Wisconsin U.S. Senate Candidate for the Democratic Nomination A Grassroots Campaign
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes marches in Madison’s Juneteenth Day parade.
By Jonathan Gramling
Mandela Barnes is a very personable lieutenant governor. Although he is a Milwaukee native, Barnes has become very much a part of the Madison scene, attending a diverse array of functions in the area, greeting people by name and giving out — and receiving — handshakes and hugs. Barnes has a natural grassroots personality.
First in line to become Wisconsin’s governor in case of emergency, Barnes is Wisconsin’s second African American to hold a statewide elected position. Elected in 2018, Barnes has used his time in visiting all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and getting to know Wisconsin’s rural as well as urban voters.
Barnes is concerned about the health of Wisconsin’s public schools as well as the financing system that makes up a large part of the funding of public education.
“This has been a trend for over 30 years,” Barnes said. “I’m a proud public school graduate. My mother is a public school teacher. Fighting for public schools is one of the very reasons I ran for the Assembly in the first place and I never stopped fighting for our public schools. The funding pretty much happens on the state level. One of the other problems is school district funding relies on property taxation, which leaves low-income communities in the dust. It perpetuates, it exacerbates the system of inequality that we are dealing with.”
But while the federal government funds a very limited piece of public education, it does fund other programs that impact the ability of children to attain a quality education.
“There are also things outside of the school that affects our students that we need to address. How does poverty impact a child’s learning,” Barnes asked. “How do food and housing insecurity affect a child’s learning? There is health care and mental and physical health. And there is standardized testing. These are all factors we need to consider and things that can be addressed and should be addressed on the federal level.”
Barnes is very concerned about the direction that democracy is headed in this country, with the access to voting becoming more limited and the excessive sway that big money holds over who gets elected.
“My democracy and accountability agenda calls for the immediate passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” Barnes emphasized. “We would also do everything we can to ban partisan gerrymandering, allow for automatic voter registration, things that increase access to the ballot, things that we know would help people not just get involved in the process, but also be more comfortable in the process. Voting shouldn’t be some scary thing. Participating in elections shouldn’t be some scary thing that seems so far out of reach for people. We need to have a closer relationship with voting in this country, but also get big money out of politics. That’s one of the bigger problems. This could be whether it is the massive influx of spending on campaigns or even self-funding, which creates another disadvantage that leads to a more inequitable system in this country.”
Barnes is also very concerned about the impact of climate change on our rural as well as urban areas of Wisconsin and the United States.
“Climate change is impacting communities all across the state,” Barnes said. “I said rebuilding the middle class is at the very top of our agenda. And we have the opportunity to rebuild the middle class by being bold with our actions to address the climate crisis. I’ll tell you. Communities all across Wisconsin are already dealing with the impact of climate change. If we continue to leave rural
communities decimated by these historic weather events, we’re going to be in a world of trouble when our food production is halted because of uncertain weather patterns. We’re going to be in trouble. And that is going to have an impact on our entire economy. It’s going to have an impact on the health of people inside the state and far outside of it. Rebuilding the middle class, bringing those jobs back to Wisconsin and making sure that we put family farmers before large corporate monopolies.”
Most of all, Barnes is concerned about the rising economic inequality and the skewing of incomes, a trend that has resulted in a declining middle class as fewer family-sustaining jobs become available.
“I’m proud to be in this race for the U.S. Senate to rebuild the middle class,” Barnes said. “I don’t come from a wealthy or well-connected family. I come from a proud union household. My mother was a public school teacher and my dad worked third shift on the assembly line. My story is a very Wisconsin story. And the jobs they had were their tickets to the middle class. It’s a ticket that is becoming more difficult to come by day by day as costs continue to rise, as people deal with so much difficulty and uncertainty, we need to elect leaders who understand exactly what we are going through. We need people who understand our fears and our struggles, but also our hopes and our dreams. We should absolutely have hope because better is possible in this country. We just need people who are going to fight for it.”
And come August 9th, Barnes hopes that Wisconsin’s Democratic voters select him to take the fight to the November 2022 election.