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Meet The 2020 Wisconsin 1st Congressional District Candidates: Roger Polack And Bryan Steil

Courtesy of Roger Polack and Bryan Steil
(From left) Roger Polack and Rep. Bryan Steil will face off this November in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District.

Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, stretching from southern Milwaukee County to Janesville, is a political swing area. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin won four of the district's six counties on her way to reelection in 2018. But Democrats have not held the House seat in about 25 years. Two candidates are competing for the seat in the Nov. 3 election: Republican incumbent Rep. Bryan Steil of Janesville and Democrat Roger Polack of Racine. Steil was first elected to the district in 2018 after former Rep. Paul Ryan decided not to run after holding the seat for 20 years.

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To help you get to know more about the Wisconsin 1st Congressional District candidates, we sent them the same list of questions. Here are their responses (in alphabetical order):  

Roger Polack (D)

Credit Courtesy of Roger Polack
Roger Polack is running as a Democrat in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District.

Tell voters a bit about yourself:

I grew up in Racine in a blue-collar family. I graduated from Horlick High School, then attended UW-Madison and law school at Georgetown. I served in the Bush & Obama administrations as a civilian intelligence analyst and then a senior policy advisor. I deployed to Afghanistan to take on the Taliban, shut down their financing pipeline, and expose corruption. I also worked to hold China’s feet to the fire on investment and national security issues and to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

What are your top three priorities if elected?

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 1,633 Wisconsinites and more than 210,000 Americans. Millions of working-class families are struggling with unemployment and an unstable economy. We need better leadership in this district to lead us out of this crisis. Access to quality, affordable health care is a human right and we must ensure that in our country, we have universal health care coverage. We need to bring back more family-supporting jobs into this district. If given the opportunity, Southeastern Wisconsinites can compete with anyone, anywhere, and we have a strong track record of doing just that.

How will you protect Wisconsinites from the coronavirus? 

We need leaders who take the virus seriously, which I do. We need leaders who will prioritize the needs of individuals struggling to make ends meet during this crisis, which I will. I would vote to pass the HEROES Act and get another round of relief to those most affected, including small businesses. I would not call stimulus to unemployed individuals “unfair” as Bryan Steil has done. I would not vote against bills like the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, like Bryan Steil has done.

How will you help businesses and people who are unemployed due to the pandemic? 

We need a strong economic recovery from the harm the virus has caused. The state government should continue to provide grants and loans to small businesses hurting from the pandemic. The “We’re All In” program is a great example of this. It is a $75 million program that provides $2,500 cash grants to 30,000 small businesses. But we need the federal government to step up. Whereas my opponent Bryan Steil calls helping families and small businesses that are struggling “unfair”, I believe we need to use the full power of the U.S. government to make sure people can make ends meet and small businesses in our communities get back on track. Small businesses are hurting right now, so I believe it is important to work on continuing relief.

What actions will you take to address racial inequalities in Wisconsin? 

We need greater engagement with communities of color. That starts with listening. We need the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act enacted into law. It holds officers more accountable for misconduct, restricts the use of chokeholds, and creates a national use-of-force database. We also need to ensure that police departments have what they need in terms of training and body cameras. Additionally, a consistent point that I’ve heard from Black community leaders I’ve spoken with in Southeastern Wisconsin is the need to reduce the wealth gap black America experiences. We must enact policies that result in greater homeownership and small business ownership for African Americans. I will be a champion for these issues in Congress.

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Bryan Steil (R)

Credit Courtesy of Bryan Steil.
Rep. Bryan Steil is running as a Republican in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District.

Tell voters a bit about yourself:

I was born and raised in Janesville and live here today. Before running for office, I spent a decade working in Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector. My job is to serve you and I wake up every day with that in mind. I’m listening to you and held 14 in-person town halls and numerous in-person forums. In Congress, I’ve worked to protect our health, keep us safe, and get workers back to work. I fight for our community because Wisconsin is home.

What are your top three priorities if elected? 

Keeping America healthy, getting Wisconsin back to work and keeping our communities safe.

How will you protect Wisconsinites from the coronavirus? 

I’m working to defeat coronavirus and protect you. We must develop a safe and effective vaccine that’s free and easily accessible to everyone. I’ve been working to provide official information to our community, including a telephone town hall in March with thousands of participants and Dept. of Health Services Secretary Palm to answer questions on the virus. I helped pass the CARES Act which provided billions of dollars to states, increased testing capabilities, provided free COVID-19 testing for everyone and secured critical resources for healthcare professionals. I also believe that we must ensure schools and hospitals have needed PPE and resources to keep everyone safe. We need to get our lives back and we can do that by defeating the virus.

How will you help businesses and people who are unemployed due to the pandemic? 

Wisconsin workers are out of work through no fault of their own. Getting workers back to work and our economy on the road to recovery is my job number one. Before COVID-19, we saw record low unemployment and rising wages for workers. We can do it again. We must continue to keep taxes low, create more jobs, and ensure individuals can go to bed at night feeling financially secure. We need to invest in our workforce by focusing on job skills and education and continue supporting innovative programs that drive investment to our challenged neighborhoods. Expanding the federal government’s control and raising taxes on families and workers will stifle job growth, depress wages, and hurt workers.

What actions will you take to address racial inequalities in Wisconsin? 

Disparities in health, income and education in our minority communities must be addressed. Everyone must have access to affordable healthcare. I support federal dollars for community health centers, providing challenged communities with affordable and accessible healthcare. Workers and students must have the ability to obtain the best education and good paying jobs. I want every parent to choose the best school for their child. I support Opportunity Zones that create jobs in underserved communities. We must strengthen communities because everyone deserves to feel safe. Law enforcement should have the capability to do their job to protect us to the best of their abilities. I cosponsored the JUSTICE Act to provide funding for body cameras & training.

What questions do you have about voting in Wisconsin? Submit your questions below.


From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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