US Senate race: Mandela Barnes comments on tight race with Johnson

Wisconsin’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is prepared to make a statement on his campaign and the race against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. 

FOX News projected on Wednesday morning that Johnson would retain his seat in the U.S. Senate. 

"I just want to thank you all for your refusal to settle for the status quo, for your refusal to settle for less. And your commitment to joining together. To fight for better. To fight for more," Barnes told his supporters. "I got in this race because I believe that the American dream, the same one that gave me the opportunity to stand here as your lieutenant governor, is a dream worth protecting and a dream worth fighting for."

Mandela Barnes

Barnes urged his supporters to not check out now that his campaign is done. 

"We're going to organize for better. We're going to fight for better in one day soon. Together, we will all achieve better. I can honestly say that I fought the good fight. I've run my race. And I kept the faith. And I want to thank you for having faith in me," Barnes said.

Barnes would have made history as the state’s first Black U.S. senator if he had won the Nov. 8 midterm elections. However, the numbers were showing he was behind by roughly 27,000 votes at last count. A campaign spokeswoman issued this statement early Wednesday, just before 1 a.m.:

"We always knew this race would be incredibly close. No matter what anyone says, we are committed to making sure every vote is counted. We will wait and see what the Wisconsin voters have decided after all their voices are heard." 

Mandela Barnes speaks at Milwaukee's North Division High School on Oct. 29, 2022.

Barnes participated in early voting in October, so he hit the campaign trail hard on Election Day.

He started around 6 a.m., making three stops before noon.

Mandela Barnes on Election Day

Supporters and canvassers went door-to-door, making sure to connect with voters.

On social media Tuesday, Barnes tweeted: "Your vote is your voice, and your voice is your power." He went on to say, "Today, we are going to be loud as hell."

Barnes said his campaign was about meeting people where they were.

"To win, we have to get the most votes. That means showing up everywhere. We have to be everywhere," said Barnes. "It’s not about being in one particular part of the state, one particular county. That’s why we were very deliberate about traveling to as many places as possible."

Hundreds filled Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee Tuesday night, where Barnes watched results come in with supporters.

As the polls closed Tuesday night, FOX6 spoke with Barnes' campaign's communication director about how they were feeling.

"Everything is at stake this election," said Maddy McDaniel. "Whether it comes to our economic opportunities, whether it comes to our reproductive rights and freedoms and whether it comes to very democracy. These are the things that shape our lives. This is what will make the difference, whether you have an opportunity at success, whether you have the opportunity to make decisions about your own body and whether you have the right to cast a ballot and have your voice heard."

The final Marquette University Law School Poll before the election, released Nov. 2, showed the incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) with a narrow lead over challenger Barnes – 50% for Johnson, 48% for Barnes. That result was within the poll's margin of error.

US Senate race results

Barnes' background

Barnes was born and raised in Milwaukee. He’s the son of a public school teacher and a United Auto Workers member. The Milwaukee Public Schools graduate grew to prominence when he was elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 2012.

"It’s all about showing up and talking about the things that matter," Barnes said.

Barnes served a second term in the Assembly after running unopposed in 2014. He lost a primary election for the Wisconsin Senate in 2016 to incumbent State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).

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In 2018, Barnes and Tony Evers ran for lieutenant governor and governor, respectively, and unseated the Scott Walker administration. With Barnes pursuing the U.S. Senate seat, State Rep. Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield) became Evers' lieutenant governor running mate in 2022.

In the final days before the election, both Barnes and Johnson made multiple stops with the goal of solidifying much-needed votes.

"It’s important that we go all across the state to talk about our values, talk about our vision, talk about our plans to improve quality of life and also hold Ron Johnson accountable for his 12 years of failure," Barnes said at a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).

Barnes on the issues

FOX6 talked to voters in early November who said they care about rising crime, inflation, voter's rights and women’s rights.

During a debate in October, Barnes shared his stance on abortion.

"If I were in the U.S. Senate, I would absolutely vote to codify Roe v. Wade, to protect the right to an abortion and the right to choose into law once and for all to protect women’s rights," Barnes said.

As for tackling crime, Barnes shared his plan for public safety on his campaign website. In a video, Barnes said:

"In the Senate, I’ll support legislation that gives our law enforcement officers what they need to keep us safe and also holds bad actors accountable. I’ll fight for common sense gun safety reforms, and I’ll make sure we finally invest in our communities to provide education, jobs and opportunity so we can prevent crime from happening at all."

During an Oct. 7 debate, Barnes addressed the economy. He cited energy independence – specifically the development of renewable energy – as a key tool to reduce gas prices.

According to AAA, Wisconsin gas prices hit a record average $4.92 per gallon on June 12. The price has since dropped below $4 per gallon but remains well above the $3.16 average from a year ago.

More FOX6 News coverage on the race for U.S. Senate

Polls closed at 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8.