Record spending expected during Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race

Congress Senate
Posted at 5:19 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 12:44:29-05

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin is once again in the political crosshairs as a battleground state with control of the U.S. Senate at stake. It has political experts expecting campaign spending to be at historic levels.

It has been 48 hours since incumbent Senator Ron Johnson announced he would seek a third term and the political ads are already ramping up.

Sen. Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks during a confirmation hearing for United States Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)

Democrats challenging Johnson include Lt. Gov. Madela Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson. Some of the challengers have already been campaigning for the last year. Along with the ads, the national media has turned its attention to Wisconsin. TMJ4 News anchor Charles Benson appeared Monday afternoon on MSNBC to answer questions about the race.

Congress Senate
FILE - The Senate side of the Capitol is seen in Washington, early Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“I do expect this race to be very close,” said Benson.

Matt Rothschild from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-profit that looks at political spending in the state, expects this campaign to be record shattering.

“I wouldn't be surprised one bit if this race cost, when all is tallied up, more than $100 million and how shocking would that be for a U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin to cost more than $100 million,” said Rothschild.

That would outspend all past Wisconsin campaigns. The most expensive campaign was the Gubernatorial race in 2018 where $93 million was spent. Second to that was the Governor Scott Walker recall vote, when $81 million was spent. Finally, the election between Senators Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold election in 2016.

However, this massive amount of spending does not break any national records. That’s now held by Georgia, where $470 million was spent, according to, during its Senate runoff race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

“We’re not going to reach those obscene heights, but it's going to shatter the records here in Wisconsin,” said Rothschild.

That spending has been going strong in the primary. So far, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates $6 million has been spent just to pick the candidate that will likely take on Senator Johnson. With this record level of spending, it leaves the average citizen sitting on the political sidelines according to Rothschild.

“We should all have an equal say. It shouldn't be a tug of war between a handful of billionaires on the left and a handful of billionaires on the right. In a real democracy we all should have an equal tug on the rope,” said Rothschild.

The Senate primary will be on Aug. 9. The general election is Nov. 8.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip