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Politics & Government

1st Congressional District: Steil, Bryce Represent Opposite Ends Of Ideological Spectrum

Republican Bryan Steil (left) and Democrat Randy Bryce (right) are running against each other Nov. 6

Voters in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District will decide who will replace House Speaker Paul Ryan this fall. Ryan announced in April that he’s retiring from Congress, after holding the seat for 20 years. The race pits two political newcomers against each other — Republican Bryan Steil of Janesville and Democrat Randy Bryce of Caledonia.

The race for the 1st Congressional District weighs on the minds of some people in the district.

Lori Abel of Pleasant Prairie supports Randy Bryce, the Democratic candidate in the race. She says if Bryce is elected, she hopes he’ll keep tabs on Foxconn, the massive LCD screen manufacturing plant being built in Racine County. Foxconn has promised 13,000 jobs, but Abel’s concerned about the environment.

“Jobs are great, but our quality of life is really important too and we expect our congressperson to be involved in that,” Abel says.

But, Jeff High of Kenosha says he’s satisfied with the way the country is headed and supports Republican Bryan Steil. High believes if Steil is elected, he’ll work to lower the cost of health care.

“What I’d like and nobody has done anything about it, is health care. That was one of Trump’s supposedly getting done in 90 days and they haven’t done anything,” High says.

Steil is sometimes referred to as “Paul Ryan’s hand-picked successor.” The 37-year-old is a corporate attorney, a UW Regent and at one time, worked as a congressional aide to Ryan. Steil says voters are talking to him about economic issues. He thinks the district is beginning to see the fruits of the tax reform package Congress passed earlier this year.

“We’ve seen a number of businesses come to this area, open up and begin hiring," Steil says. "And, what that’s done is tighten the labor market, which is positive because as businesses compete for workers, workers see better wages, better benefits and we need to continue down this path.”

Steil favors repealing the Affordable Care Act and building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. He says if elected, he’ll help break the gridlock on those issues.

“It’s frustrating that we can’t get more done in Washington and hopefully the tone that I can bring is more of a private sector background — how do you solve problems, how do you get results,” Steil says.

While Steil is clean shaven and button-down, the 53-year-old Bryce appears rougher around the edges. His critics have focused on run-ins with the law in his past. Bryce is an ironworker, cancer survivor and army veteran, who goes by the nickname “Iron Stache,” in reference to his bushy mustache. He says in his travels across the district, he finds many voters are concerned about health care.

“People are terrified with the direction our country is headed, and are they going to be able to see a doctor,” Bryce says.

He says if elected, he’ll work to enact a “Medicare for All,” universal health care plan, as well as a $15 increase in the minimum wage. He says the voters he’s spoken with, have expressed concerns about President Trump and they’re eager to have more Democrats in Washington.

“After the last presidential election everybody was very upset with the results, where Donald Trump was elected to office and we saw how he ran by dividing people. That’s not the picture that people have in their minds when thinking about the United States,” Bryce says.

Bryce characterizes the race as close and says from what he’s seen, people are highly engaged on both sides. Both candidates have been raising significant amounts of money, and have the ads and mailings to prove it.

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