Sunrise Movement endorses Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin Senate race
Mandela Barnes, the Democratic Senate nominee for Wisconsin, has earned the backing of a leading climate group in the countdown to the November general election.
The Sunrise Movement is endorsing Barnes against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), according to a memo obtained by The Hill on Wednesday.
“Each year it is more clear just how broken our political system is, and how much we need committed members of the community like Mandela Barnes leading the way to rebuild a system that works for all of us,” said Michele Weindling, the group’s electoral director.
The network of youth activists and grassroots organizers is positioning Barnes, 35, as a would-be key progressive voice in the Senate at a time when the direction of the Democratic Party is still up for debate.
The upper chamber’s 50-50 split has often made it difficult for liberal Democrats to advance parts of President Biden’s agenda, including during negotiations over early versions of his social spending and climate package, where just a few moderates sought to define the terms of the debate. While the left got much of what they wanted in the Inflation Reduction Act, activists say that more left-leaning senators would help their cause in future negotiations.
The addition of Barnes in particular could realign the Senate’s power center in a more progressive direction.
“Mandela could have been the final vote on the Build Back Better legislation, passing much stronger climate legislation, immigration reform, a $15 minimum wage, and more,” Weindling said.
Climate hawks also see Barnes as a contrast to what they denounce as conservative extremism playing out in several battlegrounds. Johnson, who supports much of former President Trump’s ideology and rhetoric, is integral to that existing base of GOP lawmakers in Congress.
“We’re committed to fighting in swing states like Wisconsin to build an organized youth presence ready to take on Republican extremism in 2022 and 2024,” Weindling said. “We are up against the GOP, a party that invited murderers to Capitol Hill, who are forcing victims of rape to carry pregnancies to term, who are letting fossil fuel companies get away with poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink,” she said. “That’s why we must organize like hell across the country and stop the GOP from winning control over our lives and democracy.”
The Sunrise Movement is hoping that their endorsement of Barnes will add to their roster of successes. The coalition has backed several progressive primary candidates who outcompeted other Democrats in contests that received national attention. Two young candidates of color, Greg Casar in Texas’s 35th Congressional District and Summer Lee in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, are likely headed to the House.
Barnes’s race is more of a gamble. Wisconsin is a swing state this cycle, and polling indicates a close race. The latest aggregate from FiveThirtyEight shows Barnes consistently leading Johnson by a narrow margin.