Sarah Godlewski ends Senate bid in Wisconsin, clearing path for Barnes

Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski on Friday ended her bid for the Democratic Senate nomination in the state and endorsed her main rival, Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes. 

Godlewski’s decision effectively clears the way for Barnes to become the Democratic nominee to take on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in November. Two other top candidates in the primary, Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, suspended their campaigns earlier this week and endorsed Barnes. 

In a statement, Godlewski said she was proud of the campaign she had run, but urged Democrats to line up behind Barnes ahead of November. She also vowed to campaign for Barnes and Gov. Tony Evers (D) in the coming months.

“[I]t’s clear that if we want to finally send Ron Johnson packing, we must all get behind Mandela Barnes and fight together,” she said. “I’m proud of what our 72-county campaign has accomplished, and while I may not be on the ballot this November, every issue we fought to bring front and center will be.

“To so many of our supporters across Wisconsin who encouraged me to stay in this fight: I want you to know I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be on the campaign trail supporting Mandela, Tony, and all the Democrats on the ballot this November.”

Barnes thanked Godlewski for her endorsement on Friday, saying that Democrats are now in “a stronger position than we have ever been to defeat Ron Johnson once and for all.”

“I am honored to accept Treasurer Godlewski’s endorsement in this critical race,” he said. “Throughout this campaign, Sarah has been a leader in the fight to protect abortion access and a tireless advocate for working people and rural communities across Wisconsin. I will proudly stand with her in those fights as we take on Ron Johnson in the fall.”

With Godlewski, Nelson and Lasry out of the race, Barnes is almost certain to win the Democratic primary on Aug. 9. While a handful of other Democrats are seeking the nomination, none are seen as a serious threat to Barnes’ chances next week. 

Godlewski, a Wisconsin-born businesswoman, was elected to her post as state treasurer in 2018 after leading a campaign against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have eliminated that office altogether. 

That win served as a springboard for her Senate campaign. While she became a serious force in the race, however, recent polling made clear that Barnes had emerged as the favorite — a reality underscored by the slew of announcements this week that his challengers were ending their campaigns.

The relatively clear primary field could help Democrats more quickly coalesce behind Barnes and allow him to focus solely on beating Johnson in November. While Democrats are facing a tough election year overall, Wisconsin stands as one of a few opportunities the party has to flip a Republican-held Senate seat this year.

Johnson, in particular, is a tempting target for Democrats. His combative and controversial political style has made him an arch-villain for many on the left, and recent polling showed Johnson trailing most of his Democratic opponents, including Barnes, in hypothetical general election matchups.

But Republicans are also quick to argue that Johnson has been underestimated before and has shown himself capable of pulling off victories in tough races.