Stephanie's Political Arena

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Posts Tagged ‘Congressional Races

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey Steps Down After 40 Years

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Surely to compete with Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts as the top political story of 2010, Congressman Dave Obey of Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District announced today that he would not seek re-election this cycle.  Politico initially broke the story which came as a “shock” on Capitol Hill, according to Congressman Paul Ryan during an interview on WTMJ earlier today.  Within Politico’s online forum The Arena, top policymakers and analysts weigh in on the significance of Obey’s departure and how this affects Obey’s Republican opponent, Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy.

I had the privilege of interviewing Sean Duffy and his staff earlier this spring as part of a  project I did on the campaign for a multimedia class I’m taking this semester (conveniently enough, the same class for which this blog is required).  Wow, talk about a major turn of events since writing the text portion of my project, which I’ve posted below (and likely will not get published given today’s leading political story):

A Campaign Challenger’s Challenge

Republican Sean Duffy looks to make history in the 2010 Midterm Elections by challenging long time incumbent Democrat Congressman David Obey in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.

By Stephanie Kundert

ASHLAND – Sean Duffy has played a number of roles throughout his life.  The former star of MTV’s The Real World is a world champion lumberjack, a prosecutor, a four-term district attorney, a husband, and a father to six children, including a newborn. 

But, there is one more role he would like to add to his repertoire: Member of Congress, representing Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District. 

His competition for that role is the 40-year incumbent Congressman David Obey, the “Goliath” of the Northwoods who, according to CQ Politics, has been re-elected during all but two election cycles with more than 60 percent of the vote throughout his career.

The current Chairman of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, Obey has represented the 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin in Washington, D.C. since he was first elected in 1969, when Richard Nixon was president.  Since then, no challenger has come close to defeating him.

Duffy, however, may not be an easy challenger for Obey to defeat in the post-Scott Brown era.

In just the first three months of 2010, Duffy’s campaign has raised about $220,000 which is more than the previous fundraising record set by Obey’s 2006 challenger, Nick Reid, who had raised $210,000 according to Duffy’s campaign website.  The Federal Election Commission’s Center for Responsive Politics reports that Duffy’s campaign has raised more than $505,000 since July 2009

Yet, Obey has more than $1.3 million cash on hand, and already spent more than $600,000 so far this cycle.

But, that hasn’t deterred Duffy.

Compared to Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown by National Review Online, Duffy and his team put together a campaign that has garnered widespread national attention, with political pundits upgrading Obey’s vulnerability for the current election cycle.  Duffy has been named among the top Republican challengers in the country by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Independent, TIME magazine, and most recently CQ Politics, to name a few.  His race has also appeared on the radar screens of Politico and ABC News.

“If these were normal times, Duffy wouldn’t have a hope in hell,” writes Patrick Roberts of ABC News.  “But these are not normal times.  And Duffy brings some populist talents to the table.”

“While Obey again merits a strong edge this year, he will probably be held below that 60 percent threshold,” CQ Politics indicates on its Race Ratings Chart.  “He has to be mindful of a determined Republican challenger in Sean Duffy.”

Though he acknowledges the importance of keeping his campaign focused on the district he is vying to represent, Duffy appreciates the traction his campaign is gaining at the national level.

“This is a race that could have a huge impact not just on Wisconsin but on the entire country,” said Duffy.  “People are paying attention to this race in northern Wisconsin, a race they haven’t paid attention to for 40 years.”  “[They] see Dave Obey as a main player” in the government’s role in the economy. 

As a result, “we’ve been very effective in meeting our goals” in terms of fundraising, recruiting volunteers, and gaining overall support, Duffy indicated.  The support was evident at a family-oriented chicken soup fundraiser held in downtown Ashland on the evening of March 25th, where more than 100 people attended in support of Duffy’s campaign for Congress.

A key player in Duffy’s growing popularity at the national level is his campaign manager, Chris DeRose.  A veteran of national politics who served as Director of Election Day Operations for newly-elected Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell during the state’s November 2009 election, DeRose oversees the day-to-day operations of Duffy’s campaign. 

And he continues to look for new and innovative ways of increasing Duffy’s name recognition across the country.

“To defeat someone who has national stature like David Obey, you really do need to turn this into a race that is on the radar of everyone nationally.  You need to make the case to voters outside of the seventh district of Wisconsin that this is your fight too,” DeRose explained.

When DeRose arrived in Ashland to work on Duffy’s campaign in January, he immediately began promoting Duffy to national media outlets such as the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report.  He particularly emphasized Duffy’s strengths as being “someone who’s very much of the district,” given his background as a lumberjack and as the fourth-term District Attorney for Ashland County. 

DeRose indicated the goal behind this strategy was “overcoming the credibility gap” and “making the case to people that this is a race that could be won” despite challenging a 40-year incumbent who happens to chair one of the most powerful committees on Capitol Hill. 

Once credibility has been achieved, that’s when more resources (money, volunteers, consultants, etc.) will become available to the campaign, DeRose explained.

When asked if he believed the campaign had achieved the credibility he had been seeking, DeRose answered, “I think we have absolutely achieved that level of credibility.  This is a race that people feel comfortable getting involved in and…it could honest to goodness upset David Obey on Election Day.”

* Since completion of this story, Chris DeRose resigned from Duffy’s campaign and was replaced by Matt Seaholm. *


Written by Stephanie

May 6, 2010 at 5:31 am

Tracking the Big Races of 2010

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Copied from Congressional Quarterly's website:

For my fellow political nerds out there who are as excited as I am about midterm elections, you may find this interactive map to be of particular interest.  Compiled by the wonderful politicos of CQ Politics, this map provides an outlook on House, Senate, and Governor seats that are up for grabs this year and the likelihood that they will remain in the hands of the incumbent party or switch over to a new party.  Click on your favorite state, your favorite Congressional District, and see where your candidate fits in for this election year.  Enjoy!

Written by Stephanie

April 12, 2010 at 4:12 am