Wisconsin Democrat Randy Bryce, who rose to fame with a viral web video last year, won the party nomination Tuesday night in the 1st District race to succeed retiring Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
The union ironworker will now have to determine whether his hard-scrabble profile that brought him national recognition and a fundraising boom will help him win what has been a reliable Republican seat — or whether the GOP will adeptly use his legal troubles against him, and energize the conservative base in the southeastern Wisconsin district.
Bryce, who is also known by his Twitter handle “Iron Stache,” defeated Janesville school board member Cathy Myers in Tuesday’s primary. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, he led Myers 61 percent to 39 percent when The Associated Press called the race.
Bryce will next face former Ryan aide and University of Wisconsin Board of Regents member Bryan Steil, who won a six-way contest on the GOP side. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Steil had 51 percent of the vote.
Myers had invoked Bryce’s previous failure to pay child support as well as his past arrests to argue that he was not a good candidate for the general election. Bryce has apologized for his past and his campaign noted that voters were more interested in how he would fight for them in Congress.
Myers had also been counting on female voters to propel her to victory, but her own fundraising and advertisements were not enough to overcome Bryce, who has been airing television ads in the district for the last six months.
While Bryce has still been able to rake in money, he may not be able to continue raising eye-popping amounts without Ryan on the ballot to energize Democrats looking to take down the most powerful Republican in the House. But the open-seat race also means he will not have to contend with Ryan’s multimillion-dollar war chest.
Steil’s campaign had $631,000 on hand at the end of the pre-primary reporting period on July 25, compared to nearly $1.7 million for Bryce.
The 1st District could be the Democrats’ best target in the Badger State. President Donald Trump carried it by 10 points in 2016, but that was his smallest winning margin among the five GOP-held House seats in Wisconsin. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Leans Republican.
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Navy veteran Margaret Engebretson comfortably won the Democratic nod in the 6th District to take on Duffy. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.
In the 6th District, Dan Kohl, the former assistant general manager for the Milwaukee Bucks, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. Kohl, the nephew of former Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, has outraised Grothman in a few fundraising quarters. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.
Republicans also have a House target in Wisconsin: Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in the 3rd District. Army veteran Steve Toft ran unopposed in the GOP primary Tuesday night. Inside Elections rates the 3rd District race Solid Democratic.