Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Will Senate Democratic Debate Change Race?

No one lays a glove on Barnes. But one surprise winner and some terrible TMJ mikes.

By - Jul 18th, 2022 12:27 pm
Mandela Barnes, Alex Lasry, Sarah Godlewski, Tom Nelson and Steven Olikara.

Mandela Barnes, Alex Lasry, Sarah Godlewski, Tom Nelson and Steven Olikara.

The clock is ticking.

The August 9th election is just three weeks away and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes leads in the polls with 25% of the vote in the latest Marquette University Law School poll, and Bucks executive Alex Lasry second, with 21% of those voters expressing a preference. Well behind were state treasurer Sarah Godlewski, with 9% and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, with 7 percent.

Last night’s debate on WTMJ, which was also broadcast by several stations throughout the state, was a chance for the two candidates far behind to try to attack the front runners and change the dynamics of the race. Instead they attacked each other.

Nelson noted that many Democrats failed to turn out in 2016, including Godlewski, which allowed Donald Trump to win the presidency and appoint three justices to U.S. Supreme Court, who proceeded to rule against abortion rights. Godlewski, in response, didn’t deny that she failed to vote, but blasted Nelson saying, “As the only woman on this stage I won’t be lectured by any men about how important this is.”

The winners in this exchange were the two leaders, Barnes and Lasry, who stayed above the fray. Barnes came off just as he probably planned, with no mistakes, solid responses, and effectively pushing his key theme, that he is the working class candidate in the race who will support unions and restore pre-Trump era tax levels on millionaires.

Lasry began his first speech with a Nixonian sweaty upper lip, which didn’t help his cause, and was exposed by the TMJ moderators, Charles Benson and Shannon Sims, who insisted he talk about how inflation has affected his family. Given that Lasry is a millionaire and his father is a billionaire, Lasry deflected that one, saying “This isn’t about me or anyone on the stage… it’s about the people of Wisconsin.”

Lasry also leaned hard on the only accomplishment he claims, getting jobs to build the Milwaukee Bucks arena and paying workers a $15 minimum wage. Besides the fact that he has exaggerated his role in getting the minimum wage, as Urban Milwaukee has reported, the Bucks arena got a huge subsidy from the taxpayers, which made it much easier to pay higher wages. But for those unaware or unconcerned about such details, Lasry’s performance was solid and got stronger as the debate went on.

If anything may hurt Lasry, it’s an ad released that night by Nelson which portrayed Lasry as a rich “trust fund kid” from New York who is out of touch with Wisconsin and was surprised that Milwaukee had amenities you find in other big cities. It provides a preview of the kind of ad Republicans are sure to run against Lasry. But the main winner from this attack ad won’t be Nelson but Barnes, as it helps the front runner make the case that he is more electable than Lasry.

The biggest surprise in the debate was Steven Olikara, the founder and former chief executive of the Millennial Action Project, who has barely registered in the polls but made it into the debate based on the amount of donations he’s received. He was impressive, making the case that an outsider candidate is needed “to change the system,” touting his experience with Millennial Action to push for Congressional action, and portraying himself as the only candidate who is “a true anti-war senator” who wants to end “forever wars.”

The biggest loser in the debate was WTMJ’s microphone system, which repeatedly left portions of every candidate’s speeches going too quiet at times. TMJ plans to rebroadcast the debate tonight at 6 p.m. and hopefully will work to correct that problem by then.

From a news perspective, the main headline was that Barnes confirmed he would support using federal land to perform abortions. Lasry, Godlewski and Nelson all said they would support banning the sale of assault weapons if elected. And Nelson said he wanted to nationalize oil companies as a means to prevent profiteering by the companies.

Meanwhile the latest campaign fundraising reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and Lasry raised the most between April 1 and June 30, as Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Johnson raised $6.2 million, spent just more than $6.2 million during that period and ended with $3.6 million cash on hand. Lasry brought in $7 million, nearly all of it ($6.5 million) loans from Lasry himself, while he spent  $6.7 million during that time and ended about $1.3 million cash on hand. Barnes raised more than $2.1 million, spent more than $2.2 million and was left with nearly $1.5 million cash on hand. Godlewski raised more than $1.5 million but $660,000 of it was loan to her own campaign, while she spent more than $2.7 million was left with about $464,000. Nelson raised $227,464, spent $535,560 and was left with $241,666 cash on hand. Olikara raised $97,884, spent $112,942 and ended the period with $144,234 left.

The figures show Lasry has spent an enormous sum — three times more than Barnes during the period — and Godlewski spent more than Barnes, but both have yet to catch up to the leading Democrat. Meanwhile Barnes is left with more cash on hand than any other Democratic candidate, which is more good news for him.

2 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Will Senate Democratic Debate Change Race?”

  1. NieWiederKrieg says:

    I never voted for a Republican since I started voting in 1972.. But if Alex Lasry becomes the nominee to run against Ron Johnson, I’ll put “Vote for Ron Johnson” signs on my front lawn.

    How did the Democratic Party become the Party of bloodthirsty war mongers and sleazy, lying, Goldman Sachs bankers? Two weeks ago, they forced Mandela Barnes to drop to his knees and pledge allegiance to Israel.

    Mandela Barnes clarifies views on aid to Israel in JDCA Senate candidate forum…

  2. ringo muldano says:

    NWK. meh.

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