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Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy, after keeping his distance, set to appear with Gov. Scott Walker

Freshman GOP Rep. Sean Duffy has steered clear of the controversy over collective bargaining that's roiling his home state. But that won't keep him from attending a fundraising dinner Saturday with Gov. Scott Walker, who's at the center of the storm.

March 10, 2011|By Melanie Mason, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy, a rising star in the GOP freshman class, has kept his distance from the turmoil in his home state that has catapulted union bargaining rights to the national stage. But that doesn't appear to have put him off from appearing with Gov. Scott Walker at a GOP fundraising dinner set for Saturday in Washburn, Wis.

Duffy's spokesman, Daniel Son, confirmed Thursday that the congressman would attend the Lincoln Day Dinner at the invitation of the Ashland County Republican Party, and Ashland's Daily Press reports that Walker is also slated to attend the event.

"That's quite a coup to have the governor and congressman come up to northern Wisconsin and talk to people," Frank Kostka, chairman of the Bayfield County GOP, told the Daily Press. "We'd be even more excited if we didn't have this controversy to deal with."

Duffy has praised Walker's pared-down budget proposal. But, like other members of Wisconsin's GOP House delegation, he's stayed mum on the issue of collective bargaining, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month: "I'm not going to get into the specifics [of the budget measure] ... I don't have a vote in Madison. I focus on Washington."

That stance hasn't earned much love from his hometown press. An op-ed in the Wasau Daily Herald described his and other politicians' reluctance to weigh in as "just plain lame."

Protestors who have swarmed the state capitol in Madison in opposition to Walker's tough line against collective bargaining rights for public employees are expected to make an appearance as well. Unions including the SEIU, ASFCME and AFT all list plans for rallies at the fundraising dinner on their websites.

Son said Thursday that Duffy had no further comment on the matter, even as protests reached a fever pitch in the Madison Capitol after the state Senate approved a bill to strip collective bargaining rights from government employees, a vote that was boycotted by Democrats. The measure was awaiting passage in the state Assembly on Thursday afternoon.

Although Duffy remains tight-lipped on collective bargaining, those close to him have made their sympathies clear. Duffy's former chief of staff, Matt Seaholm, after just one month on the job, left to take a position with Americans for Prosperity, one of Walker's most vocal allies in his skirmish with the unions.

melanie.mason@latimes.com

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