By John Light
Moyers & Company (6/28/17)
A campaign ad went viral last week — something that, despite political consultants’ best efforts, doesn’t often happen. It begins with an elderly woman sitting in her living room in Wisconsin. As her middle-aged son listens, she describes her concern that she someday may not be able to pay for the drugs she needs to treat her multiple sclerosis.
Her son, it turns out, is Randy Bryce, a first-time candidate for federal office. Bryce’s opponent in 2018 will be one of the Republican health care plans’ most prominent advocates, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. As the ad circulated through social media last week, Bryce — or @IronStache, as he’s known on Twitter — quickly became internet famous as an advocate for expanding, not taking away, health care.
Segments of the political left are hungry for a candidate who will not just attack Republicans, but who will do so while articulating a positive political agenda. This hunger only grew following the Georgia special election, during which donors threw $23 million behind Jon Ossoff, a candidate who, by the end of the race, didn’t seem to stand for much at all. In an interview with The New Republic’s Sarah Jones last week, Bryce reaffirmed his progressive politics, including his support for single-payer health care, the Fight for $15 movement, abortion access and LGBT rights.
“No person who works a full-time job should have to depend on any kind of government assistance. That’s corporate welfare and I’m completely against that.”
Bryce has been active in Wisconsin politics for years as a union leader, and has twice run for office — once for State Assembly and once for State Senate. He lost both times, but shrugs off those losses. He ran, he says, “in order to make someone fight for the seat.”
This time he’s more serious. Labor journalist Mike Elk reports for Payday Report that he’s attracted endorsements from state politicians and unions, and enlisted the help of Bill Hyers, who managed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2013 campaign and who has worked with former Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Bryce has two challengers in his district’s Democratic primary, but his bid for the nomination has attracted far and away the most attention.
We spoke with Bryce about his path to politics, the causes he would champion in office and political reporters’ assertions that a mustachioed ironworker fighting for the working man is, basically, “Bruce Springsteen’s discography” in human form. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity…