Read a national story about the announcement by Racine’s Randy Bryce challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) and you’re likely to get a tale of Bryce being a union ironworker, a single father, doting son to his ill mother, and local activist.
Here’s how the Associated Press covered the rollout of Bryce’s announcement:
A Democratic union ironworker who twice ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature announced Monday that he will challenge Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan for re-election.
Randy Bryce, of Caledonia, is a U.S. Army veteran, community activist and political coordinator for his local ironworkers union. Bryce, highlighting both his occupation and mustache, goes by @IronStache on Twitter.
Bryce argued that his blue collar background was more in line with the sensibility of the congressional district, which has long relied on a shrinking manufacturing economy.
“My values are my neighbors’ values, and we know that Washington has gotten way off track,” Bryce said in a statement. “Whether it’s healthcare, jobs, national security, education, or the environment, there’s not one issue where Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are headed in the right direction. It’s time for a change in Congress.”
Sounds like an “Average Joe,” doesn’t he?
There is more, however, to Randy Bryce. A longtime activist with a penchant for the dramatic, Bryce is well-known for his antics and temper, especially in the post-Act 10 era of Wisconsin politics. In addition to his activism, Bryce is no stranger to runs for public office.
In 2012, he lost a Democratic Primary for a state assembly seat. This was followed up by a 10-way primary loss for a seat on the Racine County Board of Education in 2013. Bryce followed this up with a 24-point loss for a state senate seat in 2014.
Despite being a candidate for public office, it’s been Bryce’s antics as a protester and activist which have earned him fans in recent years.
In 2011, Bryce was among a number of liberal activist groups who staged an “Occupy Milwaukee” protest where for over two hours they stopped traffic over Interstate 43. While no purpose for the “North Avenue Bridge Occupation” protest was cited, Bryce was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time, saying it was over a stalled federal infrastructure bill.
Demonstrators said a number of groups were represented on the bridge, including at least two labor unions, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Move On, Occupy Milwaukee, Citizen Action and Voces de la Frontera. Recall Scott Walker signs could also be seen.
A flier promoting the bridge occupation said there is an “economic emergency” because Congress hasn’t passed President Barack Obama’s jobs bill.
The bridge was symbolic of public jobs that could be created to fix the nation’s infrastructure, said Janet Veum, who was with Wisconsin Jobs Now.
Several demonstrators expressed frustration with the deficit-cutting “supercommittee” in Congress.
“Everybody is keeping a million people out of work, to get one guy out of a job,” said Randy Bryce of Pleasant Prairie, referring to Republicans who want to defeat Obama in next year’s election.
Bryce, political coordinator for the Ironworkers Local 8, said there are plenty of bridges and other infrastructure around the country that need fixing and could provide work for the unemployed.
After the three aforementioned runs for public office, Bryce returned to his activist/protest ways in February 2015. This time, by trying to recreate the 2011 “Capitol Chaos” in Madison as Republican-led majorities debated a Right-to-Work bill in the state Senate.
Like many liberal activists, Bryce waited to give his testimony against the Right-to-Work bill. Yet as the hearing went on, lawmakers realized they were not going to have enough time to hear everyone for or against the bill. So instead of leaving a written copy of his testimony for the record, Bryce went outside the hearing room and read it to the crowd and assembled media:
Randy Bryce, a member of Ironworkers Local 8, had waited all day to give his testimony. He decided to present it outside of the hearing room after the vote.
“I should be at least able to speak my mind,” Bryce said. “I’m not being disruptive, they’re being disruptive. This is a blatant political attack.”
Key word there in that quote from Mr. Bryce is “disruptive,” which he quickly became when the bill hit the floor for debate according to WisPolitics.com:
Randy Bryce, a union member who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate last year as a Dem, was removed from the chamber after he stood and interrupted Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s opening statement on the bill.
“This bill is turning Wisconsin into a banana republic,” said Bryce, a Racine iron worker.
The crowd responded with applause as Bryce was escorted out. A second protester then stood up and interrupted after Fitzgerald started speaking again.
That prompted a warning from President Mary Lazich that the gallery would be cleared if there were more outbursts.
The state’s Right to Work law would later pass the state Senate later in the evening on a 17-15 vote.
So despite his campaign’s narrative that Randy Bryce is “just a union ironworker,” he is anything but. In fact, he even told the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel he was all set to be an Electoral College elector for Hillary Clinton in the days following the 2016 election; a status confirmed by the Wisconsin Elections Board.
“I was going to be one of the electors this year for Hillary,” [Randy] Bryce said. “I thought it was a done deal. I could not imagine anyone voting for the man, based on the things that were coming out of his mouth.”
Regardless of how much national media attention Bryce is currently getting, in the end, he will still have to come out ahead in a primary to even have a shot at facing off against Speaker Ryan. In early May, activist David Yankovich announced his intentions to challenge Ryan after he moved to Wisconsin from his native Ohio.
If neither candidate leaves the race before then, the primary will be held in August 2018.
Cross-posted at Media Trackers.