A Democratic ironworker fueled by a massive fundraising haul will try to win a district that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP predecessor held for more than two decades.
Randy Bryce, who won Wisconsin's 1st District Democratic primary on Tuesday, embodies his party's strategy as it pushes to flip red-leaning seats and take a House majority in November. The Army veteran and cancer survivor has raised piles of money from mostly small-dollar donors as he promotes a platform of protecting workers, expanding access to health care and shielding social safety net programs.
But Bryce faces a difficult task in turning the GOP-leaning 1st District blue as Ryan heads to retirement. He will have to overcome Republican opponent Bryan Steil, Ryan's former aide and handpicked successor behind whom the House speaker has put his fundraising clout. The Democrat already faces a slew of attacks from GOP groups over past arrests, including one for driving under the influence.
Steil, who earned an endorsement from President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning, is a slight favorite to win November's election. Still, Democrats project confidence that they can score a major coup in flipping the seat now occupied by the House's most powerful member, in part with messaging about the difficulties working-class Americans face.
"Working people have been shut out of politics. Working families have been forgotten by their representatives," Bryce said as he accepted the Democratic nomination on Tuesday night. "But we took a stand. We fought back."
Bryce, who is nicknamed "Iron Stache" because of his occupation and thick mustache, entered the race before Ryan announced his retirement in April and initially planned to challenge the House speaker. When Ryan said he would not seek re-election, the race quickly became more favorable to Democrats.
The seat has a solid Republican foundation: Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index, which gauges how a district votes in presidential elections relative to the country as a whole, lists it an R+5 district. Cook, a nonpartisan website, considers the seat one that leans Republican, while the nonpartisan Sabato's Crystal Ball considers it a toss-up.
One potential concern for the GOP surfaced on Tuesday: More Democrats than Republicans voted in the district primary. The GOP easily outvoted the Democratic Party in the 2014 primaries.