1st Congressional Race: Getting to know Randy Bryce

Posted at 7:44 PM, Oct 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 20:44:12-04

The race is on to replace Republican Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District. But what do you know about the two candidates running for that seat? 

We asked Randy Bryce and Bryan Steil to take us to three places - a place that influenced them - that they've influenced and a place they want to influence if elected.

We begin with Randy Bryce.

Randy Bryce has a nickname that fits an iron-worker.

Benson: You're known as the Iron Stache - did you get that nickname here?

Bryce: Partially. 

Bryce: What's the story behind the Iron Stache?

Bryce's story of an ironworker turned congressional candidate has helped him raise millions of dollars to run for the seat being vacated by Republican Paul Ryan.

But the place that also influenced his life is actually just down the road the union hall. 

"My life was saved here," said Bryce.

Here is Froedtert Hospital. Before he was a union worker Bryce was diagnosed with testicular cancer in his late 20's

"I didn't have insurance so I was toughing it out hoping it was going to go away,"  said Bryce.

It didn't and he ended up in surgery. Something else didn't go away either - the thought of not having Insurance.

"I'm in favor of Medicare for all that would make sure everybody is covered," said Bryce.

Bryce is one of a growing number of Democratic candidates calling for a government-run health care system, meaning taxpayer-financed health care coverage.  

Benson: Do you think it's up to Congress to find the solution to healthcare?

Bryce: I see it as something we need to do, it's the number one reason why I'm running is healthcare.

Bryce got the idea to run for political office during his union days at Ironworkers Local 8.

Benson: What gave you the training to get into politics?

Bryce: Just seeing what's happening in the state.

Bryce was the union's political coordinator during the state's epic Act 10 battle that saw unions fighting for survival.

Benson: You and I met during Act 10. How did that change your life?

Bryce: Well in a big way - first of all they went after public sector unions. 

Bryce protested and testified at the state Capitol to try to stop Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker's landmark legislation to end most collective bargaining rights for public unions

Bryce believes he has helped influence the political debate in the state despite setbacks for unions on right to work or prevailing wage laws in Wisconsin.

Benson: Do you think you made a difference?

Bryce: Well I did. There was always one guy that was like: 'Randy why do you bother to go to Madison to testify.' 

We don't have enough votes to win, we know what the outcome is going to be.

My response is "well once we stop going there and saying we disagree with what's going on is when they are going to think everybody is ok with what they are doing."

It's along this political journey Bryce was looking for a Twitter handle.

He came up with with the IronStache while at a social media conference.

"I was like I don't know what to use," said Bryce."I just came out with that and he was like that's a great idea."

The IronStache now has more than a quarter of a million followers. President Trump is not one of them.

Benson: Do you see areas where you can work with him on jobs?

Bryce: Well absolutely if he's seriously committed to keeping jobs here - we can in all sorts of ways to make that happen.

Which brings us to Janesville Wisconsin, once home to the biggest auto manufacturer in the state.

"It's not just jobs," said Bryce. "It's their life experience."

The factory that provides good wages and benefits to generations is now being torn down. It was shut down in 2009.

If elected - Bryce says he wants to help influence places that create manufacturing jobs. 

Benson: How do you generate the type of jobs and opportunity that GM once held here?

Bryce: I think if we are going to talk about some kind of tax cut we are going to have to talk about some type of guarantee.

The people that are paying the taxes are actually going benefit.