Republican Bryan Steil To Replace Paul Ryan In 1st Congressional District

Steil, Who Was Endorsed By Ryan, Aligned Himself Squarely With Conservatives

Bryan Steil
Bryan Steil speaks at his campaign announcement in Janesville. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Voters in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District have selected Republican Bryan Steil to replace U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan is retiring after representing the southeastern region for nearly two decades.

The Associated Press called the race at 9:00 p.m, with Steil garnering 57.9 percent of the vote with 75 percent precincts reporting.

Steil faced Democratic challenger Randy Bryce and independent Ken Yorgan in the race to represent the southeastern Wisconsin district, which spans from Janesville in the west to Kenosha in the east.

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In his victory speech, Steil characterized his win as “a victory for economic progress.”

“Tonight is a victory for less red tape and smaller government,” he said. “Tonight is a victory for increasing access to affordable health care. Tonight is a victory for keeping more of our hard-earned money in our pocket books, right here in southeast Wisconsin.”

Steil told the crowd of more than 100 people that while the campaign has ended, he’d bring the same enthusiasm to Congress.

“I promise to take my problem-solving skills and my Wisconsin-style work ethic to Congress to tirelessly work on your behalf,” he said.

Steil was joined by supporters at the Veterans Terrace in Burlington, the same place where he won his party’s nomination in August. Supporters at the Tuesday night gathering included Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn Technology Group founder and CEO Terry Gou, and Ryan himself.

Bryan Steil giving his victory speech in Burlinton Tuesday night. Ximena Conde/WPR

Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District typically leans Republican. Ryan’s predecessor, Mark Neumann, was also a Republican. In 2016, the district went for President Donald Trump by 10 percentage points. It went for Mitt Romney in 2012, but former President Barack Obama in 2008.

In some ways, onlookers characterized the race as a referendum on the outgoing House speaker. Steil mirrors Ryan in philosophy and biography — the two share political positions and a hometown, Janesville. The Democratic Congressional Campaign, meanwhile, placed Bryce on its “red to blue” roster of competitive elections.

Throughout the campaign, Steil and Bryce emphasized their clear personal and political differences.

Bryce struck a note of gratitude in his concession speech in Racine, thanking his supporters, whom he called family, with the sparse crowd shouting “Thank you Randy,” back. He pointed to the campaign’s origin, with a viral video featuring his mother, who sat in the front row with tears in her eyes. He said the goal was never to take one seat, but rather to give working people a voice and to help Democrats take back the House.

“We did chase away the Speaker of the House,” said Bryce, to loud cheers.

Bryce signaled several times that this loss does not mark the end of his political engagement. “Something ends, something always begins,” said Bryce. “We don’t need to win an election to do good things for good people. Let’s keep fighting.”

Prior to his win, Steil told WPR he opposes the Affordable Care Act in part because it increased the cost of care. He said one of his priorities is to enact policies that would reduce health care costs, while protecting those with pre-existing conditions.

Steil has also voiced support for the 2017 GOP tax overhaul, which Bryce has criticized and Democrats have argued is adding to the nation’s growing deficit. That’s while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued programs like Medicare and Social Security are to blame for the rise.

But Steil has promised to keep Medicare and Social Security for those in retirement or close to it, while expressing the need to find sustainable ways to fund those programs for future generations.

Another priority for Steil is helping people gain the skills they need to fill Wisconsin’s vacant jobs. He also supports making changes to the country’s legal immigration system to meet that same goal.

Still, Steil supports President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the United States-Mexico border.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:15 p.m., Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 to include statements from Steil and Bryce.