Challenger to Watch: Randy Bryce

For having 'beliefs with teeth'

Randy “Ironstache” Bryce, and his campaign to represent the Wisconsin 1st in Congress is a true challenger story. By this time next year, Bryce could be a household name and the moustachioed face of a modern Democratic party. I'm looking forward to seeing this story play out across 2018.

2017 will be remembered as a miserable wake-up for the Dems, a party shaken unceremoniously from the Obama-era dream, turfed out of a cosy bed and into the cold.

The successful elections of the first African American president in 2008 and 2012 had hidden a steady decline in the Democratic presence in all other areas of the US government.

Congress was handed to the Republicans in 2010, then the Senate in 2014. As Donald Trump grabbed the bible on the steps of the Capitol Building in January, his party controlled 34 of the 50 Governor’s mansions and a sizeable majority of state houses.

Where once there was talk of the end of the GOP, in 2017 it was the Democrats that were staring down the barrel.

Photo: Paul Ryan Campaign Team.

Photo: Paul Ryan Campaign Team.

Against this backdrop Bryce, a 53 year old ironworker from Milwaukee of Mexican and Polish descent, has launched a grassroots campaign to stand up for and represent the working people of Southeastern Wisconsin.

If he succeeds, he will be unseating the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the darling of the conservative establishment and poster boy for conservative cuts to the social safety net.

Bryce is everything Paul Ryan isn’t.

Ryan would traditionally be a shoo-in thanks to the deep pockets of his wealthy backers and the strength of Republican sentiment in the district. But then, in June, we saw Randy's campaign announcement.

“Paul Ryan, you can come work the iron, and I’ll go to DC”… ooof! What a fantastic challenger message. What a dramatic “them” vs “us” narrative.

And that message is what the Dems so sorely missed in 2016… a story of “Us”. A figure who truly represented who we were and what we wanted, not because they intellectually understood it, but because they genuinely lived and breathed it.

Bryce is everything Paul Ryan isn’t.

A working class ironworker and a union representative. He’s served in the military. He’s felt economic ups and downs, not via his broker, but in his pocket.

He knows what it’s like to see a mother at the mercy of wavering insurance coverage. He doesn’t have to fake it. He’s fighting for those around him because it matters to him too. Bryce has 'beliefs with teeth'.

It’s also apparent that people share his beliefs. Since launching his campaign, Bryce has raised over $1.5million in small donations, averaging $25.

Paul Ryan may have the money, and he may have the incumbency, but Bryce is an unknown quantity with momentum. Bryce doesn’t look like a politician, he doesn’t act like a politician. And you only have to look at 2016 to see the havoc that can play with the odds.

If the last 18 months have been filled with Democratic pain and self-flagellation, 2018 looks increasingly interesting for the party in blue.

A complacency that was once present across the party seems to have been shaken off, and a new breed of candidates is stepping forward to wrestle back control of the house in greater numbers than ever.

Will Bryce win? The odds are still stacked against him. But like any good challenger, that’s when things get interesting. I can’t wait to see this play out.