A former driver for House Speaker Paul Ryan who has been active in Wisconsin Republican politics for years announced Sunday he is running to succeed Ryan in Congress.
Bryan Steil, an attorney from Ryan’s hometown of Janesville and a member of the UW Board of Regents, becomes the likely Republican front-runner after the field of better-known potential candidates cleared for his entry.
“I want to take my problem-solving skills to Congress. I think they need problem solvers, doers ... not talkers,” Steil said in prepared remarks.
He cited the need for a good education, quality schools and skilled workers for jobs of the future.
Steil, 37, entered the race less than two weeks after Ryan said he would not seek re-election. Ryan said Friday he had no immediate plans to endorse anyone.
Steil has been a regent since 2016 and works as general counsel and secretary at Charter NEX Films Inc., an independent producer of polyethylene film used for food and consumer packaging. Steil, whose name is pronounced “style,” worked as Ryan’s personal driver from 2003 to 2004.
Steil is the first vice chairman on the Rock County Republican board and is well-known to GOP activists in Ryan’s southeastern Wisconsin congressional district, but lacks a high public profile.
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That will change in the coming weeks, with money expected to pour in as Republicans look to keep the seat and to avoid a potentially embarrassing Democratic win.
Among the other Republicans running for the seat are two former Ryan opponents. One of them, Jeremy Ryan, is known for being a prominent liberal protester in Madison. He got 6 percent of the vote against Ryan in 2014.
Another GOP candidate, Paul Nehlen, was banned by Twitter for racist and anti-Semitic posts earlier this year and lost to Ryan in the 2016 primary by 68 percentage points. Ryan’s campaign has said Nehlen is not fit to hold office.
On the Democratic side, union iron worker Randy Bryce faces Janesville teacher Cathy Myers. Bryce, who made a national splash with his launch video and nickname “Iron Stache,” has been leading in fundraising and was put on the national House Democrats’ list of top challengers in Republican-held districts.
Bryce campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt called Steil “part of the institutional Republican swamp that believes we should give tax breaks to the wealthy and pay for it by attacking working people’s retirements and healthcare.”
Myers slammed his regent record, calling him a “rubber stamp.”
The primary is Aug. 14.