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Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joins crowded Democratic field for US Senate
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ELECTION 2022 | CONGRESS

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joins crowded Democratic field for US Senate

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Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on Tuesday announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson, adding another high-profile name to a packed Democratic field.

Barnes, 34, is Wisconsin’s first Black lieutenant governor and, if elected, he would become the state’s first Black U.S. Senator.

“Hard-working families deserve every opportunity, but politicians like Senator Ron Johnson aren’t delivering,” Barnes said in a tweet announcing his candidacy. “Instead of changing our dreams, we need to change the game. Join us.”

"If you are casting your ballot in the 2020 election, remember that there's so much on the line," Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes tells Jessie in an interview a few days before Election Day. Barnes makes the case for the Biden-Harris ticket and discusses Wisconsin's approaches to COVID-19, racial disparities and climate change.

Barnes joins an already crowded field of Democratic candidates vying for the seat currently held by Johnson, who closed out June with about $1.7 million in campaign funds on hand despite not yet formally announcing whether he’ll seek another term or not.

Barnes said he will not take donations from corporate political action committees to fund his campaign.

Other Democratic candidates running for the seat include Wausau radiologist Dr. Gillian Battino; state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee; Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who is currently on leave to campaign; Franklin business owner Adam Murphy; Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson; and Democratic Party activist Peter Peckarsky.

Lasry, the son of a billionaire, has proved to be the most adept fundraiser among the Democratic primary candidates so far. He raised more than $1 million in the second quarter of the year without using his own funds, amounting to more than $2 million raised so far during the campaign.

While Barnes’ statewide position as lieutenant governor may catapult him to being a frontrunner in the race, he’ll be faced with pressure to outraise his rivals and compete for attention with a crowd of candidates that already includes Godlewski, another candidate whose name has appeared on a statewide ballot.

Still, the role of lieutenant governor is one with few official duties except to be the next in line for governor.

Barnes has highlighted his role as chairperson of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change and also serves on the Governor’s Health Equity Council, Wisconsin Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Wisconsin Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force, Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy and Capability and the statewide 2020 Census Complete Count Committee.

Gov. Tony Evers, who is seeking a second term in 2022, issued a statement Tuesday in support of the Democratic U.S. Senate field.

“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,” Evers said. “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.”

Barnes’ entry into the race will open up the Democratic field for lieutenant governor. In Wisconsin, candidates compete for the position in a primary in August 2022, and the winner goes on to run with Evers as a single ticket.

Some pushback

A spokesperson for Johnson declined comment, but a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee knocked Barnes.

“Whether it’s lying about when he received his college degree or misleading the public on in-person voting, Wisconsinites know Mandela Barnes is just another empty suit who will gladly step on their families as he attempts to climb the political ladder,” said RNC spokesperson Preya Samsundar.

Barnes told the State Journal during his 2018 run that he had a degree, when in fact he had not formally completed a degree until last year.

Barnes has also received criticism from within his own party. Barnes’ former campaign manager from his 2018 campaign for lieutenant governor, Justin Bielinski, now campaign manager for U.S. Senate candidate Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, called Larson “the most progressive” candidate in the race and “someone who recognizes it’s not about him — it’s about what he can do to change lives for the better.”

Middle-class roots

In a campaign video released early Tuesday, Barnes highlighted his middle-class upbringing as the son of a teacher and factory worker, and said he wants to focus on addressing challenges in education, the job market, agriculture, health care, climate change and protections for voting rights and democracy.

“There are no idle hands here, no load we haven’t carried,” Barnes said. “No one waiting for a handout or free pass. But hard work isn’t paying off like it used to. The system isn’t working. We see so many people who are working longer hours and harder, often times for much less.”

Barnes got his start in Wisconsin politics in the state Assembly, serving as a representative from 2013 to 2017. In 2016, he unsuccessfully ran for a state Senate seat against Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee.

He later jumped into the race for lieutenant governor in 2018, succeeding in the primary and going on with Evers to defeat Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is expected to challenge Evers for governor in 2022.

Year in review: The top Madison-area stories of 2020

It started out well enough. The Badgers were making a late-in-coming run at the Final Four. Hometown insurance behemoth American Family announced it was boosting its starting minimum wage to $20 an hour. Madison East Siders welcomed a new Pinney branch library.

The first two and a half months of the year feel like a different era, when news of a strange new virus infecting people in China was safely tucked away in the back pages of the newspaper and the heart-breaking images of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a 46-year-old Black man had yet to go viral.

Then came March and successive waves of closures, cancellations, lockdowns, furloughs, layoffs, infections and deaths. If the subsequent uprisings over the killing of George Floyd weren't enough to remind America that it has plenty of work to do to overcome racism, the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha tragically emphasized the point. And a divisive presidential election carried the tone of the year at the end.

While it may not be a year to look back on with particular fondness, 2020 no doubt is one to remember. Here's a look back at some of the top stories in the Madison area as they occurred.

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It marked the fourth consecutive loss in the Rose Bowl for UW, and the first time since 2013 that the program lost its final two games of the year.

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Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said Sunday the victim who officers found in an apartment at 1905 McKenna Blvd. shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday was a 20-year-old African American male.

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With the Green Bay defense failing to lay a hand on 49ers running back Raheem Mostert for much of the first half and the Aaron Rodgers-led offense committing two turnovers and failing to convert a third down yet again during a scoreless first 30 minutes, the Packers dug themselves a 27-0 halftime deficit on their way to a demoralizing 37-20 loss.

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Gutierrez, superintendent of the school district in Seguin, Texas, was announced Friday as the Madison School Board's pick to lead the district.

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The person returned to Dane County Regional Airport after a trip to Beijing Jan. 30 and went directly to UW Hospital's emergency room, officials said.

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This weekend's performances at the Alliant Energy Center will be the last with elephants in Dane County as a contract between the circus and the venue expires. 

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Tony Evers said he vetoed the legislation, which uses surplus revenue, because it doesn't invest in the state's schools. 

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Despite no Wisconsin cheeses finishing in the final top three, state producers dominated the competition, earning 45 gold medals out of 132 categories.

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This decision is unprecedented for Wisconsin's largest university and taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

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The closure order, to take effect no later than 5 p.m. on March 18, affects nearly 1 million Wisconsin children in grades K-12 in public and private schools.

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One was a man in his 50s from Fond du Lac County; the other was a man in his 90s from Ozaukee County.

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David A. Kahl, 53, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order represents a shift from the governor's position last week, when he said he did not plan on issuing such an order.

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Most voting locations saw few lines and smooth operations. But other places, notably Milwaukee, experienced significant delays, chaos and conditions that made it impossible for some voters to cast a ballot.

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Jill Karofsky's win over Dan Kelly cuts the court's conservative majority to 4-3, giving liberals a chance to take back control in 2023.

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The U.S. Air Force announced the final selection of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing, capping more than three years of study and deep community division over the planes, which come with the promise of jobs and new construction but also noise and pollution.

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While applauded as a good first step, Democratic members, as well as public safety and health officials, have criticized the bill for not allocating more state funding to respond to the pandemic.

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For 30 years, "Ms. Milele" was the publisher of UMOJA magazine and a prominent leader in Madison's black community. She was "short in stature but mighty in force." 

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Free community testing for COVID-19 started at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Monday morning.

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Gov. Tony Evers and legislative Republicans will need to work quickly to come up with a replacement plan.

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The Vilas Zoo, Goodman Pool, beaches and movie theaters are among the places not opening yet.

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There were signs early Sunday that the violence was spreading into other parts of the city.

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"It’s clear they have important process issues to work out," the candidate said.

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School Board President Gloria Reyes said the decision to pull police from Madison's four main high schools is effective immediately. 

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The Madison School Board chose Carlton Jenkins, a superintendent of a suburban Twin Cities school district, over another finalist for the job. He starts Aug. 4.

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As a Dane County public health order requiring face coverings in all indoor spaces outside the home took effect Monday, businesses offered mixed views on mandates, though for many retailers it was business as (the new) usual.

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There was no update on the second victim from the shooting at Schroeder Road and Chapel Hill Road Saturday night. 

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Travis M. Christianson, 44, is tentatively charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

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Republican President Donald Trump also has caused controversy for saying he might deliver acceptance speech at White House.

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The girl was in a car that was struck by gunfire late Tuesday morning on East Washington Avenue.

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The conference decided — after meetings between presidents and athletic directors, and outcry from players, coaches, politicians and fans — to cancel the fall sports season and will attempt to move football to the spring semester.

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"The video that came out of Kenosha is absolutely horrific. I don’t understand how people can watch it and not be here," one Madison protester said. 

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The fifth-seeded Heat finished off an upset of the NBA’s best regular-season team Tuesday, topping the Milwaukee Bucks 103-94 in Game 5 of their East semifinal series — while Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP, couldn’t play because of a sprained right ankle.

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UW-Madison is pausing in-person instruction for at least two weeks and quarantining more than 2,200 students living in two dorms.

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Police are not recommending charges against Althea Bernstein, saying there is a difference between someone trying to deceive law enforcement and not being able to corroborate a report of a crime.

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The alternate care facility at State Fair Park in West Allis may begin taking patients Thursday.

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A small crowd Downtown Saturday morning before the race was called turned into hundreds of people honking horns, cheering and waving signs after Biden was declared the winner, while some Trump supporters turned out in protest.

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"We understand the eyes of the world will be on these Wisconsin counties over the next few weeks,"  Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said.

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St. Mary's and Meriter expect to get vaccine soon.

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The flurry of activity caps off a tumultuous post-election saga in Wisconsin that has now concluded.

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A look back at the year 2020 through the lens of Wisconsin State Journal photographers John Hart, Amber Arnold and Steve Apps

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