Wisconsin Public Radio

Five Candidates Make Case For Beating Ron Johnson

Roundtable of Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate is first such event in campaign.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jun 29th, 2021 05:11 pm
Western front of the U.S. Capitol. Public domain.

Western front of the U.S. Capitol.

The Wisconsin U.S. Senate election is still more than 16 months away, but the Democratic candidates vying for the seat tried to make the case Tuesday they are the best person to replace Republican incumbent Ron Johnson.

Five hopefuls participated in a virtual roundtable hosted by WisPolitics: State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski; State Sen. Chris Larson; former state lawmaker and current Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson; Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry; and Dr. Gillian Battino, a physician from Wausau.

They were joined by Steven Olikara, founder of the Millennial Action Project, who has formed an exploratory committee but has yet to announce an official bid for the seat.

The roundtable was not a debate, but a conversation, where the field of candidates were only given a little over a minute to explain their positions on complex issues including questions on eliminating student debt and ending the filibuster.

The candidates agreed on several issues, including President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan — although the candidates all said more funding is needed to expand access to broadband internet and affordable child care.

Where they differed was how they could beat Johnson, a two-term senator who has not yet said he will seek a third term.

Johnson held an event in Milwaukee Monday to spotlight people who said they were suffering from rare adverse reactions after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. While meeting with media after, Johnson said he has taken on a role in Congress of presenting unpopular opinions and views. And “that would be one of the more important factors,” when considering running for a third term.

“If no one else is willing to step out there and talk about unpopular truths, yeah, that would be one of the considerations,” Johnson said. In recent months Johnson has touted unproven treatments for COVID-19, publicly declined to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and questioned the severity of the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The Democratic candidates attacked Johnson for being a conspiracy theorist who has not done enough to help the people of Wisconsin.

Godlewski said defeating him in November 2022 won’t be easy, but she believes she can do it because she has won a statewide race. Nelson also touted being elected six times to different offices.

Larson called himself a “proven progressive,” who has received national endorsements. And Lasry said if elected he will work on bringing jobs and raising wages in Wisconsin. Lasry pointed to the recent change at the Fiserv Forum that increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Battino said she’s still seeing patients three days a week and is a mother of six children, making her the best candidate.

Olikara said it’s easy to be negative against an opponent, but he believes the strongest candidate should say what they want to do if elected.

“The winning coalition in 2022 is not only energizing Democrats but also expanding the electorate and respecting and including people who are particularly disaffected independents and Republicans,” he said. “They are feeling politically homeless right now.”

Listen to the WPR report here.

Wisconsin’s Democratic Candidates For US Senate Make Case For Beating Johnson was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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