In Wisconsin, Democrats returned to a familiar debate: elections

MILWAUKEE – When Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) came here Saturday to campaign for Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, she outlined three reasons she supports him for Wisconsin’s Democratic nomination for Senate. There were: his support for abortion rights, his vision to combat climate change and his background as the son of two union members.

But he saved the most important reason for last.

“Mandela can win,” Warren told a crowd of about 100 people gathered on the lakefront bar’s patio. “Mandela is the one who can take it to Ron Johnson.”

The outcome of the Aug. 9 primary could hinge on whether Barnes, a 35-year-old former activist and progressive state lawmaker for Wisconsin Democrats Warren, who is the first black person elected to statewide office here, wins. How many agree about

Barnes is one of three Democrats in the race to challenge Johnson, a businessman and Republican who has increasingly embraced conspiracy theories while running for a third term in the Senate. Barnes has led most public polls in the race against Alex Lasry, a businessman whose father owns the Milwaukee Bucks, and state Treasurer Sarah Godlowski. A fourth candidate, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, dropped out of the race Monday and endorsed Barnes.

Democrats in the state see Barnes as the favorite in the primary, given Lasry’s ability to fund his own campaign — he has already loaned his campaign at least $12.3 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. is – gave it the best shot at being upset.

Throughout the contest, however, some Wisconsin Democrats have quietly expressed doubts about Barnes’ ability to win in November, fearing that he is too liberal on issues like criminal justice and immigration to win against Johnson. . Barnes’ supporters have responded with their own skepticism, arguing that Lasry’s out-of-state roots, and his and Godlowski’s wealth, make him unable to draw sharp contrasts with the incumbent.

“People are tired of sending people to Washington who don’t vote in their interests, who don’t advocate on their behalf,” Barnes told OlxPraca. “The Senate is broken. It’s a millionaires’ club.

The debate is reminiscent of the 2020 presidential primaries, where college-educated white voters in particular worried and speculated about the ability of various candidates to defeat then-President Donald Trump — that Discussing how ideology and demographic background can influence swing or reluctant voters. . These debates hurt women candidates like Warren and minority candidates like Sen. Cory Booker (NJ), who has also endorsed Barnes.

That may not necessarily be the case this time. At a Barnes event with labor supporters at a brewery the night before Warren’s visit, several union leaders said Barnes had working-class roots — his mother was a public school teacher, his father Was a member of the United Auto Workers – will even appeal. Conservative-leaning members of their unions as they battle ultra-rich candidates in both primaries and general elections.

“He’s a working-class candidate, he’s got lived experience. He’s not looking down on us,” said John Drew, vice president of UAW Local 72. “There’s a conservative attitude that you need a boring white guy, that people won’t vote for a black candidate, but I don’t. Don’t buy it.”

The outcome of the race is important: Democrats hold 50-50 control of the Senate only because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break ties, and the most realistic chance for the Wisconsin party to unseat an incumbent. represents the A victory over Johnson, a Trump loyalist known for his brashness, would limit the Republican’s chances of taking control of the Senate, or at least reduce the size of the GOP’s majority.

The importance of the contest, coupled with the narrow and upset nature of Johnson’s wins over former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2010 and 2016, has Democrats in the state worried about making the right choice. In interviews, none of the three leading candidates were willing to say their opponents would be able to defeat Johnson in November.

“All I know is that my campaign is strongest against Ron Johnson,” Barnes said.

“I think we’re primed to be able to win,” Lasry said.

“I think that’s something voters will have to look at when making their decision,” Godlewski said.

There have been only three public polls of the race, all from Marquette University Law School. the latest, Held in June, Barnes with 25% of the vote, Lasry with 21% and Godlewski with 9% – and more than a third of voters were undecided. None of the candidates were well-known, with more than half of the state’s registered voters saying they didn’t know enough about any of the three to form an opinion. And all three ran a tight, error-free race against Johnson.

With the exception of Nelson’s handful of attacks on Lasry’s wealth, the race has been more passive-aggressive than nasty, with contradictions between the candidates remaining implicit rather than vocal.

Lasri, sitting in the city’s fairgrounds during a food truck festival as her 11-month-old daughter ate cheese curds, never mentioned Barnes’ name when speaking to reporters. He studied medicine, Famous traditional Gov. Tony Evers (D).

“Tony embodies the politics that people are looking for,” Lasry said, noting his accomplishments in building a new arena for the Bucks. This is not abrasive, aggressive, polarizing politics. They are looking for people who are actually trying to solve things.

Alex Lasry, a Milwaukee Bucks executive, only moved to the city when his father bought the team. He has put more than $13 million of his own money into the Senate race.

Former GOP Gov. During Scott Walker’s eight-year tenure — who was ousted by Evers in 2018 — Wisconsin became one of the most polarized states in the country, with Walker working tirelessly to weaken the state’s unions. Trump won the state in 2016, before Evers and Sen. Tammy Baldwin had a Democratic sweep in 2018 and was won by President Joe Biden in 2020.

The fear among some Democrats is that Barnes would be a break from the low-key style of Biden and Evers, and even the more progressive but still subdued Baldwin, thereby giving Republicans plenty of culture war targets. Barnes once requested and held up an “Abolish ICE” T-shirt, and Republicans highlighted his support for ending cash bail and his endorsements from groups that support defending the police.

Today, Barnes insists he opposes both ending ICE and defunding the police. He also came out against the Biden administration’s decision to rescind Title 42 immigration authority, which gave them more permission to deport undocumented immigrants during the pandemic.

“This is not about moving to the center,” said Barnes, a longtime supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. “I will always be honest about my positions, and they won’t always come down to party lines.”

Still, the anti-Barnes campaign — as it exists — has been led largely by so-called “never Trump” conservative media figures, including Longtime Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes And Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. Barnes mocked Baldwin, pointing to his wins in 2012 and 2018. (Baldwin, an openly gay progressive who supports Medicare for all, won by 10 percentage points in 2018, compared to Evers’ margin of less than one percentage point.)

“People like that said the same thing about Tammy Baldwin 10 years ago,” he said. “It’s not going to come down to theory.”

National Democrats insist they have no concerns about electing Barnes, or any other candidate, pointing to Johnson’s continued unpopularity in public polling. A June poll by Marquette found that only 37 percent of registered voters approved of his job performance, while 46 percent disapproved.

“This campaign will be a referendum on Ron Johnson — how he’s changed, lost touch with the state, and is too focused on his own self-serving agenda,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Is.” “We have more than one strong candidate in this race and we are confident that our nominee will make a successful case against him.”

And none of the three front-runners appear inclined to radically change the Democratic Party’s position: All three are running as liberals. When asked why the party’s fortunes in rural Wisconsin have fallen so significantly since the Obama era, the candidates either downplayed the problem or said it was because Democrats had no policy position. Failed to “show” rather than attribute.

Godlewski, a native of Eau Claire and the only one of the three candidates from outside of Milwaukee, has stressed the need to run a “72-county campaign.” She notes that when she ran in 2018, she won Johnson’s home county and eight other counties won by Trump.

“I can go to Osseo, Wisconsin, and talk to people about septic tanks. I can go to Fairfield County and talk about the importance of sitting on the Agriculture Committee when it comes to maintaining our dairy industry. struggling for,” she said during a tour of a childcare center in Milwaukee. “And I can come here and talk about affordability and lack of options in child care.”

During the primary, Godlewski focused his campaign on protecting abortion rights, especially since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade is overturned. On Friday, she went ahead with her first major ad buy, highlighting her frustration with Democratic leaders, who she says have treated abortion rights “like an extra credit project.” Is.

“I’m disappointed in my party,” Godlewski says in the ad. “You know, we’ve had 50 years to get Roe into law, but we failed. And you know what? Guys, I’m glad that now that Roe has been overturned, you all have your own. Sharing personal stories. But I was the only one talking about reproductive rights because it’s a no-brainer for me.

However, Godlewski raised just $900,000 in the third quarter, disappointing some supporters who had hoped the rise of abortion rights would supercharge his fundraising as a key issue. Democrats believe she’ll need either a major boost in resources — she’s already loaned her campaign about $3.6 million — or outside support from EMILY’s List, which has endorsed her, a significant boost. To achieve.

So far, Lasry has been able to swamp other candidates with television ads. Barnes aired the ads on his own, and he also had support from a super PAC funded entirely by a $1 million donation from progressive megadonor Carla Jervetson. Both Barnes’ campaign and super PAC have focused on mostly biographical points.

But no one could air more ads than Lasri. Lasry, a former staffer at Goldman Sachs, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Obama White House aide Valerie Jarrett, only moved to Milwaukee after her father — the CEO of Avenue Capital Group, a hedge fund — bought the boxes in 2014. Since then they have been working. As senior vice president for Bucks. But he said voters don’t care about his wealth.

“What voters want is just not right,” he said. “They want someone who is going to deliver.”

Someone who cares is Nelson, the progressive candidate who dropped out on Monday. Nelson had attracted favorable attention for his successful work saving a mill in his hometown of Appleton and for his left-wing proposals such as nationalizing the oil industry. In his statement endorsing Barnes, Nelson was outspoken in his criticism of Godlewski and Lasry’s wealth.

“Unfortunately, money matters a lot in politics, and running against two self-funding billionaires proved too much for this pastor’s kid,” he said.

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