Senate Candidate Questionnaire

  1. What are the five biggest challenges facing the US and how do those challenges impact Wisconsin?

    Mandela Barnes:
         As we look around our state, times are getting harder. Our middle class has been decimated and families are struggling to make ends meet and dealing with rising costs.
         Too many people are one health care struggle away from bankruptcy.
         The industries that propped up the middle class in Wisconsin are in crisis, from the decline of manufacturing to the decimation of family farms. Wisconsin lost a family farm every single day last year to bankruptcy, and the factories that sustained my family and gave us our ticket to the middle class have been shuttered.
         Republicans are waging an all out war on a woman’s right to choose and our right to vote. In Wisconsin, losing Roe v. Wade will mean reverting back to a total abortion ban.
         And we’re already feeling the effects of climate change around the country, something our famers know all too well as they deal with once-in-a-generation storms every year now. Right now it feels like the deck is stacked against us. But we don’t want handouts. We just want a fair shot. That’s why I’m running for Senate to rebuild the middle class and give everyone a fair shot at the American dream.

    Sarah Godlewski:
         Wisconsin is a great place to live, work, raise a family, and retire, but our state is facing the same challenges that families across the U.S. are facing. Right now, soaring prices are stretching Wisconsinites’ budgets too thin to the point where families are forced to choose which bills they can afford to pay each month. Whether it's at the gas station, the pharmacy, or the grocery store, Wisconsinites are being pressed from all sides by rising costs.
         Wisconsinites don’t want Ron Johnson and the GOP making health care decisions for them, but if Roe is overturned, a 150 year old law outlawing abortion services in Wisconsin will go back into effect. Reproductive rights are under attack right now across the U.S., but families in Wisconsin will be hit harder than most if we don’t act quickly and codify reproductive freedom.
         For too long we’ve been living under a gun violence crisis. Wisconsinites want commonsense gun legislation, yet Ron Johnson and the GOP don’t have the backbone to stand up to the gun lobby and pass legislation that will protect our communities and children.
         Many of the challenges that families in Wisconsin and across the U.S. face are being made worse by the climate crisis. Wisconsin desperately needs to transition from brown energy to green energy and end our dependence on out-of-state and foreign fossil fuels,
         Eighteen months after the events on January 6th, it’s clear that our democracy is still under attack. Elected officials continue to refer to the insurrection as a peaceful protest while attacking our democracy with gerrymandering and kicking voters off the rolls. We can talk about these different issues all we want, but if we don’t stop the attack on our democracy – we won’t be able to do anything about it.

    Alex Lasry:
         Protecting Democracy - Republicans have passed restrictive voting laws that are the most aggressive assault on democracy in over 100 years. This is a clear and present danger, and Congress must act immediately. Nothing short of the future of American democracy is at stake. My full plan.
         Raising wages and fighting inflation - Inflation is outpacing wages, and hard-working Wisconsinites are facing the brunt of the problem. My campaign has released a plan to put more money in working people's pockets through job training, tax deductions, and incentives, buying American, and strengthening our unions. My full plan.
        Public Safety - We must increase accountability and funding for our public safety programs. We do not have to choose between public safety and justice; we can invest in protecting our communities, restoring community trust, and holding law enforcement accountable. My full plan.
         Women’s Reproductive health - I will fight to ensure everyone has access to inclusive, high-quality, and affordable healthcare, including abortion and reproductive care. I will vote to end the filibuster so we can pass Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Women’s Health Protection Act, and I will defend against efforts to limit funding for Planned Parenthood. I am incredibly proud of my wife, Lauren, for her work at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
         Infrastructure - President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan is a good first step in bringing good union jobs to Wisconsin, upgrading public transportation, and investing in high-speed rail. It will also help with desperately needed infrastructure improvements and substantive investments in fighting climate change.

    Tom Nelson:
         Safeguarding our democratic institutions. Gerrymandering and GOP efforts to suppress the vote and build an illegitimate legislative majority and partisan judiciary are enabled with the lack of basic federal protections. I will support the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
         Rise of gun violence. It is an epidemic and must be addressed accordingly. It’s personal for me, everyday I drop off my six- and eight-year-old at school and I think: “is this going to be the next?” Are we really a free country when parents feel this way?
         The climate crisis. Even if we reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent until we get to net-zero we still have caused irreparable harm to our planet. Changed weather patterns affect farm yields, infrequent snowfalls wipe out tourism Up North and flooding and tornadoes displace people and cause untold property damage.
         The American labor movement is at a turning point. More workers are voting to organize but our laws are outdated. We need to pass the PRO Act, repeal Taft-Hartley and raise the minimum wage.
         Re-build American manufacturing. There will be no union manufacturing in this state if we don’t hold corporations to account who bust unions, move jobs out of the state and prioritize stock buybacks over investment. We need to empower workers (above), overhaul tax, fiscal and trade policies and re-invest in basic research and product development.

    Steve Olikara:

         The top issue I consistently hear about from voters across Wisconsin is a lack of trust in government. Over 80% of Wisconities believe the federal government is fundamentally broken, as politicians in Washington demonize each other and polarize the American public because it is highly profitable for them to do so. As a result, the needs and priorities of Wisconsinites are ignored. Members are expected to spend a majority of their time fundraising, which comes at the expense of their core responsibilities: legislating, attending committee hearings, and providing constituent services. They are unresponsive to constituents’ needs.
         Currently, due to gerrymandering, politicians choose their voters instead of voters choosing their elected representatives. With gerrymandered maps, 90% of Congressional seats are no longer competitive in the general election, disincentivizing legislation, even on issues with popular support.
         These systemic problems disincentivize Members working together and result in a loss of dignity in our politics. While millionaires and billionaires in Congress fight among themselves, Wisconsinites’ priorities go unaddressed, from countering gun violence to addressing climate change, disability rights, and rising cost of goods and services. We need a populist, progressive, pro-democracy movement for reform to regain faith in government and expand dignity and opportunity.

  2. Why are you the best candidate to help resolve those challenges in a way that benefits Wisconsin?

    Mandela Barnes:
         The biggest problem in Washington is that we have too many out of touch multi-millionaires in Congress who have sold out to the donors and special interest allies and don’t understand the experiences of working and middle class people. They can talk about rising costs and high drug prices, but are they really feeling any of the effects of these issues?
         That’s why I’m running for Senate, because we deserve leaders who understand our struggles firsthand and can authentically connect with middle class and working class people across the state. I’ve been working on them long before I decided to run for Senate. We need someone ready to go on day 1.
         I was born and raised in Milwaukee in a proud union household. My mother was a public school teacher and my dad worked third shift on the assembly line. I know the struggles of working people in Wisconsin because I share those struggles.
         I may not have millions in personal wealth or the backing of corporate PACs, but what I do have is skin in the game. Because the people Ron Johnson has left behind are my family, my community, and my neighbors. And when you have skin in the game, you don’t stop fighting.
         That’s what I’ve been doing throughout my career in Wisconsin, first as a community organizer in Milwaukee, then in the state assembly, and now as Lt. Governor. I have spent my career in service to this state focusing on the issues affecting us most, and that’s how I will serve Wisconsin in the Senate.
         I’m proud that so many around the state and nation have stepped up to support me and my vision for Wisconsin. This includes AFSCME Council 32, AFT Local 212, Wisconsin Citizen Action, Indivisible, Progress North, MoveOn, the Working Families Party, and so many others. I’m also proud to have been endorsed by leaders like Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Gwen Moore, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and over 140 local elected officials, labor leaders, and farmers.

    Sarah Godlewski:
         Right now, Wisconsinites have a U.S. Senator who won’t work for them. He calls climate science “bullshit,” refused to fight for good-paying union jobs in his own backyard, voiced support for a plan that could raise taxes on 32% of Wisconsin households, and repeatedly attacked working Wisconsin families. But it’s not just about flipping this seat; it’s clear that Congress doesn’t have its priorities straight when they refuse to provide an extended child tax credit, paid family leave, or affordable child care. Wisconsinites need a working mom’s voice at the policymaking table to prioritize the kitchen table issues that keep them up at night. I’m the best candidate to finally get these things done because I’m a proud 5th generation Wisconsinite from western Wisconsin and the daughter of two public school teachers. While Ron Johnson is focused on conspiracy theories, I’m traveling across our state, listening to families’ concerns, and releasing plans to show that I’ll work for them.
         My top priority as Senator will be getting rid of the filibuster so that the majority can do the job it was elected to do and so we deliver real results for Wisconsin families. Wisconsinites are tired of a broken Washington — they want a Senate that works for them and not special interests or corporate PACs. It’s clear we need commonsense legislation to cut costs, codify reproductive rights, end the gun violence crisis, combat climate change, and save our democracy. But we have the House, Senate, and the White House, yet we still can’t get anything done.

    Alex Lasry:
         I’m the best candidate to take on these challenges because I have a track record of getting real things done. I don’t just talk about the issues facing our state. I have done something about them. Whether that’s paying a $15/hr minimum wage, creating good-paying union jobs, or bringing investment back to our state, I am uniquely suited to address these issues in the United States Senate because I have already achieved results before. I have a record of delivering real results for Wisconsinites and will be a true partner for Tammy Baldwin in the United States Senate.

    Tom Nelson:
         I am the only candidate with the track record who has dealt with all these issues at the local and state level and has the results to point to. I have worked with state and local officials to ensure elections run smoothly in my county; I helped save a union paper mill; I have piloted climate projects in my county; I supported a precursor of sorts of the Green New Deal when I was in the state Assembly. These are a few examples.

    Steve Olikara:
         I am a proud Wisconsinite, a national political reformer, a musician, and the son of Indian immigrants. I grew up in Waukesha County and found community through music, bridging racial, economic, and ideological divides by using the most important skill of a musician – listening. I learned since my first grassroots organizing meeting for Barack Obama that listening should also be the #1 skill of our elected officials. Before even announcing our campaign, we conducted a Dignity Tour across Wisconsin, listening to voters and developing our plan to make government work and Dignity for All Agenda.
         I founded the Millennial Action Project (MAP) to pass legislation combating climate change. Nearly ten years later, I helped train over 2,000 young elected officials across 30 state legislatures and Congress. We introduced over 200 bipartisan bills in Congress alone, passing 35 into law. This means I bring the most legislative experience to this race. I know what it takes to achieve legislation that invests in clean energy, ends partisan gerrymandering, and counters gun violence because we did this and much more at MAP. Passing legislation requires building diverse coalitions. I have the life experience, relationships, and track record to not only develop big plans to improve the lives of all Wisconsinites, but also translate these into concrete legislation that I can pass into law and have tangible, positive impacts across the state.

  3. What would be your most important legislative priorities once you make it to the Senate?

    Mandela Barnes:
         We need to rebuild our middle class by creating jobs, lowering costs, and making Wisconsin a leader in renewable energy and next-gen manufacturing. That means giving the middle class a tax cut to make our tax code work for working people, not for the ultra-wealthy and big corporations; it means investing in bringing manufacturing back home and getting rid of tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas; and it means lowering the cost of essentials like child care, and making health care and prescription drugs more affordable and accessible by passing Medicare for All.
         We also must urgently abolish the filibuster so we can respond to Republican attacks on our voting rights and Roe v. Wade, protect workers’ rights to organize and bargain, and finally pass long-need common sense gun reform.

    Sarah Godlewski:
         My top priority as Senator will be getting rid of the filibuster so that the majority can do the job it was elected to do and so we deliver real results for Wisconsin families. Wisconsinites are tired of a broken Washington — they want a Senate that works for them and not special interests or corporate PACs. It’s clear we need commonsense legislation to cut costs, codify reproductive rights, end the gun violence crisis, combat climate change, and save our democracy. But we have the House, Senate, and the White House, yet we still can’t get anything done.

    Alex Lasry
    :
         The first thing I want to do is make sure that we can abolish the filibuster so that Democrats can truly deliver on the things that we haven’t promised to voters. That means immediately passing Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Women’s Health Protection Act, the PRO Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and a host of additional critical legislation currently being held up in the Senate. Then I will get to work fighting to bring federal dollars and good-paying jobs back to our state so that we can invest in projects that will have a real impact on people’s lives like access to high-speed internet, clean drinking water, and healthcare services for all Wisconsinites, regardless of what part of our state they live in.

    Tom Nelson:
         The following pieces of existing legislation or proposed legislation will be my priority. Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, Pass Medicare for All, Pass Green New Deal, Pass the John Lewis and For the People acts, Repeal Taft-Hartley, Renegotiate trade deals, Pass the PRO Act, Codify Roe, Gun violence measures – (waiting periods, assault weapons ban, red flag laws, universal background checks).

    Steve Olikara
    :
         I have committed, since announcing our campaign next to our former Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, that my first piece of legislation will get big money out of politics and restore integrity to our election system. My proposal to make government work for all Wisconsinites includes: a ban on Members fundraising while Congress is in session, Final Five Voting, term limits, an end to legalized bribery in Congress, filibuster reform, and steps to enable more working people and non-traditional candidates to run for office. These reforms will incentivize Members to actually do their job of legislating, level the playing field for a fairer economy, and make Congress responsive to ordinary Americans.
         These fundamental reforms to our democracy would also enable progress towards other progressive priorities. Our Dignity for All Agenda covers environmental dignity, economic dignity, and human dignity. This agenda includes a 100% clean electricity standard by 2030, the cessation of federal fossil fuel subsidies, tuition-free vocational and technical education, direct federal investments in entrepreneurs and small farmers, comprehensive gun licensing, a true second shot for people exiting the criminal justice system, and finally updating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

  4. What kind of experience and fresh perspective on foreign and international policy issues would you bring?

    Mandela Barnes:
         My position as Lt. Governor has given me unique exposure to foreign leaders as I have regularly hosted foreign leaders and foreign dignitaries, showing them the great state of Wisconsin. I have also had the privilege of working on the issue of climate change on the international level, learning from and coordinating with our allies on the international stage to address one of the biggest problems of our time.
         The most pressing foreign policy issue of our time is protecting democracy and the free world from autocrats determined on stamping it out. In Wisconsin, we have had a front row seat to domestic attacks on democracy from the Republican legislature. That’s the leadership and experience we need in the Senate to combat attacks on democracy on the international stage. Recently, I was very proud to be endorsed by former Director of European Affairs for the U.S. National Security Council Lt. Colonel (Retired) Alex Vindman, who endorsed my campaign because of our shared commitment to democracy.

    Sarah Godlewski:
         After graduating college with a Peace and Conflict Resolution degree, I worked as a consultant at the Pentagon and Department of Defense and led strategic planning and project management efforts. My work included developing language and culture capabilities for the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, improving Army readiness for FORSCOM, creating a medical services strategy for the Air Force Surgeon General, and addressing soldier morale for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
         My time working with the Pentagon and Department of Defense gives me a unique perspective to how international policy impacts Wisconsin families, from foreign energy dependency to providing greater support for active service members and veterans.

    Alex Lasry
    :
         If elected to the U.S. Senate, I plan to be a leader in foreign policy. Being the son of an immigrant, and my time working in the White House, have made me very aware of the importance of America’s role as a leader in the free world and the importance of the U.S. building coalitions as we navigate an increasingly interconnected world. I will work to ensure that the United States is taking a leading role in protecting democracy and human rights around the world, that we re-envision and reprioritize our National Security priorities to ensure that we are prepared for present-day threats and that we negotiate fair trade deals with countries around the work to make sure that we can compete in a 21st-century economy.

    Tom Nelson:
         Every year Congress passes and the president signs the National Defense Authorization Act. Why have we only been able to reauthorize the State Department once every couple of decades? Our national security actions tend to be reactive, while our diplomatic efforts tend to be proactive. Congress and the executive branch need to put the State Department and the Pentagon on an equal footing, investing in diplomacy to prevent conflicts.
         The U.S. must support an industrial policy that helps us compete economically with China but also which recognizes human right abuses like the mistreatment of China’s Uyghur Muslim population or undemocratic and authoritarian actions in Hong Kong. Engagement with regional allies needs to be expanded to more than the U.S., India, Japan and Australia.
         I have been a strong proponent of the United States adopting industrial policy plans that invests in manufacturing and allows the U.S. to retain its competitive advantage. See my Op-Ed here.
         I’m a strong supporter of maintaining the U.S.’s historical, multilateral commitments with organizations like NATO and the United Nations and continuing the cooperation with our European allies on global issues like climate change, COVID-19, and nuclear non-proliferation. Where the circumstances dictate, I support the U.S. leading on some issues, but I support always operating in a multilateral fashion.

    Steve Olikara
    :
         Our focus on Dignity for All extends beyond our borders – we must preserve human rights at home and abroad. My foreign policy approach centers on multilateral cooperation, deterrence of armed conflicts, and humanitarian support. We must take an empirical, long view of our actions, leveraging our power intelligently to couple a 21st century military force with strong global partnerships to serve our interests and values and deter potential threats.
         The recession of our democracy domestically impacts our ability to lead globally. We must fix our democracy, starting with money in politics, to reduce the corrupting influence of our military-industrial complex and decrease division and political dysfunction. We must show the world that Americans are unified in our commitment to and willingness to improve our democracy at home.
         My experience leading young American legislators and human rights activists internationally and service on the Advisory Board of UW-Madison’s International Division uniquely prepares me for responsibilities of a U.S. Senator. My unique approach was highlighted in Retired Brigadier General Legwold’s endorsement and a recent Cap Times piece, “[his] long view led Olikara to speak frequently about the Russia-Ukraine crisis last year, when few of the other candidates were paying attention.”

  5. Why are you the best candidate to beat Ron Johnson and how do you plan to do it (specifics please)?

    Mandela Barnes:
         Wisconsin is tired of being represented a self-serving multi-millionaire like Ron Johnson, who has only delivered for himself and his wealthy donors. We deserve a leader who has a firsthand understanding of the challenges working families face every day and who will put Wisconsin first. That’s what I’ve done as Lt. Governor, traveling the state to deliver pandemic relief for farmers, workers, and families. And that’s what I’ll do in the Senate.
    Voters know they can trust me because I share their struggles and I’ve spent the last ten years fighting for them, building trust and credibility across the state.
         In 2018, I helped kick Scott Walker out office with the highest midterm turnout this state has ever seen. That’s what we’ll need to do again this year.
         I am still a community organizer at heart. So I know that organizing and showing up everywhere is how we beat Ron Johnson. We have to take our message to every single community, not just in Democratic strongholds. Because at the end of the day, despite our differences, we all have more in common with each other than we do with an out of touch multi-millionaire like Ron Johnson.
         That’s why I’m so proud of the people-powered, grassroots campaign we’re building, raising more money than the rest of the primary field combined with an average donation of $41 dollars. That is the grassroots excitement we will need to turn out voters and beat Ron Johnson one and for all.

    Sarah Godlewski:
         Winning statewide in Wisconsin isn’t easy — President Biden only won our state by about 20,000 votes in 2020. If we want to flip this seat and bring commonsense solutions to Washington, Wisconsinites need a candidate who won’t back down from a tough fight.
         I was taught at a young age that when you see something wrong you stand up and do something about it. Right now, I’m seeing a U.S. Senator who’s given up on his constituents. So I’m standing up and doing something about it. That’s what I did when I saw Scott Walker try to get rid of our State’s fiscal watchdog. That’s what I did when I went out, ran for the office, and won. That’s what I did when I freed state assets from a Republican gag order to start addressing the climate crisis. And that’s why I’m running to replace Ron Johnson’s nonsense with commonsense solutions.
         But people have told me that getting this stuff done or running for the U.S. Senate isn’t easy. But I’m no stranger to tough fights — I stopped Scott Walker’s power grab with 62% of the vote. I won in 2018 by greater margins that the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General, all while flipping nine Trump counties. Republicans have tried to stop me before, but I didn’t let them then, and I won’t let them now.

    Alex Lasry
    :
         The people of Wisconsin are tired of do-nothing Ron Johnson. The contrast between Ron Johnson and myself could not be more stark. I have a record of delivering real results for the people of our state. Ron Johnson has spent the last 12 years pandering to special interests, spreading lies and conspiracy theories, and refusing to do anything for Wisconsinites. Our campaign has been traveling the state and executing a paid media strategy to talk to voters long before Ron Johnson or any other candidate in the Democratic primary. We have built a statewide grassroots network of supporters and endorsers, including labor unions representing nearly 100,000 union members and retirees, major elected officials, and everyday working Wisconsinites. We have had the resources to continuously talk to voters in every part of our state through television, digital, radio, and mail. We have run a positive primary campaign focused on why vote for me, not why not our Democratic opponents. And, we have relentlessly communicated with voters about why we need to beat Ron Johnson. This is what we have done, and this is what we will continue to do aggressively through the general election. We cannot take anything for granted, and we cannot count on outside forces to come in and help us. We must put our best candidate forward. Polling shows voters believe I am the best candidate to beat Ron Johnson this fall, and I am fully committed to doing everything it takes to win.
    Tom Nelson:
         I am the only candidate from a red part of the state who has won election six times, as a legislator and as a county executive. I out-work, out-message and out-hustle my opponents – it’s why I have not drawn a GOP opponent for my county executive re-elections and won my assembly re-elections with 20 point plus margins – despite representing red areas. In particular, I focus on bread and butter economic issues – Democratic mainstays – and spend every waking hour building a solid grassroots organization that can take on the big money – and win. Ask anyone in Democratic circles – no one does it better.

    Steve Olilara
    :
         First and most importantly, I give Democrats the best chance of winning the general election. With a Democratic president, Democratic majorities in Congress, and rising economic frustrations, Democrats have a structural disadvantage in midterm elections. Like in the Virginia gubernatorial race, Democrats will lose if we run conventional, consultant-driven campaigns. The winning Democrat not only needs to energize the party faithful, but also attract an additional 10% margin from Independents and Republicans. In the words of our top endorser, former Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, “Steven is the one Democratic candidate capable of rebuilding trust and putting together a winning campaign.”
         I have spent the last ten years building diverse coalitions of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to achieve popular legislation, from investing in veteran skills training and business development to achieving sweeping criminal justice reforms. We are growing the electorate beyond the active Democratic base to include Wisconsin’s Exhausted Majority, the 80% of Wisconsin voters who believe the federal government is fundamentally broken and will not solve the problems we are facing and are looking for a new kind of candidate.
         I will build on the diverse support I already have across Wisconsin, from elected officials and farmers in Lafayette, Green, and Outagamie Counties, to educators and activists in Brown, Dane, and Milwaukee Counties. Our strongest base of volunteers is in the WOW counties, the voters who got Democrats elected to statewide office in 2018 and nationally in 2020. Olikara for Senate is built to win in November.