Johnson’s Moscow Visit, Investing in Wisconsin Manufacturers, More: This Week on the US Senate Campaign Trail

Four of the leading candidates in the Democratic primary to determine who will challenge Sen. Ron Johnson in November. L-R, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski (Graphic by Jonathon Sadowski)

Four of the leading candidates in the Democratic primary to determine who will challenge Sen. Ron Johnson in November. L-R, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski (Graphic by Jonathon Sadowski)

By Pat Kreitlow, Keya Vakil

March 25, 2022

Lasry ad hits Johnson for 2018 trip. Godlewski talks drug prices. Nelson touts a presidential candidate’s endorsement.

[Editor’s Note: This is part of an occasional series that provides a summary of recent activities by candidates for the US Senate seat up for election this November. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is running for a third term, while several Democrats will face off in an Aug. 9 primary to see who will challenge him in the fall.]

Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry released a new commercial for his US Senate campaign that takes aim at incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson for spending 2018’s 4th of July in Moscow rather than attending Independence Day events in Wisconsin.

“Time and time again, Ron Johnson has gone out of his way to support Russia’s interests,” says Lasry in the ad. “The FBI even had to visit him and warn him that he was being used as an agent for Russian misinformation and he ignored their warning.”

Johnson has frequently been a conduit of Russian misinformation that was part of that country’s preparation for the current invasion of Ukraine. After returning from the 2018 Moscow trip, Johnson said US sanctions placed on Russia for interfering in the US presidential election of 2016 had been “blown way out of proportion.”

Russian media played up Johnson’s post-trip remarks, which were the most apologetic toward Russia among the all-Republican delegation that made the trip. Johnson claimed local fraud—not proven on any widespread level—was a bigger concern than Russian interference, which has been well-documented.

The Lasry campaign said the digital ad focusing on the Moscow trip has been placed with “a six-figure buy,” and that the campaign also has its “third seven-figure media buy” on air currently.

Barnes Talks Manufacturing

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who leads among the Senate candidates in recent polls, unveiled a new plan that aims to invest in Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector and improve the state’s economy.

Barnes’ “Make it Here” Agenda would prioritize American manufacturing and stop outsourcing jobs, address supply chain issues by expanding domestic manufacturing, pass tax reforms to keep jobs in Wisconsin and support small- and medium-sized manufacturers, improve workforce training, and support labor unions to improve and grow the middle-class.

“Between 2001 and 2020, Wisconsin lost nearly 90,000 manufacturing jobs partially due to unfair trade deals that punish American businesses and American workers,” Barnes’ plan reads. “That’s unacceptable. We need to bring jobs back home and secure access to the American dream for the many Wisconsinites who have been left behind.”

Barnes also wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and index future increases to inflation, supports passing the PRO Act to protect and strengthen employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace, and supports other bills to strengthen labor rights.

The manufacturing sector employs 16% of the state’s workforce, but companies have had a difficult time finding qualified workers. Eighty-three percent of Wisconsin manufacturers said it is “very” or “somewhat” difficult to find qualified staff to work for them, according to the Wisconsin 2021 Manufacturing Report

Johnson voted for a corporate tax giveaway that benefitted companies shipping jobs overseas, which wreaked havoc on the US supply chain. He recently said he would not try to get Wisconsin’s own Oshkosh Corporation, a major corporate donor for Johnson, to bring new jobs to the state after it won a huge government contract to build vehicles for the US Postal Service. Unlike the Wisconsin workforce, which is experienced and unionized, the company is planning to create the jobs in South Carolina where they will likely not have union protections.

Godlewski Targets Republicans and Democrats Over Drug Prices

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski released her second digital ad in a seven-figure media buy, with a message criticizing fellow Democrats as well as Republicans for not doing enough to reduce the prices of prescription drugs.

Godlewski said the answer to the question of why prices keep rising is because “Republicans like Ron Johnson—and let’s be honest, too many Democrats—don’t have the guts to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies. I will.” 

“The big drug companies may not approve this message,” she concludes. “But I do.”

Nelson Touts Marianne Williamson Endorsement

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson announced the endorsement of author, spiritual adviser, and former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. She said Nelson, the son of a pastor, understands that the race for the Senate seat is  “not merely a political struggle, but a moral and spiritual one.”

Williamson called Nelson the candidate “with the truest progressive vision.”

Nelson returned the compliment, saying Williamson has “earned a devoted following thanks to her fearless moral vision of a better society.”


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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