4 plus 2 Wisconsin Democrats running for U.S. Senate meet and greet in Mequon
Eight Democrats have made the ballot for the August Wisconsin primary for U.S. Senate. The winner is expected to face incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson this fall in a contest that will probably be very expensive and watched nationally.
Democrats now have less than two months to make themselves better known to voters. That effort included most of the contenders attending an outdoor meet and greet Sunday in Mequon.
Grassroots North Shore invited the four Democrats who are above 1% in the polls to an event held at a Mequon park. For nearly two hours, the contenders had one-on-one or small group discussions with about 100 people who are considered very likely voters.
WUWM asked the four candidates to briefly answer one question—what sets them apart in a primary that polling and pundits say is still up for grabs, partly because it's thought nearly half the voters haven't chosen a favorite?
Here's Tom Nelson, Executive of Outagamie County in Northeast Wisconsin:
"I'm the only candidate from a red part of the state who's won election and re-election six times as a legislator and county executive. But also my core—where I come from, what I believe in. I think my story is a classic Wisconsin story. I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood. In my case, all the dads worked at paper mills. My dad was a Lutheran pastor. So, at a very young age, I learned the importance of serving your neighbor," Nelson said.
The next Democratic Senate candidate, State Treasurer and Madison resident Sarah Godlewski said:
"Well, for me, I've been underestimated my entire life—whether it was starting my career at the Pentagon, to saving the State Treasurer's office and stopping [Gov.] Scott Walker's power grab, to literally, the work I've done in the State Treasurer, leading the management of a $1.3 billion fund. And so, as the only candidate who has run and won two successful statewide campaigns, I know what it takes to win," Godlewski said.
The billion-dollar program is the State Trust Fund Loan Program, which provides financing for community projects. A statewide referendum that failed in April 2018 would have eliminated the elected position of State Treasurer. Later that year, Godlewski won a Democratic primary and then the general election for her current job.
Also at the Mequon meet and greet was Senate candidate Alex Lasry, on leave from being a Milwaukee Bucks executive.
"I've worked in politics on the Hill, in the White House. I brought the convention here. But more importantly, I have a record of accomplishment on a lot of things we need to solve some [of] our nation's problems. Right, I've raised wages, I've created good-paying union jobs. We've brought a lot of investment here to Wisconsin," Lasry said.
The 2020 Democratic National Convention didn't fully make it to Milwaukee, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Bucks owners, including Lasry's father, Marc Lasry, have helped taxpayers and former Sen. Herb Kohl pay for the Fiserv Forum and its construction and service industry jobs.
Next up, Mandela Barnes elected Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor in November 2018 said:
"What sets me apart in this race is my lived experience, having been born and raised in Wisconsin to a middle-class family. My mother's a public schools teacher. My dad worked third-shift on the assembly line. And then the experience having served the state the last decade as a state legislator and Lieutenant Governor, taking on some of our most challenging issues."
Two Democratic Senate candidates polling at 1% or less also came to the Mequon event, and reached out to us.
Milwaukee attorney Peter Peckarsky said his expertise in legal and technical issues and foreign affairs sets him apart.
"Because of my education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, my work for the Chief of Naval Operations, and Director of Naval Intelligence. My background as the high-tech intellectual property lawyer, and work I have done for 20 years protecting elections in Wisconsin," Peckarsky said.
Also running for Senate is Milwaukeean Darrell Williams, on leave from being Administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management, who served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a longtime educator.
"We need somebody to represent us with that type of knowledge, skills and background. And if people value that in a candidate, I am the only one who has that," Williams said.
For the roughly half of likely Democratic voters still searching for a U.S. Senate candidate, get ready to learn more during the next seven weeks of news stories, debates, appearances and commercials.