Lasry is second Democrat to quit Senate primary, endorse Barnes

By: - July 27, 2022 6:39 pm
Alex Lasry and Mandela Barnes

After a joint announcement, the Mandela Barnes campaign posted this picture of Alex Lasry with Mandela Barnes on the campaign’s Facebook page. (Photo | Alli Peters for the Mandela Barnes Campaign)

Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry dropped out of the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate Wednesday, two weeks before the Aug. 9 election in which Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes has been leading in the polls.

Lasry, who had been a close second, threw his support to Barnes at a joint appearance Wednesday afternoon in which both called for unity in the months ahead. Lasry called Barnes a friend and “the best person to be able to defeat Ron Johnson,” the two-term Republican incumbent seeking re-election in November. And Lasry, a political newcomer, said he was leaving the race after concluding that “there was no path to victory” for him in the upcoming primary.

A poll released Tuesday from Impact Research showed Barnes pulling ahead to a 14-point lead over Lasry among the primary election candidates, with the support of 39% of those surveyed.

“This has always been a campaign where we’ve said the No. 1 thing that we can do for Wisconsin is making sure that we defeat Ron Johnson,” Lasry said at the announcement in front of the Fiserv Forum. “And this is not something where we needed to get to the end, for, you know, some sort of participation trophy or anything.”

He credited Barnes’ strong showing in polls leading up to the primary to “the broad coalition of support that the lieutenant governor has.”

Barnes and Lasry each described the other as friends and like-minded on policy and politics. “Now, there’s been a lot of times that Alex and I were on the exact same side of the issue during this campaign,” Barnes said. 

Lasry, whose billionaire father is one of the Bucks’ co-owners, was part of the management team that negotiated for a state subsidy to build the Fiserv Forum. Barnes, a member of the Wisconsin Assembly at the time, said he got to know Lasry during those talks and praised him for committing to hire union-represented workers to build the arena.

“You don’t always see business leaders who are so adamant about protecting the workforce,” said Barnes, who regularly points to his own father’s union membership as a factory worker.  “That’s something we should all be proud of.”

Both Barnes and Lasry urged unity in the months leading to Election Day in November.

“I want to call on all Democrats from all over the state to come together and make sure that we’re able to unite around, not just making sure that Mandela defeats Ron Johnson, but making sure that we reelect [Gov.] Tony Evers, [Attorney General] Josh Kaul and Democrats up and down the ballot,” Lasry said, “because we know that the best way that we’re going to be able to move Wisconsin forward is to be able to send the right people to office.”

Barnes noted that when he ran as Evers’ running mate in 2018 to unseat a two-term Republican governor, “four years ago, the race to get rid of Scott Walker was a difficult one.” He credited that victory to unity and said that the coalition that powered it “is still growing, it will be even stronger this November than we were four years ago.”

(Moments before, he accidentally substituted Walker’s name for Johnson’s when he described the upcoming election as an opportunity to turn out “one of the worst senators that this state has ever had.” After a Politico reporter tweeted the gaffe, Barnes made light of it on Twitter)

Lasry’s departure from the campaign came two days after Tom Nelson, who had been running fourth among the Democratic hopefuls, dropped out and endorsed Barnes. Nelson, a former state representative and currently the Outagamie County executive, was the first candidate to formally enter the Democratic primary to challenge Johnson.

Both Lasry and Nelson will remain on the Aug. 9 ballots, which have already been printed.

With both of them gone from the race. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who has generally polled in third place in the primary behind Barnes and Lasry, leads the remainder of the field. At an event Wednesday in Madison, Godlewski told local media that she was not leaving the race.


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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.