Randy Bryce: The Ironworker Challenging Paul Ryan Sees Path To Victory Through Working People

By Daniel Marans
The HuffPost (8/6/17)

WASHINGTON ― Ironworker Randy Bryce recently got to talking politics with a man he met at his job site.

They were working together on building a two-story parking lot for a Veterans Affairs hospital in Milwaukee, and it sounded like the guy had voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Bryce, then-politics coordinator for his union, Iron Workers Local 8, is a committed progressive Democrat. And the man with whom he was conversing surprised him.

Rather than express enthusiasm for Trump, the fellow threw up his hands in frustration, wondering why there weren’t more ordinary workers in politics.

“He was like, ‘You know what? I’m sick of voting for all these people. Why don’t we have one of us? You know, one of us should run,’” Bryce told HuffPost at a Washington fundraiser in July, a Wisconsin accent audible in his vowels.

Bryce, a 52-year-old Army veteran, had good news. “I just started laughing. I said, ‘Where do you live?’” When he heard the answer, he said, “I’ll have one of my signs up in your front yard.”

It was May then. A month later, Bryce announced his 2018 candidacy for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District ― a seat in the state’s southeastern corner that House Speaker Paul Ryan, 47, first won in 1998.

For Democrats scrambling to win back at least some of the predominantly white, blue-collar workers who fled the party for Trump, “IronStache” Bryce is not a bad guy to have on your side.

Although it is a long shot, Bryce’s bid has already attracted national attention. His campaign is an opportunity for Democrats to both regain working-class trust in the Rust Belt and land an unlikely knockout blow against the country’s second-most powerful Republican.

Bryce kicked off his campaign on June 18 with a two-and-a-half minute online video that instantly went viral. It opens with clips of Trump and Ryan discussing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act ― Obamacare ― before introducing the older woman with multiple sclerosis who is Bryce’s mother. Bryce shares how his mom’s pain and his experience as an ironworker inspired him to fight for affordable health care and workers’ rights.

“If somebody falls behind, we’re that much stronger if we carry them with us,” Bryce says in a voiceover as images of him on the job and with his mother and 10-year-old son appear on screen. “That’s the way I was raised ― we look out for each other.”

He also directly challenges the man he hopes to topple, saying: “Let’s trade places. Paul Ryan, you can come work the iron, and I’ll go to D.C.”

Following the splashy debut, Bryce’s campaign exploded. Within 24 hours he had raised $100,000. He now has over $750,000 from more than 22,000 individual donors.

Bryce quickly picked up the endorsements of leading national progressive organizations, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Working Families Party, Democracy for America, VoteVets, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Transport Workers Union.

He also enjoys the backing of liberal Hollywood celebrities like Patton Oswalt and Nick Offerman. Both of them touted Bryce on Twitter, where the mustachioed ironworker ― @IronStache ― has become a progressive celebrity of his own. He began the campaign with some 6,000 followers, but now has over 133,000 ― a sizable audience to whom he regularly dispenses his homespun jabs at Trump and Ryan.

It is not hard to see why Democrats are excited about Bryce. After all, Ryan’s crusade to dramatically reducing the social safety net has earned him the ire of liberals. That the Beltway chattering class has dubbed him the GOP’s most reasonable “policy wonk” only heightens the contempt for Ryan among rank-and-file Democrats.

Bryce, by contrast, is a staunch backer of a single-payer health care system …

Read the Rest and 6-Minute Video


“Worker’s Song” Lyrics

Yeh, this one’s for the workers who toil night and day 
By hand and by brain to earn your pay 
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread 
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines 
We’ve often been told to keep up with the times 
For our skills are not needed, they’ve streamlined the job 
And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed 

We’re the first ones to starve, we’re the first ones to die 
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky 
And we’re always the last when the cream is shared out 
For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about 

And when the sky darkens and the prospect is war 
Who’s given a gun and then pushed to the fore 
And expected to die for the land of our birth 
Though we’ve never owned one lousy handful of earth? 

[Chorus x3]

All of these things the worker has done 
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun 
We’ve been yoked to the plough since time first began 
And always expected to carry the can