Candidates like Randy Bryce, whose brother appeared in an Republican ad, have family members opposing them in the midterm elections.
Scott Olson—Getty Images
By Glenn Fleishman
October 31, 2018

Politics often tear families apart. In this midterm election season, it’s become even more personal. The sisters, brothers, children, and parents of some candidates for office have posted messages on Facebook and Twitter, spoken to media, and even appeared in slick campaign ads urging voters to reject their relative.

In an unusual campaign year, these fights within families stand out in greater contrast than in previous elections, partly due to the nature of them—many family members say they’re denouncing white supremacy or fascism—and the sheer quantity.

Randy Bryce’s Brother (U.S. House, Wisconsin 1st District)

Democratic candidate Randy Bryce is trying to fill outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s seat. He’s used a blue-collar, dirty-fingernails pedigree, and wears his moustache on his Twitter handle: @IronStache.

His clean-shaven brother, James Bryce, appeared Sept. 18 in an ad created by a Republican super PAC aligned with Ryan, and in which James Bryce endorses his brother’s GOP opponent Bryan Steil.

James Bryce, a police officer, said, “I don’t think people want to be represented by someone who shows contempt for those in law enforcement.” The ad shows pictures of police photos and headlines documenting some of Randy Bryce’s arrests in the 1990s for possession of marijuana and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The Bryces’ father was a police officer as well.

Randy Bryce has apologized for the infractions for which he was arrested. A spokesperson for the campaign told Roll Call said that the ad resorts to “divisive, dirty politics that people are fed up with.”

The site FiveThirtyEight gives Steil a 78% chance of winning, although the most recent poll (Change Research, Oct. 19-21) shows Bryce with a 45% to 44% lead over Steil.

Six of Paul Gosar’s Siblings (U.S. House, Arizona 4th District)

On Sept. 22, six of Paul Gosar’s nine siblings appeared in an advertisement for his opponent, Democrat David Brill, in a campaign for the U.S. House for the Arizona’s 4th District. Gosar is the incumbent, in office for four terms so far.

David, Gaston, Grace, Jennifer, Joan, and Tim criticized their brother Paul over his positions on immigration, health care, the environment, and other issues, claiming it has torn the family apart. In another video, his sister Grace said, “It would be difficult to see my brother as anything but a racist.”

In October 2017, Paul Gosar called George Soros a Nazi collaborator, and said the Charlottesville, North Carolina, white supremacist rally that led to a death was the work of “the left.” Gosar spoke in July at a rally in London in support of Tommy Robinson, a British anti-Muslim activist, twice convicted of contempt of court and of other offenses.

Paul Gosar told CNN his siblings were disgruntled supports of Hillary Clinton, “liberal Democrats who hate President Trump,” and “Lenin, Mao and Kim Jung (sic) Un would be proud.”

Gosar is nearly certain to win the seat. He won by 40% in his previous go round.

Steve West’s Adult Children (Missouri General Assembly, House District 15)

Emily West told the Kansas City Star on Oct. 30 of her father, Steve West, who is running as the GOP candidate for a Missouri General Assembly seat, “I can’t imagine him being in any level of government.” She said, “He’s made multiple comments that are racist and homophobic and how he doesn’t like the Jews.” She said his views have been more extreme over the years.

Her brother Andy West told the Star, “My dad’s a fanatic. He must be stopped. His ideology is pure hatred. It’s totally insane.”

The candidate told the Star on Oct. 29 that he denounced the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and that some of his comments had been taken out of context, and that he is “absolutely not anti-Semitic.” West blamed his ex-wife about how his children perceive him.

While there are no polls available for the district, West won the majority of GOP votes, but the sole Democratic, the incumbent Jon Carpenter, received more votes than all GOP candidates combined (3,757 to 3,003).

Kevin Nicholson’s Parents and Brother (U.S. Senate, Wisconsin; lost in primaries)

Kevin Nicholson, the GOP candidate for Senate in Wisconsin in this cycle shifted from strong Democratic support earlier in his life, speaking in 2000 at the Democratic National Convention, to the Republican Party in recent years.

His parents and brother, however, stayed blue. While they didn’t speak out against him, they each donated the maximum amount, $2,700, to the Democratic incumbent, Tammy Baldwin. Nicholson said he and his parents were estranged, and that they had a “different worldview.”

Nicholson lost in the August primary to Leah Vukmir, who is deemed almost certain to lose to incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin by current polling.

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