Democratic Wisconsin Senate candidate Barnes posts first ad

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes highlights his middle-class upbringing in his first television ad published Wednesday, after two of his main rivals have already spent millions on television ads and while the polls show a close race.

The winner of the Aug. 9 primary in the battleground state will advance to face Republican Senator Ron Johnson. He, too, has been on the air for months and the groups behind him have launched multimillion-dollar ad campaigns.

Three of Barnes’s main Democratic challengers are already on the air, two of them for months. Alex Lasry and Sarah Godlewski gained ground on Barnes, the lieutenant governor, in the latest Marquette University Law School poll in late April, after they had run ads but Barnes had not.

Lasry, a Milwaukee Bucks executive, first went on the air in October and has tapped into his own personal wealth to spend about $4.4 million so far on ads. Godlewski, the state treasurer and herself a millionaire, released her first ad in March and another earlier this month focusing on Johnson’s opposition to abortion rights. She has spent more than $1 million on ads.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who describes himself as an underdog with no personal wealth to draw on, also had a small cable-only ad criticizing public funding for Bucks Stadium in Milwaukee air during two playoff games last week. .

Barnes had been the clear favorite in the race, but a Marquette University Law School poll released last month showed Barnes with 19% support and Lasry closing in on him with 16%. Godlewski gained ground, but followed them both, with 7%. Nelson was at 5%.

However, nearly half of those polled were undecided, boosting the candidacy of another self-described underdog, Steven Olikara. The founder of the Millennial Action Project, Olikara has been quietly collecting endorsements, including from Milwaukee philanthropist Sheldon Lubar, while trying to get name recognition for himself in the crowded field.

The race is expected to be one of the costliest and toughest in the country, with majority control of the Senate at stake.

Barnes has the endorsement of some big names, including US Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who will be traveling to Madison and Milwaukee for fundraisers this weekend. Barnes is not a millionaire like Johnson, Lasry and Godlewski, a point he hits hard in his first ad without naming his rivals.

“Most senators couldn’t tell you the cost of a gallon of milk. Or how much meat is up this year,” Barnes says as he pushes a grocery cart into a store. “But I’m not like most senators, or any of the other millionaires running for Senate.”

His campaign said the ad is part of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign that will start in his hometown of Milwaukee and expand across the state before the primary.

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