On June 18, Randy Bryce launched his campaign against House Speaker Paul Ryan with an ad that soon made waves on social media and helped raise $100k in a single day. The video, which quickly garnered over 350k views on YouTube in just four days, begins with President Donald Trump thanking and applauding Paul Ryan for his efforts on the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA) House bill. There are a few clips of Ryan speaking about the AHCA and then the ad shifts to Bryce, sitting on the sofa with his mother, as she explains the pain she suffers from and the drugs she has to take to manage her multiple sclerosis.
The focus on health care is timely as the uncertainty of the future weighs heavily on the minds of many Americans scared to lose their insurance and, perhaps, their life. Behind or tied with dissatisfaction with the government/leadership, health care, and insurance is the “most important problem facing this country” in May and June of this year, according to Gallup.
The campaign announcement video then broadens, as Bryce talks about working hard as an iron worker to provide insurance for his family. He talks about spending his whole life in southeast Wisconsin and how he’s gotten to know the people in his community along with their needs. There is then a montage with an inspirational monologue in which Bryce talks about why he wants to run for office and why he’s the best person to represent his community.
He concludes with, “Let’s trade places. Paul Ryan, you can come work the iron and I’ll go to D.C. We can do so much better together as a community and our future depends on it.”
Who is Randy Bryce?
If you’ve watched the video above, you have a small taste of who Randy Bryce is. His campaign page describes him as “a U.S. Army veteran, cancer survivor, and union ironworker.” After his fight with testicular cancer, he didn’t think he’d have children, so he refers to his only child, Ben, as a “miracle.” He has been active in the political scene in his community for a while from political coordinator for his union, Ironworkers Local 8, to member of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council board of directors. Currently, he is President of the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce board of directors and Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Veterans Caucus.
Bryce isn’t a stranger to political campaigns, having run in the 2012 election for Wisconsin State Assembly District 62, where he lost in the primary, and as a 2014 Democratic candidate for District 21 of the Wisconsin State Senate, where he lost to the Republican candidate. Furthermore, Bryce was treasurer for the Rob Zerban campaign that challenged yet lost to Ryan in 2012 and 2014. But far from being discouraged, Bryce is game to tackle a bigger political race against Paul Ryan.
While the Wisconsin 1st Congressional District election in 2018 is declared to be a solid or safe Republican win, John Nichols from The Nation thinks Bryce is on to something. Citing the district as a historical manufacturing center that has been struggling recently, like much of the rust belt, Nichols touts the “working-class-versus-ruling-class” angle of the race as the driving force behind the interest in Bryce’s ad and announcement.
Another aspect of Bryce’s candidacy seems to be his attempt at portraying a ‘unity factor’ by exuding a populist message. During the 2016 Democratic primary, Bryce was a surrogate for Sanders, even speaking at one of Bernie’s rallies. After Hillary Clinton won the party’s nomination, he went on to campaign for her and would have been an elector for her, had she won the general election.
— AllThingsConsidered (@npratc) June 23, 2017
So where does Bryce stand on the issues? At first glance, it’s not readily apparent from his site, which does not yet have a platform or issues page. Here is what we’ve been able to ascertain.
It may come as no surprise that Bryce does support a single-payer system, given the focus on health care in his announcement ad. Yet, he also espouses the need to improve Obamacare. This could mean, as we come to find out more about him, that he could easily fall in line with the same sort of health care stance as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. For example, Pelosi has previously stated “I wanted single-payer — I mean, I’d love a single-payer” but in reality, she has never, in her elected position, advocated for it. Instead, she seems content with improving Obamacare.
Bryce also supports the Fight for Fifteen, meaning a $15 minimum wage. As for free college, one of Bernie Sanders’s big issues in the Democratic primary, Bryce says yes to free public college, and that “College debt should be able to be refinanced at better rates.”
Bryce also supports a woman’s right to choose and he supports LGBTQ rights as well. Given the emphasis on his being a “union ironworker” in almost every article and interview we’ve seen about him, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he is pro-unions. However, Bryce has gone so far as to sacrifice hours at a new job in order to go testify against the notorious Wisconsin “right to work” bill. Beyond these issues, it’s hard to pin him down.
Russia Russia Russia
But, while digging through Bryce’s Twitter account to try to find information on him, we did encounter something that may be a turnoff for many prospective voters. Bryce seems to be following the Democratic Party line on the Russia interference mode of thinking.
"We see the top spy for the Russians in the Oval Office." pic.twitter.com/GajL9pR73L
— Randy Bryce (@IronStache) June 23, 2017
Bryce has been quick to distance himself from Louise Mensch, saying in multiple tweets as early as June 23 that he “stopped following her” once her claims led to nothing. He even rescinded his “freedom fries” offer. Both of these tweets were in a chain of tweets involving a conversation between Joy Ann Reid, Mensch, Bryce, and others. At the end of the chain, Reid says:
But beyond Mensch, there’s a recent tweet from Bryce (post campaign-announcement) of his first national interview with MSNBC, where he said, “I see the top spy for Russia in the Oval Office.” He was responding to the following question, “What is your biggest disagreement with President Trump.” His initial response was “I don’t trust him,” followed by mention of serving in the Army during the Cold War before landing on the top spy comment.
For someone who has tweeted and stated multiple times that he supports LGBTQ rights, making such homophobic statements can come off as contradictory. While Bryce states that he is “running being [him],” he might want to consider his tweets a bit more carefully.
Since Jon Ossoff lost the special election in George’s 6 Congressional District, there has been a lot of discussion among Democrats, both the party operatives and the party supporters. Just Google Jon Ossoff and check the news from the past week. You’ll see story after story, most of which are along the lines of interpreting the loss as a broader defeat of the Democratic party, or at least a setback.
Dark money Twitter crusader Alan Smithee always gives a reason to pause when it comes to prominent political figures of the left. He aptly outlined how since announcing his run against Paul Ryan, Randy Bryce has “been featured in the Washington Post, New Republic, People, New York Magazine, the LA Times, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, Huffington Post, Mediaite, The Hill, The Nation, Daily Kos, Jezebel, Mic, Shareblue, Salon, Heat Street, Esquire, GQ, AlterNet, and on every MSNBC show and local station or paper.” Where is all the press for the other Democratic candidate Cathy Myers? Given the initial hype and who’s behind the push, it stands to reason the Democrats have strategically made ‘Iron Stache’ their new cash machine like they did with Ossoff.
The Democratic party and its supporters poured millions of dollars into Ossoff’s campaign. Regardless of why you think Ossoff lost and what it means for the Democrats, a few things were true: 1.) It became a nationalized election, with Trump tweeting support for Ossoff’s opponent and many of the donations for Ossoff’s campaign coming from California and other parts of the country. 2.) Millions of dollars didn’t buy a victory. 3.) Ossoff was decidedly not progressive. He opposed medicare-for-all, saying “I think we should be focused on incremental progress” instead. He also said he opposed “any increase in income tax rates,” which makes him sound at least centrist, if not Republican lite.
So, is Bryce setting himself up to be another Ossoff? On the one hand, he does support a Medicare-for-all health care system, some form of free college, and the Fight for Fifteen — all of these are solid progressive economic planks. But on the other hand, he’s already received broad national attention, raised $100k on the first day of his campaign, and even has a celebrity (Whoopi Goldberg) plugging for him. Overall, he seems on track for points 1 and 2, although he is, thus far, staying away from point 3.
At the beginning of June, Bryce told The Wall Street Journal that he’s going to tie Ryan to President Trump as one of his strategies. He said, “People are having buyer’s remorse and they’re seeing what’s going on. Trump made a lot of promises that I can see why working people would support, but now they’re waking up.”
To be a true unifier, Bryce must lay off of the Russia Russia Russia line, which may alienate the very voters he’s looking to attract; voters who don’t care about Russia but are worried about their next paycheck and next health scare.
Randy Bryce’s Disdain for “Bernie or Bust”
As discussed above, Bryce supported Bernie in the primary, but when it came to the general election he not only advocated for people to vote Clinton, he chastised those that did not hold the Democratic Party line.
“Well, it was when the convention began that these “Bernie or bust” people really exposed who they are. From… https://t.co/vV9SoQwNf4
— Randy Bryce (@IronStache) August 7, 2016
If you actually read the article, of which he shared without comment, it states that those saying revolution must go on without Sanders after the primary are a “group of egotistical demagogues” who amount to nothing more than “The Green Tea Party.” Also, there are a number of older tweets, along these lines that link to deleted Facebook posts.
A blunt message from Sarah Silverman: "To the Bernie or bust people, you're being ridiculous." https://t.co/4wcCJakoWX
— Randy Bryce (@IronStache) July 26, 2016
It seems, based on the content he shared as well as penning blog posts titled “So, you wanna vote for Jill Stein?” we have a good idea where he stood ideologically during the general election. Given Bryce’s propensity to come to the middle in backing Hillary Clinton (and following Mensch), it could be deemed problematic for some of his policy positions, such as single-payer, since there will almost undoubtedly be a compromised measure proposed. In essence, if this is Bryce’s line in the sand, it might be good for the establishment, hence their backing, but not good enough to make any meaningful change in the status quo.
The authors have tried to reach out to Mr. Bryce to ask some questions, but have received no response.
Jeanette Nelson contributed to this article.