When all of the Democratic contenders for governor addressed the state party convention in June, there was a clear standout. One candidate really did make a bigger impression than the others.
His name was Mandela Barnes.
Hold it, savvy observers of the 2018 competition will note, Barnes is not running for governor.
True enough. The 31-year-old former state legislator from Milwaukee is campaigning for lieutenant governor.
But that does not change the fact that Barnes delivered an address that was more stirring, more sharply focused on the issues, and more conscious of the messages that are most likely to win in November than the gubernatorial candidates.
While many of the Democrats who are contending for governor are prepared to do the job, they have to win it first. We wish that the front-runners in the gubernatorial race were as impressive as Barnes, especially when he outlines a progressive vision for uniting the state across lines of race, class, gender and region.
Luckily, the Wisconsin system allows candidates to run for governor and for lieutenant governor in separate primaries and then to align with one another on a November ticket. So if Barnes wins on Aug. 14, he will be at the side of the gubernatorial contender going into the fall competition.
It is for this reason that we are endorsing Barnes in the primary for lieutenant governor. We do not often endorse in primaries. But we make exceptions for extraordinary candidates, and we believe Mandela Barnes is extraordinary. His bold progressive agenda, his energy and his ability to connect with voters across Wisconsin are needed in the campaign — and, if Democrats prevail, in state government come January.
Barnes is not the only capable Democrat running for lieutenant governor this year. Sheboygan businessman Kurt Kober has brought good ideas to the competition and run a spirited race.
We have been impressed with Kober, and hope that he will remain active in Wisconsin politics. But we see Barnes as an essential contender. To our view, his presence on the November ticket could make the difference between victory and defeat for the Democrats.
For this reason, Mandela Barnes has our enthusiastic endorsement.
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