In a super-tight race, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was defeated by GOP incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson Tuesday night in Wisconsin sending Johnson back to the Senate for his third term. Johnson received 50.5% percent of the vote while Barnes tallied 49.5%, which was close to a 30,000 vote difference.
“The votes are in,” Johnson said in an email statement. “There is no path mathematically for Lt. Gov. Barnes to overcome his 27,374 vote deficit. This race is over.” Barnes has yet to concede but has planned a press conference for this afternoon in his hometown of Milwaukee.
Barnes came into Election Day trailing Johnson by a single percentage point in a tight race that was anybody’s guess for who would win. Independent voters were expected to make a difference.
The fact that youth voting turnout during the early voting period was exponentially higher than four years earlier was seemingly a good sign for Barnes, who recently got an added boost from former President Barack Obama during a campaign trip to Wisconsin to help make a case for the 35-year-old lieutenant governor’s U.S. Senate candidacy.
That came weeks after a debate between Barnes and Johnson during which the latter’s fearmongering on crime was expertly exposed by his Democratic counterpart. Johnson, known in part for racist comments that show contempt for Black people, has notably tried to justify the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that left at least five people dead.
Barnes has referred to Johnson as “one of the worst parts of a broken system.”
Barnes announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate last year and invited voters to help him “change the game.”
Hailing from Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code — often referenced as the most incarcerated and impoverished zip code in the country — Barnes has highlighted his blue-collar roots as fueling his candidacy as a champion of the people of Wisconsin.
The second Black person to ever be elected to statewide office, Barnes served as a member of the Wisconsin legislature from 2013 to 2017. He later ran for lieutenant governor, helping Evers to defeat former Gov. Scott Walker in 2018.