When Bryan Steil announced he would be running as a Republican candidate to replace Rep. Paul Ryan, who will retire this year, his potential Democratic challengers said a vote for Steil would be a vote for more of the same.
Janesville School Board member and high school teacher Cathy Myers called him “another rubber stamp in Washington.” On WKOW-TV’s political talk show “Capital City Sunday,” ironworker Randy Bryce called Steil “part of this institutionalized Republican swamp.”
On the Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” host Mike Gousha asked Steil if there was “any significant difference” between himself and Ryan on the issues.
Steil said he admired Ryan’s “bold conservative reforms,” but he resisted a one-to-one comparison. Ryan’s not his only model, Steil said, pointing to Sen. Ron Johnson’s manufacturing background and Rep. Mike Gallagher’s foreign policy experience.
“I’m my own man, but I think there’s aspects of all the Republican delegation in Wisconsin that is really kind of a role model of how you can be effective in Washington,” he said.
Steil lives in Janesville, where he was born and raised. He’s works as an attorney for Rock County manufacturers and serves on the UW Board of Regents. He previously worked as an economic and policy adviser for Ryan, and he's been declared the Republican frontrunner in the race.
Bryce’s campaign looked at those credentials and said in a statement that “it’s hard to think of anyone less in touch with the struggles facing working families than a third-generation corporate attorney from a politically-connected family.”
Asked to respond to that comment, Steil pointed to his manufacturing experience. Gousha pointed out that he’s a corporate attorney, and not a “manufacturer per se.”
“But my employer is a manufacturing company,” Steil said. “So every day I come into the office and it’s focused on how do you bring in raw material, manufacture it and get it out of the door.”
His focus is on business development, he said, where he asks the questions, “How do you grow the company and how do you grow jobs for those companies?”
Steil said “pocketbook issues” like rising health care costs and federal spending are the most important issues of the campaign. The Board of Regents has kept UW tuition flat for several years, which gave Steil a “true fiscal discipline approach on spending,” he said.
“If you took that type of spending approach to Washington, can you imagine where we would be?” he said.
The Board of Regents also taught him how to “prepare individuals for the jobs of the future,” he said, pointing to Foxconn as one example where the UW System, high school and technical colleges will need to work effectively to produce potential employees.
He called the Foxconn project exciting, and said “large companies coming to this area are a really positive statement of the reforms that have been done in Wisconsin and the beginning of reforms that are getting done in Washington, D.C.”
Asked if he is an “enthusiastic supporter” of President Donald Trump, Steil said that although he probably has “a very different communication style” than the president, “I support the president and particularly conservative reforms that we’re starting to get done.”
Steil said he has a “Wisconsin approach” to conversation.
“You address problems directly, head on and you have an open, honest conversation about how you solve them. And that, probably more than anything else, is what Paul Ryan has taught me,” he said.