Alex Lasry drops out of Wisconsin Senate race to unseat Ron Johnson

“We’ve said since day one that the number one thing we can do for Wisconsin is get rid of Ron Johnson,” Lasry said in an exclusive interview. “I truly believe that if there’s no road to victory, the best thing is to make sure we can rally around a candidate as early as possible so we can spend every second we have making sure that we are working towards this goal.”

Lasry is the second Democratic candidate to drop out of the race this week. Outagamie County County Executive Tom Nelson sat out his bid two days ago and threw his weight behind Barnes. The only major Democrat standing, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, has posted single-digit poll results.

Barnes said in a statement that he was “always proud to call Alex a friend.”

“I’m so grateful to Alex for all the work he’s done to move Wisconsin forward and I’m proud of his support,” he said. “I deeply admire Alex’s commitment to creating good union jobs and raising wages throughout his career and throughout this campaign, and the work he has done to bring pride and opportunity to Milwaukee, a city that we love love both.”

Lasry will announce his plans Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Central Time outside of the Milwaukee Fiserv Forum.

Wisconsin is one of the Senate’s key battlegrounds this fall, and Democrats see it as one of their best catching-up opportunities in the country. A recent poll found Johnson trailing most of his Democratic opponents, including Barnes. But Republicans argue Johnson was previously underestimated and won.

Lasry, who had early support from the unions, presented himself as a candidate who could get things done. He received praise from Democrats for a TV commercial in which he bluntly said, “Here’s an idea: If we make things here in America, supply chain issues won’t be an issue.”

Lasry and Barnes have been almost neck and neck in public and private polls over the past few months. A survey by Marquette University Law School in June, Barnes won 25 percent of the vote while Lasry won 21 percent. The margin of error for this survey was plus or minus 6.2 percent.

But Barnes always had pole position and his campaign published an internal survey this week which indicated that he was extending his lead. It put him 14 percentage points ahead of Lasry. Godlewski was 27 points behind Barnes.

Throughout the primary, Barnes has emphasized his middle-class roots in contrast to his well-heeled opponents in both parties. A Barnes television ad shot at “the other millionaires running for Senate.”

Barnes has sought to appeal to a broad segment of the electorate and has won the nod from mainstream Democrats like Majority Whip Jim Clyburn as well as progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Still, a victory for Barnes in the Democratic primary would be a victory for the progressive movement. Barnes has expressed support for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, and Sen. Elizabeth Waren and the left-wing Working Families Party are among his most important allies. Lasry, on the other hand, ran a more centre-left campaign.

Barnes, if elected, would become Wisconsin’s first black Senator. At 35, he would also be one of the youngest senators in parliament.

Barnes said that he and Lasry would soon set out together to “unite Wisconsinites from every corner of the state to defeat Ron Johnson.”

In the interview, Lasry called Barnes a “friend” and said Barnes “always put the state … and its constituents … above party and politics.” He said he informed Barnes Tuesday of his decision.

Lasry said he spoke to Sen a couple of times. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and “took her advice” on his decision to retire.

“After speaking to Tammy and seeing the data, it was clear that Mandela would be the candidate,” he said. “Everyone concluded that when there is no way forward, it is best to ensure that we can unite the party.”

When asked if he would be politically involved in the future, Lasry said: “I know we always like to talk about the next race, but I am very focused on this one. And whether it’s running for office or making sure we elect good people and good Democrats, I’ll always be involved. I have always been involved in that.”

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