First Person Singular: ‘Real World’ star Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.)

Benjamin C. Tankersley/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST - Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) on logrolling and reality TV.

As far as I know, I’m the first reality star to be elected as a congressman. “Hollywood Duffy” is the image the Democrat Party would like to push on me because I did reality TV. The truth is that I was born in northern Wisconsin, raised in northern Wisconsin and came back to raise my kids in northern Wisconsin. When I did my commercials for my campaign, I did them using lumberjack sports where I was chopping, talking about “taking an ax to Washington.” I did logrolling to talk about how politicians were “dunking our kids, our workers and our seniors.” And there were no stunt doubles. So, when people were hearing the claim that I was “Hollywood Sean Duffy,” they were like: What? He’s a lumberjack! He’s from Wisconsin! What are you talking about? I’m all Wisconsin.

I grew up doing lumberjack competitions and exhibitions. I started logrolling at 5. It’s a family tradition. My great-great-grandfather was a sawyer. A lot of the kids in Hayward, Wisconsin, where I grew up, take logrolling lessons, much like kids in other communities might take swimming or diving lessons.

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I traveled all over Wisconsin and all over the country showing off this great Wisconsin heritage of lumberjacking. I was in a traveling show. People would come out and thoroughly enjoy it. People had heard of it, but to see two people on a log rolling is absolutely unheard of. It takes pretty good skill. I put myself through undergrad and law school doing these competitions and exhibitions. It was a great summer job.

When I was growing up, I wasn’t really politically active. I was consumed in my little world. I was aware of politics but not really engaged in them. I had never traveled to D.C. Actually, the first time I was in the Capitol building itself was when I was a congressman-elect.

I spent my life in a small rural town, so when I had the opportunity to do “The Real World” on MTV, I did it. I thought it would be a fantastic experience. I think most people who would consider a career in politics would never do reality TV. But reality TV was far tamer back then than it is now. And, had I not done “The Real World,” I would have never met Rachel, who is my best friend and the mother to my six kids.

As I sit here, I’m almost 40, married for 12 years, and I’ll look back at the show and cringe at some of the things I said and did. But I think most people — if they were able to watch themselves on tape and see what they did at a certain stage in their life — they, too, would cringe.

 
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