7th U.S. Congressional District candidates
Pat Kreitlow challenges incumbent Sean Duffy for the 7th U.S. Congressional District seat.
Sean Duffy Bio
- Wife, Rachel, and six children.
- Bachelor's degree in marketing from St. Mary's University; law degree from William Mitchell College of Law.
- Worked way through college as a professional lumberjack; and also was a reality television competitor and commentator on ESPN and MTV. He served as Ashland County district attorney from 2002-2010.
Previous elected office:
- Appointed Ashland County district attorney in 2002 and re-elected to the post four times. Elected in 2010 as U.S. representative.
Former lumberjack aims to chop deficit, feels optimistic change can occur
(Due to redistricting, St. Croix County is a new addition to the Seventh Congressional District. Local voters will no longer be represented by U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, or his Republican challenger if he should win. As a consequence, voters will see a few new names on their Nov. 6 ballots. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy takes on challenger Pat Kreitlow for this area's congressional race. Following are feature stories on the two candidates.)
His background as a reality television star and lumberjack couldn't prepare Sean Duffy for the wilderness of Washington, D.C.
Life as a congressman has its ups and downs, Duffy admitted, but he remains hopeful that dramatic change in this country's politics could be just around the corner.
"The institution of Congress is often dysfunctional," he said in an interview last week. "Partisan politics have come into play instead of good governance."
Duffy said he's been enthused about the progress that has been made on such things as the Stillwater bridge, but he remains frustrated that more hasn't been accomplished with deficit reduction and job growth.
"We need to have a system where you can put good ideas on the table in a way that allows an honest debate," Duffy said.
As he serves in Washington, Duffy said he draws on his varied professional and educational experience. His path to Congress was a bit unconventional.
Born and raised in Hayward, Duffy inherited the lumberjack bug from his relatives. He eventually worked his way through law school as a professional lumberjack, performing in shows and competitions.
He later was a color commentator for ESPN's "Great Outdoor Games" and was a competitor on ESPN and MTV reality television shows.
After graduating from law school, he returned to Hayward to practice law. He became assistant district attorney and later the district attorney in Ashland County. Duffy points to a 90 percent successful trial rate during his tenure there.
In 2010, Duffy decided to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. David Obey, a 42-year veteran of Congress.
"He was a liberal and very powerful and influential," Duffy said of Obey. "Those kinds of guys don't lose."
Duffy said he felt compelled to run for office as Obey and the Democratic leadership pushed through economic stimulus measures in an effort to boost job creation.
"I was one who didn't believe that more borrowing and spending would lead us to recovery," he said. "I thought we were going in the wrong direction."
As luck would have it, Duffy never had to square off with Obey. The long-term congressman decided not to seek re-election and Duffy's path to election was made simpler.
"I've got a lot of heart and a good work ethic," Duffy said. "My hard work on our campaign paid off."
Since his election, Duffy said he's enjoyed many successes and suffered a few "let downs."
But Duffy said he remains committed to doing the hard work needed to get the nation's economy and federal policies back on track.
"I'm a father," he said. "I care about the America our kids are going to inherit. I want our nation to have a vibrant, growing economy."
He said the U.S. deficit, now at $16 trillion, continues to grow. And Democrats keep making promises that will require additional spending but they don't have a way to pay for it.
"We can't keep doing business the way we've been doing it," he warned. "We have to be more responsible. We don't just owe it to this generation, but we owe it to the next generation."
If re-elected, and if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the winning ticket for president and vice president, Duffy said jobs, deficit reduction and Medicare protection will be the top priority in 2013.
Foreign policy concerns in the Middle East must also be dealt with by the next Congress and administration, Duffy said. He'd also like to push for tax code changes that would make tax rates flat and simpler, as well as advocate for streamlined regulations to aid businesses projects across the country. Domestic energy exploration will also be promoted, he added.
As he campaigns across the district, Duffy said voters have similar concerns about the economy and unrest around the world.
Duffy said he's enjoyed walking in various parades and visiting county fairs this summer. Because the Seventh District is so large geographically, he admitted, it can be a challenge to hit every event. But Duffy said meeting with constituents is a necessity if he's to do his job well.
"It helps me get a good grasp on the heartbeat of the district," he said. "It makes me a better congressman when I'm in touch with the people who honored me with this position."
As the campaign winds down, Duffy said he feels good about his chances for re-election.
Pat Kreitlow Bio
- Wife, Sharry, and two adult children.
- Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
- Worked at several radio stations, including WAXX-FM and WAYY-FM. Joined the news department of WEAU-TV in the mid-1990s, working as a reporter and anchor.
Previous elected office:
- Served Wisconsin's 23rd District as a Wisconsin state senator from 2007-2011.
TV journalist vies for congressional seat; served in state Senate for four years
As an Eau Claire television reporter, Pat Kreitlow covered stories about government and the impact that laws have on everyday people. What he discovered was not always good news.
In 2005, Kreitlow decided to step out from in front of the camera and join the ranks of local politicians.
The journalist quit his job and ran for the Wisconsin State Senate in District 23 and eventually served in the legislature from 2007 to 2011.
"After years of holding public officials accountable, I wanted to try and serve the public," he said. "I went from doing stories all over Wisconsin ... to talking to people, writing laws and trying to solve problems."
During his tenure in Madison, Kreitlow said he focused on such issues as rural economic development, education, health care access and campaign finance reform. He said he worked hard to cooperate with senators on both sides of the political aisle, securing bi-partisan backing for any bills he worked on.
"You need to have an open door and an open mind to be a successful politician," Kreitlow commented.
After losing a re-election bid, the Chippewa Falls resident has been out of politics. But when the opportunity to challenge Seventh District incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy came along, he couldn't pass it up.
Kreitlow said Duffy has failed to deliver on campaign promises of 2010 and is out of step with the majority of voters in his district.
"He promised to be an independent voice for western Wisconsin," he said. "But he is not the right fit to represent us in Washington."
Kreitlow charged that Duffy has voted in lock-step with congressional Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, and those politicians have proposed dramatic changes that will negatively impact the middle class, Medicare recipients and people needing better access to health care.
Kreitlow also criticized Duffy and other Republicans for their lack of action on the Farm Bill, which directly impacts producers and communities statewide.
"We deserve better representation in the House of Representatives," Kreitlow said.
If Duffy is re-elected, Kreitlow warned, voters will see more of the same. He said he's frightened about the prospect of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan being elected as president and vice president. Ryan's previous budget proposals include dramatic changes to Medicare, government services, education and more, he said.
"It's the wrong path for Wisconsin's middle class," he said. "It not only makes our national deficit worse and not better, it will also lead to higher taxes and fewer services for the middle class."
On top of that, Kreitlow said, the Republican plan calls for tax breaks for "the privileged few" at the expense of the middle class.
If he's elected, Kreitlow said he vows to push for tax relief for the middle class and focus on job creation in the U.S. Kreitlow said his goal is not to just create jobs, but to create higher-paying jobs that can support a family.
Also at the top of the next Congress's priority list should be an effort to reduce the federal deficit, Kreitlow said.
"Adding jobs and attacking wasteful spending have to go hand in hand if we're going to reduce this troubling deficit," he said. "And we need to balance the budget the right way. We need to go after wasteful and redundant spending, not slash Medicare or give tax cuts to millionaires."
Kreitlow said the country "can't afford" another four years of "trickle-down economics," claiming Duffy and other Republicans continue to push for breaks for rich people who don't need the help.
To accomplish these goals, Kreitlow said he'd work with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. While he's been on the campaign trail this fall, Kreitlow said voters are tired of the political bickering taking place in Washington, D.C. and across the nation.
"They are just sick of the toxic environment and partisanship that spreads throughout Washington," he said. "They're telling us that this Congress is addicted to games and gridlock. Voters want a Congress that works as hard as they do. We need to work together to start getting a few things done."
As the campaign heads into its final weeks, Kreitlow said he feels confident about his chances on Nov. 6. He said polls show a tight race.
"It's anybody's race at this point," he said.
Kreitlow said he was disappointed that his opponent has not agreed to participate in any televised debates that could be broadcast across the entire district.
"It's unusual," he said, "for someone so comfortable in front of a camera."