Ask Randy Bryce what his qualifications are for representing Wisconsin's first district in Congress, he'll tell you he's a working class guy trying to speak up for the rust belt workers who feel forgotten. Ask him how he plans to unseat Paul Ryan, he'll tell you it's by doing the opposite of what the powerful house speaker does.
"People have said, 'You know, you're the exact opposite. You're like Kryptonite to Paul Ryan. Everything that you represent, everything that you are, is the exact opposite of him,'" Bryce said.
What does Bryce represent? He's a union iron worker, an Army veteran, single dad and cancer survivor, and he says he wants to help his fellow working class Wisconsinites by saving their health care and bringing them jobs.
"I bring my experiences as a guy that gets up, packs a lunch, goes to work, work hard, and actually build communities, and that's something that I don't know any other way to do it," Bryce said.
Politicos have been buzzing about Bryce after his campaign launched with a YouTube ad that was quickly hailed as one of the best political ads of the 2018 cycle so far.
But he's running as a Democrat in a state that the party largely neglected in 2016. Hillary Clinton didn't visit the state at all during the election cycle.
Bryce admits that some of the people he's talked to in his district say they felt forgotten, but he argued that most people supported Bernie Sanders, not Clinton.
Sanders defeated Clinton in the Democratic primary in Wisconsin by ten percentage points.
"Wisconsin was the birthplace of some really fantastic progressive ideas, like public sector unions, workers comp were things that were created in Wisconsin, and we've gotten to a place where these attacks on workers have just been ... it's an annual thing, and we just expect it every time the state legislature goes into session, that something else is going to be taken away," Bryce said.
If elected, Bryce says his top priority will be to make health care affordable for everyone, and the best way to do that is to create a single-payer system.
"There are too many people going without healthcare. It's the leading cause of bankruptcies in the country, which is why I'm in favor of a issue like Medicare for all, because not only is it just the right thing to do, where if somebody, a parent, loses their job due to a layoff through no fault of their own, their children are going to suffer as a result, and I think that that's just wrong," Bryce said.
Medical debt is the number one source of personal bankruptcy filings in America, according to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
He argued that creating a single-payer system could also bring jobs back to Wisconsin.
"And when you look at something like GE moving their entire factory up to Canada, Paul Ryan will talk about the tax rates and say it's unfair here, when reality, all the companies up in Canada, they don't have to pay. They have a universal healthcare, so that's an unfair advantage for companies down here," Bryce said.
In a statement, Zack Roday, a spokesman for Ryan told Circa that Bryce's assertions that the Speaker of the House was out of touch with voters in the district is "laughable."
"He is more interested in increasing his political celebrity than doing the work necessary to understand the issues, present solutions, and actually serve the people of Wisconsin effectively," Roday said.
It's going to be a tough sell for Bryce. Not only did Trump win handily in the district, but no Democrat has received more than 43 percent of the vote against Ryan since he was first elected in 1998.
Bryce says Ryan has forgotten about the people in his home district, and has been more focused on Washington politics than bringing jobs and affordable health care to the people that voted for him.
"The first district used to be a manufacturing center, and all the good jobs are leaving. There aren't more that are coming in. People are seeing that he's been in for 20 years, and I just ask them, 'What has he done to make your life better?', and I haven't heard one clear answer yet," Bryce said.
According to the bureau of labor statistics, Wisconsin has lost 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs since 2000, however the unemployment rate in Janesville, Ryan's home base, has steadily dropped since 2009 from 11.9% down to 3.5%.
Bryce has been gaining national support and raking in impressive campaign donations for a newcomer. He raised over $100,000 in just 24 hours after his campaign ad launched.
"I've always been strong to my values, things that are important to me, and I think that's why I'm getting a lot of support from not just in the district, but nationally, is that we need more people that have our values, that are going to stand up and speak out for things that are important to us," Bryce said.
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