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Democrats Unite on Challenger to Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski dropped out of the state’s Democratic US Senate primary Friday and endorsed Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, clearing his path to victory in the Aug. 9 contest that will set Barnes up to challenge GOP Senator Ron Johnson in November.

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Her decision comes the same week that the other two leading candidates -- Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson -- also ended their bids and backed Barnes. Barnes has been leading in recent Democratic primary polls.

Godlewski said in a statement that she ran to fight for policies that include affordable childcare and paid family leave, but that “it’s clear that if we want to finally send Ron Johnson packing, we must all get behind Mandela Barnes and fight together.”

Barnes said the development will help put the party on track to defeat Johnson, the GOP incumbent senator most at risk of losing his seat in the fall midterm elections.

“This week has demonstrated what it looks like when we come together for a goal that is greater than ourselves,” Barnes said in a statement. “We are building a coalition that crosses generations, crosses racial divides and political divides.”

Johnson said that he will be trying to paint Barnes, who has been endorsed by progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as too liberal to appeal to Wisconsinites.

“Showing their lack of respect for voters and the democratic process, the power brokers of the Democrat party have now cleared the field for their most radical left candidate,” Johnson said in a tweet. “Socialist policies have produced this mess & a radical left senator from Wisconsin is not the solution.”

The Wisconsin race could help determine control of the Senate, which is divided 50-50 between the two political parties with Democrats in control because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. Wisconsin is one of five battleground states with hotly contested Senate races, along with Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

The co-founder of MaSa Impact, an investment firm, Godlewski loaned her campaign $3.6 million. Her campaign reserved $4.2 million on advertising in the race, according to AdImpact, well above the $2.6 million reserved so far by Barnes.

Godlewski was endorsed by EMILY’s List, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights, and her campaign ads included one that was shot outside the US Supreme Court in the wake of the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

(Adds comment from Johnson in sixth and seventh paragraphs.)

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