Meet Cathy Myers: Union Leader and Teacher Challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan

She’s won not one, but two, elections in Paul Ryan’s district and is betting on herself to unseat Wisconsin’s 1st district incumbent, Paul Ryan.

Cathy Myers, who may not have the best twitter handle in the race, will rely on her history of electoral success, community involvement, and focus on the issues as she navigates her campaign. Her debut campaign ad, published 6/21, is a riveting personal introduction, drawing a stark contrast between her, a member/contributor/activist of Wisconsin’s 1st district, and her opponent, Paul Ryan, an out of touch millionaire more worried about his wealthy donors.

She explains her personal background in the launch video:

My story starts at a truck stop in Iowa, I’m the daughter of an Army veteran and an Army reserve nurse.  My parents owned the truck stop and later added a diner.  They worked tirelessly to give our family of 6 a middle class life…Each of us started at the truck stop, picking up trash, waiting tables, washing dishes, painting, you name it. Mom and Dad always insisted that we start from the ground floor and work our way up.

Myers with her family. She is the one with the glasses.

Background in Politics

Describing her political background, Myers tells the Progressive Army, “I grew up in [a] political family, and we talked about politics at the dinner table every night. My father made his way from local city council to mayor to state house to house minority leader in Iowa.” Myers explains that she embodies her father’s “principled progressive values” in her own political approach.  

Myers on her Harley.

Given Myers’s upbringing, it seems being politically active and involved in her community is just who she is.  Beyond being a teacher of 23 years, Myers has also been elected union officer, President, and Vice President for the Hononegah Education Association.  Thus, not only is Myers a union member/worker, she is a labor leader, having been elected into multiple positions.

Within her multiple roles in the school district, Myers told us many examples of her leadership. For example, Myers described when “an LGBT student came to me saying that students were being bullied and wanted to start a Gay/Straight Alliance student group, I fought tooth and nail to get the group approved and improve the climate for LGBT students at my school.” Furthermore, Myers told us about “leading the strike center during a successful three-week strike” that taught her the power of collective action and the power people have when they work together. She describes the strike as one of the defining moments that helped shape her outlook:

I frankly got rather emotional when I realized the power of people to stand up for their beliefs. We were on strike for three weeks. It was a whirlwind of activity, lots of emotional ups and downs, and my teaching family was struggling without a paycheck for that period. We stuck together through the many ups and downs, but we prevailed because we understood who we were and what we were fighting for, which was for the resource of time to do our jobs well and serve our children.

Outside of the school, Myers has also played an active role in the community. She was part of the protests in Madison against Scott Walker’s union-busting bill, Act 10. Myers recalls the tumultuous time:

Being there when hundreds of farmers paraded into the Capitol having ridden in on their tractors, joining thousands of teachers, police, firefighters, and people from all walks of life who may not have been in a union, proved to me that we can win real victories if we are united.

A Winning Electoral Resume

Building on her family’s history in politics, Myers explains her electoral success:

I am the right person to beat Paul Ryan because I know how to win elections. I am a two-term Janesville School Board member, and was the top vote-getter both times in Paul Ryan’s school district. I was first elected in 2013 with 4,018 votes.

On the other hand, Randy Bryce, one of Myers’s primary opponents in the race against Ryan, finished 7th out of 10 (according to Myers) in Racine School Board’s 2013 election, not advancing beyond the primary. Bryce also couldn’t advance past the primary in a 2012 state senate run where he lost by nearly 40 percentage points. In 2014, Bryce lost a WI state assemblyman election to Republican Van Wanggaard by 23 percentage points.

Meanwhile, remaining top vote getter and garnering 6,000 more votes in her 2016 reelection campaign, Myers is now Vice President of the Board. She concludes:

As voters have gotten to know me in Janesville, my support has grown, but voters are starting to find out who Paul Ryan really is, and the more they get to know him, the more they realize he actually represents his billionaire funders and not his constituent.

Political Theatre

Myers with State Senator Janis Ringhand, her first endorsement.

Make no mistake, this will be no ordinary congressional race. Given the symbolic opportunity of taking down the GOP’s top politician, the national spotlight will shine brightly. That being said, the light has yet to shine on Myers’s campaign as she has so far been overlooked. In describing the harsh reality, Myers admits, “I am never surprised when a credible female political candidate is ignored by the media.”  Her prominent Democratic opposition has coasted to national prominence riding a catchy Twitter handle and widely shared political ad.  Myers insists that even though she has so far been ignored by the national media, she hopes “they will not continue to ignore a credible female candidate that has a history of electoral success in favor of a man that made a great campaign video, but has been rejected by voters in this district three times over the last five years.”  

When asked how she started her current campaign against Ryan, Myers explains:

One of the ways I have supported progressive campaigns is by providing supporter housing for organizers. In all, I’ve hosted thirteen organizers, and they have provided incredible support for my campaign by offering advice and access to their networks. One of those organizers is my campaign manager.

We were able to launch our campaign by utilizing local businesses instead of high-paid political consultants. My announcement video was made by a marketing firm that had never made a political video before. This is truly a grassroots effort, but our roots are deep in this district.

On the Issues

Health Care

Myers says that her “top three priorities are health care, climate change, and immigration reform. I would be a leading advocate for a single-payer health care system in Congress. I have two pre-existing conditions under Ryancare, so this one is personal for me.” With Paul Ryan being the face of the GOP health care bill in the House, it is no surprise that health care is a big focus of his challengers.

The Myers campaign is currently making a major push for petition signatures to demand that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson voted against the secret Senate health care bill. In conjunction with this petition drive, Myers did a live video of her meeting with a boy named Jack, who “has a rare genetic condition that could have been discovered with a $2 prenatal test.” His care is costly and his story is one of many reasons why Myers believes that health care is a right, not a privilege. For Myers, the best path forward is Medicare-for-all.

Myers sitting down with Jack.

Environment and Climate Change

Myers told the Progressive Army that she “recently lobbied Congress to take action on climate change with a local environmental group. This is a major issue in our district because Enbridge, the company responsible for the largest oil spill on American soil, is attempting to build a new pipeline that would be 2x times the size of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

Prior to chatting with Jack about health care, Myers stopped by the Enbridge pumping station near Lima Center to talk about her concerns for the pipeline she mentions above. Myers says, “we need to take action for our kids.” She also thinks that the U.S. needs to lessen its dependence on oil and make existing pipelines safer all the while investing in and transitioning to sustainable energy instead of building new pipelines.

Drawing a contrast with her primary opponent Randy Bryce, Myers states:

This is a major contrast in my race. Unfortunately, it is my understanding that Randy Bryce supports constructing the Enbridge tar sands pipeline and has hired a consulting firm that has also represented companies that construct pipelines throughout the country. That is unacceptable to me. We cannot compromise on environmental issues.

Voters in Wisconsin’s 1st District can count on me to be their voice when they are met with injustice.  When organized landowners affected by the existing Enbridge pipelines came to me with their concerns, I had no choice but to take action.

They informed me that Randy has refused to reject the pipeline expansion and that he has hired a consulting firm with ties to pipeline interests.  We cannot play politics with our environment.

Myers at a protest against the expansion of the Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin.

Immigration

On immigration, one of Myers’s top three policy concerns, she explains:

We are all immigrants and the way Donald Trump has talked about Latino people has been appalling to me. We need comprehensive immigration reform. We also cannot continue to allow state and local law enforcement officials like Sheriff David Clarke in Milwaukee to harass and discriminate against minority groups.

LGBTQ Rights

Myers has been active when it comes to LGBTQ rights as well. As mentioned above, she helped students organize a Gay/Straight Alliance club as a teacher.

The fight wasn’t easy and there was much debate from the start about the club being formed. After the initial debate, the Hononegah School Board’s co-curricular committee decided not to let the club be formed. A few months later, the School Board finally allowed the club to be formed, with Myers (then Aubrecht) overseeing the club. Just months after its formation, the club had already seen results, with “more teachers [cracking] down on students using gay slurs.

Foreign Policy

On foreign policy, I want to follow the wisdom of someone like Senator Russ Feingold, who stood up against the Patriot Act when it was unpopular. I am extremely concerned about the abuse of the Authorization for Use of Military Force and would seek to reinstate the role of Congress in our military decisions.

Getting into specifics, Myers didn’t shy away from the tough questions. On Syria, she says, “Our policy in Syria has been flawed from the start, and we need to seek a diplomatic solution that will end the human suffering there.” While on the Israel/Palestine conflict, she believes that “a two-state solution is the best option on the table for neutralizing the Palestine/Israel conflict by providing self-governance for the Palestinian people and security for Isreal.”

Myers also made a point of saying that “Jared Kushner is completely unqualified to tackle the problems in the Middle East.”

Russia

On the Russia interference topic, Myers states, “The Russian interference in our elections is a threat to our democracy, and I am confident the Mueller investigation will uncover the truth. Until that investigation concludes, I would focus more on the fact that President Putin is reportedly one of the richest men in the world.” She continues, “I believe that 99.99% of people in this world are being controlled by 0.01% of millionaires and billionaires, and the Russian interference in our election is just another example of how the deck is stacked against the vast majority of people. The average American will not be motivated to get to the polls or participate in powerful collective actions, like the Women’s March, if Democratic leaders continue to ignore our real opposition and continue to refuse to stand up to those powerful corporate interests.”

The Election

The primary for the 1st District of Wisconsin is August 14, 2018. The primary is an “open” primary meaning you only need to be registered to vote. But, it being Wisconsin, don’t forget your ID.

Myers explains that, even though the district suffers from Republican gerrymandering, she believes she has a good chance of pulling out a victory:

The district was gerrymandered by Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, which swapped the Democratic-stronghold of Beloit for deep-red areas of Waukesha and Milwaukee County. The district includes six counties, all of Rock, Walworth, Kenosha, Racine, and parts of Waukesha and Milwaukee. Wisconsin’s 1st District is more winnable than the recent special elections where Democrats have fallen just short of winning. WI-01 is a Republican +5 District according to the 2017 Cook PVI ratings. By the same measure, GA-06 was a Republican +8 District, Montana was +11, and SC-05 was a Republican +9. Given that Paul Ryan is one of the most despised Republicans in Washington, I really believe that we can win this thing.

You can follow the Cathy Myers campaign on their website, Facebook, or Twitter.


The authors have reached out to the Bryce campaign for comment regarding his position on the Enbridge tar sands pipeline but have not yet received a response. Should a response be received, this article will be updated accordingly.

All images in this article were provided by the Myers campaign.

Read on The Progressive Army.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *