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Democrats flood primary to face Ron Johnson in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is one of the most divided states in the country and is expected to be one of the main battlegrounds next year. He one of the only ones two 2022 Senate seats held by the GOP where the president Joe Biden narrowly won – and with vulnerable Democratic seats in Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire, that’s key to Democrats’ chances of retaining a majority.

Johnson has not officially said if he is running again and said he doesn’t feel any pressure to make a decision anytime soon. But his fundraising has grown over the past three months, and Democrats are eager to engage him.

“Defeating Ron Johnson is only the first step. We must lead with our values. We must lead with our vision. And we have to change that, ”Barnes said at his campaign launch in Milwaukee.

Barnes served two terms in the State Assembly before being elected lieutenant governor in 2018 alongside Gov. Tony Evers, who is running for a second term. Evers praised Barnes in a statement but did not offer his endorsement in the race – a sign of the Democrats’ broader approach to the crowded primary.

The race marks the first competitive primary for the Democratic Senate in Wisconsin in three decades: Now-Sen. Tammy Baldwin was unopposed in the 2012 primary, and former Sen. Russ Feingold was essentially unopposed in the 2016 primary ahead of his rematch with Johnson.

In an interview, state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler compared efforts to come over the next year to the party’s preparation for the presidential primary before 2020. He said the party would do so. early organizational work and would build a statewide device to ensure the candidate landed at 100 miles per hour to sprint through the strip. “

“The main thing is not to let the end of the primary become a disadvantage. And we can be successful on that front if we do the organizing and investing work early on through the State Party and all the other ways people get into these races ”ahead of the elections. general, Wikler said.

True to Wisconsin’s history of progressivism, most Democratic candidates tout their liberal good faith. But Barnes got the first approvals from the Democracy for America linked to Howard Dean and the PAC Collective, which supports black candidates.

Quentin James, co-founder of the PAC Collective, said Barnes’ previous statewide success demonstrated he deserves an early boost in the Senate primary.

“He is currently Lieutenant Governor of one of the nation’s most electorate states and has an incredible track record of implementing incremental change. Why wouldn’t we approve it on the first day? James said in an interview.

In a campaign launch video, who featured different shots of him jogging and meeting voters during the election campaign, Barnes focused on his working-class roots and issues such as healthcare, climate change and voting rights, which could become at the heart of his candidacy.

“I believe we need to build a better America where the opportunity that I have been able to find is not that rare,” he said during his announcement.

Barnes enters the race months after other top contenders, who have already raised funds and campaigned across the state.

Lasry, who is on leave from his job with the NBA franchise as he runs, led the fundraising field for the past three months, raising over $ 1 million for the second straight quarter without any cash flow (he donated $ 50,000 in the last quarter). Godlewski, who received EMILY’s List approval at the end of June, raised $ 513,000 in his first quarter of the race. She is the only other candidate, along with Barnes, to win a statewide election. Nelson was the only other Democrat to raise six figures, with $ 240,000.

The Democratic Senate campaign committee has yet to approve any primary candidates, a departure from the committee’s approach in 2020, when he made early approvals in several battlefield races.

DSCC spokesperson David Bergstein said the Senate Democrats “Carefully assess the nominations, hold Republicans like Senator Johnson accountable, and build the campaign infrastructure our candidate will need to win the general election.”

Johnson outperformed all Democratic candidates in the last quarter, raising $ 1.2million to give his campaign $ 1.7million in cash. He has said on several occasions that he is not set on running for a third term, despite pledging to retire when seeking his second term in 2016.

He said in a June appearance at the Milwaukee Press Club that his past promise was a factor in his decision-making, but that Democrats’ complete control over Washington and his opposition to Biden’s agenda changed the circumstances of his decision.

Johnson also said he believed the campaigns were too long and that he was doing “nothing to impede our ability as the Republican Party” to take the Senate seat next fall by delaying his decision. Republicans have competitive primaries in five other states where GOP senators have retired, and they would likely face an equally tough nomination contest in Wisconsin if Johnson didn’t show up.

“As Wisconsin Democrats scramble to prove who is more liberal, Senator Ron Johnson continues to work hard to bring common sense to Washington and fight for the people of Wisconsin,” said Lizzie Litzow, spokesperson of the Senate Republicans’ campaign.

Johnson has become a controversial figure in Washington, drawing the wrath of Democrats for his strong defense of former President Donald Trump and his comments downplaying the Covid-19 pandemic and questioning the safety of coronavirus vaccines. Some Democrats want to face the GOP incumbent again.

“In this environment, I think it’s less about eligibility and more about who the Democratic primary voters love the most,” said Joe Zepecki, a veteran Democratic state strategist.

It remains to be seen how far the crowded field will go to the primary ballot in August. But given the 50-50 Senate, the importance of Wisconsin, and the party’s success with small dollar fundraising, Democrats aren’t worried that the main winner doesn’t have enough money to go. compete with Johnson.

“Whoever it is, an online donation cheddar bomb will be waiting for them the next day,” Zepecki said.

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