MADISON, Wisconsin — US Republican Senator Ron Johnson defeated Democrat Mandela Barnes in the midterm elections and retained a seat in the hands of the GOP while repelling Barnes’ attempt to make history as Wisconsin’s first black senator.
The victory for Johnson, one of former President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, came after Trump narrowly lost the state to President Joe Biden two years ago.
“The votes have come in,” Johnson said in an email statement. “This race is over.”
Barnes, surrounded by his parents, supporters and US Rep. Gwen Moore, conceded defeat Wednesday noon in his hometown of Milwaukee, the same location where he launched his campaign in July 2021.
“I can honestly say I fought the good fight,” Barnes said. Barnes, the 35-year-old lieutenant governor and former state representative, pledged to remain involved.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t make it across the finish line this time,” said Barnes. “But I know this movement means so much to all of us. Just because we didn’t make it across the finish line doesn’t mean it’s over.”
The race was one of only a few close Senate contests across the country to determine which party held majority control.
Johnson said he expected Republicans to do better in the midterm elections and said Democrat politics are “not good for America.”
Johnson won by just over a point, a narrower win than his previous two victories in 2010 and 2016.
“I’m surprised my race in Wisconsin was so close,” Johnson said on WISN-AM.
According to AP VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of more than 3,200 voters in the state, about half of Wisconsin voters said the economy is the state’s most pressing issue.
Almost all of the state’s voters say inflation was a factor in voting. About half cited it as the most important factor. Republicans were more likely to win over those voters, with about two-thirds of them voting for Johnson.
Wisconsin voters say their families are being personally hit by the economy, with about a third saying they are falling behind. These voters were also more likely to vote for Johnson.
Barnes wanted to be Wisconsin’s first black Senator. Johnson won a third term after previously vowing not to serve more than two. Johnson, 67, said on WISN that he was ready to “hang up” after two terms, but dodged a question about whether he would seek a fourth term in six years.
“What I would like to do is make sure that whoever is at the top commits to restoring Congress to function,” he said.
Johnson was a top target for Democrats in swing state Wisconsin. He was first elected in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave and won re-election in 2016.
Johnson is one of the biggest supporters of former President Donald Trump. He ran this campaign trying to portray Barnes as criminally weak with a flimsy resume that will stamp the national Democratic agenda.
Barnes, like many national Democrats, tried to win the abortion race by dismissing Johnson’s long-standing support for overthrowing Roe v. Wade pointed out, arguing that millionaire Johnson was out of touch with the concerns of the middle class.
___ Associated Press writer Amanda Seitz contributed to this report.
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