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Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry announced his candidacy on Wednesday for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat currently held by GOP Senator Ron Johnson.
Thirty-three year-old Lasry is the second Democratic candidate to enter the race, which is expected to be one of the most competitive in 2022. Johnson hasn't announced yet whether he'll seek another term, but Lasry sharply criticized Johnson's time in office.
"For the last 10 years, we've had a senator who hasn't been representing Wisconsin, someone who's been more interested in peddling conspiracy theories and lies, rather than actually getting things done on behalf of his constituents," Lasry told CBS News.
Lasry helped bring the Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee in 2020, though most of the events had to be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. During the Obama administration, he worked with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett's team in a role involving business outreach.
In a video announcing his candidacy, Lasry touted endorsements from top political figures in Milwaukee, including County Executive David Crowley and Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson. The video also highlighted Lasry's work negotiating the labor agreement for the Fiserv Forum, the home of Milwaukee Bucks, and his participation in racial justice protests last summer after Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha.
Lasry says he hopes to bring a "fresh perspective" to Washington and stressed that his work with the Bucks has shown that corporations can have "progressive values." If elected, Lasry said he'd be committed to a $15 federal minimum wage and passing the PRO Act, a labor rights bill.
"We're not just talking about a $15 minimum wage: we're actually paying one," Lasry said, referring to the Bucks organization. "We're not just talking about creating good union jobs — we've created thousands of them. We're not just talking about being on the front lines of racial and social justice — we're doing that."
Seeing people from different ages, races and gender unite during racial and social justice protests last summer "is a big sign that I think this is something that we're going to be able to help conquer," Lasry said.
Lasry's entry into the race brings the Democratic field to two, as he joins Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who entered the race last fall. In a tweet, Nelson challenged Lasry and other candidates to "not 'invest' their own money or their family's in the campaign."
That was a not-so-subtle swipe at Marc Lasry, Lasry's father, the hedge fund billionaire who owns the Bucks and one of the Democratic Party's biggest donors. Lasry said he's "not going to self fund" his campaign and plans to build grassroots support. He said people should judge him by the people who support him and the work he has done, including supporting the Bucks' voting initiative and The Equity League, a joint venture with the other pro teams in Wisconsin to invest in minority-owned startups.
Lasry was criticized recently after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that he was able to get a COVID vaccine at a senior living center. Lasry said his wife got a call from a member of her family to tell them there were some unused vaccine doses that would otherwise have been wasted.
"I made a decision in the moment to, one, to make sure a shot didn't go to waste, but two, to also protect my family and my pregnant wife and unborn daughter," Lasry said.
"Wisconsin doesn't need a spoiled rich kid like Alex Lasry who thinks it's okay to use his wealth and power to cut in line ahead of vulnerable, elderly Wisconsinites to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Chris Hartline said in a statement.
Other potential Democratic candidates include Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.