Capital Sunday: Dems clears the field for Barnes; top GOP names take sides in gubernatorial primary | New

MADISON (WKOW) — If it wasn’t made clear enough earlier in the week, it became almost official Friday: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will be the Democrat to challenge Sen. Ron Johnson in November.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski ended her campaign Friday morning. Making her announcement with Barnes by her side, she became the third Democratic primary candidate to step down this week and then endorse Barnes.

Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson dropped out on Monday before Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry followed suit on Wednesday.

Barnes said he did not expect to see the ground cleared so quickly, so close to the Aug. 9 primary election.

“I was surprised,” Barnes said. “There’s no way you could have predicted last week would have gone the way it did. But again, these are people who fought hard. They took the fight straight to Ron Johnson.”

Republican sources, both on and off camera, said Barnes was the candidate they hoped would pass in the general election. They think they may paint him as too left-wing for most Wisconsin voters.

Paul Farrow, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said Barnes in Washington would be a rubber stamp for President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“When you look at Mandela’s record, as far as I’m concerned, it jumps from one losing leader from Governor Evers to another,” Farrow said. “Joe Biden’s approval rating is currently around 39 percent.”

If Democrats can swim upstream and win Senate seats in a Republican-friendly election cycle, it will allow them to pass parts of Biden’s agenda that are more popular, like higher taxes on the wealthy. to fund more social programs like child care. credits and expanded health care benefits.

To take Johnson’s seat, however, Barnes will face attacks over past remarks he made about the founding of the nation. Last fall, at a candidates’ forum, he said, “The United States is the richest and most powerful nation in the world, and that’s because of forced labor on stolen land.

“The only way to overcome the challenges we face now is to recognize how we overcame the challenges of our past,” Barnes said when asked about the comments.

Republicans, however, have made it clear they will hammer those comments, along with those who criticize Kenosha police after the 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake.

“No amount of gaslighting or flip-flopping will make Mandela Barnes appear as a viable candidate in the eyes of Wisconsin voters this fall,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Rachel Reisner said in a statement Friday. “By making Barnes the face of their race days before the August primary, Wisconsin Democrats ignited the catalyst for Sen. Ron Johnson’s victory.”

Barnes countered that the continued attacks were intended to distract from Johnson’s acknowledged involvement in an effort to pass a fake presidential voter list to former Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6.

Johnson told a conservative radio host last month that he had put a lawyer for former President Donald Trump in touch with his chief of staff. Johnson said the attorney, Jim Troupis, had indicated he wanted to pass along documents related to the bogus voters.

“[The attacks are] a sad attempt to try to distract from the fact that Ron Johnson literally tried to overthrow our democracy,” Barnes said. “This point cannot be lost on people.

The Senate general election numbers are expected to draw tens of millions of dollars from across the country. The Cook Political Report classifies the contest as a “draw”, one of five Senate races currently classified in this category. 35 Senate seats are up for election this year.

Taking on the economy

Republicans also seized on GDP after declining for two straight quarters. While this has long been a gauge of when the economy is in a recession, economists have also noted that there are a lot of unusual circumstances right now: unemployment rates are down and Americans are spending a lot of money , but that only puts more strain on the supply chain because demand can’t keep up.

“I’ll tell you, we’ve had unprecedented growth for a long time right now,” Barnes said.

When asked to clarify what exactly he meant by growth, Barnes said he was referring to jobs and energy costs.

“Growth is what leads to inflation,” Barnes said. “The fact that we’ve had more job growth, the fact that our unemployment rate is so low. The fact that – the sad reality that oil and gas companies are having years of record profits while oil prices gasoline continues to rise across the country. It’s a real problem for Americans.”

GOP heavyweights weigh in on governor’s race

The gubernatorial race is expected to capture national attention this fall, but it’s already happening as the Republican primary enters its final week.

Former President Donald Trump announced plans to hold a rally in Waukesha on Friday for Tim Michels, whose family owns the state’s largest construction company. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who defeated Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, have since backed former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

Brian Schimming, a longtime Republican strategist who has worked to recruit GOP candidates, said he projects the race is still close. He said that means Trump’s endorsements and rally could have a significant impact on remaining undecided voters.

“Sometimes, [a big national proxy appearance] just sort of confirms what everyone else is already thinking,” Schimming said. Other times it’s good to bring that last one, two or three percent more. And if it’s a race between two, three, four, five points, it could be critical.”

Michels’ camp previously floated its internal poll numbers showing its lead over Kleefisch at nine percentage points.

Schimming said he believes the advantage has shrunk, as evidenced by the fact that a Florida-based black money group began running negative ads about Kleefisch and the Club for Growth followed suit. .

“When you see late money coming in from groups,” Schimming said. “When you really can’t trace the money or it’s coming from out of state, or even in state, but you still can’t trace the money, that means usually it’s a close race.”

Election security in focus

On Monday, the Dane County Election Security Review released its findings after being tasked with examining the state of the county’s election infrastructure.

The most notable finding was that Dane County and the City of Madison had very outdated physical security systems.

UW-Madison political science professor Kenneth Mayer chaired the committee. He said the changes had become much more essential in light of the threats clerks across the country faced after the 2020 election.

“These are new threats,” Mayer said. “I mean, there have always been allegations, false allegations about problems with electoral structures and false allegations of fraud, but they have really, I think, taken on a sharper dimension in 2020.”

The report suggests the county and its municipalities consider investing in security tools such as additional cameras, physical barriers and panic alarms.

Mayer said the committee hadn’t looked at possible costs, but maintained that much of the county clerks’ office was simply not up to date on how to store voting materials and protect voters. clerks and their staff.

“Administrative structures – offices, buildings, physical infrastructure are simply not adequate to prevent, anticipate and mitigate the effects of these types of potential threats,” Mayer said.

Mayer added that while the Department of Homeland Security called election infrastructure “critical” in 2017, that broadly applied to cybersecurity. He said it illustrated how the physical protection of clerks, their personnel and their equipment was simply not a priority at the federal or local levels.

He acknowledged that there was a balance to be struck: protecting electoral infrastructure without making elections less transparent at a time when there had never been such a widespread, albeit unsubstantiated, belief that electoral fraud widespread occurs.

“Elections take place in a public place. There is a lot of public information,” Mayer said. “The audits that take place after the Dane County election are all done in public.”

“The part that involved counting the ballots, depositing and tabulating the ballots, that’s already publicly observable. And so what we were recommending is that municipalities look at the things that they can do to protect staff.”