ICYMI: Wisconsin’s Johnson embraces controversy in reelection bid [Associated Press]


Associated Press: Wisconsin’s Johnson embraces controversy in reelection bid
By Scott Bauer
September 27, 2022

Key Points:

  • Far from shying from his contrarian reputation, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Jonson is leaning into controversy as he runs for his third term.
  • Johnson has called for the end of guaranteed money for Medicare and Social Security, two popular programs that American politicians usually steer clear from.
  • He’s trafficked in conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and dabbled in pseudoscience around the coronavirus.
  • His Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, has gone in a safer direction, cultivating an image as a nonthreatening defender of the middle class with TV ads showing him hitting baseballs, delivering pizzas to children and shopping for groceries.
  • Barnes, 35, and Johnson, 67, couldn’t be more different.
  • Johnson, a former plastics manufacturer, is a millionaire several times over. Barnes, the state’s lieutenant governor and potentially the state’s first Black senator, has championed his modest upbringing in Milwaukee as the child of a public school teacher and a United Auto Workers member.
  • Barnes’ messaging has tracked with that background, with talk of returning manufacturing to the state, protecting union jobs and helping small farmers — a play for rural voters who have slipped away from Democrats in recent years.
  • In one of his newest TV ads, Barnes says: “There were times I was getting by on peanut butter sandwiches. And that’s why I support a tax cut for the middle class.”
  • Johnson is talking about issues that politicians facing an election typically avoid. He has repeatedly called for removing guaranteed funding for Medicare and Social Security.
  • Johnson has also embraced conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, even though Biden’s win has been upheld by numerous courts, withstood partisan and independent investigations and weathered partial recounts in Wisconsin.
  • Johnson also dismissed concerns about climate change, said that he would have been more fearful during the Jan. 6, 2021, riots if the U.S. Capitol invaders had been Black Lives Matter protesters, and advocated for unproven and untested alternative treatments for COVID-19, saying mouthwash could be one way to fight the virus.


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