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Democratic Forum

Cathy Myers, left, looks on while Randy Bryce speaks at a Wisconsin Congressional District 1 Democratic forum Wednesday evening in Kenosha. Both candidates are vying to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is not seeking re-election. 

KENOSHA — Democratic congressional candidates Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers attended a forum packed with about 200 local residents Wednesday evening, fielding questions on everything from President Donald Trump’s conduct at the NATO summit to personal controversy.

The forum, held at United Auto Workers Local 72, 3615 Washington Road, Kenosha, took place just over a month before the Aug. 14 primary election. Bryce and Myers are looking to fill Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District seat, currently occupied by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is not seeking re-election. The district includes all of Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.

During the forum, for which a number of questions were submitted by the public, both addressed their own personal controversies that have cropped up during their campaigns. Last week, a report from CNN revealed that Bryce had been convicted of drunken driving in 1998 and had been arrested eight other times. He owned up to the conviction, calling it a mistake and saying he never disputed the charge.

“I admitted my guilt then,” said Byce, an iron worker and union activist from Caledonia. “Even when I went to talk to the magistrate, she asked if I had an attorney and I said, ‘No, I’ll let you decide what the punishment is going to be.’”

Myers, a teacher and School Board member in Janesville, has received scrutiny for claiming a $6,000-per-year “homestead” tax credit for her home in Illinois for several years after she moved to Janesville. The credit is meant to apply to an individual’s primary residence. She had two tax professionals look into the matter who determined “it was an appropriate use of the tax credit,” she said.

“I moved to Wisconsin and tried to sell my house during a recession, and it didn’t go so well,” Myers explained. “I never owned two homes. There’s been some speculation on that. … I owned one house in Illinois and took the credit.”

The issues

As far as major political issues went, both candidates largely held similar opinions.

On Trump’s recent verbal attacks on NATO allies, Myers said: “When we start attacking our allies like Germany and France and Canada, all these countries that are part of our coalition, and we do that in order to advance some sort of relationship that seems to be developing with countries like Russia, it is appalling to me.”

Bryce said that while he served in the military, he got to know soldiers from other NATO countries, so he was disappointed in Trump’s conduct. “These are people that we can count on, in bad times and good times. They’ve always been there,” Bryce said.

On Trump’s controversial tariffs on a bevy of products from various countries, Bryce and Myers both argued that the issue is not that Trump has imposed tariffs, but that he has gone about it in a reckless way.

“(The tariffs are) pretty much including everybody,” Bryce said, “to the point where you’re going after a company like Harley Davidson, which is a cornerstone of the Wisconsin economy. It’s an American icon sending jobs across the world.”

Myers raised concerns that the tariffs were unfairly impacting Wisconsin family farms, 500 of which reportedly closed in 2017. “The problem here is Donald Trump and a lack of real strategy,” she said.

Calls for unity

Earlier this month, Bryce reported that he has raised $1.2 million over the past three months. Myers said at the forum that she has raised $1.1 million to date. She has consistently lagged Bryce, who began his campaign earlier and received national attention with his slick launch video.

During the forum, both said they expect the winner of the primary to go on to face Bryan Steil, a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, who Ryan has endorsed in the race. Myers painted Steil as “Paul Ryan 2.0,” and Bryce dismissed him as a “Paul Ryan clone.”

Bryce and Myers both stressed the importance of taking back Congress and getting a Democrat in the seat.  

“The 2018 midterm election is too important not to be able to work together,” Bryce said. “It’s about taking back Congress. I’m in it not just to win this seat. … We’re going to need all hands on deck.”

“This is our best chance in 20 years (to elect a Democrat to the seat),” Myers said. “So, we have to make sure that we put things aside and get to work and make it happen.”

Clarification: The Journal Times updated this story. 

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Jonathon Sadowski covers the villages of Union Grove and Yorkville, the Town of Dover, arts, entertainment and odds and ends for The Journal Times.

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