Dave Obey NOT running for reelection [Updated]May 5, 2010
In a major blow to Democrats, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey has told close associates that he will not seek re-election and an announcement of his plans is expected as early as Wednesday.
The Wisconsin Democrat faces tough poll numbers at home but until Tuesday night his staff had insisted he was running aggressively and had hired campaign staff. But a person close to him confirmed the decision to POLITICO Wednesday and said Obey was preparing to make a statement.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a close friend, was informed by Obey of his decision Wednesday morning. A press conference has been called for 1 p.m. and Obey staff indicated that he would announce his plans then.
Obey’s frustration with the White House has been no secret either, and his unhappiness helps explain the repeated delays in the House over moving ahead with new funding for the war in Afghanistan. He himself is torn about President Barack Obama’s commitment of increased U.S. troops at a time of continued economic troubles at home. And after first setting a Memorial Day deadline, Democrats admit privately that Congress may not complete action on the package until the July Fourth recess.
More to come as it happens. Obey is expected to hold a press conference soon.
Obey was regarded as one of the most powerful members of Congress, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman sees 40% of America’s money go through his Committee. He was first elected to congress in 1969, 10 years longer than the next most senior member of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation, Jim Sensenbrenner. By comparison Sean Duffy was BORN in 1971.
When POLITICO contacted Sean Duffy, a leading Republican candidate for Obey’s seat back in Wisconsin, he was incredulous.
“Is this a prank call?” Duffy asked.
When Duffy was assured that the news was real, his phone started ringing on the other line: “I’ve got to go. I’m blowing up.”
Duffy, best-known nationally for his appearance on MTV’s Real World a decade ago, is the Ashland County district attorney.
“This move clears the way for Duffy to be the next congressman from northwest Wisconsin. His campaign has gotten national attention and he’s running a very well-oiled grassroots machine,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tom Erickson.
Democrats claim a deep bench in the sprawling district, with several state legislators expected to seriously consider jumping in. They include: state senators Pat Kreitlow, Julie Lassa, Russ Decker and Jim Holperin, along with state Reps. Donna Seidel, Ann Hraychuck and Amy Sue Vruwink.
Obey’s chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee allowed him to have a near-stranglehold on the rural northwest Wisconsin district, but his comfortable re-election victories belie the competitive nature of the seat. While President Obama carried the district with 56 percent of the vote, John Kerry barely won it by just over 5,000 votes in 2004.
Duffy is a 38-year-old champion competitive lumberjack known by many for his stint on the 1997 Boston season of MTV’s “The Real World.” He would be the first “Real World” cast member to have successfully made the leap to Congress, but he’s the second to run for national office.
Kevin Powell of “The Real World’s” first season unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) in 2008’s Democratic primary, and is running against him again this year.
Duffy is the father of six children with his wife Rachel Campos, alumna of “Real World: San Francisco” who also vied for Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s slot on “The View.” They met on an MTV spin-off show, “Road Rules: All Stars.” I’m not kidding, and I have followed the couple since the beginning due to my abiding affection for rare, Republican pop culture figures. He’s now serving his fourth term as Ashland County, Wisc. D.A., and has proven to be a smart, aggressive, tech-savvy opponent for Obey. It ought to be interesting to watch him moving forward.
Who would have thought the first “Real World” cast member in Congress might be a Republican?
Wisconsin’s filing deadline is July 13, so Democrats have until then to make their move.