Behind Randy Bryce’s Congressional Flop

How did Randy Bryce’s fairy-tale bid for Congress flop? Let us count the ways.

What happens when Cinderella stubs her toe on the way to the party while being chased by a vindictive brother and lugging along an arrest record noxious enough to poison a magic pumpkin?

You get something like the story of Randy Bryce, the mustachioed ironworker who launched a multi million-dollar campaign with a rousing YouTube video but limped from one scandal to the next during his run to replace Rep. Paul Ryan in Congress. Bryce lost to ultra-vanilla, corporate lawyer guy Bryan Steil in November, Ryan’s chosen successor, a man with little political record but no glaring warts, either.



People interested in running for political office should never equate police officers with terrorists, at least not in a public setting. The resurfacing of Bryce’s 2012 tweet doing so was a foot-in-mouth moment and led to a bitter attack ad starring his police officer brother, and a cry from their mom to stop fighting.



Politicians should kiss babies, not withhold money from them. Shortly after starting his campaign, Bryce opened his wallet to clear $1,257 in back child support, and shadowy forces paid $4,246 due to an ex-girlfriend, money he’d borrowed years ago to buy a used car.



Hey, we all make mistakes. Bryce’s problem is making several, for a total of nine arrests, including old charges of marijuana possession and drunken driving. “The legal thing was like a millstone around his neck,” says one Democratic insider.



Bryce’s taunt to Ryan to “come work the iron, and I’ll go to D.C.” drew celebrity endorsements and moolah, but his legal problems severely undercut that hard-working-guy image. Ultimately, he couldn’t persuade the district’s Republican-leaning voters to send him to Washington.



Failed race for school board? Check. Failed race for the Legislature? Check. Worn out shoes from hitting the doors? Check.

A word about the winner


BRYAN STEIL CAN seem like someone Paul Ryan cultivated in a test tube to replace him when the time came. He hails from another Janesville Republican family and served as a staffer under the longtime congressman. While health care was a central issue in the race against Randy Bryce, Steil opposed Medicare-for-all lock, stock and barrel.


Can This Guy Beat Paul Ryan?

It seemed like a good idea at the time (November 2017), though technically we still don’t know the answer…

“Anatomy of a Fizzle” appears in the January 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.