This Ironworker Wants To Trade Places with Paul Ryan

June 20th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

In his nearly 20 years as Wisconsin's Congressional representative, House Speaker Paul Ryan has never faced a close electoral challenge.

Randy Bryce, a union ironworker who is vying to challenge Ryan during the 2018 mid-term elections, hopes to change that.

Randy Bryce

Bryce, an Army veteran who's running as a Democrat, released a campaign ad on Monday that focused on health care and his mother's struggle with multiple sclerosis.

At the end of the ad, Bryce made a proposal:

"Let's trade places, Paul Ryan. You can come work the iron and I'll go to D.C." — Randy Bryce

But Bryce faces a couple obstacles before he can take Ryan's place in Wisconsin's 1st congressional district. First, he has to win the Democratic primary against Navy veteran David Yankovich, who moved to Wisconsin from Ohio and announced his candidacy last month.

Then, he'd have to break a 24-year Republican winning streak in the red district and beat out Ryan. During the last general election in 2016, Ryan received 65 percent of the vote—more than double that of his Democratic challenger Ryan Solen. In fact, Ryan has only won less than 60 percent of the vote one time since 2000, and that was in 2012, when was attached to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential ticket.

In short, Ryan wins often, and by massive margins.


The Republican Party of Wisconsin has already called out Bryce's past electoral struggles, noting in a statement to the Associated Press that he's lost previous bids for a state legislature seat in 2012 and 2014.

"The voters of Wisconsin have already rejected Randy Bryce multiple times," the party's statement reads. "Instead of fighting for hard-working Wisconsin families, Randy Bryce will say and do anything to get to Washington and defend his liberal special interest friends."

However, Bryce is hoping to tap the same populist vein that helped Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders win the state's 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

President Donald Trump effectively positioned himself as a champion of the working class during the election, earning about twice as many white working class votes as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For Bryce, the challenge seems to be reclaiming those votes and convincing Trump supporters that Democrats will stand behind the working class.

"As a product of public schools, I know we need to invest in our children’s future, and we need to make our government work again," Bryce said in a press release announcing his candidacy. "I will fight every day for regular people like myself, to build a strong democracy, a strong economy, and a strong America."

And Bryce's campaign ad has earned him a significant amount of attention since it was released on Monday.

Beyond his announcement campaign ad and overall alignment with progressive causes, part of Bryce's apparent appeal is that he embodies the populist, anti-establishment candidate that left-leaning voters have been clamoring for.

However, it's still yet to be proven that a Sanders-style populist approach can actually win back white voters who have fled the Democratic side. As the Atlantic reported back in May, research they conducted alongside the Public Religion Research Institute found that "evidence suggests financially troubled voters in the white working class were more likely to prefer Clinton over Trump." Further, they found that "it was cultural anxiety—feeling like a stranger in America, supporting the deportation of immigrants, and hesitating about educational investment—that best predicted support for Trump."

So, while winning back white working class voters may start with appealing their economic concerns, overcoming their fears about America's changing cultural landscape might be an even bigger challenge.

You can watch the ad for yourself here.