Aug 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrat Mandela Barnes to take on Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson in November

Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes who is running to become the Democratic nominee for the U.S. senate greets guests during a campaign event.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes during a campaign event on Aug. 7 in Milwaukee. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Wisconsin's Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is looking ahead to November's Senate election against Sen. Ron Johnson (R) after clinching the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Barnes' victory tees up a battle between a true-blue progressive and a hard-right conservative in one of the most pivotal battleground states, Axios' Josh Kraushaar notes.

Driving the news: Barnes, 35, was all but guaranteed to win the Democratic Party's nomination after his three top competitors dropped out of the race last month.

  • "Mandela won this race," Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry, Barnes' closest competitor, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month.
  • "I think it was clear there was no path forward for us to be able to win."

The big picture: Barnes, who has supported a number of left-wing ideas, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, earned endorsements from major progressive figures, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

  • He's also earned support from some more establishment Democrats, including Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
  • Johnson, 67, one of the most vulnerable senators seeking re-election in 2022, has been a polarizing figure, having pushed former President Trump's false claims about the 2020 election and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Barnes would be the first Black senator and one of the youngest to ever serve from Wisconsin if he wins in November.

What he's saying: In a statement, Johnson called Barnes "the most radical left candidate" and that Wisconsin voters didn't "have much of a choice" in advancing him to the primary.

  • "The Lieutenant Governor will support all the destructive policies of President Biden and his enablers in Congress. This is a contest between radical left socialism versus freedom and prosperity," he added. " It will also pit the lies and distortions of Democrats and the media versus the truth."

What to watch: November's election could help decide control of the Senate as Wisconsin is a key battleground state that helped propel Trump to the presidency in 2016 and where Biden eked out a victory in 2020.

  • Johnson, who is seeking a third term, is the only incumbent Senate Republican seeking re-election in a state that Biden won, AP notes.

Go deeper... Democrats consolidate around progressive in Wisconsin Senate race

Go deeper