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In Wisconsin, The Race To Replace Paul Ryan Gets Vicious

Last year, local Democrat Randy Bryce shot to political fame when he released this ad declaring his candidacy against Paul Ryan in Wisconsin's 1st district. The "Iron Stache," a military veteran, steelworker, and cancer survivor, became a phenomenon. It was even rumored that his fundraising prowess was enough to scare Ryan into forgoing re-election.

For the better part of a year, it appeared a foregone conclusion that Bryce would win the Democratic nomination, but this has become less of a sure thing. With women winning nearly half of all 2018's Democratic primaries, teacher and school board representative Cathy Myers has presented a strong challenge to Bryce, one which may lead to an upset in tonight's results.

Myers, like Bryce, was disgusted by Paul Ryan's attempts to dismantle the ACA and entered the race shortly after he did. They share a great deal in common beyond that: both support Medicare for all, reforming ICE, and a $15.00-an-hour minimum wage. They also make personal calls to their donors, something which Myers did from her home down the street from Ryan's (and which Bryce did for my mother after she attended one of his fundraisers last fall).

But as the race winds to a close, Myers has launched a series of attacks against Bryce that go straight for the jugular, attacking him over on character issues, such as his failure to fully pay off his child support until after he entered the race last June. Although this charge was old news, having been reported in November, Myers made political hay of it, talking about the extra jobs she took when her ex-husband fell behind on child support:

“I took a second job literally shoveling shit at a horse farm so I could make sure I had a little bit of grocery money until things changed, just to tide me over...And I did it for a couple of months and he was able to get caught up. And I think the difference here is he knew he had to get caught up.”

Bryce did not debate Myers until last July, after months of challenges to do so from her and her supporters. Just before he did so, CNN reported that he'd been arrested for marijuana possession in 1991, and received a DUI in 1998. In addition, he has also faced sentences for missing a court hearing, driving with a suspended license, and attending protests. Overall, Bryce has been arrested nine times. Throughout the debate, Myers put him on the defensive, forcing him to explain his positions on ICE and whether or not he would accept corporate money. Shortly after the debate, she released this ad highlighting all his weaknesses:

Bryce has outnumbered her in terms of fundraising - $6.2 million to $1.2 million - but the race has divided Democrats. Although Bernie Sanders was one of Bryce's earliest supporters, Myers won Our Revolution Wisconsin's endorsement poll with 54%, falling just six points short of a formal endorsement. Internal polls have tightened up, too - according to one the Myers campaign shared with Vice News today, the race is tied 33-33, with 34% of Democrats undecided.

Whether or not Bryce lives up to his previous reputation as the de facto successor to Paul Ryan remains to be seen. If Myers upsets tonight, it will vindicate her decision to hammer his liabilities in the closing weeks of the campaign. Regardless of the outcome, it will be one of the most-watched races in tonight's crop of elections, and Wisconsin Democrats must unite behind whoever wins to take back Congress this November.