Randy Bryce, a Wisconsin iron worker, is trying to pull off a tall task — unseat the House speaker, a 10-term member of Congress.
But Bryce, a Democrat, thinks he’s got as good a shot as anyone to defeat Paul Ryan, a Republican who has served his Wisconsin congressional district since winning his first election in 1998.
Bryce’s profile grew when he announced his campaign earlier this year with an advertisement that quickly went viral. In the spot, Bryce sits down with his mother, who has multiple sclerosis, about healthcare. The ad has roughly 600,000 views on YouTube alone.
A recent survey by the Global Strategy Group found that Ryan has a 9-point lead over Bryce, with 17% of respondents still undecided.
Business Insider recently spoke with Bryce about his candidacy. The Wisconsinite explained why he was running, his position on issues like healthcare and immigration, and talked about what he thinks the Democratic Party’s message should be about.
Allan Smith: What message would you have to people whose only real memory of you is that campaign ad? What do you think they should know about you?
Randy Bryce: Just that I’m a person who shares the same values they do as another working person. And that it’s pretty much all I’m doing is telling my story. There’s nothing special about me other than the fact that I deal with the same things that they deal with, with everybody in the community. That I’m one of them. I’ve literally built things with them and I’m standing up for them. I’m doing everything for them. It’s something we’re doing together.
Smith: What do you suggest as fixes for the healthcare system? How can it be improved? What is the path it needs to go down?
Bryce: I’m in favour of Medicare for all. I don’t think there’s any reason why that can’t be done. If you look at … it’s a job creator, in my eyes. If you look at the price of building a car, the price of steel for that car has a cost to it, but each employer is paying more to cover that person for insurance than they’re paying for actual the cost of steel. Recently, we had an entire factory, GE, go up to Canada, and Paul Ryan was talking about unfair tax advantage … tax rates that he keeps varying the percentage of by five depending on what day it is, as being an unfair competition with us. But, if you look at companies in Canada, they have health insurance.
That’s not something that each individual company has to deal with. So, it’s comparing oranges to apples and it’s something we need to do. Now, Sen. Baldwin has come out in favour of lowering the age where people are covered by Medicare to 55. And I see a logical path as doing it in steps, not all at once, it’s going to take a while to get there, but if we get started now, we can get there sooner.
Smith: Do you believe that should be a part of the Democratic Party’s message going forward? Even if not immediate, going down a path of Medicare for all?
Bryce: Personally, I’m in favour of it. And I’m happy to see more and more Democrats come out in favour of it it seems like every week. So it’s the right way to go, and it’s good to see more people getting on board.
Smith: What do you think the core message of the Democratic Party should be about?
Bryce: The majority of people in the United States, definitely within the district I’m running on behalf of, are working people like me. … A lot of times people are looking at who’s the lesser of the evils that we’re voting for. And we can never have enough things to benefit working people. The job of politicians should be to uplift people’s standards. Not just the very few up at the top, but for everybody. Life should be made easier. And there’s enough to go around, there’s no reason we can’t do that.
Smith: What is your plan to overcome the large backing that Paul Ryan is going to have?
Bryce: People are really upset with what he’s been doing as far as people working harder and having less and less to show for it. He’s being shown for what he really is, and that’s a big problem in Washington, DC. That’s become more and more evident as time’s gone by. He’s talking about what a terrific policy wonk he is and for that entire time period you talked about, he says he has all these great policy ideas he wants to implement. Well, now he’s Speaker of the House. He’s the one that decides what legislation gets heard. He has a Republican Senate, he has a Republican president, and a conservative Supreme Court. Yet nothing, absolutely nothing is getting done in Washington, DC. They’re trying to take more and more away from us, and it’s nothing that’s going to be helpful at all. People are waking up, they’re seeing that he’s part of the problem, he doesn’t have any solutions. I liken it to finally they have their hands on the steering wheel, and the car won’t start.
Smith: What do you think of tax reform and some of the ideas that are getting tossed around for it?
Bryce: Well, he let slip…he had a town event on CNN a few weeks ago and he let slip twice that when he was talking about tax reform, he really means tax cuts. And it’s not tax cuts for people like me or my neighbours. It’s tax cuts for the wealthiest people among us. And it’s been proven that this trickle-down experiment that Reagan first implemented is a complete failure. … If you look at since when it was first tried, now there’s more income inequality among everybody than ever. It gets worse progressively every year, and it’s been shown that when you let the richest people keep more money, it doesn’t help anybody out. They just stash it away someplace.
Smith: What should be done about DACA, [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that would protect 800,000 young immigrants from deportation]?
Bryce: There definitely needs to be made a path, right now there really isn’t a definitive path for people who are involved with DACA to become citizens. That’s something that needs to be done. It should be done by Congress. I’m afraid to put it on the government right now looking at the composition, and I mean I have no faith in Donald Trump doing something proactive that could actually help people. It’s something we need to do. It should have been done a while ago, but we need to deal with it now. And the fact that Donald Trump even feels the need to address it, to start rattling that cage, it says a lot more about him and where he is instead of focusing on other issues to actually help us. It shows that him and the other Republican leadership is just more concerned with trying to divide us, to take our attention away from real issues.
Smith: What do you think of the deal Trump made with Democrats? And what do you think of Democratic politicians working with Trump?
Bryce: I’ve always been one that’s been in favour of working with other people. I think it’s great that the Democratic leadership was able to do something, especially not having a majority in any one house. It seemed to be a very good deal, and the ability to get something done shows a lot on their behalf. Now, I always think it’s a good idea to provide money for people that need it, especially in cases of a disaster. So I consider it a big win for the Democratic leadership.
Smith: What do you think of what this ordeal means for Paul Ryan?
Bryce: Speaker Ryan has recently shown — well, recently, it’s been quite a while now — that he doesn’t stand for anything. He’s come out with a position… it seems like he comes out with a position on something, then Donald Trump says what he believes about it, then Speaker Ryan is like “well, that’s what I meant.” And it just shows that he really doesn’t stand for anything and it makes it prove that he’ll fall for anything.
Smith: What was the moment when you first told yourself “I’m going to run for Congress?” And what did your friends and family say when you told them?
Bryce: I was approached by the Working Families Party in Wisconsin a week before May. It was the last week of April. And then I was on a May Day parade with Voces De La Frontera, which is the largest immigrant rights group in the state. And tens of thousands of people attend this parade in favour of immigrant rights. And a state senator walked up to me and he was like “I hear your name a lot as far as somebody who could give Paul Ryan a run for his money. That you could really unite a lot of people and actually take his job. Is it OK if I pass your name out to other concerned parties, interested parties?”
And, at that point I looked around at everyone who was marching and, you know, I felt that it needed to be done. After this past election when Trump was in the White House, people were terrified of having their families ripped apart. And I was like, “Why not me?” When I told my friends and coworkers, my mum was concerned. She’s like “Randy, be careful. They’re going to come after you. They’re going to be dirty.” I’m like, “Mum, they have been going after me. Not just me, everybody. They have been going after you, mum. They’re trying to take your healthcare away. They’re trying to hurt all of us. There’s nothing that they can’t do to me that they haven’t already tried to do.”
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