The Slatest

Bon Iver’s Manager Is Trying to Unseat the Congressman From Real World

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 11:  Justin Vernon of Bon Iver performs on stage at the Sydney Opera House on March 11, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver performs onstage at the Sydney Opera House on March 11, 2012.
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

A House race in rural Wisconsin just got a little more star power, at least by proxy anyway: Kyle Frenette has tossed his knit cap into the ring in the state’s 7th district, currently held by Real World alum–turned–Republican congressman Sean Duffy.

For the uninitiated, Frenette is the longtime manager of indie darling Bon Iver. And for the even less initiated, Bon Iver is the Grammy-winning band fronted by Justin Vernon, best known for writing songs that sound like what if it would feel like if you grew a beard, dressed in flannel, and spent an introspective, snowy winter in your father’s hunting cabin mourning a particularly painful break up. (There’s a good reason they sound like that.)

Frenette’s campaign launch so far has been similarly muted: He filed his paperwork with the FEC last month, but one of his home-district papers, the Wausau Daily Herald, apparently only caught wind of the news last week after a reporter emailed Frenette at his artist management company and got an out-of-office reply announcing he was running for the Democratic nomination. A more formal kick-off, the paper reports, is expected soon. Frenette began publicly soliciting donations over the weekend.

Frenette’s political resume is pretty thin, as far as I can tell, though he’s been critical of both the GOP tax overhaul and of Duffy’s support of it on Twitter. He also seems to have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of Chipotles in his home district, and keeps an Instragram account that can occasionally look like what would happen if there were a filter called Midwest Americana:

There’s still a long way to go until this summer’s Democratic primary, but if Frenette were to win the nomination, that might set-up an interesting showdown between him and Duffy, a man with his own small ties to the celebrity world. Duffy made his debut on MTV’s Real World: Boston in 1997, then followed that up with an appearance on Road Rules: All Stars the following year, and on the Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Seasons a few years after that. He went on to marry fellow All Star castmate, Rachel Campos-Duffy, and the pair has enough kids (eight) to cast an entire Real World season if they wanted to.* Campos-Duffy is now an occasional co-host on Donald Trump’s favorite TV show, Fox & Friends, while Duffy regularly provides his own defense of the president in Washington.

Democrats need to flip 24 seats this fall to take control of the House, but Wisconsin’s 7th doesn’t seem like the most likely place for a pick-up. The seat was held by Democrat Dave Obey for more than 40 years before he retired at the end of 2010, but it has turned increasingly red since then. Duffy won his first House race by 8 points, his second by 12, and his last two by more than 20 a piece. Trump, meanwhile, eked out a one-point victory over Clinton in Wisconsin, but he trounced her by 20 points in the Seventh. Democrats can feel good that someone like Frenette, who’s been successful outside of politics, feels it’s worth his time to challenge Duffy. Republicans, though, are likely relieved that he’s the biggest name they could get.

Correction, Feb. 20, 2018: This post originally post misstated that Sean and Rachel were Boston castmates. They met as participants on Road Rules: All Stars.