“We Won’t Be Outworked in This Race”: Can Mandela Barnes Overcome Ron Johnson’s War Chest?

Two races in the US Senate this year give the Democrats their best shot at flipping the seat from red to blue. You may have heard of the first in Pennsylvania. The competition attracted a lot of attention, thanks John Fetterman‘s near-death experience and too Mehmed Oz‘s love of raw food.

The second, in Wisconsin, not so much. The matchup is a jump ball pitting an eccentric Trump-allied conservative Republican incumbent against a rising Democratic star left of center. senator RonJohnson has peddled conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines, proposed ending Social Security, said anyone who doesn’t like Wisconsin’s abortion ban “can move,” and has been mired in controversy over his apparent role in the Trump team’s attempt to win the election to overthrow, agitated (his office tried to give Vice President Mike Pence an alternative list of voters before the certification of Joe Biden‘s win.) Lieutenant Governor of the State Mandela Barnes has kept the race close so far despite huge spending and a relatively subdued campaign — something that has some Democratic insiders nervous. “It doesn’t make the typical 8 to 10 stops a day that you do when you’re in a real dogfight. Johnson is very aggressive,” says a veteran agent from the Democratic Republic of Wisconsin. “Mandela is a young, charismatic guy with good stories to tell.”

This assessment of his schedule has the Democratic challenger laughing. “Every day is non-stop campaigning. Today was mostly back-to-back zooms,” Barnes tells me. “Last weekend we had a really big rally with Senator [Amy] klobuchar, about 25 miles from the Minnesota border. Even that day we had a full day of meet and greet. And public events are sure to increase in the coming days.” In September, Barnes mixed time in the state’s population centers, Madison and Milwaukee, with travel to far more rural locations, including an Oneida Nation agricultural event outside of Green Bay and a Stop in Black River Falls with population 3,523.

Johnson’s campaign has surpassed Barnes’s about $17 million to $7 million, and outside groups have spent about $26 million on Johnson, compared to Barnes’ $16 million. Tenure is, of course, a powerful financial benefit. The gap also appears to be a result of the fact that small donations to Barnes have lagged behind those for other Democratic candidates across the country — which is surprising considering this is a high-odds, high-stakes race.

Barnes, 35, is also lesser known in Wisconsin and nationally. The son of a public school teacher and a union auto worker, he was a community organizer in Milwaukee before deposing a sitting Democratic state representative at age 25. He quickly rose through the state party, combining his middle-class upbringing with a progressive agenda. In 2019, a ticket runs with it Tony Evers, Barnes was elected the state’s first black lieutenant governor and during donald trump‘s years as President, a frequent MSNBC guest. His Senate campaign team expected – rightly – that Johnson and outside groups would still try to portray Barnes as a stereotypical criminal, radical left, black Democrat. Barnes has provided Republicans with helpful material on this front — a few years ago he posed for a photo wearing an “Abolish ICE” T-shirt and said in an interview that more funding for neighborhood services should come from “inflated budgets in police departments.” Wisconsin television viewers were also bombarded with ads blaming Barnes and bail reform for the state’s increase in crime. Barnes, who once sponsored an (unsuccessful) bill to end bail payments in the state, has stood by his position on the issue; He has made sure that both police and social programs should be well funded. Barnes has also countered Republican fear-mongering by playing nice. “He introduced himself as a middle-class Democrat, a likeable young man who helps you shovel your way when it snows,” he says joe zepecki, a Democratic strategist from Wisconsin. “I’ve known Mandela for a long time. He’s a fun guy and he’s a serious guy. But how often he smiles in those 30-second ads, that’s a choice. They put him in a very good light because they know that’s the threshold they have to cross.”

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/09/can-mandela-barnes-overcome-ron-johnsons-war-chest “We Won’t Be Outworked in This Race”: Can Mandela Barnes Overcome Ron Johnson’s War Chest?


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