UPDATE: Congressman Sean Duffy visits Hudson
Seventh District Congressman Sean Duffy stopped by the Republican Party campaign office in Hudson last Thursday afternoon to introduce himself to supporters ahead of a fundraiser that evening at the Hudson Golf Club.
The introductions were in order because Hudson and the rest of St. Croix County have been part of the 3rd Congressional District since 1982. The 3rd District has been represented by Democrat Ron Kind for the past 15 years.
St. Croix County was moved to the 7th District in the redistricting that followed the 2010 census.
Duffy, a freshman member of the House of Representatives, defeated Democratic State Sen. Julie Lassa in the 2010 race for the 7th District seat. The incumbent, Democrat David Obey, chose not to seek re-election after representing the district for 42 years.
The amiable Duffy, dressed in jeans and a wool, red-and-black plaid jacket, mixed easily with a small group of party volunteers and supporters who were on hand to welcome him to St. Croix County.
He inquired about the political mood of the county and listened to Annette Olson of Glenwood City and others give an account of protest activities at the State Capitol while Gov. Scott Walker gave his State of the State address the previous evening.
The 40-year-old Duffy is a native of Hayward and graduated from high school there.
Hayward is home to the Lumberjack World Championships and Duffy began log-rolling at the age of 5. He started speed climbing (racing up 60- and 90-foot poles) at the age of 13, and went on to win five world championships in the event. Later, he served as a color commentator for ESPN's Great Outdoor Games.
In 1997, Duffy landed a role on the MTV show "The Real World: Boston," where he met his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, an Arizona native. They now have six children.
He earned a bachelor's degree in business marketing from St. Mary's University in Winona, Minn., and then attended William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, graduating in 1999.
After law school, Duffy served an assistant district attorney in Ashland County for two years, followed by eight years as the county's district attorney.
Asked how he plans to reach out to voters in St. Croix County, Duffy said he would take the same approach that won him a seat in Congress in 2010.
"I talked, engaged, and I was everywhere," he said. "You'll see me at your fairs, festivals and parades."
"This is a very important area for us and I'm going on an aggressive road to make sure that people know who I am," he added.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has listed the 7th District seat as one of the top 25 it will work to regain for the Democrats in November. The DCCC believes Duffy is vulnerable because President Barack Obama won 56 percent of the vote in the 7th District in 2008.
Duffy's margin of victory over Lassa in the 2010 election was 52.2 percent to 44.5 percent. He received 132,551 votes to Lassa's 113,018. An independent, Gary Kauther, got 3.3 percent of the vote.
State of the Union response
Two evenings earlier, Duffy had been in an aisle seat on the floor of the House of Representatives when the president walked into the chamber to deliver his State of the Union address.
Being a "political junky," he has always watched the sitting president give the State of the Union address on TV, he said, and it was "great" to be there in person.
That doesn't mean he agreed with the majority of what President Obama said.
"There's rhetoric and there's reality," Duffy said. "The State of the Union is a time for rhetoric. But the reality is, When do we implement policies that stop attacking our way of life, but actually start helping?"
He said federal regulations and mandates make it harder for manufacturers in northern Wisconsin to succeed.
"It's got to stop. And so I'm advocating for policies that are going to help our private sector and manufacturers be successful at what has become a global competition," he said.
Obama in his State of the Union address said he wanted to encourage U.S. manufacturing by making American companies pay a minimum tax on profits they earn overseas and eliminate tax deductions for companies that shut down factories and move to another country.
He also proposed a new tax credit for companies that close foreign plants and move back home, reducing tax rates for manufacturers, and doubling the tax deduction for high-tech manufacturers in the U.S.
In addition, the president said he would create a new trade enforcement unit to uncover and stop unfair trade practices by other countries, including China.
Duffy agreed that companies shouldn't get a tax advantage for sending jobs overseas, but questioned whether that is happening.
"I would ask the president to point out those tax advantages," he said. "I think the larger conversation (should be), How do we deal with the tax code? No doubt it is broken. The president keeps saying we need to increase these top rates. He'll say millionaires, billionaires, corporate jet owners and big oil, right? (I) don't have too many of those in the area that I represent. But this is not all he is talking about. He is talking about those who make $200,000 to $250,000, as well."
While Obama proposed a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on income over $1 million a year in his speech, Duffy said the proposal he sent to the House of Representatives during the debate on raising the debt limit was to do away with the Bush tax cuts for those earning $200,000 to $250,000, too.
That would include a lot of owners of small businesses and manufacturing firms, Duffy said.
"You don't create jobs and economic growth by taking more money out of these small businesses and our manufacturers," he said.
Duffy agreed with Obama that the corporate tax rate should be cut, and that loopholes that allow some major corporations to escape paying any income taxes should be eliminated.
Social Security, Medicare
Duffy supports fellow Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's proposals for making Medicare and Social Security solvent for the long-term.
What is known as the Ryan Plan would convert Medicare from a fee-for-service program to a premium-support program in which seniors would buy health insurance from private companies. The government would pay a percentage of the premium for each individual. Lower-income and sicker people would receive more help than upper-income seniors.
"We inject choice and competition, so instead of bureaucratic Washington deciding the kind of plan and care you get, you can choose for yourself," Duffy said.
"By doing this we save the system," he added. "We save it for the current retirees and those who are about to retire, and protect it for these future generations as well."
Under the Ryan Plan, those 55 and older would continue under the current Medicare plan.
Duffy said Social Security will be easier to fix financially, if not politically. The solution, he said, is to reduce payments to people with high incomes.
Duffy has voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act adopted by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
He proposes replacing it with a law that would limit medical malpractice lawsuits, allow people to purchase insurance across state lines, promote price transparency and competition by providers, and expand the use of health savings accounts.
His legislation would provide $25 billion for state high-risk pools and reinsurance programs to allow people with pre-existing conditions to find affordable insurance. Every state would be required to operate either a high-risk pool or reinsurance program.
Duffy's plan would keep the ban on lifetime and annual coverage caps adopted by Democrats, but reduce the age through which children may remain on their parents' coverage from the 26 to 23.
Duffy's opponent in the November election, Democrat Pat Kreitlow, a former Wisconsin state senator, accuses him of siding with the wealthy in the debate over taxes, the national debt, Social Security and Medicare.
"This Congress continues to ignore seniors and middle class families here in Wisconsin," said Kreitlow in a Jan. 18 news release after the DCCC announced Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District as one of its targets.
"And instead of trying to make things better, Sean Duffy has fallen in line behind the Republican leadership -- voting to end Medicare in order to give more tax breaks to millionaires, and even holding tax cuts for the middle class hostage," Kreitlow was quoted as saying.
Duffy said he was the first House Republican to tell the leadership to accept a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday when it became apparent that there would be no agreement on the one-year extension before the holiday was set to expire.
He said he also parted with his conservative base in voting to continue funding for National Public Radio.
His priorities in Congress, Duffy said, are improving the economy, encouraging job creation and reducing the national debt.
More information about Duffy is available on his campaign website, www.duffyforcongress.com.
Kreitlow's campaign website is found at www.kreitlowforcongress.com.