Wisconsin’s 7th District: Who is the *real* fake lumberjack?

My only real knowledge of the race for Congress in Wisconsin’s 7th District comes from what spills over into the Duluth TV market. Rep. Sean Duffy (R) faces Pat Kreitlow (D).

The district itself bears a lot of similarity to my home district in MN-8. WI-7 is rustic, northern, was abnormally Democratic for decades before falling to an abnormally conservative challenger in the Republican wave of 2010.

In MN-8 we got Rep. Chip Cravaack, a straight-laced jet pilot with giant mitts. Over in WI-7 they got Duffy, an unintentionally smarmy small town prosecutor who was on the Boston season of MTV’s “The Real World” and who hails from a family of show lumberjacks.

Cravaack won his 2010 race with an impressive under-the-radar campaign. Duffy, on the other hand, attracted a lot of attention for his now-famous “lumberjack” ads.

More after the jump

Here’s the 2010 Duffy ad landing the first ax stroke:

And it’s hard not to cheer for Duffy dumping this loathsome seersucker-suited log roller.

Unsurprisingly, facing his first challenge, Duffy immediately returned to the lumberjack motif.

No one blames him for this. The lumberjack thing is, undeniably, the coolest thing about Sean Duffy who otherwise appears like a college Republican who seized control of Student Senate on a technicality and holes himself up in the office, locking the doors so as to avoid impeachment while encouraging the hockey team to rally on his behalf with a promise of a dedicated team bus featuring a DVD player and a wet bar, even though he knows and we know that he can’t deliver on this, but the hockey team does it anyway and the government is disbanded by college administration.

Perhaps I’m projecting a bit on Mr. Duffy. Apologies. I went to college in his district at UW-Superior and things like this did occur, time to time.

Duffy’s challenger is Pat Kreitlow, a Democratic State Senator who spent many years as a local TV news anchor. He seems like a nice man, in a sad sack sort of way. He thought he’d have some fun with Duffy’s lumberjack obsession:

The ad, produced and paid for by the Kreitlow campaign, depicts Kreitlow as a woefully incompetent lumberjack. Oh, he cares about Medicare. It’s good he snuck that in there. He’s on your side, he says. But :25 seconds of this thing is pretty much “OMG, he can notz be lubRjax!”

OK, so, this can’t possibly work, right? Sean Duffy is the real fake lumberjack. Kreitlow is the fake fake lumberjack. Or do two fakes make it real? Ahh, that must be so, for the Duffy campaign responded by re-editing Kreitlow’s deliberately bad lumberjack antics into a negative ad.

(I could not locate video of this. It was the same footage as Kreitlow’s ad, in black and white with ominous music, while GOP talking points were sneered over the top).

I bet you thought Pat Kreitlow was done with his lumberjack incursion? NO, HE IS NOT.


And boom.

Pat Kreitlow had at least two or three other lumberjack ads as well. All hitting Duffy on issues while trying to mock his fixation on his youthful competitive lumberjack days. Duffy continues running his lumberjack ads as well. One of them states that he comes from a family of lumberjacks and that he “brings those values to Washington.”

Lumberjack values? Or pretend lumberjack values? What does this even mean?

This is a race for Congress! None of these people are practicing lumberjacks! Practicing lumberjacks are, in reality, getting their asses kicked by low prices and vice-tightening cash-strapped paper mills — a problem that is not getting better. Case in point, this blog is not printed on paper and these campaigns spent 1,000 times more money on TV ads than they did in newsprint.

I’ll just close with a recent Duffy ad showing how his Democratic mother was convinced to vote for her son. That’s right, he won the coveted endorsement of his own mother.

You can see that when he breaks out the white board she’s clearly skeptical. In fact, other than her stilted statement of support at the end there is no nonverbal indication that she actually believes what her son says. But any such doubts are never aired outside the family. That’s the lumberjack way. I’m sorry, the fake lumberjack way.

Anyway, that’s what I know about WI-7, based solely on what I see on TV. As you can see a TV-only knowledge base doesn’t seem like a very good way to run a country. Yet, we persist.

Photos: Pioneer Press


  1. I’m probably one of the few readers who immediately understood that your Student Senate analogy was based on real life. In any case, I’ve met Duffy once, and my immediate reaction was “middle school student council president.”

  2. Thanks, Joel. Yes, you would know. I wondered about just leaving that statement as is. I think people need to know that kind of stuff is common at mid-sized universities where a small amount of enthusiasm can overwhelm a system. 🙂

  3. You’ll be glad to know that the Student Government Association at UW-Superior has been functional for several years now. No coup attempts that I know of since you were a student.

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