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Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin announces Senate candidacy for Ron Johnson seat


Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes has officially announced his candidacy for the US Senate, in the race for the seat of Republican Ron Johnson.

Barnes confirmed his candidacy after months of speculation that he would be vying for the seat. He plans to make an official announcement Tuesday outside Sherman Phoenix, an entrepreneurial hub for black-owned businesses in his hometown of Milwaukee.

“Let us absolutely not be afraid to work together to change the situation” Barnes said in his announcement video, focusing on job creation, health care costs, public education and family farms. “Hard work doesn’t pay off like it once did. “

He joins an already busy Democratic primary. Democratic candidates include state treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Alex Lasry, a Milwaukee Bucks executive and son of the team owner; Tom Nelson, a county executive and former state lawmaker from Appleton; and State Senator Chris Larson.

Barnes, 34, has a reputation in the state as an ambitious and enthusiastic youngster. He was first elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly at the age of 25. After just two terms, he relinquished his seat in an attempt to oust one of the state Senate’s most prominent Democrats, Lena Taylor, and lost severely. Two years later, he returned with a successful bid for lieutenant governor, becoming the first black lawmaker to hold the post and the second black politician to ever serve in the entire state of Wisconsin.

His success has earned him high-ranking connections. He was considered for a White House position in the Biden administration, has close ties to those in the orbit of former President Barack Obama, and has developed a buddy routine with Gov. Tony Evers, as a younger, more outgoing sidekick.

And although he is one of the latest entrants in the Senate race, being lieutenant governor – a public role without much real executive authority – has had its perks.

For months, as Evers No.2, he travels the state on a listening tour on the impacts of COVID-19, selling the benefits of the US bailout and the governor’s agenda. His Senate campaign begins with much of the same message: a message about increasing opportunity for Wisconsinians.

Yet his record in public service, like that of many state Democrats, has been in the minority or overshadowed by a Republican-controlled state legislature.


Darren Hauck via Getty Images

Sen, Tammy Baldwin speaks with Barnes at a campaign event in 2018 in Milwaukee, while he was running for lieutenant governor.

And the race is packed. Godlewski, who served as the director of women’s outreach for Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin and has campaigned statewide since mid-April, has garnered major support from the EMILY List, which backs pro-Democratic female candidates. choice.

Both Godlewski and Lasry have a lot of personal wealth to tap into for what will no doubt be a hard-fought primary. Godlewski loaned herself $ 290,000 in her race for treasurer in 2018.

Lasry, in addition to being the son of billionaire hedge fund manager and Bucks owner Marc Lasry, has raised $ 1 million in the past three months, double what Godlewski has raised since he s ‘is launched in the race in mid-April. The Lasry family were major fundraisers for Obama and Biden.

Johnson raised $ 1.2 million in the second quarter of 2021. Johnson was first elected to the US Senate in 2010 and has not said if he would run for a third term.

In the past few months alone, Johnson has explicitly rejected the scientific consensus on COVID-19, disseminated misinformation about the vaccine, and shown sympathy to the rioters on Capitol Hill on January 6. He said he would not get the vaccine because he had already recovered from the disease in October, warned of mass vaccinations and hinted without merit that the vaccine is not safe to receive.

In May, Johnson told Fox News that “on the whole” the attack on the U.S. Capitol was a “peaceful protest” after previously saying he never felt threatened by violent rioters.

The Senate race in Wisconsin will be one of the most watched in the country next year and arguably one of the most expensive. This is one of the few real opportunities Democrats have to expand their slim majority in the Senate.

Voters elected Democrats statewide in 2018; the state turned around for Joe Biden in 2020 after helping Donald Trump take the presidency in 2016. But Biden’s victory was so narrow that Barnes is not convinced it will easily translate into a Democratic victory this time. this time.

After the November 2020 election, Barnes told HuffPost he wanted Democrats to fight for even bolder ideas like ‘Medicare for All’, show up more in rural areas, and build trust between communities of color. .

That said, Johnson, who has only come close to Trump since the election, has become an easy target for Democratic groups. This week, Action Democracy For All 2021, a coalition of more than 20 leading progressive groups and unions, ran an ad targeting Johnson for his comments on the January 6 riots.

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