Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will win the Democratic nomination in Wisconsin’s Senate primary, CNN projects, officially becoming the party’s nominee in a race that was largely decided two weeks ago when three candidates dropped out and endorsed Barnes.
While Barnes faced nominal opposition on Tuesday from a few other Democrats, none were as well funded or widely supported as Barnes or the three Democrats who ended their campaigns in late July: Alex Lasry, the Milwaukee Bucks executive who spent more than $11 million of his own money on his campaign; Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who also poured millions of her own money into the race; and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, a liberal leader with a loyal following in the state.
Barnes will now face Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, who CNN projected won his party’s nomination on Tuesday.
Barnes and Johnson have been focused on each other for weeks now, with each campaign and a slew of outside groups beginning the general election early with ad campaigns in what will likely be one of the most closely watched races of 2022.
Both Barnes and Johnson are looking to define each other as “out of touch” and too extreme for Wisconsin voters.
"The problem is Ron Johnson has turned his back on working people and I've fought for working people my entire career, even before I was an office," Barnes told CNN before the primary when asked for the single biggest difference between himself and Johnson, who made millions running a plastics manufacturer before he entered public office. "His wealth isn't the problem — it's the fact that he is ultra-wealthy and out of touch."
Johnson has already described Barnes as Democrats' "most radical left candidate," adding that "a radical left Senator from Wisconsin is not the solution." Johnson recently called him "a progressive puppet out to fundamentally change America."
Johnson first won the Senate seat in 2010 and was reelected in 2016. While he pledged it would be his last term, he opted to run again in 2022 to stop Democratic control of Washington. Former President Donald Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016, but the state swung back to Democrats and President Joe Biden in 2020.