Barnes vs. Johnson Senate Race


Graphic by Audrey Catlin

Malik Boyd, Editor

On Tuesday, November 8th, Wisconsin voters will cast their ballots in the U.S. senate election. Voters are presented with two options: The Republican incumbent, senator Ron Johnson, and his opponent Democrat and Lieutenant Governor, Mandela Barnes. Here is where they stand on some of the most important issues.

Climate Change

“What we need to do is reduce carbon emissions. What we also need to do is move towards a clean energy economy and make sure Wisconsin is in the driver’s seat,” Barnes said. He claims that we need to shift from fossil fuels and begin building more wind turbines and solar panels in Wisconsin to tackle climate change. 

“I don’t deny climate change,” said Johnson. He questions “Can you really do anything about it when China, when India… they’re going to be burning fossil fuels.” Johnson believes that massive government spending will not help alleviate climate change and that we should not sacrifice our economy when other countries are polluting more than the United States.  


“I’ve long supported the full legalization of marijuana… far too many people fall victim to a system that incarcerates folks for marijuana possession,” said Barnes in the October 7th debate. As Lt. Governor he has been pushing for the legalization of marijuana in the state of Wisconsin, and he says that he will continue that push in the senate. 

Johnson is against the usage of marijuana. When asked if “marijuana should be legalized and regulated like tobacco and alcohol,” he disagreed. He also said that, “I think every state should look at the harm being done by the legalization of marijuana”. However, he has also stated that, “I think it ought to be a state by state decision.”

Minimum Wage 

Barnes supports a national 15 dollar minimum wage stating: “I have long been a proponent of a 15 dollar minimum wage… [we] should absolutely have a 15 dollar minimum wage.” Barnes claims that an increased minimum wage would stimulate the economy, help low income households in this time of high inflation, and that businesses should be obligated to pay a “liveable wage”. 

Johnson states, “I would consider possibly increasing it to a certain standard that may be indexing towards inflation,” but he doesn’t like “the federal government getting involved doing price fixing and that includes the minimum wage.” Johnson claims that an increase in the minimum wage to 15 dollars would hurt small businesses, increase unemployment, and strain the economy. 


Barnes claims “our immigration system is completely broken, and I support comprehensive immigration reform that creates a path of citizenship.” He also highlights Johnson’s alleged inaction. “The senator has had 12 years to do something about [our immigration system].”

According to Ron Johnson, “In order to have immigration reform first we have to secure the border.” Johnson is a big supporter of the southern border wall along with more funding for the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Johnson also believed that our asylum program needs to be reformed. “We have to fix our asylum standard. Currently we have a very low standard of credible fear.” 


“Every woman should be able to make that decision and doctors shouldn’t have to live under the threat of being criminalized,” said Barnes in his October 7th debate. Barnes is vehemently pro-choice, as he believes that the right to an abortion is fundamental to women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies. Barnes plans to help to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law, making abortion legal throughout the entire country. 

Ron Johnson supported the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling that overturned Roe, because he thinks it is important that state legislatures have the power to decide the limitations on abortion in their states. Johnson also said in his October 7th debate that “This is a profound moral issue… What I have suggested is that we let the people decide with a one time referendum [about] at what point does society have the responsibility to protect life in the womb.” It is unclear if he is referring to a federal or state referendum. 

Gun Control

Barnes questions, “How much more loss will it take for us to pass common sense gun reform?” This common democrat position refers to increased background checks, a ban on ‘assault style weapons’ which usually refers to semi-automatic pistols and rifles that resemble in appearance the AR-15 and its derivatives, magazine capacity restrictions, and increased barriers to obtaining firearms in general. 

According to Johnson “We have something like 10,000 gun control laws on the books throughout America. If gun control was the solution, [the problem] would have already been solved.” Johnson does not think that additional gun control will reduce violence. In his opinion, communities and families need to be strengthened. However, he also says that we should do more to enforce our federal and state gun laws.