Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joins US Senate race

NOW: Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joins US Senate race

MADISON, Wis. (AP/CBS 58) — Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes officially announced he is running for US Senate, joining a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

Barnes made his official announcement in front of a full house at Sherman Phonenix.

"I believe we need to build a better America, where the opportunity I was able to find isn’t so rare," Barnes said. 

The 34-year-old is vying to become the first Black U.S. senator in Wisconsin history.

"People from where I’m from, people from this part of the word aren’t expected to make it to the state Capitol, and that’s if they're expected to make it all," Barnes said. "And that’s something we have to be committed to changing."

In his first campaign speech, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes focused on equal opportunity and lifting up the middle class.

"I know we can do the work to create good jobs that are more than just a paycheck. Health care that’s accessible to everyone,"  Barnes said.

Barnes is the eighth Democrat to join the race -- several other candidates welcomed Barnes to the race.

Bucks executive Alex Lasry tweeted, "Looking forward to seeing you on the trail."

State Sen. Chris Larson said in a statement, “I welcome Mr. Barnes to the race for US Senate. Ron Johnson is a persistent threat to our nation, and it’s time to send him packing. We need to unrig the system so it works for working people, and as far as I’m concerned, the more voices in the choir, the sweeter the song.”

Wausua Dr. Gillian Batino said, "I welcome Lt. Gov. Barnes's candidacy and wish him luck. I look forward to a spirited primary where each candidate has the opportunity to pitch their plans and positions to the people of Wisconsin. A competitive primary will make strong nominee."

Outagamie County Exective Tom Nelson sent a statement saying, "Welcome Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes entry into this important race and look forward to a spirited debate on who is best to take on Ron Johnson."

The Senate seat is currently held by Republican Ron Johnson who has not yet said if he will seek a third term. Johnson declined to comment on Barnes' announcement.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin spokeswoman, Anna Kelly, sent the following statement after Barnes' announcement: “Whether it’s lying about his college degree, his temper tantrums when being asked to explain his unpaid taxes, or his delinquent fines, ‘Make-it-up Mandela’ Barnes has neither the maturity nor the temperament to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.”

By entering the race, Barnes gives up his spot running for re-election with Governor Tony Evers.

Gov. Evers has not said who his new running mate will be, but in a statement said:

"Mandela Barnes is a good friend and has been a great partner working to address challenges facing our state, and I’ve always said I would support any decision Mandela made about how best to serve the people of Wisconsin. At the end of the day, Wisconsin deserves better than someone like Ron Johnson, who’s chosen to embrace reckless conspiracies that have risked public health and jeopardized our state’s economic recovery. We’re lucky to have strong Democratic candidates who are running to send him packing, and I look forward to supporting Wisconsin Democrats’ choice to take on Ron Johnson in 2022.” 

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