Sean Duffy Won't Run for Wisconsin Governor or U.S. Senate Despite Push From Trump

Former Republican U.S. Representative Sean Duffy on Thursday said he won't be running for Wisconsin governor or the U.S. Senate, even though former President Donald Trump urged him to do so.

Trump said in October that he was "working hard" to get Duffy to run for governor and that "he would be fantastic!"

Duffy, 50, remained silent when Trump made comments about him running for office, and until his Thursday, he had not definitively said whether he was planning to run but hadn't ruled it out either.

"A champion athlete, Sean loves the people of Wisconsin, and would be virtually unbeatable...Run Sean, Run!" Trump said in his bid to get Duffy to enter the election.

Duffy announced his decision on Jay Weber's conservative radio talk show. He said the demands of running for election were too much and he needed to focus on caring for his family.

In 2019, Duffy learned that his youngest child had a heart condition and resigned after serving about eight years in Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District, the website Madison reported.

"Hopefully I'm not riding off into the sunset," Duffy told Weber. "I'm just running into the sunset right now....If an opportunity presents itself, I'd like to come back and partake in Wisconsin politics."

Sean Duffy Won't Run For Office
Sean Duffy said Thursday he won't run for Wisconsin governor or U.S. Senate even though former President Donald Trump urged him to. Above, President Donald Trump, with Duffy, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House on January 24, 2019. Mandel Ngan/ AFP/Getty Images

Duffy also ruled out a run for U.S. Senate, another sign that Republican incumbent Senator Ron Johnson plans on seeking a third term this year. Johnson has not said yet whether he will run again.

Duffy doesn't live in Wisconsin, had not been raising money for a campaign, had not assembled a team and had been silent on Trump's call for him to enter the race.

Duffy's decision not to run leaves former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch as the highest profile Republican in the race against Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

The only inkling that a Duffy run for governor might be possible came in October when Trump issued a statement saying he was "working hard to get very popular and capable Former Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin to run."

"His wife, Rachel, is likewise an incredible person," Trump said then.

Duffy is one of Trump's most vocal supporters. Duffy did not comment on Trump's statement at the time and Republican operatives and strategists in Wisconsin had said as recently as early December that Duffy was showing no signs of launching a run.

Kleefisch, who served as former GOP Governor Scott Walker's lieutenant governor for eight years, has also praised Trump and tried to appeal to conservative Republicans in an attempt to fend off a serious challenge in the August 9 primary.

Several lesser-known Republicans are also running. And former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, a retired Marine, has said he would run for either governor or Senate, depending on whether Johnson seeks a third term.

Johnson did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Evers narrowly defeated Walker in 2018, two years after Trump won the state. President Joe Biden carried Wisconsin by fewer than 21,000 votes in 2020 and Republicans have made defeating Evers a top priority. Republicans control the Legislature, but Evers has blocked their agenda by vetoing a host of bills that would make it more difficult to vote, curb abortion rights and enact Republican-drawn maps following redistricting.

Duffy was featured on MTV's "The Real World: Boston" in 1997. He met his future wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, on the set of MTV's "Road Rules: All Stars" in 1998.

Duffy is a former lumberjack athlete who served as a special prosecutor and Ashland County district attorney. He was elected to Congress as part of the tea party wave in 2010 and served until his resignation in 2019 after learning that his ninth child had a heart condition. He sold his home in Wisconsin in September and is living in New Jersey.

More recently, Duffy has worked as a contributor on Fox News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.