Sunrise Wisconsin endorses Tom Nelson in Democratic Senate primary

Progressive climate group Sunrise Wisconsin on Thursday threw its support behind Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson (D) in the state’s closely watched Senate race, becoming the first statewide Sunrise hub to endorse ahead of the 2022 midterms. 

“I believe that Tom Nelson understands the moment we are in where our country has billionaires and corporations controlling our corrupt Congress while the rest of us and the planet suffer," said Anders Hanhan, the Sunrise Fox Valley hub coordinator.

"He isn’t running on platitudes like other so-called progressives, but on a bold, substantive vision,” he added. 

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The Hill was the first outlet to report on the endorsement. The national Sunrise Movement has not yet made an endorsement in the race. 

Sunrise Wisconsin's endorsement of Nelson marks a win for the county executive among the state's progressive grassroots community. It also shows a growing endorsement battle in the Democratic primary between progressives and more establishment figures and organizations. Earlier this week, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) threw his support behind Wisconsin Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is also running in the primary. However, Barnes' campaign has also touted their own slate of progressive endorsements including Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenRestless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Biden eyes new path for Fed despite Powell pick MORE (D-Mass.) and the Working Families Party. 

"If you want one group in your corner ... Sunrise Movement is pretty close to the top of that list," Nelson told The Hill. "For a Democratic primary, I think this is the most important endorsement yet simply because they have made such a big difference in Democratic primaries before. They are a force to reckon with." 

Combatting the climate crisis is a big part of Nelson's campaign platform. While Nelson supports progressive climate efforts, like the Green New Deal, he has also emphasized the importance of the alliance between labor, manufacturing, and environmental movements through the "Blue-Green Coalition." 

"This state, I think, is the ideal setting for creating that Blue-Green coalition and for pushing and developing a Green New Deal because, at its core, the Green New Deal unites environmentalism and labor," he said.  

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Nelson and Barnes are two of 12 candidates running in Wisconsin’s Democratic Senate primary for the seat held by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' It's time to bury ZombieCare once and for all Marjorie Taylor Greene introduces bill to award Congressional Gold Medal to Rittenhouse MORE (R-Wis.).

Johnson has not yet confirmed whether he will run for reelection. However, he said last week he would be making a decision soon. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a "toss-up." 

Barnes is seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic race. His campaign raised $1.1 million between July 1 and Sept. 30. Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry also raised more than $1 million during the time period, but each donated large sums of money to their campaigns. Nelson, meanwhile, raised around $223,000 during the same period. Eighty-eight percent of donations to Nelson's campaign during the period were under $200, according to his campaign. 

Polling in the race has been relatively scarce, but an internal poll from Barnes' campaign that was released in September showed the lieutenant governor with 37 percent support among Democratic primary voters in the state. His closest rivals, Nelson, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, are statistically tied at 8 percent, 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively.