Shake up in Senate Democratic Primary: Alex Lasry drops out of Senate race, endorses Mandela Barnes

Alex Lasry
Posted at 10:38 AM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 18:52:23-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Bucks Executive Alex Lasry is dropping out of the race for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat and is instead endorsing Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who Lasry says has the best chance to defeat incumbent Republican Ron Johnson.

"It is clear that the best person to be able to defeat Ron Johnson is Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. And I am proud to be able to stand up here and support him. He's been a friend for a really long time and I am excited for in a few months not only just call him a friend, but to be able to call him Senator Barnes," Lasry said during a press conference outside Fiserv Forum on Wednesday.

"I know Alex will continue to show up to work for people across the state. That is what makes me so proud not just to call you a friend but a partner in this work," Barnes said side-by-side.

Lasry, who is on leave from his job as an executive with the Milwaukee Bucks, has put several million dollars of his own money into the race. He was one of several Democratic candidates seeking to unseat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

Others in the race include Barnes and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson suspended his campaign for Senate this week.

Lasry's father is Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry. Alex Lasry made the work he has done helping to get the team’s new stadium built a centerpiece of his campaign. That includes ensuring that workers at Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee are union workers from Wisconsin and are paid a $15 minimum wage.

Lasry called for making union dues tax deductible and expanding labor rights; allowing contract workers to itemize tax deductions on gas mileage, lodging, dining and work clothes; extending a child tax credit; extending paid family and medical leave; and restoring the home office deduction, according to the Associated Press.

Lasry supported the passage of the “Made in America Act,” which was co-sponsored by Wisconsin’s Democratic senator, Tammy Baldwin, and is designed to increase the use of American-made products in government-funded infrastructure projects.

With two Senate candidates dropping out of the race, some early absentee voters, who already sent in their ballots, may wonder if they can change their vote.

Here's what Milwaukee Election Dir. Claire Woodall-Vogg says:

"Yes – voters can spoil and revote up to three times by mail or at early voting. This mirrors election day procedure. However, if they wish to cancel and re-vote, they MUST cancel their ballot by next Thursday if they want us to mail them a new ballot or they plan to go to the polls on Election Day. They have until Saturday, August 6th, to spoil their original ballot and recast a vote at early voting," according to Woodall-Vogg.

The race now narrows to two candidates based on the Marquette Law School Poll.

Back in June, Barnes was at 25%, Lasry at 21% and Godlweski was at 9% with a third of voters still undecided.

Lasry and Barnes are now on the same team, but it didn't start out that way when Lasry jumped into the Senate Democratic primary 17 months ago.

"This campaign wasn't about me," said Lasry at a news conference in the Deer District Plaza. "This campaign was about the people of Wisconsin and it is clear that the best person to be able to defeat Ron Johnson is Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes."

Barnes campaign has now picked up two endorsements from primary foes. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson dropped out Monday and also backed Barnes.

That leaves state Treasurer Godlweski, the only woman in the race - as Barnes biggest challenger.

"I've been running a 72-county campaign, and I'm going to continue to do that. And look, if there's one thing that I always know, it's been I've been underestimated," said Godlewski in a campaign statement.

Senator Johnson's issued a statement after Lasry's announcement.

"It's clear Democrats are uniform in their support for more of the same Biden policies that got us in this mess in the first place," said campaign spokesperson Ben Voelkel, who listed "runaway" spending and the Green New Deal as examples.

Lasry and Barnes say they were friends before the campaign and avoided any major clashes during the campaign.

"Look it was a tough last couple of days, coming to the realization and realizing that this just wasn't meant to be," Lasry said. "I think what made it easier was knowing the type of person that I was going to get behind."

The other four Senate Democrats on the Aug. 9 primary ballot include Kou Lee, Steven Olikara, Peter Pecharsky and Darrell Williams

The Associated Press contributed background for this report.

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