MADISON — Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy announced Thursday that he won't challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018, clearing the way for other Republicans who were waiting for Duffy to decide.
Duffy, who was on MTV's "The Real World" in the 1990s and is a frequent guest on Fox News, said in a news release it's not the right time for him to run.
Baldwin was first elected in 2012, a presidential year when then-President Barack Obama easily carried Wisconsin. She's expected to face a tougher path next year, and numerous Republicans have expressed interest in taking her on.
Duffy, in his fourth term representing northern Wisconsin's 7th District, was widely viewed as the front-runner to face Baldwin. He has built a national profile with frequent TV appearances as one of President Donald Trump's earliest supporters.
Duffy drew criticism earlier this month when he said on CNN that "there is a difference" between terrorist attacks by white people and those committed by Muslims. He said a shooting last month by a white extremist that left six dead at a mosque in Quebec, Canada, "was a one-off."
In the same interview, Duffy also said "good things came from" the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in which a white supremacist killed nine black people, because it led to the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina's Statehouse grounds.
Duffy, who has eight children, said in his statement that he decided not to run because "family always comes first." But he said he looked forward to working with whoever takes the Republican nomination.
Republicans who could run for the seat include: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald; state Sen. Leah Vukmir; state Rep. Dale Kooyenga; Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch; businessmen Eric Hovde and Kevin Nicholson; and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Congressman Duffy released the following statement:
“After much prayer and deliberation, Rachel and I have decided that this is not the right time for me to run for Senate. We have eight great kids and family always comes first. Baldwin will be beat because her radically liberal Madison record and ideas are out of sync with Wisconsin. I look forward to helping our Republican nominee defeat her. I’ll continue to work my heart out for the families of the 7th district, and I’m excited about the great things we will accomplish with our united Republican government.”