Wisconsin Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce on Friday night justified his multiple arrests by comparing himself to Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), who was arrested dozens of times for peaceful civil rights protests during the 1960s.
Bryce and his Republican opponent, Bryan Steil, participated in their first debate, where they debated several issues, including Bryce's nine arrests.
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"I just find it a bit ironic how much you harp on the word attorney, I can think of at least nine times where a law degree would have come in really handy," Steil said.
"If being an attorney, you would think that one would be able to determine arrests versus convictions," Bryce said. "Those numbers are two completely different and also the fact that my recent arrests have been standing up for people for whether it was Dreamers or having a peaceful sit-in in Ron Johnson's—just outside of his office asking him what he's going to do to provide American jobs after he voted against Obama's jobs act, so yeah I'll continue to stand up."
Bryce then attempted to justify his criminal record by likening himself to Lewis, a civil rights icon who was arrested over 40 times in the 1960s for peaceful protests. He's been arrested at least five more times while in Congress for protesting on issues like apartheid, genocide in Darfur, and immigration.
"John Lewis. I don't hear him getting a lot of grief for standing up for people. If an opportunity comes up, to stand up for a peaceful protest, you bet your backside I'm going to be right there," Bryce said.
Bryce has been arrested nine times since 1991, which includes two arrests in 2011 and 2018 for peaceful protests of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Sen. Ron Johnson's (R., Wis.) policies. His other arrests stem from a DUI, driving on a suspended license multiple times, marijuana possession, property damage, trespassing, and theft. While the theft and trespassing charges were later dropped, the other charges were not.
Bryce and Steil are running to replace Ryan in the 1st Congressional District after he announced in April he wouldn't run for reelection.