In Kenosha Kickoff, Ironworker Randy Bryce Hammers On Paul Ryan’s Weakness

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In Kenosha Kickoff, Ironworker Randy Bryce Hammers On Paul Ryan’s Weakness

"I drive around my community and can point to things I've literally built, and I look at what Paul Ryan's done and see jobs leaving."  — Randy Bryce

Andy Bryce, an ironworker and avid Bernie Sanders surrogate during the 2016 primary, made a direct appeal to working people in Representative Paul Ryan’s district as he officially launched his campaign, challenging the Speaker of the House.

“Ryan’s someone who negotiates taking away our health care in secret,” Bryce shouted to a crowd of about 200 at his kickoff rally June 24 at UAW Local 72’s historic union hall in Kenosha. “We used to make things and be a manufacturing center,” Bryce added. “But Paul Ryan has voted for every trade deal that has drained our cities of jobs."

Beating Ryan will be enormously difficult.

Ryan has easily won every race since he was first elected in 1998. Over time, Ryan’s district has become more Republican, as the Republican-dominated state legislature redrew the boundaries, adding well-off suburban areas to the Democratic-leaning industrial towns.

Paul Ryan’s leading role in the battle to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act and Medicare have made him “the most unpopular politician in the country.”

But Ryan’s leading role in the battle to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act and Medicare have made him “the most unpopular politician in the country,” Public Policy Polling reported March 30. “His approval has plunged to 21 percent, with his disapproval spiking all the way up to 61 percent.” Even Ryan’s base among Trump voters has been eroding, the survey found.

Over the years, Ryan’s fundraising prowess has allowed him to saturate the first Congressional district with election-season ads, while his underfunded opponents have been buried. In the current election cycle, Ryan already has $9.4 million on hand.

ryce has no illusions about matching Ryan’s massive funding apparatus. Instead, his campaign is counting on creating a broad base of small donors to allow him to get his message out and exploit Ryan’s nose-diving approval ratings.

The mustached, powerfully built Polish-Mexican ironworker, who seems to have stepped out of a Bruce Springsteen song, became a national star overnight, buoyed by what Esquire called “one of the most affecting ads in years.”

In it, he talks about being a veteran, a cancer survivor, and someone facing dire health issues within his own family. “I work the iron every day,” Bryce proudly declares. “I’m running so other people like me can have a voice.”

Bryce is building a muscular campaign against Ryan, a relentless advocate of cutting taxes for the rich and slashing Medicaid and food stamps for the poor. His ad, which aired on TV June 19, explains the health problems faced by Bryce’s mother, who has MS, and his own struggle with cancer. It skillfully skewers Ryan for his efforts to demolish the gains in healthcare security produced by Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“I decided to run for office because not everyone is seated at the table,” Bryce forcefully states in a voiceover. “It’s time to make a bigger table.”

Bryce dons his welding mask and dramatically offers Ryan a bold dare: “Let’s trade places. Paul Ryan, you can work the iron, and I’ll go to D.C.”

The ad generated $250,000 in contributions in the first week it ran and helped Bryce establish a national following through his appearance on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC cable news show. The campaign underscores Ryan’s image as a warrior for the 1 percent who wants to cut taxes for the rich and corporations while stealing money from the poor by destroying Medicaid and food stamps.

Bryce is promoting an approach that merges a powerful pitch to the entire working class—white, black, and Latino—with unashamed support for issues of social justice.

Bryce is promoting an approach that merges a powerful pitch to the entire working class—white, black, and Latino—with unashamed support for issues of social justice. “I will stand up for LGBT rights and for criminal justice reform and immigrant rights,” Bryce vowed to his assembled supporters at the Kenosha rally.

His overall message is designed to unify Democratic constituencies and bring in non-voting citizens. “The rich are getting richer and the rest of us are being left behind,” he told the crowd, urging a new focus on combating inequality. “We can all go very far together when nobody is left behind.”

Roger Bybee

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and progressive publicity consultant whose work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites, including Z magazine, Common Dreams, Dollars & Sense, Yes!, The Progressive, Multinational Monitor, The American Prospect and Foreign Policy in Focus.

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