What You Need To Know:
Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s first Black lieutenant governor, announced on Tuesday he’s throwing his hat into the crowded Senate race to unseat Republican Senator Ron Johnson. A victory for Barnes would make him the first African American from Wisconsin to serve in the Senate.
In his launch video, the 34-year-old speaks about tightening gun control laws, improving health care, addressing climate change and protecting the right to vote for millions of Americans.
Barnes’ run means he will give up a chance to run for a second term as lieutenant governor.
“I’m running for the United States Senate because when things get tough, we shouldn’t lower our expectations,” Barnes said in a statement. “Instead of changing our dreams, we need to change the game. Hard-working Wisconsin families deserve every opportunity, but politicians like Senator Ron Johnson aren’t delivering.”
As the son of a father who worked on an assembly line for 30 years and a mother who was a public school teacher, Barnes talked about his middle-class upbringing. He has dedicated his career to “leveling the playing field for everyday people in Wisconsin,” Barnes said in his announcement.
Barnes received his college degree from Alabama A&M University in May 2020, 12 years after he attended classes there. He drew criticism after claiming he had a college degree although he had not, at the time, fulfilled all the necessary requirements to receive it.
This is not Barnes’ first attempt to secure a Senate seat. After serving four years in the state Assembly, he ran against Democratic incumbent Senator Lena Taylor in 2016, losing in the primary.
Barnes has been an outspoken advocate of racial justice. Following the Kenosha police shooting last summer of African American man Jacob Blake, Barnes criticized Trump for visiting the city in the midst of protests after the shooting. Barnes also criticized the lenient police treatment of Kyle Rittenhouse, a White teenager who shot and killed two protesters during a violent night of protests.
Wisconsin will be one of the closely-watched battlegrounds during next year’s midterm elections, with competitive races for governor and Senate. President Biden won Wisconsin by a razor-thin 20,000 votes last November.