It was a departure from other Republican lawmakers who have expressed concern, publicly and privately, about Mr. Trump’s penchant for protectionism.
Last month, when House Democrats brought up a resolution to condemn as racist Mr. Trump’s comments about four progressive congresswomen of color, Mr. Duffy was among the Republicans who took to the House floor to speak in the president’s defense. He called the women “anti-American” and praised Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, denying that the president’s comments merited condemnation.
Mr. Duffy’s decision to leave midway throughout his fifth term comes on the heels of several other Republican lawmakers announcing they will not seek re-election in 2020. They have publicly cited various reasons, including a desire to spend more time with family. But in private conversations, many Republicans acknowledge a list of reasons that make the prospect of another run unappealing: a bleak outlook for reclaiming the House, the doldrums of life in the minority and the prospect of sharing a ticket with Mr. Trump and being asked to answer for his every comment and policy pronouncement.
Mr. Duffy did not mention any of that in his statement on Monday, but he did say the idea of life after Congress had a certain appeal.
“I will miss being your Congressman,” he wrote, “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 spokeswoman for Mr. Evers said that the governor would call for a special election once the vacancy took effect, but that he and his team were still working to determine when to hold it. The state’s laws stipulate that the contest must be called before the second Tuesday in April, the spokeswoman said, leaving open the possibility that it could be held on the same day as Wisconsin’s April 7 presidential primary. That would almost certainly drive up turnout among Democrats.