Lt. Gov. Barnes stops at Cadott farm, talks Senate run

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Jul. 23—CADOTT — Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes toured a farm north of Cadott on Thursday, learning more about agriculture issues facing farmers.

Barnes, 34, launched a tour of the state after announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat. Barnes is among nine Democratic candidates who have announced plans to run in the 2022 election for the seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson.

"I want to feel I can adequately represent all parts of the state," Barnes said as he walked around the barn, stopping to look inside grain bins and a milking barn.

Farmer Les Danielson invited Barnes to his property to talk about issues that farmers are facing.

"We reached out to candidates who don't have a lot of ag background, and teach them what is important," Danielson said at the end of the tour. "We're happy to have someone come. When trade problems arise, what do you do?"

Johnson, who is finishing his second term as senator, hasn't announced if he will seek a third term. Barnes said that whoever is the Republican candidate was not a factor in his decision to run.

"This race is about our values, our vision, so little of this campaign is based on who the opponent is," Barnes said.

Barnes said he has been considering running for Senate for about a year.

"It was not an easy decision at all," he said. "I've enjoyed my time as lieutenant governor, but that informed my decision to run. The last year really challenged us, and really pushed us to our limits. This is a moment where real leadership is needed."

Prior to his visit in Cadott, Barnes made stops Thursday in La Crosse and at Farm Technology Days in Eau Claire.

"It's been an incredible response," Barnes said. "I'm honored with how many people have said they are with us."

If elected, Barnes said he would want to focus on economic issues.

"These are all issues of opportunity, and leveling the playing field," he said. "We have to talk about income inequality, jobs and the economy. It's all tied together."

Barnes announced his candidacy on Tuesday. The Republican Party of Wisconsin sent out a press release that day, contending that Barnes had lied about earning a college degree that Barnes has now completed, that Barnes was fined for unpaid parking tickets, and that he abruptly left a TV interview when a reporter asked him about delinquent taxes.

Other Democratic candidates running for the seat include Wausau radiologist Dr. Gillian Battino; Milwaukee City Councilwoman Chantia Lewis; state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee; Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who is currently on leave to campaign; Franklin business owner Adam Murphy; Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson; and Democratic Party activist Peter Peckarsky.

Lasry, the son of a billionaire, has proved to be the most adept fundraiser among the Democratic primary candidates so far. He raised more than $1 million in the second quarter of the year without using his own funds, amounting to more than $2 million raised so far during the campaign.

Barnes got his start in Wisconsin politics in the state Assembly, serving as a representative from 2013 to 2017.

He later jumped into the race for lieutenant governor in 2018, succeeding in the primary and going on with Evers to defeat Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is expected to challenge Evers for governor in 2022.

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