Battleground Wisconsin: One-on-one sit down with Mandela Barnes

MADISON, Wis. — In the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, the field of more than half a dozen candidates was whittled down to just a few in the waning days of the campaign, with current Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes as the clear front runner. Many of the big names in the campaign, including Alex Lasry, Sarah Godlewski and Tom Nelson all threw their support behind Barnes as the left the race.

Though he still faces a handful of challengers still on the ballot, he is the likely favorite to face incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in the fall. News 3 Now sat down with Barnes to talk about his candidacy.

NEWS 3 NOW: So I first wanted to ask, as you introduce yourself as a candidate I’m curious: What was that one moment where the switch flipped for you and said, yes, I want to run for US Senate?

BARNES: Well, honestly, I don’t know if it was a switch. There were a number of things, a lot of frustration, some of the frustration with Ron Johnson, specifically, but most of it being the fact that the Senate is so broken. The Senate has not delivered for working people. Too many folks all across the state of Wisconsin are being left behind because of inaction from the US Senate and the biggest reason why we experienced that because it’s an out of touch place . The American experience is not reflected in that body. The Wisconsin the true Wisconsin experience is not truly reflected that body, you do have some amazing leaders like Senator Tammy Baldwin, but on the whole there are far too many out of touch people who don’t truly understand what life is like for people who’ve had to deal with rising costs. For people who’ve seen middle-class jobs leave the community because of offshoring, because large companies wanting to save a few bucks but in turn, have cost us all.

N3N: So the other thing we hear a lot from Democrats too is, it’s a big push to beat Senator Ron Johnson. Why are you the best choice to beat Ron Johnson?

BARNES: . The Marquette law poll show that I’m the only Democrat that is beating Ron Johnson with independent voters. Also the strongest Democrat to take on Ron Johnson, according to that same poll, and this comes down to my lived experience. People all across the state know that I understand exactly what they’re going through because their fears their struggles are also my fears my struggles but also my hopes and dreams. And on top of that, I’ve had over a decade of service to the state, delivering for working class families and over the course of these last few years dealing with the pandemic. People know that I’ve been there for them.

N3N: I want to ask about your legislative priorities too, for example, when you get into the US Senate, what kind of committee assignments would you want to see?

BARNES: Well, I think two committees that stick out to me would be the Energy Committee, and also the Agriculture Committee. Now the Energy Committee, to continue the work to fight climate change. I’ve been a part of as lieutenant governor, the work that I’ve learned in this state and the Agriculture Committee because we are Wisconsin, and we have a responsibility to protect our family farmers. Because unfortunately, the deck has been stacked against them like so many communities like my own. And when we make sure when we prioritize our family farmers, we have stronger food systems, and that helps to benefit us all. We have so many issues of food insecurity and communities, all across the state and all across the country, but the solutions are right in front of us.

N3N: So we see a 50/50 Senate right now. How would you imagine working across the aisle with your Republican colleagues or do you feel even that you have an obligation to do so?

BARNES: Well, this is a fight to expand the majority in the Senate. We see that 50/50 is too narrow a margin for us to truly see the opportunity that we deserve in this state and across this country. That’s why we’re fighting so hard to get those extra votes in the filibuster. And I’m happy to work with anybody who wants to advance the cause of working people in this state. I don’t care what your party affiliation is. If you want to do the work to improve quality of life for people in this state in this country. Let’s have that conversation. Let’s get to work.

This story is a part of News 3 Now’s Battleground Wisconsin primary election coverage. For an in-depth look at the race and the candidates running, click here.