Eight candidates are running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin on August 9, 2022. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, and former State Rep. Tom Nelson lead in fundraising and media attention. Kou Lee, Steven Olikara, Peter Peckarsky, and Darrell Williams are also running.
The incumbent is Sen. Ron Johnson (R), who was first elected to the Senate in 2010 when he defeated incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold (D).
Wisconsin is one of two states holding a U.S. Senate election in 2022 with a Republican incumbent that President Joe Biden carried in the 2020 presidential election. Wisconsin is also one of six states with one Democratic and one Republican U.S. Senator.
Simone Pathe of CNN wrote in July 2022 that this “primary is the last truly unsettled Democratic contest in a competitive general election state.”
Barnes was elected lieutenant governor in 2018 and served in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 2013 to 2017. According to Isaac Yu of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Barnes entered the Senate race as the most well-known candidate” and “is running on issues that range from rebuilding the middle class to bringing manufacturing back to Wisconsin to supporting family farms.” Barnes received endorsements from the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
Godlewski was elected Wisconsin state treasurer in 2018, defeating Travis Hartwig (R) 51% to 47%. Godlewski’s website said that as treasurer, “she ensured the state invested in renewable energy projects, broadband expansion, and supported Wisconsin small businesses — leading to record funding for technology and books in public schools…Sarah worked with Governor Tony Evers to secure $92.7 million for struggling Wisconsinites at risk of losing their homes [during the Covid-19 pandemic].” EMILY’s List, the National Organization for Women PAC, former U.S. Rep Steve Kagen (D-Wisc.), and five state legislators endorsed Godlewski.
Lasry is a vice president of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Lasry previously worked in President Barack Obama’s (D) administration and chaired Milwaukee’s bid committee to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Lasry described his reasons for running on his campaign website, saying, “I want to give Tammy Baldwin a true partner in DC to put money back in the pockets of hard working Wisconsinites and bring some real change and real results for the people of Wisconsin. I am going to the Senate to get real results for Wisconsin. I will fight every day to bring back resources to our state and deliver legislation that will help Wisconsinites in their everyday lives.” Lasry received endorsements from seven Wisconsin labor union chapters, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, Wisconsin Court of Appeals justice Joe Donald, and two state legislators.
Nelson is the Outagamie County Executive, having been elected in 2011. Nelson served in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 2005 to 2011 and was the chamber’s majority leader from 2008 to 2011. Nelson listed his top priorities on his campaign website, saying, “As your U.S. Senator, I’ll relentlessly fight a corrupt system to promote Main Street solutions for workers, farmers, small businesses and confront the existential threat of climate change.” His website also said, “As executive of one of the state’s most-populous counties since 2011, he’s made it one of the nation’s best-managed. His county has an Aaa bond rating, a declining tax rate and fully funded public services.” Six Wisconsin labor union chapters, Our Wisconsin Revolution, New Deal America, and two incumbent state legislators endorsed Nelson.
United States Senate election in Wisconsin, 2016