GOP Senator Ron Johnson won a re-election bid to a third term in Wisconsin. He narrowly defeated Democrat Mandela Barnes.
Johnson stated that the votes were in an email statement, which was published before other news outlets had made the call. “There is no mathematical path for Lt. Governor. Barnes will overcome his deficit of 27,374 votes. The race is over.
Although Democrats initially hoped to oust Johnson from office, Johnson was becoming increasingly controversial due to his statements on abortion and Covid treatments. He also had connections to the Jan. 6 Riot and fake elector plot to throw the 2020 election to Donald Trump.
Johnson’s popularity among voters was helped by a successful rebrand and unrelenting attacks on Barnes on crime and justice issues.
Barnes was a pioneer in progressive politics and made an early wager to be a candidate. However, he did not go to the center. His campaign was heavily focused on his promises to preserve abortion rights and Social Security benefits.
Johnson emphasized crime, launching a series of negative ads that focused on rising crime rates and highlighting things Barnes had said regarding criminal justice reform. Some ads highlighted Barnes’ positions or statements, such as his support of ending cash bail and declaring that “reducing prison population is now sexy”. Others made misleading claims about Barnes’ tenure as lieutenant governor of the state. For example, they accused “his administration” of having paroled hundreds more violent offenders.
After he started focusing on the crime and building a slight lead in most polls, Johnson’s victory indicates that the strategy worked.
Barnes spent much of his closing message attacking Johnson over Johnson’s opposition to abortion rights. This issue was one that Democrats across the country hoped would help them in the midterm elections after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. Wisconsin’s 1849 near-total abortion ban went into effect this summer.
Johnson stated that he supports an exception for rape, incest, and the life of a mother’s abortion ban, but he has not asked the Legislature to amend the state’s 1849 statute. Johnson was a senator and co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which enshrines a “right of life or the right of every born and preborn person” in the Constitution. He also allowed equal protection at the “moment of fertilization”. However, Johnson said that he supports a newly proposed proposal to create a single-issue referendum that would allow Wisconsin voters to decide the future of abortion rights. (Last month, the Republican-controlled state Legislature blocked initial efforts to get that question on the ballot.)
Barnes also tried to undermine Johnson’s claim that he supports law enforcement, repeatedly pointing out how he downplayed Jan. 6 riot in which police were run over and sometimes brutally beaten in some cases by a pro-trump mob.