Wisconsin Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes cruised to his state’s Democratic nomination for Senate on Tuesday night, setting up a general election race against incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Barnes was long the Democratic primary’s frontrunner, though his lead was made shaky at times by Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who pumped millions of his own money into the race. In the final weeks leading up to the primary election, however, Lasry and two other contenders dropped out of the competition in an apparent effort to consolidate support behind Barnes.
Running on a progressive platform, Barnes has already won endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren, and so-called Democratic kingmaker House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D), among many others.
He’ll now face off with Johnson, who’s considered one of the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents this cycle.
Wisconsin remains a swing state, having gone to former President Donald Trump in 2016 and to President Joe Biden in 2020. But Johnson’s individual approval ratings in Wisconsin, as well as the backlash he’s faced for making outlandish claims about the coronavirus pandemic and the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, make him a top Democratic target.
With control of the Senate on the line, Democrats’ national campaign arms are expected to invest heavily in the race. If elected, Barnes, 35, would be the first Black senator from Wisconsin, and one of the youngest members of the chamber.