Watch the entire debate replay in the media player above. Watch highlights in the story below.
MILWAUKEE — Five of the candidates running for Wisconsin U.S. Senator against incumbent Ron Johnson faced off in a debate hosted by TMJ4 News at Marquette University Sunday evening.
TMJ4's Charles Benson and Shannon Sims moderated the primetime debate on Sunday, July 17th at Marquette’s Varsity Theatre.
The following candidates attended the debate: Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, and Millennial Action Project Founder & Former CEO Steven Olikara.
TMJ4 News hopes the debate, and how the candidates answer tough questions, will help voters decide who they will vote for in the coming elections.
The primary among the Democratic candidates for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat is scheduled for Aug. 9. The winner of that primary will face off against Republican Ron Johnson in the Nov. 8 general election.
MUST WATCH MOMENTS
Lt. Gov. and candidate for U.S. Senate Mandela Barnes says youth need to be protected from adults 'who act like children' in legislative bodies in Wisconsin, in order to safeguard Title IX rights.
Wisconsin State Treasurer and candidate for Senate Sarah Godlewski says "I don’t need to be lectured by any men about how important the 2016 election was" after an exchange on the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry says there "doesn't have to be this false choice" between creating good-paying union jobs and protecting the environment.
Outagamie County Executive and candidate for Senate Tom Nelson says "it is criminal that we have people like Ron Johnson out in Washington that are doing nothing to keep us safe” during an exchange on gun violence in America.
Millennial Action Project founder, former CEO, and candidate for U.S. Senate Steven Olikara talks about the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade and its impact on politics and voters.
We want to acknowledge technical difficulties some viewers experienced during tonight’s debate. Occasional audio issues on the broadcast made portions of the debate difficult to hear. We have identified the problem and remedied it. We apologize. Tonight’s debate will be rebroadcast in its entirety Monday night at six on TMJ4.
RECAP FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Top Democrats running for the chance to take on U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin largely kept their focus on the Republican opponent during the first and only televised debate Sunday, while the only female candidate faulted the men for not doing more to advocate for abortion rights.
The debate bringing together five candidates came just over three weeks before the Aug. 9 primary. The winner will advance to face Johnson, who is seeking a third term, in what is expected to be one of the most costly and hotly contested races in the country with majority control of the Senate at play.
Polls show Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry are leading the crowded field. Both Barnes and Lasry focused on Johnson, and not one another, in the debate as they advocated for getting rid of the Senate filibuster to pass a bill protecting abortion rights, passing gun safety laws, protecting the environment and tax changes to benefit the middle class.
Barnes pointed to his win as Gov. Tony Evers' running mate in 2018 over then-Gov. Scott Walker as evidence that he knows how to beat a Republican statewide. Lasry noted his union support to make the case for him to take on Johnson.
State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the only woman in the race, took aim at her male opponents on abortion, asking why they had not made it more of a priority before the U.S. Supreme Court last month overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which put an 1849 state law banning abortion in Wisconsin back into effect.
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who has trailed in the polls, attacked Godlewski for not voting in the 2016 election won by Donald Trump. He narrowly carried Wisconsin that year before losing the state by nearly an identical margin in 2020.
Godlewski worked for Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign in Wisconsin in 2016 but records show she did not vote.
“As the only woman on this stage, I don’t need to be lectured by any men about how important the 2016 election was," Godlewski said, highlighting her work for Clinton as director of outreached to women voters. “I was the only one talking about reproductive rights because for me, this is not an afterthought.”
Barnes, who last week launched a television ad featuring his mother talking about having to end a pregnancy, said he supported exploring "every option to make sure women get the health care they need and deserve.”
Lasry, who noted that his wife works for Planned Parenthood, said defeating Johnson and doing away with the filibuster is the key to passing a law protecting abortion rights.
“We need to make sure that we’re doing anything we can to make sure women can make their own health care decisions the way men can make their own health care decisions," Lasry said.
A fifth candidate, Steven Olikara, noted his experience leading a group called the Millennial Action Project that worked to empower younger people to bridge the partisan divide. He said he was running to change the system and reduce the influence of big money in politics.
Campaign finance reports filed last week showed that Johnson raised about $7 million over the past three months, more than the top four Democratic candidates combined. Lasry, whose father co-owns the Milwaukee Bucks, loaned his campaign $6.5 million of his own money.
Lasry actually outspent Johnson at $6.7 million thanks to the personal loan although his campaign brought in only $520,000 in outside donations.
Barnes collected $2.1 million in donations, Godlewski raised $900,000 and loaned her campaign $600,000 and Nelson collected $230,000.
TMJ4 NEWS IS HOSTING TWO POLITICAL DEBATES IN 2022
When and where are the debates happening?
The Senate Democratic primary debate will take place Sunday, July 17th, at 6:00 p.m. at Marquette’s Varsity Theatre.
The Governor Republican primary debate will take place Sunday, July 24th, at 6:00 p.m. at Marquette’s Varsity Theatre.
How can I watch the debates?
There are many ways to watch both debates live.
1. Watch live on TMJ4 News
2. Watch at TMJ4.com/live
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.
Which candidates will participate in the debates?
Five candidates have been confirmed for the July 17th Senate debate: Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, and Millennial Action Project Founder & Former CEO Steven Olikara.
Three candidates have been confirmed for the July 24th Governor debate: Former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Michels Corporation co-owner Tim Michels, and State. Rep. Tim Ramthun.
How can I get involved in the debates?
Attendance for both debates is free and open to the public. However, you must register in advance here.
Who is moderating the debates?
Both debates will be co-moderated by TMJ4 anchors Charles Benson and Shannon Sims.
In addition to TMJ4 and Marquette University, Wispolitics.com, 620 WTMJ, and the Milwaukee Business Journal are sponsoring the debates.