Paul Ryan Has A Challenger: Randy “Ironstache” Bryce

DougJ shared Bryce’s now-famous campaign ad earlier this week, though not in a prime time slot. There’s been a rash of news reports since then, but the best I’ve seen is from Mike Elk’s Payday Report:

RACINE, WISCONSIN – Despite his 6’2 frame, the half-Mexican, half-Polish Army veteran known as the “@IronStache” on Twitter is the epitome of a gentle giant. Holding a beef brisket sandwich in his hand, he hugs, back slaps, and laughs his way through the crowd at the Juneteenth parade on the lakefront of Racine.

“I’m running for Congress against Paul Ryan,” ironworker Randy Bryce struggles to tell an African American woman over the noise of a gospel choir singing on the stage behind them.

Ryan, the Speaker of the House and a former vice presidential candidate, has more than $8 million in the bank for his re-election bid. By contrast, Bryce is a rank and file ironworker activist who has built some of Southeast Wisconsin’s best-known landmarks, including Milwaukee’s Miller Park and the landmark Northwestern Mutual Building.

However, it’s not an entirely uphill battle. Ryan’s district includes the pro-union bastions of Racine and Kenosha, as well as the suburban Milwaukee Republican stronghold of Waukesha. According to the Cook Political Report, the district is only 5 points more Republican than Democratic. If 2018 turns out to be a wave election year, some think Ryan could be defeated by a candidate like Bryce in such a marginal swing district…

“People know that the system is rigged and something has to be done, and Donald Trump took advantage of that,” says SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin’s Bruce Coburn, who serves as the union’s Vice President for Politics and Growth. “Randy, though, is someone who really believes in people and has shown it in all the years he has been in the labor movement.”

I first got to know Randy through the #wiunion hashtag during the Occupation of Wisconsin Capitol in 2011, and since then we have become personal friends. Bryce was part of the tens of thousands who occupied the Capitol in order to stop Scott Walker’s anti-union agenda.

Bryce sips Limeaid in the living room of his small two bedroom apartment outside of Racine as he recalls that battle.

“Walker’s strategy was to divide and conquer,” Bryce says. “His strategy was pointing out people and saying they are being the reason that the others didn’t have it as good as they possibly could. Now that’s being taken to the national level with Donald Trump.”…

If elected to Congress, he sees his role there as being more of a shop steward than a politician, and that he aims to run a campaign that amplifies the voices of others. “For an African American woman, there is no possible way that I can put myself into that woman’s frame of mind, the struggles she faces on a daily basis,” Bryce says. “I could do something to pretend, but I can’t experience it myself, so I need to rely on other people.”…



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Happy Solstice!

Summer solstice, for most Balloon-Juice readers. Today’s Google doodle will strike a chord for all of us who’ve ever resented the extrovert’s Such a lovely day — put down that book and come outside to enjoy it! (Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere get a different version of your own.)

Thoughts & prayers (seriously) to those of you in the Southwest bearing the triple-digit brunt of that “scientific hoax” known as climate change!

Apart from that, what’s on the agenda for the day?

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Couple quick notes on last night’s GA-6 race. Josh Marshall, at TPM:

This is a big disappointment. But remember, by any objective measure these races show a Democratic party resurgent and a GOP on the ropes. These seats came open because they were vacated by people Trump picked for cabinet appointments. They got those picks because they came from safe seats. They are by no means a cross section of House seats. The thing to do is learn what we can from coming up just short and move on to the next fight. No one should expect any of this to be easy. If you do, bow out of civic questions and just watch movies and TV. We need people with more endurance.

Ed Kilgore, in NYMag:

Democrats searching for a silver lining in the Georgia race don’t have to look too far. This is the third consecutive special election (the fourth if you count South Carolina) in a historically Republican district where the Democratic percentage of the vote jumped sharply. Democrats will surely retake the House if the swing in their direction is similarly strong in 2018. In retrospect, ironically, tonight’s results may inspire new respect for Hillary Clinton’s performance–when she came within a point of Donald Trump in this district last November — and provide some new data points for doing well in GOP-leaning districts that resemble GA-06 with its highly educated population.

As a long-time Georgian, I would add that in my experience Georgia Democrats don’t much show up to vote in special elections, or runoffs, much less special election runoffs. That so many did in this election was a minor miracle…



Open Thread: Everybody BREATHE, Godsdammit!

So, yay Newt Gingrich’s former constituents, Karen Handel gets to sit in Congress… for the next 500 days. We get to piss & moan tonight, and then we start working to ensure she’s another one-abbreviated-term wonder, like Scott ‘Cosmo Boy’ Brown. And while a certain amount of bitterness is understandable, let’s keep the knife fights for when we’re facing down the Repubs, ‘kay?



Tuesday Evening Open Thread: No Pressure, Though, Mr. Ossoff…

Here’s the thing, though: Sometimes dumb things matter if everyone agrees that they matter. Congressional Republicans could use a signal of any kind right now to coordinate their strategy around two vexing issues: first, their health care bill, and second, their behavior toward President Trump and the investigations surrounding him. Whatever direction Republicans take on these questions, they will find some degree of strength in numbers. Republicans would probably be less afraid of publicly rebuking Trump, for instance — and becoming the subject of a @realDonaldTrump tweetstorm or Trump-backed primary challenge — if other GOPers were doing the same.

The Georgia 6 outcome might trigger some herd behavior among Republicans, therefore, changing the political environment in the weeks and months ahead. A loss for Handel would probably be interpreted by the GOP as a sign that the status quo wasn’t working. If even a few members of Congress began taking the exit ramp on Trump and the American Health Care Act, a number of others might follow. A win, conversely, would have a morale-boosting effect; Republicans would probably tell themselves that they could preserve their congressional majorities by turning out their base, even if some swing voters had abandoned them…

In either case, the narrative that emerges from the Georgia 6 runoff will lack nuance and will oversimplify complex evidence. While special elections overall are a reasonably useful indicator in forecasting upcoming midterms, their power comes in numbers. A half-dozen special elections taken together are a useful sign; any one of them is less so. But we’re at a moment when Republicans have a lot of decisions to make now, and the story they tell themselves about the political environment matters as much as the reality of it. The narrative will probably be dumb, but it might matter all the same.

Gonna be a long night for the results-watchers, regardless.

Apart from that, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Open Thread: Texas Repubs Discover They’re the Marks

You know the old saw, If you look around the poker table and can’t tell who the mark is, it’s you ?

Texas Republicans are turning Texas blue, and they’ve picked an incredibly awkward moment to do so.

Awkward for Republicans, that is, and conservatism more generally. The electoral implications are obvious; If President Trump hadn’t won Texas, he would have lost the Electoral College. Beyond that, though, Texas Republicans were — until quite recently — the gold standard of conservative governance in the 21st century United States.

During the period now known as the “Texas Miracle,” the state was the most powerful proof of concept that conservatives had. As the second-largest state in the country, in terms of both size and population, it was a reasonable proxy for a socially, racially, and economically heterogeneous nation. Perhaps, more importantly, the state’s outsized economic growth and diversification since the beginning of the millennium, in particular, was not just notable but meaningful. Texas created jobs in every income quartile, and almost every industry; outcomes weren’t ideal, but they were improving…

But then 2014 happened. Perry decided to retire, and Dewhurst was unseated in the Republican primary by the current incumbent, Dan Patrick. Since then, Texas’ newly elected leaders have struggled to govern — and the blistering margins Republicans posted in 2014 point to the reason why. After 20 years in power, Texas Republicans had no real need to compete in the general election. The real contest was for the Republican nomination.

As a result, Texas ended up with some true buffoons in high office. Among the officials elected in 2014 was, for example, Attorney General Ken Paxton. Six months after he was sworn in as the state’s top law enforcement official, he was charged with three felonies. One of them was related to a violation that he had already admitted to, of a law he had voted to create years earlier as a member of the Texas legislature.

Making matters worse is that competent Republicans leaders are either in thrall to the party’s oddly entitled grassroots activists, like Gov. Greg Abbott, or trying to fly below their radar, like Land Commissioner George P. Bush…

Today’s Republicans are essentially parasites on the body politic, and it seems like they may be due to discover the disadvantage of the parasitic livestyle: If you bleed the host too much too fast, either they’ll find a way to expel you, or you’ll die right along with your victim. Here’s hoping Texas is able to fight back hard enough to make it the first option!



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Suggestive?

What’s on the agenda as we gear up for another day?

Results are in from the Virginia special primaries…

Per the Washington Post,

Republican Ed Gillespie held off a surprising challenge from Donald Trump acolyte Corey A. Stewart for that party’s nomination.

… Stewart refus[ed] to concede and [said] he wouldn’t support Gillespie, a man he derided throughout the campaign as “Establishment Ed.”…

Stewart’s strength on the Republican ballot was the biggest surprise of the evening. He had been running as more Trump than Trump, making provocative statements and campaigning on the issue of preserving Confederate monuments. Polls had shown him with a fraction of Gillespie’s support, but a low turnout among Republican voters gave Stewart’s committed base an outsize influence, and Wagner drew significant votes in Hampton Roads that might otherwise have gone to Gillespie.

Overall, Democrats turned out in far greater numbers than Republicans. About 540,000 voters cast ballots in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, while just over 360,000 voters cast ballots on the Republican side, with nearly all precincts reporting…

Gillespie’s narrow win, coming from a small and apparently unenthusiastic electorate, suggests that he faces a major challenge as he tries to both woo Stewart voters and attract moderates and independents while he fights a highly motivated Democratic opposition…



Some good news on voting rights

Some good voting rights news from Alabama:

“Many” Alabama felons will soon regain the right to vote if Gov. Kay Ivey signs a bill that landed on her desk Thursday morning, according to advocates.

The bill, called the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act, passed both houses of the state legislature Wednesday, a victory for backers who have sought for years to see it codified into law.

If Ivey signs it, the bill would more clearly define the term “moral turpitude” as it is used in the state constitution, which stipulates that “no person convicted of a felony of moral turpitude” may vote….

the term would refer to less than 50 specific “felonies that involve moral turpitude which disqualify a person from exercising his or her right to vote,” the legislation states.

By redefining “moral turpitude,” the bill would effectively restore “thousands” of felons’ right to vote.

The governor has indicated she will sign the bill this week.

Open thread