Union steel worker Randy Bryce easily won the Democratic nomination in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday, after becoming the first viral-video darling of the midterms cycle last year. The victory gives Democrats a well-funded nominee in Paul Ryan’s home district, and it should give Bernie Sanders a temporary reprieve from questions about his endorsees repeatedly coming up short in primaries this year.
With more than 80 percent of the vote in, Bryce led former teacher and current school board member Cathy Myers by more than 22 points—61 percent to 39 percent. Bryce will now face Bryan Steil, a former Ryan aide who won the GOP nomination Tuesday, in a race nonpartisan handicappers believe Democrats have a chance to flip this fall.
Bryce became a liberal sensation last year with a two-plus minute campaign ad calling out Ryan by name and introducing himself, his mustache, and his mother, who has multiple sclerosis. He turned his viral fame into frequent appearances on MSNBC and fundraising cash. Sanders’ endorsement eventually followed, and later so did the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Bryce was a rare point of agreement for Sanders and the DCCC this cycle, and his victory allows both of them to notch a victory in a race they would very much like to win in November. Sanders, in particular, has faced questions about his record of endorsements, after two high-profile candidates backed by the senator lost last week. “I [could] be 100 percent in terms of my endorsements,” Sanders said earlier this summer after a former campaign staffer he endorsed got crushed in a crowded congressional primary. “All you’ve got to do is endorse establishment candidates who have a whole lot of money, who are 40 points ahead in the poll. You know what, you’ll come and say, ‘Bernie, you were 100-percent supportive of these candidates, they all won.’”
Bryce coasted to victory on Tuesday, but he’ll have his work cut out for him in November. Wisconsin Republicans redrew the district in 2010 to make life easier for Ryan, who was then the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a rising star in the party, and with Ryan on the presidential ticket in 2012, Romney won the district by 5 points, despite losing Wisconsin by 7. Four years later, Trump won the district by 10 points while winning the state by less than a single point.
That built-in GOP advantage was on display yet again this spring, when a Republican-backed candidate for the state Supreme Court carried Ryan’s district by 5 points despite losing the statewide race by 11. Still, the Cook Political Report reclassified the race after Ryan’s exit from “Likely Republican” to “Lean Republican,” signaling a legitimate opening for Democrats despite the district’s GOP tilt.
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