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Mandela Barnes


Cook Political Report - Toss Up
Sabato Crystal Ball - Lean R

to the FM Senate Slate
to Mandela's Campaign

“I am proud of the unprecedented support and unity Wisconsin has demonstrated in our fight to defeat Ron Johnson. We are building a grassroots movement of working people from every community who understand that we have much more in common with each other than we ever will with an out-of-touch, self-dealing multimillionaire politician like Ron Johnson. From farmers to small business owners to unions across the state, we are united and ready to fight for a fair shot for every Wisconsinite.”  (Press Release, 8/1/22)



“Make no mistake, our democracy is on the ballot in 2022, and we need a U.S. Senator who has a plan to make elected officials accountable to the voters, to stand up to the corrupting influence of dark money, and to ensure the rights of voters are protected across the country….

I will bring together people from across the partisan divide to:

  • Stop big corporations and special interests from buying political influence

  • End partisan gerrymandering

  • Pass a new voting rights act

  • Enhance election security and crack down on foreign interference

  • End the Senate’s filibuster

  • Protect against election subversion

  • Strengthen ethics rules for elected officials



Barnes was born in Milwaukee, WI in one of the most impoverished Zip codes in the state with the largest population of incarcerated people. His dad worked 3rd shift at the GM factory and his mom was a Milwaukee school teacher for 30 years. Barnes’ parents taught him the values of hard work, perseverance, and the importance of a good education. Their union jobs were his family’s ticket to the middle class. He credits his parents with shaping his world view. 


Barnes earned a degree in communication from Alabama A&M University in 2008. He worked for the City of Milwaukee as a community organizer for the Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope and was deputy director of strategic management with the State Innovation Exchange, a national progressive public policy advocacy group in Madison.


Barnes entered politics inspired by Barack Obama. In 2012, at 25, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly where he served two terms. There he was Chair of the Legislature's Black and Latino Caucus and became recognized as a leader on progressive economic policies and gun violence prevention legislation. In 2018 he was the first African-American elected Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor - and the second African-American to ever hold statewide office.  


In that role, Barnes is Chair of the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change and 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.

Barnes emerged as the Senate Democratic nominee from a group of eight candidates. As a progressive, he believes that Democrats should uphold ideals regarding economic and social justice and that the party needs to focus on bread and butter issues important to workers and families.  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 is facing incumbent Senator Ron Johnson who has served since 2012.  In 2016, he was reelected with 50.17% of the vote against Democrat Russ Feingold. In 2016, Johnson pledged to serve only two terms; but he ultimately decided to run for a third term. Johnson has been an avid Trump loyalist and he has strong ties to both the January 6th insurrection and to efforts to invalidate the results of the 2020 Presidential election in Wisconsin. Johnson has taken extreme and controversial positions discounting the severity of COVID -19 and policies associated with addressing it. Most recently, (8/2/22) he questioned the need for both Social Security and Medicare and is calling for the Senate to vote them out of existence.

A battleground state, Wisconsin has emerged as a hotbed of reactionary anti-democratic efforts to undermine the integrity of free and fair electoral systems to advance deeply partisan, pro-MAGA interests. But Wisconsin has a long history of progressivism and Barnes’ emergence is representative of that tradition.

Johnson is probably one of the most vulnerable Republican Senate incumbents in this election cycle so the race will be one of the most heavily targeted by national Democrats for a potential flip in November. The Democratic Party has achieved considerable success in recent statewide elections, including in 2018 when we won every statewide contest (including the state's other Senate seat), and in the 2020 Presidential, when Biden narrowly carried the state.


Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee

Wisconsin Laborer’s District Council

UAW Wisconsin

AFSCME Council 32

SEIU Wisconsin State Council


Wisconsin AFL-CIO


Nine sitting Wisconsin mayors and over 100 other elected officials in Wisconsin

Dozens of individual union and agricultural leaders from across Wisconsin

Numerous Current and Former Federal Officeholders including:


Sen. Cory Booker

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen Elizabeth Warren

Rep. Jim Clyburn

Rep. Sharice Davids

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Rep. Eric Swalwell

Rep. Jan Schakowsky

Rep. Gwen Moore

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