Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has endorsed Democratic candidate Randy Bryce for Wisconsin's 1st congressional district House seat. Bryce is running to unseat U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (video below).
On Nov. 13, Sanders issued an official endorsement of Bryce, who will compete against Janesville School Board member Cathy Myers in a Democratic primary in August 2018, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
"We've got to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from people like Paul Ryan," Sanders said. "I think Randy Bryce has an agenda that is going to make sense to working families. We need Randy in Congress."
The 52-year-old Bryce is a U.S. Army veteran, ironworker and union activist. The Democrat gained national attention in June, when his campaign released an advertisement blasting Ryan for spearheading the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Bryce is campaigning on infrastructure spending, subsidizing steel and implementing a $15 minimum wage. He has endorsed Sanders' "Medicare for All" bill, which would aim to provide universal health care access nationwide. The Democrat has also touted his blue collar credentials as an iron worker.
"Populism is what people want ... There's just such a hunger for that," Bryce told Mother Jones. "People want somebody like them to make decisions for them."
The Wisconsin candidate is also a member of the Working Families Party. The group's spokesperson, Joe Dinkin, asserted that Bryce and Sanders shared similar values.
"What Bernie sees in Randy Bryce is a working class progressive that draws a perfect contrast to 'Wall Street' Paul [Ryan]," Dinkin told In These Times. "Randy wants to guarantee health care for all, to rebuild America's roads and bridges and to make the billionaires pay for it. Paul Ryan wants to give billionaires a massive tax cut and make the middle class pay. This endorsement, coming from America's most popular political leader, is a huge deal and proves that this is a top tier race."
Ryan, a national figure, has held his seat since 1999. In November 2016, he won re-election with 65 percent of the vote, according to The New York Times.
On Nov. 9, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee listed Wisconsin's 1st congressional district as a battleground election in 2018, signaling that it believes Ryan could be vulnerable. Bryce's campaign manager, David Keith, asserted that Democrats were preparing to unseat GOP lawmakers who were presumed safe by recruiting fresh candidates.
"It's obviously clear that there's going to be real opportunity to pick up the Republican-leaning seats," Keith told The Daily Beast. "I think it's much more telling that there's really good candidates and candidate recruitment around the country. I think Randy is a glaring example of that."
On Nov. 13, a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 46 percent of Wisconsin's 1st district voters would support Ryan while 39 percent would cast a ballot for Bryce if the election was held that day. However, 69 percent of respondents said that they had not heard of Bryce before.
"If Bryce increases his name recognition it could make the race even more competitive, which would be great news for Democrats," the survey's authors wrote.
Sources: The Daily Beast, In These Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mother Jones, The New York Times, Public Policy Polling via Scribd / Featured Image: Lorie Shaull/Flickr / Embedded Images: MSNBC/YouTube, Gage Skidmore/Flickr