MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joined the crowded Democrats field on Tuesday for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Senator Ron Johnson, vying to become Wisconsin’s first African-American to sit in the Senate.
Barnes, 34, is the first black lieutenant governor in Wisconsin history. He is abandoning the possibility of running for a second term in 2022 as Gov. Tony Evers’ running mate. Instead, Barnes becomes the seventh Democrat to enter the race, and an eighth is expected to enter soon.
Barnes posted a campaign video Tuesday morning ahead of a planned event in his hometown Milwaukee.
“I’m running for the United States Senate because when the going gets tough, we shouldn’t lower our expectations,” Barnes said in a statement. “Instead of changing our dreams, we need to change the game. Hard-working families in Wisconsin deserve every opportunity, but politicians like Senator Ron Johnson fall short.”
Johnson has yet to say whether he would run for a third term, but until June he had raised more money than any of the Democratic candidates at that time.
Barnes brings some notoriety to the Democratic field which includes other current office holders, political newcomers, a doctor and a Milwaukee Bucks executive.
Barnes has said for years that the Democratic Party needs to connect better with young people and people of color. He highlighted his middle-class education in his ad, saying he had dedicated his career to “leveling the playing field for ordinary Wisconsin people.”
“Growing up my dad worked on an assembly line for 30 years, my mom taught in Milwaukee public schools,” Barnes said. “They were able to provide me with a base for opportunities. I think we have to build a better America where the opportunity that I have found is not that rare.
Barnes won the Lieutenant Governor’s Democratic primary in a blowout in 2018 and was later paired with Evers. They then defeated the government of the day. Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. She is expected to run for governor against Evers next year.
Barnes was outspoken during the 2018 campaign, accusing Walker of ignoring “people who look like me” and saying then-President Donald Trump wanted to create “a superior race.”
Barnes has also been outspoken after the Kenosha police shootout last summer against Jacob Blake, a black man. Barnes criticized Trump for visiting the city amid the protests after the shooting. And Barnes criticized the police response to Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager who shot dead two protesters on a violent night of protests.
During his tenure as lieutenant governor, Barnes led the governor’s task force on climate change, releasing a report in December that included 55 policy recommendations. He also pleaded for tougher gun control laws and redistribution reform, issues Evers has championed as governor.
Barnes quietly graduated from Alabama A&M University in May 2020, 12 years after taking classes there and two years after stating he had a degree even though he hadn’t yet completed all of them. the conditions to obtain one.
Before being elected lieutenant governor, Barnes served four years in the State Assembly from 2013 to 2017. Rather than running for a third term in 2016, he ran for the State Senate against the Democratic outgoing senator Lena Taylor and lost in the primary.
Barnes’ decision to join the Senate race opens the way for the lieutenant governor. Evers does not have the option of choosing a running mate. Instead, whoever wins the August 2022 primary will be his running mate.
Other Democrats in the Senate race are: State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Outagamie County Director Tom Nelson; State Senator Chris Larson, of Milwaukee; Alex Lasry, who is on leave from work as a Milwaukee Bucks executive; Dr Gillian Battino, radiologist in Wausau; lawyer and Democratic Party activist Peter Peckarsky; and Adam Murphy, an information technology business owner from Franklin.
Steven Olikara, founder of the Millennial Action Project, has formed an exploratory committee and is expected to join the race soon.