MADISON — Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is joining the crowded Democratic field of candidates running for the U.S. Senate in 2022. He is the eighth Democrat to add his name to the list and the first African American in Wisconsin to jump into the race.
During an interview with TMJ4's Charles Benson during Black History Month, Barnes talked about his experience growing up in Milwaukee, including the 53206 ZIP Code, with its high rate of Black men incarcerated, vacant lots, and children in poverty -- to now being Lieutenant Governor.
I’m Mandela Barnes and I’m running to be Wisconsin’s next Senator.— Mandela Barnes (@TheOtherMandela) July 20, 2021
Hard-working families deserve every opportunity, but politicians like Senator Ron Johnson aren’t delivering. Instead of changing our dreams, we need to change the game. Join us. pic.twitter.com/XzVS3WHqQf
Benson: You are the mentors now; people look to you. Do you feel that responsibility?
Barnes: Oh absolutely - absolutely feel a sense of responsibility. Because there are so many kids that grew up in neighborhoods like ours - who have never seen a person who looked like them or shared their experiences having a chance of being in the highest positions.
Barnes was first elected in 2012 to the state Assembly. He challenged State Senator Lena Taylor in 2016 and lost.
In 2018, Barnes ran two statewide campaigns as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. The John Marshall High School graduate won the Democratic primary with 68% of the vote and went on to win as Governor Tony Evers running mate by 1.1% of the vote.
Evers is running for reelection in 2022. In June, TMJ4 asked Governor Evers if Barnes would be joining him on the ticket. "I'll support him in any decision he makes. He's done a good job for us," Evers said at the time.
He released a statement on Barnes' announcement Tuesday that reads in full:
"Mandela Barnes is a good friend and has been a great partner working to address challenges facing our state, and I’ve always said I would support any decision Mandela made about how best to serve the people of Wisconsin.
“At the end of the day, Wisconsin deserves better than someone like Ron Johnson, who’s chosen to embrace reckless conspiracies that have risked public health and jeopardized our state’s economic recovery. We’re lucky to have strong Democratic candidates who are running to send him packing, and I look forward to supporting Wisconsin Democrats’ choice to take on Ron Johnson in 2022.”
Only 11 African Americans have served in the U.S Senate, none from Wisconsin. Most notable on the list are Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama.
The Senate seat is currently held by Republican Ron Johnson who has not said yet if he will seek a third term. Former President Donald Trump has encouraged Johnson to, "Run, Ron, Run!"
The other announced candidates are state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson; state Sen. Chris Larson, of Milwaukee; Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry; Dr. Gillian Battino, a Wausau radiologist; Milwaukee attorney Peter Peckarsky, and Adam Murphy, an information technology business owner from Franklin.