Wisconsin Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson focused their attacks on him on Sunday, not each other, as the eight candidates made their case to party activists at the state convention that was held six weeks before the primary.
Democratic Senate candidates blasted Johnson for his attempt to deliver fake Republican Electoral College ballots to then-Vice President Mike Pence on January 6, 2021, his skepticism of COVID-19 vaccines , his vote for a tax law that benefited him, and his support for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The race in Wisconsin, which Donald Trump won in 2016 but President Joe Biden won in 2020, could determine which party controls the Senate. Polls show a tight Democratic primary between Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Alex Lasry, who is on leave from his executive job for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Barnes pointed to his upbringing in a “hard-working union home” in Milwaukee and compared him to Johnson, who is a millionaire and former plastics company owner.
“It looks like the game is stacked against us,” Barnes said during the convention at La Crosse. “We don’t want a helping hand, we just want a fair shot. And we know we’ll never get that chance as long as Ron Johnson is in the Senate.
Lasry, a millionaire, has touted his union support, his work to build the Fiserv Forum where the Bucks play, and his role in getting the Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee in 2020. He also opposed Johnson and criticized him so as not to fight to persuade. Oshkosh Defense to locate 1,000 jobs in Wisconsin rather than South Carolina.
“He attacked organized labor,” Lasry said. “Spread lies about COVID. I tried to overthrow the government. And he even advocates shipping jobs from Wisconsin to South Carolina.
Other candidates include state treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson, political organizer Steven Olikara, restaurant owner Kou Lee, state emergency management administrator Darrell Williams and attorney Peter Peckarsky.
Godlewski, the only woman in the race, said she would work to pass a law legalizing abortion now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade.
“If we had more Democratic women at this US Senate table, we would have done this a long time ago,” Godlewski said.
Nelson, who attempted to run a humorous folksy campaign similar to former Senator Russ Feingold’s first candidacy 30 years ago, had some of the strongest words for Johnson, calling him a “liar, loving of betrayal, woman-hating, Putin’s lackey.
He compared his own candidacy to a “strong Wisconsin beer”, holding a bottle of Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing Co. and compared the other Democratic candidates to a bottle of Bud Light.
Olikara, who was campaigning for the first time, highlighted his work leading the Millennial Action Project, which lobbied Congress to enact bipartisan legislation. He said the best ideas in Congress should come from ordinary people, “not from the special interests of the big bucks.”
The candidate was broadly united on the issues, voicing support not for abortion rights but also for gun control, ending Senate filibuster, expanding voter rights and fighting climate change .
The winner of the August 9 primary will advance to face Johnson, who is seeking a third term after promising not to run again. Johnson is also one of Trump’s most vocal supporters and has been endorsed by the former president. He espoused conspiracy theories related to the Jan. 6 uprising and tried to blame what happened on Trump supporters.