Paul Ryan challenger Bryce pays off debt 15 years late

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Democratic challenger paid off a loan 15 years late, but only after his campaign was asked about it by a reporter.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that Randy Bryce paid back $4,425 after his campaign was contacted by the newspaper and questioned about the debt. Bryce’s payment satisfies a 2004 court judgment ordering him to repay the original loan of $1,776 with interest.

Bryce, 52, is an iron worker who is mounting a serious campaign to knock off Ryan in his southeastern Wisconsin congressional district. Bryce is known as “Iron Stache” on Twitter, where he has 169,000 followers.

He received the loan in question from Rhonda Slechta, a woman he was dating about 15 years ago, to buy a used car from a neighbor.

“I sincerely apologize to her for the delay and am happy that I am able to make this right,” Bryce told the Journal Sentinel.

Slechta said she was contacted last week by a Democratic Party attorney who told her she would be receiving the payment, which she got over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I was thrilled,” Slechta said. “I expected nothing.”

Slechta said she and Bryce broke up shortly after she loaned him the money.

“I helped Randy when he was making horrible life choices and, in return, he screwed me over,” Slechta told the newspaper. “I was — and still am — a single working mother who works hard to pay my mortgage, send my son to school and always pay my bills.”

Slechta said she tried for months after the breakup to get Bryce to repay her, so in 2004 she took the case to small claims court, where she was granted a default judgment after Bryce didn’t show up.

This is the second old debt Bryce has paid off since he announced his challenge to Ryan. In August, Bryce cleared a lien on his property by paying $1,257 in back child support.

“I’ve been very open about the fact that like so many others just trying to get by, at times I was downright broke,” Bryce said. “I’m not proud of the fact I’ve had to borrow money from people who were kind enough to help me out when money was tight, like Rhonda.”