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Democratic candidates have shot to grab voter attention in Senate primary debate

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jul 13, 2022

MILWAUKEE — It's a crowded field to win the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Wisconsin. This weekend's primary debate may offer a make-or-break moment for those competing.

On Sunday, five of the eight candidates will take the stage at Marquette Varsity Theater in an event hosted by TMJ4.

The other three candidates didn't quality based on polling data and the number of individual campaign contributors.

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes leads Marquette Law School's latest poll with 25% support.

"If you're the front-runner, you don't want to make a mistake. You don't want to have an 'oopsy-daisy' moment that goes viral and changes dramatically. The contours of this race in the closing two weeks," said Joe Zepecki, a Democratic strategist in Milwaukee.

But, he said, that's exactly what the other candidates will want to happen.

"They're going to try to get him [Barnes] off balance and hope that he says something they can exploit," said Zepecki.

Bucks executive Alex Lasry isn't far behind in the poll, at 21% support.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Steven Olikara, the founder and former CEO of Millenial Action Project, are polling below 10 percent.

Intellectual property attorney Peter Peckarshky, entrepreneur and restaurant owner Kou Lee, and Darrell Williams, the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management administrator, did not qualify for the debate.

"This is the time for surprises," said State Rep. David Bowen, who's experienced political debate firsthand.

"This is the time to bring something to the debate that people aren't hearing. People are going through a lot of pain right now, with the impact of inflation. The impact of increased costs on families, everyday lives."

Rep. Bowen said for those who are trying to rise, it's about connecting at the right moment.

State Representative David Bowen says for those who are trying to rise, it's about connecting at the right moment.

"In a bigger race like this, you're talking about the effects of those replays, those soundbites, and if it will reach the people you need to be on board," said Bowen.

The Senate Democratic primary debate will take place Sunday, July 17 at 6:00 p.m. at Marquette’s Varsity Theatre.

How can I watch the debate?

1. Watch live on TMJ4 News

2. Watch at

3. Watch on the TMJ4 News mobile app.

4. Watch on your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire stick, or other smart streaming device.

5. Watch on TMJ4’s Facebook page

6. Watch on WGBA-TV in Green Bay, or on participating Gray Television stations throughout Wisconsin.

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