Lumberjack likely front-runner for Obey's seat

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM
  • Updated: May 5, 2010 - 3:12 PM

Another well-known Midwest politician’s name won’t be on the ballot this November. On Monday, David Obey, an influential Democrat who represents a big chunk of northwestern Wisconsin, announced that he will not seek re-election.

Obey, 71, was first-elected to Congress in 1969 and now serves as the chairman of the House Appropriations committee. That control-of-the-nation’s-purse-strings position that makes him one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, D.C. Obey’s sprawling 7th district includes a lot of cabin country for Minnesotans. The district skirts just north of Eau Claire and includes the cities of Hayward, Ladysmith and Ashland.

Obey told the New York Times that he was exiting the national stage because he was "bone-tired.’’ But he joins an intriguing number of influential politicians choosing not to run in a midterms election that many pundits believe could be a disaster for Democrats. North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan is not seeking re-election this year. Neither are Democratic Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar sent out this statement Wednesday on Obey: "...We’ve lost a great asset for America, a thinker, a doer, a mover, a shaker both in Wisconsin and in Northeast Minnesota and the country at large... For us in Northeastern Minnesota and the Duluth Superior Port Authority he’s been a critical partner in the investments the Corps of Engineers has needed to do the maintenance, dredging and improvements to keep the port operating. "

The wonky, tired-looking Obey likely would have faced formidable Republican challenger for his seat: Sean Duffy, a four-term Ashland County prosecutor. Duffy, whose web site  wants you to ’’Roll With Sean," looks like he answered a casting call for political young guns. Duffy has six kids and has been named by Time magazine as one of five political challengers who could be the "next Scott Brown," the Massachusetts upstart who won Sen. Ted Kennedy’s former seat. Duffy’s web site also offers these tidbits: he’s a "nationally recognized professional lumberjack athlete’’ and is the "three-time world champion in the 90-foot speed climb.'' Hayward, of course, is the home of the World Lumberjack Championships.

Several Democratic state senators are said to be weighing a run for Obey’s seat. Still, Duffy looks tough to beat, even if the Dems find someone who is handy with an cross-saw, can shinny up a tree and can stay atop a floating, rolling log.

 

 

 

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