MADISON — A Democrat running to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan apologized Friday for a 1998 drunken driving arrest, calling it "dumb" and "inexcusable."
Randy Bryce apologized on his website after the arrest was first reported by CNN. Bryce, a Caledonia resident, is a union iron worker who goes by the nickname "Iron Stache" and has built a national following and fundraising base in his quest to replace the retiring Ryan.
"I was immature and made a horrible, thoughtless decision," Bryce said of the arrest in Michigan.
CNN reported that after having his license suspended following the 1998 arrest, Bryce was arrested three more times for driving with a suspended license and registration in Wisconsin. Bryce has been arrested a total of nine times, including in 2011 and earlier this year while protesting policies of Ryan and Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.
Republicans pounced on the news.
"Randy Bryce may have the longest rap sheet of any candidate to ever run for Congress in Wisconsin," said Chris Martin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "Who would've known that when Randy Bryce said he has experience with iron that he was talking about a jail cell?"
News of the drunken driving and related arrests comes after previously reported problems for Bryce that included being 2½ months delinquent on child support to his ex-wife in 2015 and taking nearly two years to pay it off.
Bryce, who had raised about $4.8 million for the 1st Congressional District race through March, faces Janesville teacher and school board member Cathy Myers in the Aug. 14 primary.
CNN reported that Bryce was arrested for marijuana possession, property damage, trespassing and theft in December 1991 on his 27th birthday. The theft and trespassing charges were dropped. Court records dating that far back are unavailable.
Bryce's campaign spokeswoman Julia Savel told CNN that Bryce doesn't remember the court's decision, though he says he didn't pay any fine or serve time and believes the charges were dropped.
He was arrested in April 1998 for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in Schoolcraft County in rural Michigan.
Bryce initially pleaded guilty, but a warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to appear in court. Bryce appeared in court in March 2003, where he was sentenced to 65 days in jail. The judge suspended the sentence with credit for one day served in jail and $850 in fines.
Bryce was also arrested in 1998, 2000 and 2003 for driving with a suspended license, and after failing to appear in the 2000 case, he was again arrested on a warrant. He served a day in jail and paid a fine.
Bryce, in his statement, tried to pivot back to the issues he's running on.
"I know from my own life experiences and mistakes that our criminal justice system needs to be reformed," he said, adding that he was "knee-deep in medical bills" when he was arrested because of cancer treatment.
"I was focused on how to make it through the day and paying back my medical bills outweighed losing a day of work," Bryce said. "No one should ever be put in this situation."
Dennis Hughes, Myers' campaign manager, said that Bryce "needs to take responsibility for his actions and stop "falsely claiming" that Myers has never struggled.
"When her first job didn’t cover the costs of daycare for her two kids, she quit and became a childcare provider herself. When her ex-husband got behind on his child support, she got a second job to make ends meet. When her kids got accepted to college, she took out loans to help them follow their dreams. Single moms know what it’s like to struggle.”