The race is on to replace Republican Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District. But what do you know about the two candidates running for that seat?
We asked Randy Bryce and Bryan Steil to take us to three places – a place that influenced them – that they’ve influenced and a place they want to influence if elected.
Benson: So Bryan is there where it all starts for you?
Steil: Yeah, welcome to my hometown of Janesville.
Steil’s hometown has seen its share of setbacks but the Janesville Republican sees this park as symbolic of the place he grew up.
“The economy really hit rock bottom in Janesville but it’s a resilient town,” said Steil, and that is a lot of the story of this area. How do you bounce back?”
Bounce back from the GM plant shutting down a decade ago – thousands lost their jobs. Unemployment shot up to 15 percent – the future was bleak.
“It was a work ethic that you saw of people here on how you get things done,” said Steil, “people were not focused on all the noise you see now in Washington.”
Employment is now down to three percent – and this playground that fell into disrepair overs years was rebuilt. Steil helped to raise money for the community project.
“So I think my background gives me a great advantage when analyzing issues in Washington if given the opportunity,” said Steil.
Opportunities began for Steil after graduating from a Janesville High School. He went to Georgetown University and then Wisconsin for a law degree.
“I come here on a regular basis as the campus liaison for the UW System Board of Regents,” said Steil.
Gov. Scott Walker appointed him to the UW Board of Regents. Steil said during his two and a half years on the board has helped to influence the cost of education.
Benson: What does that mean today in terms of affordable education…a two-year school, four-year school, is that still in range for most people?
Steil: We need to put it in range for people.
He brought us to UW Parkside to talk about the need to connect higher education with higher paying jobs.
“Our educational product is sometimes stagnant from decades ago and needs to be focused in,” said Steil. “What are the skills that workers and individuals need today so that when they leave school they can be as productive as possible and earn the highest wage possible.”
He supports Walker’s tuition freeze but is not a fan of free tuition.
“So what free tuition means is somebody else pays for it,” said Steil. “The alternative to somebody else paying for your education and running cost up is actually going and addresses the cost of education.”
Steil points to a regent vote he made to keep costs down.
“Two years ago I was the lone vote against the UW operating budget because of student fees; ‘I said are these fees necessary or is this core to the education product’ to me it wasn’t.”
These days he’s focused on a competitive congressional race.
“This election is really about the American worker.”
During our tour of Twin Disc in Racine, Steil geeks out about the equipment.
He’s worked in manufacturing management for the past 10 years as a lawyer.
He also knows the stakes are high in the race to replace his friend Paul Ryan. Steil picked manufacturers like this one as a place he hopes to influence if elected.
Steil: What I want to do is put in place policies that drive wages higher – you do that by putting place competitive structures that allow companies to higher – to higher the best people and produce products right here in southeast Wisconsin
Benson: So would you favor another tax cut?
Steil: I think there is going to be continued reforms that we could put in place that will continue to grow the economy.
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for Steil after his primary win in August.
Benson: Do you think President Trump has been good for the American worker?
Steil: The policies that have been put in place economically have really driven the economic growth – so we finally have a president that pushes a pro-growth – pro-economic agenda
Paul Ryan was able to keep the first Congressional District red for 10 straight elections.
Steil says he’s not taking anything for granted.
Benson: What do you think your chances are?
Steil: It’s going to be a tough election.