5 takeaways from debate between candidates in 1st Congressional District race

1st Congressional Debate at Carthage College

KENOSHA — Did you miss the first debate between the men hoping to win outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan’s congressional seat?  You’re not alone.  Competing for attention against a Brewers playoff game, a governor’s debate, and the Bucks home opener, even the candidates’ staffers in the 1st Congressional District conceded it was a tough night to gain traction.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, the candidates met again for debate number two.  FOX6’s Ben Handelman broke down his five takeaways.

Bryan Steil and Randy Bryce agree on something — climate change.

In a race defined by their differences if you’re looking for something Republican Bryan Steil and Democrat Randy Bryce agree on—look no further than climate change.

“I believe climate change is real.  And I believe humans are a key component of that,” said Steil.

“Climate change is real,” added Bryce.

Well that sure sounds like we’ve found some common ground.  And then it ends.

“I think what it comes down to is how do we actually go about protecting out climate without dramatically increasing our energy costs.  So if you look at the policies of Randy Bryce would dramatically increase the cost of energy.  He would pull away from our ability to heat our homes with natural gas which would dramatically increase the cost of how we go about heating our homes,” said Steil. “We need to bring India and China to the table for what they’re doing of the environment degradation on a global scale.”

Bryce says it’s possible to ween off of fossil fuels and it will create jobs.

“I’m an advocate of dependent on non-fossil fuels.  We need to use renewable energy and we can do it by the year 2035.  It’s something I propose we do, and we get the building trades involved which I’m a member of for the last 20 years to start putting these things (in place),” stated Bryce.

There was little debating during the second debate

After a fiery first show down (that few were tuned in for), the candidates second debate was met with a fire extinguisher.  The candidates were given just one minute to respond to questions and agreed there would be no rebuttals.  The result—while billed as a “debate” the stage felt much more like a candidate forum.  The candidates did an incredible job staying within their allotted time allowing the moderators to whip through an array of topics that included tax reform, education, climate change, criminal justice reform, immigration and even medical marijuana.

“I look in particular at the experiment with medical marijuana and it has drifted into effectively recreational marijuana and I think there is a real risk that will travel into our high schools and be dangerous for our high schools,” said Steil.

“I am absolutely 100 percent in favor of medical marijuana. Recreational as well,” said Bryce who added, “If you look at Colorado and the amount of jobs it is bringing, we’re looking at Wisconsin if we brought it here the possibility of 300,000 jobs in addition to taxable revenue.”

During the hour-long debate there were few moments were tensions raised on stage.  Only once were the rules tested when Steil challenged Bryce on an old tweet. “Randy Bryce has compared law enforcement officers to terrorists.  Your words, not mine.  I’ve challenged you before and I’ll ask you tonight, I think you should apologize to the men and women in law enforcement community for comparing them to terrorists,” said Steil.

Bryce was not allowed to respond on stage.  After the debate he told me he believed Steil was simply trying to “throw him off his game” saying “I was a military police officer when I was in the army.  So for him to take a tweet out of context was laughable.”

Most interesting quotes on stage did not come from Steil or Bryce

While millions of dollars has been spent pitting the Republican Steil versus Bryce the Democrat a third man joined the two on stage Tuesday—independent candidate Ken Yorgan.  Yorgan provided some of the most memorable quotes of the night .

“One thing I intend to do as a chiropractor is have all my fellow congressman come in and have their back bone evaluated,” said Yorgan.  In his opening remarks, Yorgan referenced his uphill battle stating “No matter who loses this election I’m sure I’ll probably be blamed.  And I hope that both of you have the opportunity to blame me.”

Candidates believe many voters are just tuning in

The candidates believe not only do undecided voters still exist, but believe many voters are just starting to tune in.  Campaigns once competing for attention during a Brewers playoff run will have a much easier time getting eyes to look their way ahead of election day.

“I haven’t— even during the recall seen this kind of excitement,” said Bryce.

“The choice couldn’t be more clear and it’s critical people get to the polls here in 2 weeks,” said Steil.

Tuesday delivered simplified campaigns

Tuesday night did not deliver the fireworks many have come accustomed to in 2018 political campaigns.  What it did deliver was a stark contrast between the two front-runners.  There is little Randy Bryce and Bryan Steil agree on.  With one minute limits on responses the candidates were forced to simplify their messages during the debate.  Steil tried to paint a picture Tuesday that a vote for him will mean more money in your pocket.

“I think there is a clear contrast.  Randy Bryce will raise your taxes. He’s open about that.  He would raise your taxes,” said Steil.

“I don’t  want to raise hard-working people in the middle classes’ taxes. I want to raise millionaires taxes, corporate lawyers who get paid to outsource jobs,” stated Bryce during the debate.

Looking for fireworks?  The two men will meet for a third debate on Monday at UW-Rock County.  We’re told rebuttals will be back.