Analysis Culture

Spotlight: Veteran Candidates — Randy Bryce (WS-1)

This article is part of a series on veteran candidates for the House of Representatives in toss-up districts. The introduction for the series can be found here.

This article should not be seen as an endorsement of any political candidate or party, and does not represent the views of The Freq Media.

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With Paul Ryan’s impending retirement, the race for the Wisconsin First Congressional District, one known as a Republican-leaning swing district, is wide open. Democrats have targeted the district as a possible pickup in 2018 with no incumbent there to defend, and Republicans see the district as a must-keep in order to keep their majority. Enter Randy Bryce, known as “Iron Stache”, the Army veteran union ironworker seeking to flip the district this November.

Bryce has a long history of political activity in Wisconsin. As the political coordinator for the Local 8 ironworker union, he was active in protesting and lobbying against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Act 10 — legislation aimed to fix a $3.6 billion budget deficit that largely targeted public employee benefits and collective bargaining for labor unions. On June 18th, 2017, Bryce declared he would run against Ryan in the 2018 midterms, announcing his campaign with an emotional video that quickly went viral. Following his primary victory, and due to Ryan’s announced retirement which has left the seat open, Democrats have solidified their support behind Bryce. Bryce is also supported by the PAC VoteVets, which supports progressive veteran candidates.

Bryce’s military service began in the early 1980s, when he enlisted as a military policeman out of high school. He trained at Fort McClellan in Alabama, and was stationed at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras. Fort McClellan had long been used as a testing and waste disposal site for harmful substance such as DDT by the government and firms such as Monsanto, resulting in that firm paying a $700 million settlement to 20,000 nearby residents. However, this did not apply to soldiers stationed at Fort McClellan, many of whom were stricken with cancer at an early age. Bryce was forced to drop out of college after only one semester following his discharge, due to the development of testicular cancer. The lack of government support for soldiers like himself led to a shift in Bryce’s politics from conservative to progressive, and help form the basis for his current views on healthcare, labor benefits, and the environment.

Bryce has come under fire for elements of his past during the campaign. Over the years, he has had multiple arrests, namely for events linked to a 1998 OUI (operating-under-the-influence), for 2015 child-support delinquency, and for arrests during the 2011 protests of Act 10. Further, since winning his primary, Bryce has been at the brunt of Republican-funded attack ads featuring his own brother. James Bryce is a career law enforcement officer, who opposes his brother due to his policies on criminal justice, and a 2012 tweet in which Randy Bryce refers to police officers as “terrorists”. James Bryce believes rhetoric like this contributes to increased violence against police, and had even considered running on the Republican ticket. Randy Bryce has responded by pledging support for police officers, and by claiming to stay focused on the issues and out of the gutter.

Bryce’s opponent in 2018 is Bryan Steil, a former Ryan staffer who sits on the Board of Regents at the University of Wisconsin. As of a September poll, Bryce trails Steil by 6 points, just outside the margin of error.

Here is where Bryce stand on key issues in 2018, according to his campaign website:

Criminal Justice

Bryce has an extensive and progressive platform for reforming criminal justice and ending “the state of violence perpetrated against people of color”, including ending private prisons, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, and establishing federal police training standards. Also tied into this platform are other tangential issues, such as marijuana legalization, voting rights, and raising the minimum wage, all as ways to empower the disenfranchised and ending the prison pipeline.


An issue important to Bryce personally and to Democratic voters nationwide, Bryce’s healthcare platform includes support for Medicare-for-all, in addition to policies such as increased funding for opioid addiction relief and treatment, minimum hospital staffing requirements, and the free-market based position of allowing the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices.

Gun Control

As a progressive, Bryce’s gun control platform includes support for a ban on “semi automatic assault weapons, bump stocks, and military style weapons and accessories.” He also supports universal background checks and mandatory 48-hour waiting periods.

The Economy

Central to Bryce’s political views are labor rights. He supports Medicare-for-all, protections for social security, and raising the minimum wage. He also supports legislation that would protect the right of workers to organize, including those who work in the home, and that would protect worker pensions and stop wage theft.

In sum, Randy Bryce is an interesting combination of classic, blue-collar labor politics and the progressive platform that is shaping up to be the future of the Democratic party. The voters of the swing Wisconsin district will help inform the future of those policies as they vote in 2018, two years after the state supported Donald Trump.

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2 years ago

Randy is miss leading people about his time in the service. Drug/alcohol use forced him out of college, not cancer. His brother you mention in your article is also a combat veteran and Randy has never once cared about his well being. Randy is smoke and mirrors for all the attention he can get.

2 years ago

I agree that politicians do try to re-frame things into the best possible light. Please don’t think that I am trying to take away credit that he served in the Army. My point is that he will purposefully make statements to mislead his service record. He will say things like, “I served, I know what the cost of war is”, like he was in combat. He was never in a combat zone. He was in Honduras for like 3 months, and was mostly stationed at Ft Bragg for his 3 years. I don’t think you need to have worn a… Read more »

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