Profile pictures of US Senate Wisconsin candidates Ron Johnson and Mandela Barnes from BallotPedia

Welcome to the race for the US Senate seat for Wisconsin! This race pits the incumbent Ron Johnson, a Republican who has served in the US Senate since 2011, against the challenger Mandela Barnes, a Democrat who has been the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin since 2019.

Wisconsin, after being solidly blue (at least in terms of US presidential elections) since 1988, voted for Republican Donald Trump in 2016 before shifting back to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. With both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections decided by less than 1% of the vote, Wisconsin is once again one of the most important battleground states for US federal elections, a “purple” position it played from the 1930s through the 1980s. Both modern American progressivism and conservatism can trace their roots to Wisconsin politicians, and the state is currently experiencing a hard fought race for the governor as well as other state-wide offices. This may be Ron Johnson’s hardest reelection campaign yet. Johnson is being challenged by Mandela Barnes, the current Lieutenant Governor of the state, who would be the state’s first Black senator if he wins. But Barnes’ relative youth (35 years old) and perceived progressiveness may work against him in the general election. 

An important note for this election season: Traditionally, the “party in power,” defined as the party in charge of the US presidency (which this year is the Democratic Party), loses seats in the midterm elections. But the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 has shifted momentum toward the Democrats (see 538 and NYT analysis at these links). The race in Wisconsin is one of the top nine Senate races to watch in the 2022 election, and its outcome will help determine which party controls the US Senate in January 2023.  



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Relevant news stories:

  • Article: “With Democratic Senate primary up for grabs, voters will have to look beyond policy differences,” Wisconsin State Journal, June 9, 2022
  • Video / transcript: “Wisconsin Spent Months Investigating The 2020 Election. These Candidates Still Believe It Was Fraudulent,” FiveThirtyEight, August 8, 2022
  • Article: “Mandela Barnes Is Already Looking Past Wisconsin’s Democratic Primary,” New York, Times, August 8, 2022
  • Article: “Why Wisconsin Is the Most Fascinating State in American Politics,” New York Times, August 12, 2022
  • Video / transcript: “Mandela Barnes May Be Democrats’ Best Hope For Flipping A Senate Seat,” FiveThirtyEight, August 15, 2022
  • Article: “Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes skips President Biden’s Laborfest appearance to join union workers in Racine: ‘That’s where my priorities have been’,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, September 6, 2022
  • Article: “Ron Johnson wants Wisconsin voters to decide abortion laws by referendum. Here’s why that’s unlikely,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 15, 2022
  • Article: “Abortion gives Democrats a shot at flipping a Senate seat in Wisconsin,” Reuters, September 16, 2022
  • Article: “Wisconsin Polls Look Good For Democrats, But We Need More Of Them,” FiveThirtyEight, September 20, 2022