State News

Progressive Randy Bryce looks to ride viral ad to an upset over Paul Ryan

Randy Bryce, a Caledonia ironworker, is trying to use his vast social media presence and progressive message to beat House Speaker Paul Ryan.

In 2018 Democrats hope to win their biggest electoral achievement since former President Barack Obama’s reelection: a congressional majority.

Randy Bryce hopes to lead that charge, launching a difficult and insurgent campaign against House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville.

Bryce is pitching himself as the Wisconsin solution to the Washington problem: a progressive union worker, cancer-survivor, Army veteran, and labor organizer who wants to take on powerful special interests.

In an age of widespread distrust in government, it’s his authenticity that he hopes to win on.

“I’m not trying to be anything I’m not,” Bryce told The Daily Cardinal. “I think we need more people like us, that aren’t millionaires, that aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth, to make decisions for us.”

Despite a clear and accessible message, few campaigns are as daunting as challenging Ryan.

The Speaker has served Wisconsin’s First District in Congress for nearly two decades and hasn’t faced a serious challenge since his election in 1999. He maintained his seat easily in 2016 with 65 percent of the vote and boasts $11.1 million in cash on hand.

To Bryce’s credit, however, no previous challenger of Ryan’s has gained as much early traction. His campaign launch ad went viral almost immediately, and he was able to raise over $100,000 in the first 24 hours, quadruple the funds that Ryan’s 2016 opponent raised altogether.

He has received early endorsements from progressive groups like the Working Families Party, Democracy for America, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and unions in both the public and private sectors.

Bryce even landed Bill Hyers, former campaign manager to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Mayor Bill de Blasio, to head his election efforts.

His viral ad and social media-driven fundraising efforts have been the product of a sleeker, more professional campaign than Bryce’s previous unsuccessful runs for state Senate in 2014 and state Assembly in 2012.

But Republicans have criticized Bryce for favoring social media popularity and expensive advertising over concrete policy solutions.

“Apparently Bryce’s grueling campaign schedule has prevented him from learning about basic issues,” Chris Martin of the Republican National Congressional Committee said in a statement, “but not from tweeting more than 150 times in the last week alone.”

Though an easy target for derision, Bryce’s heavy social media presence boasts 150,000 Twitter followers under the name @IronStache, and has been an essential platform in creating viral national fundraising efforts, giving him a war chest of nearly half a million according to the Federal Elections Commission.

“Normally Paul Ryan just ignores anybody running against him,” Bryce said. “They attacked us in the first twelve days. He knows he’s in for a run for his life.”

Ryan’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

After the crushing electoral upset of 2016, Democrats are relying on populist underdogs like Bryce to prove they can still win in the age of Trump.

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