After launching his campaign with a viral video that targeted retiring Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan's devotion to ripping healthcare away from millions of sick and impoverished Americans, Randy "IronStache" Bryce won the Democratic primary in Wisconsin's 1st District Tuesday night.
"It's a win for working families all across this district, this state, and the entire country. Working people have been shut out of politics. Working families have been forgotten by their representatives," Bryce said in his victory speech. "But we took a stand. We fought back. Together, we made our voice heard, and the GOP is running scared, with good reason. They see the movement that we're building."
— Randy Bryce (@IronStache) August 15, 2018
Bryce supports Medicare for All, criminal justice reform, stricter gun control, a Green New Deal, reproductive rights, tuition-free public college, and a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
"From the beginning, we've known that replacing Paul Ryan with a true representative from our district would be no easy task," Mary Jonker, Chair of Wisconsin's 1st District Democrats, said Tuesday. "I'm thrilled that union ironworker, Army veteran, and cancer survivor Randy Bryce put together a strong campaign that is already poised for victory in November."
His victory was celebrated by progressives and advocacy groups not only within his district but across the nation:
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) August 15, 2018
— Working Families Party (@WorkingFamilies) August 15, 2018
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) August 15, 2018
BREAKING: Progressive champion @IronStache WINS Wisconsin Democratic Primary in WI-01. Bryce is a fierce ally who has stood with trans and nonbinary people throughout his campaign. It's a good night to be a @transunitedfund and @WorkingFamilies endorsed candidate! #TransTheVote pic.twitter.com/W0sabtJAY3
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— Trans United Fund (@transunitedfund) August 15, 2018
Congratulations to Randy @IronStache Bryce on your big win in #WI01! VoteVets was proud to endorse Randy, a U.S. Army veteran, cancer survivor, and union ironworker. He'll fight for Wisconsin workers! #WIpol #BlueWave pic.twitter.com/m8be6ytIqh
— VoteVets (@votevets) August 15, 2018
The ironworker-turned-congressional candidate will face off against former Ryan aide Bryan Steil, who secured the outgoing speaker's endorsement and won a crowded GOP primary. Following the primaries, Bryce tweeted, "Lyin' Bryan Steil, [is] running against us, but we can beat him and the GOP billionaires who want to uphold the status quo that has enriched them and screwed us over and over again."
Bryce's win Tuesday came after what the Washington Post described as a "primary brawl" with challenger Cathy Myers, a local teacher and school board member. He and Myers ran on similar platforms, but Bryce's viral ad quickly "made him a left-wing sensation"—which she was never able to attain. "With so little separating her from Bryce, Myers went all in on character," slamming the ironworker for past indiscretions reported by local and national media.
While Myers attacked Bryce last November for previously falling behind on child support payments, his campaign said that the candidate and his ex-wife made sure their son had everything he needed, and Bryce's experiences with financial hardship made him more relatable to voters.
"Unlike Ryan, he knows what it's like to struggle and will approach his job from a place of deep understanding as opposed to zero empathy," campaign manager David Keith had said at the time, before Ryan announced his retirement from Congress in April.
And, in response to CNN's July report on his past arrests, Bryce told The Capital Times' John Nichols, "I screwed up, but I learned from my mistakes." Pointing to his experiences fighting community hunger, union organizing, and becoming a father, he added, "I realized a long time ago that I never wanted to be in that position again."
Acknowledging other Wisconsin politicians who have overcome similar revelations, Nichols posited: "Voters understand that candidates, especially working-class contenders who are not political careerists, may arrive on the campaign trail with some history. If candidates are forthcoming in discussing their mistakes, the voters can be forgiving."
"Bryce has also learned a thing or two about politics," Nichols noted. "He knows Republicans will attack him as the election approaches. So he'll talk about his mistakes, as part of a campaign that has often turned personal as Bryce has discussed his struggle with cancer and the painful financial burdens it placed on him and on his family."
Watch Bryce's victory speech: