Wisconsin’s top Democrats focus on Senator Johnson in debate

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Top Democrats running for the chance to face U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin largely focused their attention on the Republican opponent in the first and only televised debate on Sunday, while the lone female candidate blamed men for not doing more to defend abortion rights.

The five-candidate debate comes just over three weeks before the Aug. 9 primary. The winner will advance to face Johnson, who is seeking a third term, in what is expected to be one of the costliest and most contested races in the country with majority control of the Senate on the line.

Polls show Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry leading the crowded pack. Barnes and Lasry focused on Johnson, not each other, in the debate as they argued for the removal of the Senate filibuster to pass a bill protecting the right to abortion, passing gun safety laws, protecting the environment, and tax changes to benefit the middle class. .

Barnes pointed to his victory as Gov. Tony Evers’ running mate in 2018 over the then-governor. Scott Walker as proof that he knows how to beat a Republican statewide. Lasry noted his union support to make the case for him to take on Johnson.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the only woman in the race, took aim at her male opponents on abortion, asking why they didn’t make it a priority before the US Supreme Court overturned the month latest decision Roe v. Wade, who put a Wisconsin abortion ban law of 1849 into effect.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who is trailing in the polls, attacked Godlewski for not voting in the 2016 election won by Donald Trump. He narrowly won Wisconsin that year before losing the state by a nearly identical margin in 2020.

Godlewski worked for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Wisconsin in 2016, but records show she did not vote.

“As the only woman on this stage, I don’t need to be lectured by men about the importance of the 2016 election,” Godlewski said, noting her work for Clinton as director of outreach for voters. “I was the only one talking about reproductive rights because to me it’s not an afterthought.

Barnes, who last week launched a TV ad featuring his mother talking about having to end a pregnancy, said he supported exploring “all options to ensure women get the care of health they need and deserve”.

Lasry, who noted his wife works for Planned Parenthood, said defeating Johnson and removing the filibuster is key to passing a law protecting abortion rights.

“We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure women can make their own health care decisions the same way men can make their own health care decisions,” Lasry said.

A fifth candidate, Steven Olikara, highlighted his experience leading a group called the Millennial Action Project that worked to empower young people to bridge the partisan divide. He said he was running to change the system and reduce the influence of big money in politics.

Campaign finance reports filed last week showed Johnson raised about $7 million in the past three months, more than the top four Democratic candidates combined. Lasry, whose father is a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, loaned his campaign $6.5 million of his own money.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal reports that the latest campaign finance reports showed Johnson had about $2 million on hand after spending about $6.5 million on ads in the second quarter.

Lasry actually topped Johnson at $6.7 million through the personal loan, though his campaign only brought in $520,000 from outside donations.

Barnes raised $2.1 million in donations, Godlewski raised $900,000 and loaned his campaign $600,000, and Nelson raised $230,000.

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