Ryan challenger to attend State of the Union as Dem lawmaker’s guest

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Randy Bryce, a Democrat challenging Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for his House seat this year, will attend President Trump’s State of the Union next week as the guest of another member of the Wisconsin congressional delegation.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D) will bring Bryce as his guest to Trump’s address, a spokesman confirmed Thursday.

Ryan will have a prominent role in Trump’s speech on Tuesday, given that it is customary for the Speaker of the House and the vice president to be seated behind the president during joint addresses to Congress.


It’s not unusual for lawmakers to endorse candidates challenging members of their state delegation who are from the opposite party. But it’s a more aggressive move to invite them as guests to a State of the Union address.

A spokesman for Pocan’s office tells The Hill that the lawmaker did not specifically notify Ryan of the invite beforehand, but noted that Bryce’s information was submitted through the Sergeant at Arms’s office as in years past for State of the Union guests. 

Bryce, a union ironworker who sometimes goes by the nickname “Iron Stache,” has drawn attention from the liberal grass roots despite the long odds of his ability to unseat one of the most powerful Republicans in the country in a GOP-leaning district.

His campaign raised an eye-popping $1.2 million by the end of last year, a sign of an energized liberal base ahead of what could shape up to be a Democratic wave in the November midterm elections. 

Bryce acknowledged that many of the donations are coming from people who live outside the district, including New York and California.

“People are seeing this wave. This resistance is very real,” Bryce told MSNBC’s Katy Tur earlier this month. “People have had enough with where the president is taking us, and we’re tired of not having a Congress that’s acting as a check and balance to stand up to him.”

Democrat Cathy Myers, a public school teacher, is also vying for the party’s nomination for the House district in November.

Ryan has not said definitively if he will seek reelection amid speculation that he may retire at the end of this session of Congress. He has won reelection handily since he first began serving in 1999.

Ryan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he will make a final decision with his wife, Janna, this spring on running for reelection.

“That’s a decision my wife and I always make each and every term when we have filing in Wisconsin late in spring,” Ryan said.

“I have no plans of going anywhere any time soon,” he added.

Democrats are planning to bring a variety of guests to the State of the Union. At least five have invited so-called “Dreamers,” or young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, amid debate over whether they should be allowed to stay in the country.

Female lawmakers will wear black to show solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct, following a similar move by Hollywood actresses at the Golden Globes awards ceremony this month. Some Democratic lawmakers have also said they plan to bring guests associated with the “Me Too” movement highlighting sexual harassment in the workplace.

—Updated at 6:31 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Iron Stache Mark Pocan Paul Ryan SOTU State of the Union
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