US Senate Primary: Where Barnes and Godlewski Stand on Wisconsin’s Biggest Issues

Johnson Barnes Godlewski

By Christina Lorey

July 28, 2022

The two remaining major candidates want to challenge Sen. Ron Johnson, but only one will make it to November. 

With two of the four major Democratic candidates dropping out of the race for US Senate this week, the August 9 primary is now a two-candidate race—and still a very important one.

Both Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson suspended their campaigns and threw their support to the frontrunner, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. He and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski will face off in what political analysts are calling “one of Democrats’ best chances of flipping a Republican-held Senate seat.” But many voters remain undecided on who they’d like to see challenge Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in November. 

With early voting well underway (click here to learn more), 36% of Democratic voters said they still don’t know who they’ll choose, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll. But that survey was taken before this week’s shake-up. 

UpNorthNews reporter Christina Lorey asked Barnes and Godlewski how they’re trying to capture those undecided voters.

What is Wisconsin’s biggest problem right now? How would you solve it?

Mandela Barnes: Union jobs were once our ticket into the middle class. That’s a ticket too many people can’t get anymore. I’m running to ensure that every Wisconsinite has a fair shot at the American Dream. That starts with bringing manufacturing back to Wisconsin and creating thousands of good-paying, family-sustaining union jobs. We need to cut taxes for the middle class by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and making the Child Tax Credit permanent.

Sarah Godlewski: Ron Johnson is Wisconsin’s biggest problem right now. He’s attacked working mothers and families, enriched himself and his wealthy donors, and most recently was identified as a key participant in efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. He’s also one of the reasons why here in Wisconsin we have a cruel abortion ban from 1849 back in effect. We need to replace his nonsense, conspiracy theories, and threats to our democracy with a pro-choice Democrat who will prioritize reproductive rights, affordable child care, safe communities, and economic opportunities for working families. 

What is Wisconsin doing well at right now? How would you add to that? 

Barnes: As Wisconsin’s 45th Lieutenant Governor alongside Gov. Tony Evers, we’ve delivered historic investments in our public schools, invested in minority-owned businesses, achieved record-low unemployment, and delivered critical aid to small businesses and family farmers during the pandemic. Wisconsin is finally on a path to 100% clean energy. I’m also proud of our administration’s work to invest in education. Our schools are now ranked 8th in the nation — up from 18th when we took office. 

Godlewski: Wisconsin is a great place to live, work, raise a family, and retire. We’re home to beautiful lakes, rivers, and streams, the best football team in the country, and America’s Dairyland. I’ll fight to lower energy costs, improve our supply chains, make housing more affordable, and crack down on corporate price gouging.

There seems to be very little “middle ground” nowadays. What issues are you willing to negotiate? And what is not up for debate?

Barnes: I’ll work with anyone who is willing to come together to help rebuild our middle class, protect the right to choose, and make our communities safer by ending gun violence. 

Godlewski: Practical ideas that we can get done and that will help people. However, I’m not willing to back down from a fight when it comes to protecting our rights and freedom–whether it’s reproductive rights, voting rights, civil rights, or LGBTQ+ rights. 

We also wanted to know more about the lighter side of these candidates and we asked them to choose between four truly polarizing ‘this or that’ Wisconsin questions:

Bucks or Brewers?

Barnes: Fear the Deer, and the beer!

Godlewski: Brewers

Wisconsin Summers or Wisconsin Winters?

Barnes: Summers

Godlewski: Summers

Brats or Curds?

Barnes: Curds

Godlewski: Curds

Vote Early or Vote on Election Day?

Barnes: My dad always brought me with him to vote on Election Day. It’s a treasured memory for me, and so I always try to vote on Election Day. 

Godlewski: Vote on Election Day

Wisconsin’s Primary is August 9, 2022, but early voting is already underway. Click here to check your registration, register to vote, vote by mail, and/or get election reminders.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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