Wisconsin Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes wants to be the first African American from Wisconsin to serve in the Senate.
Barnes announced Tuesday (July 20) that he has joined the Democratic field in the race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Barnes, 34, is the first Black lieutenant governor in Wisconsin history. By becoming the eighth Democrat running for the Senate seat, Barnes is forfeiting a chance to run for a second term as Governor Tony Evers’ running mate.
Before becoming Lieutenant Governor, Barnes served in the Wisconsin state Assembly from 2013 to 2017, first elected at age 25. As Lieutenant Governor, Barnes led the governor’s task force on climate change, and advocated for tighter gun control laws and redistricting reform, according to the AP.
In his announcement speech in his hometown of Milwaukee, Barnes called for “leveling the playing field.” His proposals include fighting for family-supporting jobs, improving healthcare, combating gun violence, addressing climate change, creating a more fair immigration system, and protecting the right to vote.
“We can, today, build a movement for justice. I’m running for the Senate to provide opportunity, to fight for hard-working people,” Barnes said.
Barnes has called on the Democratic Party to do a better job connecting with young people and people of color for years. He emphasized his middle-class upbringing in his speech, noting that his father held a union job on an assembly line and his mother taught for more than 30 years in Milwaukee public schools.
Barnes also said that the incumbent Johnson is part of a “broken” Senate that is dividing the country instead of delivering for the people. Johnson has not said yet whether he will run for a third term.
Barnes has spoken out following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha Police last summer, criticizing Trump for visiting the city amid protests after the shooting. Barnes also criticized how police reacted to Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager who killed two protestors. Rittenhouse is currently free with his family, living in an undisclosed location until his November trial.