Republican Ron Johnson Wins Wisconsin Senate Race, Frustrating Democrats

Johnson defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes with the help of a well-funded advertising blitz on crime.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is projected to win reelection, dispatching Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and cementing a key component of the GOP’s path back to a Senate majority.

Johnson’s victory is likely to frustrate Democrats in Wisconsin, who have long viewed the conspiracy-friendly conservative as far too right-wing, and too friendly to big business, for the populist swing state. While Johnson has never been popular, he successfully attacked Barnes on crime and inflation.

Barnes, who emerged from a once-crowded primary after his opponents dropped out and endorsed him, originally held a slender lead in polling over Johnson and had hoped a class-based message could win over working-class voters.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) speaks at a political rally at the Waukesha County Expo on Nov. 7.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) speaks at a political rally at the Waukesha County Expo on Nov. 7.
Alex Wroblewski for The Washington Post via Getty Images

But Republican outside groups, including a super PAC funded by two ultra-wealthy GOP donors, slammed Barnes for showing sympathy to the “Defund the Police” movement, hurting his poll numbers.

Johnson was a slight favorite in the race, and his victory does little to directly change the math for Senate control, but a Barnes win would have made it exceedingly difficult for the GOP to win control of the upper chamber.

Barnes would have been the first Black person elected to the Senate from Wisconsin.

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