Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, R, is the victor in his closely-watched reelection race, defeating Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. Democrats prioritized this race, hoping to take full control of the Senate and oust one of the GOP’s staunchest conservatives.
This race was close. Barnes led by about four points in September when Johnson launched a series of attack ads challenging Barnes’ record on public safety and crime. One showed Barnes doing an interview on Russian state-owned television in the wake of a deadly attack on Dallas police officers saying “police officers are over exercising their badges” and “this probably was a retaliatory attack.”
Johnson was criticized for leaving out key parts of the interview where Barnes denounced the attack and said it was not justified in any way. But the damage from that ad, and others like it, did the job they were designed to do and Johnson pulled ahead.
While the ads helped Johnson, he still had to overcome a poor perception from Wisconsin voters — 37% viewed him favorably while 46% viewed him unfavorably in a June 2022 poll.
Barnes responded to the ads and disavowed defunding the police. He continued to run on ending the Senate’s filibuster and gerrymandering, passing a voting reform bill and reducing the influence of big corporations and special interest groups in politics.
Johnson has represented Wisconsin in the Senate since 2011 and serves on three powerful committees: Foreign Relations, Homeland Security and Budget. He, along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have been investigating President Joe Biden’s son Hunter for years. They said their investigation found links between Biden family business dealings and members of the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese intelligence services. The investigation drew the ire of Democrats.
Barnes found success early in his political career. He became a state representative at 27 and Lt. Gov. at 31, the first Black person to hold the position. He worked side by side with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and helped lead the state’s vaccination program.