Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has made a decision to avoid holding any town hall meetings open to the public, opting instead for closed town hall meetings where most of his constituents are barred from attending and the atmosphere is more controlled. It’s not hard to understand why Ryan has made this decision. Town hall meetings held by Republican lawmakers have been met by heavy protests all year, given the anger many people feel toward the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a plan that most analysts say will result in tens of millions of Americans losing their health insurance coverage.
Paul Ryan is clear that the protests are the reason he is reluctant to meet with his constituents face to face. According to CBS News, Ryan believes that holding open town hall meetings will result in chaos.
“Aside from the obvious security concerns, what we find is that there are people who are trying to come in from out of the district to disrupt town hall meetings,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to have a situation where we have a screaming fest, a shouting fest where people are being bused in from out of the district to get on TV.”
While rowdy town halls featuring the angry voices of Americans, be they from his district or not, are certainly an understandable source of concern for Paul Ryan, a far more troubling apparition looms on the horizon for the embattled House speaker in the form of a man named Randy Bryce, Ryan’s challenger in the 2018 congressional election.
While Randy Bryce may not be a household name just yet, in the next year it’s a safe bet that Americans will be seeing a lot of the mustached ironworker and union organizer. According to Vox, Bryce raised an impressive $100,000 for his campaign in just one day after releasing an ad that explains precisely why Bryce feels he’s better suited for the seat in Washington, D.C., currently occupied by Paul Ryan.
Randy Bryce is perhaps unique among the current list of potential challengers for Republican-held congressional seats in 2018 in that he seems to have the backing of the party faithful while advocating positions that strongly resonate with the progressive wing of the party. Bryce firmly supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, but foreseeing the potential for disaster that a Trump presidency could bring, he campaigned eagerly for Hillary Clinton in the general election. The fact that he’s the best shot at unseating one of the most loathed Republican politicians among Democrats and left-leaning independents of all stripes probably doesn’t hurt either.
During an interview with Vox, Randy Bryce made it clear that he’s not one to put the interests of corporations over the needs of working people, hinting that perhaps this is not the view of his 2018 opponent.
“I’m not taking money from Wall Street or the big banks or the corporations — that’s out,” Bryce said. “The person I’m running against, Paul Ryan, though he claims not to have time for public town halls in the district, he’s had over 50 town halls where people give him $10,000 to have a picture taken with him. I’m not going to chop off my arm and get into a boxing ring with somebody. What I’m going to do is accept help from causes I already support. I’m not taking money from anyone who is hurting working people. The only time I left this district was when I was in the Army.”
Randy Bryce has a big challenge ahead of him. According to the New York Times, Paul Ryan retained his seat in 2016 by more than doubling the number of votes received by his Democrat challenger. Whether Bryce will be able to overcome that obstacle and stage a spectacular political upset will be one of the most closely watched political stories of the next year and a half.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images, Randy Bryce/Twitter]