Barnes wins Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, setting up race against Sen. Ron Johnson

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will try to defeat Sen. Ron Johnson in what is expected to be one of the most closely-watched — and expensive — U.S. Senate races in the country this November after winning the Democratic primary Tuesday.

Barnes won the primary after several of his closest competitors dropped out of the race in the weeks leading up to the primary and urged their supporters to vote for Barnes instead.

As of 11:30 p.m., Barnes had received 353,995 votes — 78.3% of the votes cast in the Democratic primary. Just under 80% of votes have been counted statewide in the race.

U.S. Senator–Democrat

U.S. Senator

Mandela BarnesAlex LasrySarah GodlewskiTom Nelson
  • Mandela Barnes WinnerD 77.8%
    389,942
  • Alex Lasry  D 8.9%
    44,597
  • Sarah Godlewski  D 8.1%
    40,454
  • Tom Nelson  D 2.2%
    10,936
  • Steven Olikara  D 1.1%
    5,611
  • Darrell Williams  D 0.7%
    3,641
  • Kou Lee  D 0.7%
    3,465
  • Peter Peckarsky  D 0.5%
    2,443
501,089
100.0% precincts reporting
Last updated:

“Only in Wisconsin would it be possible for the son of a third shift auto worker and a public school teacher who grew up on 26th and Locust to go on to become Lt. Governor and the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate,” Barnes said in a statement after the race was called. “Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of politicians that looked like me or had my lived experiences. I didn’t see a lot of candidates who had lived a working class life. Frankly, I still don’t.”

He went on to say Johnson, “has spent his decade in Washington serving the special interests who donate millions to his campaign while he calls to repeal the Affordable Care Act and slash Social Security funding.”

“Plain and simple: if it doesn’t support his wealthy donors or his own self-interests, you can’t count on Ron Johnson to support it,” the statement continued.

Speaking to supporters just after 9 p.m., Barnes said the Senate needs more “real people” in it.

“As you all know, the way we’ll change Washington is by the people we sent to Washington, and I’m here to tell you that work starts today,” he said.

WATCH BELOW: Barnes speaks to supporters after winning primary race

Barnes had consistently polled ahead of the other top names in the race, including Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, but the party quickly coalesced around Barnes after Nelson suspended his campaign on July 25, Lasry dropped out on July 27, and Godlewski dropped out on July 29.

Democrats have made the campaign against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson a top priority during this election cycle, who is running for a third term despite previous promises to only serve two terms in the Senate. Democrats are hoping to flip the seat to solidify their control of the U.S. Senate, breaking a 50-50 split that has at times stood in the way of their policy priorities. Johnson has also been a vocal critic of President Joe Biden and remained in support of former President Donald Trump.

The Marquette Law School has not conducted a poll on the U.S. Senate race since June, but in that poll, respondents said they preferred Barnes over Johnson by a two percent margin — although that total was within the poll’s margin of error, indicating what could be a very close and contentious race heading into November.

RELATED: One-on-one sit down with Mandela Barnes

In a statement, Johnson, who also won his primary, said, “the leaders of the Democrat party have chosen their most radical left candidate for the U.S. Senate race.”

If elected, Barnes would be the first Black U.S. Senator in Wisconsin’s history.

For more coverage of the August primary elections and the latest election results, you can click here.